Memorandum submitted by Nicholas Hill
1.1. the constitution of the review team was unbalanced - there was no representation from the home education community;
1.2. the scope of the terms of reference for the review was unclear - it appears to have been justified on the grounds of child protection of home educated children but then proceeded to focus on the monitoring of educational provision;
1.3. The Badman Review of Elective Home Education produces no convincing evidence that the current legislative framework is inadequate, while making numerous proposals to increase regulation and undermine parental responsibility.
1.4. The Government reviewed elective home education in 2007 and produced new guidelines. There was no reason for public money to be wasted on another review. The Badman review fails to make a case for its recommendations. It contains many assertions and much opinion, but little or none of this is supported by any evidence, let alone statistical analysis.
1.5. The review lacks intellectual rigour, independence or impartiality. Where evidence is presented there is an absence of critical analysis, together with highly selective use of quotations from respondents. Its approach can be neatly summarised by the observation that it simply states 'I believe ...' 16 times.
2. Child Abuse
2.1. A key argument used to both justify the review and support its recommended actions is that home educated children are more at risk of child abuse than schooled children. However, evidence of abuse by home educators is absent from the review report. There is no analysis of the actual number of suspected and found child abuse cases involving home educators. Indeed, there are no robust figures or trends presented. Instead there is an unsubstantiated reference to 'local authority evidence and case studies'.
2.2. Since the review, Action for Home Education have canvassed every local authority in
2.3. The review rightly points out that the number of parents opting for elective home education is unknown. Yet it also claims that "the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to their home educating population". But given that the size of the home education population is unknown, it is impossible to calculate the proportion - in effect the statement is meaningless. Furthermore, one of the reasons why children are home educated is due to special educational needs (SEN). It stands to reason that more of these will be known to social services as their parents have sought assistance. The Badman review seems to want to infer that there are sinister implications where none actually exist.
2.4. All the recent high profile child abuse cases concern children who were already known to social services. An annual visit to a home-educated child will only succeed in taking already overstretched resources away from known vulnerable children.
3. Quality of Education
3.1. Educational outcomes are treated by the Badman review in a similar fashion to notional child abuse, which is to say that no evidence is presented that the education of home educated children is deficient in any way, or any less effective than the education received by schooled children. Nonetheless, the Badman review presents a long list of recommendations that are highly intrusive and contain an underlying bias against autonomous home education.
3.2. It is perhaps not surprising that the Badman review cannot quote evidence of poor educational outcomes, as such evidence that exists tends to conclude that home education is superior to schooling. (See for example How Children Learn at Home, Thomas & Pattison, pub. Continuum International; Home-Education: Rationales, Practices and Outcomes, Rothermel, 2002).
3.3. I would have been more sympathetic if the report had suggested that current evidence was too thin on the ground to draw concrete conclusions, and therefore recommended a rigorous study of the comparative outcomes for home educated vs. schooled children. Informed decision making would be possible on the basis of such a study. However the report simply asserts that action is needed, without the supporting evidence, and goes directly to the list of proposed actions.
4. Badman Response to this Select Committee Inquiry
4.1. It is very revealing that the Badman team has issued an urgent request to LEAs (http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/_download/?id=6586) to provide some evidence to support the report's unjustified assertions. If the Badman team had any confidence in its evidential base this would be entirely unnecessary. This is clearly a case of looking for evidence to support a pre-existing set of opinions and conclusions.