Memorandum submitted by Randall and Mary Hardy
1. Executive Summary
1.1. Having spent considerable time researching the details and background of Graham Badman's (GB) report into elective home education (HE) we had begun committing our findings and concerns to paper when we heard that GB had written to all Local Authorities (LAs) on 17th September to seek additional support for the central concern expressed in his report. This letter was such a clear admission that he had misrepresented the facts in his review, that for the sake of brevity, we decided to focus our submission on this one issue.
1.2. Our submission therefore consists of the following:
1) An introduction to us and our involvement in HE;
2) A list of the many concerns which we have about GB's Review, the DfCSF's acceptance of it and their so-called 'consultation' on the registration and monitoring of HE families;
3) An examination of GB's central claim, 'the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of the home educating population' in the light of the facts he actually could cite;
4) A consideration of how his letter of 17th September acknowledges that his report was misleading;
5) A brief summary of what the actual data reveals;
6) Other key issues;
2.1. We are parents of six children currently aged between 31 and 14. The oldest three were educated in a school organised and funded as a parent's cooperative. The youngest three have been educated at home.
2.2. All our children who have reached the age of 16 have studied A Levels at Local Authority Sixth Form Colleges and obtained above average results.
2.3. Of those five, two have chosen careers in farming and the other three went to University. The eldest obtained a degree (2:1) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UMIST, the second is a registered architect qualifying at Manchester University, and the fourth has just obtained a first class degree in Occupational Therapy at the University of Cumbria.
2.4. We have five grandchildren, three of whom are HE.
3.1. We believe that the conduct of this review and the haste with which the subsequent 'consultation' was launched raises questions as to whether the motivation behind them is actually the welfare of children or the pursuit of ideological objectives by the present Government or individuals within the DfCSF.
3.2. We are concerned that there has been an undue burden of consultation on home educating (HE) families in recent years.
3.3. We are concerned that the reported findings of this review were biased, having been based upon selective use of evidence by people who were uninformed about home education.
3.4. We are concerned that the review misrepresented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), using it to place the State between parents and their children.
3.5. We believe the review created a false antithesis between the rights of children and the rights and responsibilities of parents.
3.6. We believe the review manipulated the information from the submissions which it received to try and justify the covert objectives of the review.
3.7. The subsequent 'consultation' being carried out by the DfCSF demonstrates that Department's preoccupation with monitoring citizens and a complete failure to seek to support families who choose to educate their children themselves. It effectively displays an institutional distrust of families who elect to HE their children.
3.8. Some of the recommendations of the review which are pursued in the 'consultation', would represent significant changes to British common law. We are concerned that the DfCSF are seeking to implement these changes without full parliamentary review.
3.9. The evidence is that neither the cost of implementing registration and monitoring, nor the provision of support for home educating families, have been properly considered. If legal changes are made which then cannot be supported by the necessary funding, the consequences will be detrimental to both children and families.
4. Misrepresentation of Facts - The Report
4.1. In his report GB identified "two fundamental questions":
4.2. Careful reading of the report however, shows that he does not actually answer either question except with the very dubious claim which his recent letter acknowledges was made on a lack of real evidence. What the report actually did was accept evidence from groups, some of which were basing their fears on less than hearsay, and then make the bold claim that, "the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population." However, the report did not provide any data to support this claim.
4.3. GB sought to justify his recommendations with the following statement:
4.4. In this and subsequent paragraphs (up to 8.10) the report quotes submissions from various agencies, some of which are from the voluntary sector.
4.5. The NSPCC for example
only expressed fears about HE children, but offered no facts. Instead in an
article which appeared in The Independent (26 Feb), they linked their fears for
HE children to non-HE cases, "Some people use home education to hide. Look at
the Victoria Climbié case. No one asked where she was at school."
On April 28th, in a
letter to Education Otherwise which followed a meeting between the two
organisations, they acknowledged that this was an unjust accusation and
apologised for making it.
However the NSPCC submission to the GB review was made in March, so it has got be asked whether their 'evidence' was based on their unjustified beliefs or on facts. In the letter to Education Otherwise they stated, "We wish to make no inference about any connection between home education and abuse" but GB quotes them as saying, "We are concerned that the child's safety and welfare should be paramount and that there is nothing in the current guidance or framework that would prevent children from being abused by people who may claim to be home educators."
This therefore seems to be unreliable evidence.
4.6. The only person who it seems is able to offer any evidence of a connection between HE and abuse is Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI). She is quoted (8.9) as saying, "In a small number of cases, our evaluation of serious case reviews has identified that a lack of oversight of children receiving home education contributed to a serious incident or the death of a child." Nowhere does GB's report identify how few cases are being referred to by HMCI, even though this is a central objective of his brief.
4.7. It has to be noted at this point that all the agencies quoted in this section of the report (8.6 to 8.10) argued that schools offered the opportunity for the 'safeguarding' of children to take place. None of them however acknowledged the fact that schools have a very bad record at actually safeguarding young people from harm. Bullying, for example, is a major problem in the school system which often causes depression (in children and young people), even to the extent that some young people begin to truant and in the worse cases take their own lives. Very sadly there are other incidents where attendance at school has resulted in injury to pupils either by other students or in a 'small number of cases' by staff. Yet no one is saying that staff should be removed from classrooms under 'safeguarding' concerns.
4.8. In 8.4 GB rejected arguments "that attendance at school was no guarantee of a child's safety, as other tragic cases have indicated" (8.3) on the grounds that, "in that attendance at school brings other eyes to bear, and does provide opportunity for the child to disclose to a trusted adult." The daily failure in school to spot and stop incidents of bullying/violence by peers and occasionally staff, makes plain that the commitment to the premise that schools can and do effectively protect children who are being abused is an ideological one and not one which is shown to be true.
4.9. Having failed to obtain any substantial evidence that HE children are at greater risk of abuse than children who attend school, GB sought to build his case for registration and monitoring on the disproportionately high numbers of HE families known to Social Services departments:
4.10. This 'fact' is then presented as the central argument in justifying the establishment of a registration and monitoring scheme. Naturally, it was soon highlighted across the whole of the HE community as a serious misrepresentation of the facts.
5. The implications of GB's letter of 17th September 2009
5.1. In the second paragraph of this letter, written to all LA's in England and Wales, GB states the following:
5.2. There are at least three clear examples of "spin" in this paragraph:
1) 'a good response' - 90 out of 152 LAs (60%) responded to GB's initial request for evidence. He then wrote to those 90 for further information and just 25 replied. Whilst this was 28% of those written to, it was just 17% of the total number of LA's. That cannot be called good. (N.B. These figures have been made available following Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) - see below, 5.4, for details);
2) 'most of my recommendations have not been challenged' - GB is saying this even though the DfCSF 'consultation' has not been concluded. To the initial request for submissions from the public and interested organisations, GB received 2094 replies, of which 1418 were from HE parents. (Figures from DfCSF document released under FOI - direct link to file: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/foischeme/_documents/DfES_FoI_799.doc) The current 'consultation' closes on 19th October and only when the replies have been recorded and analysed will it be possible to say how many of GB's recommendations have been challenged. I expect the number of replies to the consultation from HE parents to exceed the number who responded to the review, and that most of GB's recommendations will be challenged by a majority of them.
3) 'a small group of home educators refuse to accept my conclusion...' - again it seems GB is only referring to those he has heard about. These proposals, and this claim in particular, is disputed by most if not all families who presently HE. As with point 2), data has yet to be collected on the actual numbers who believe GB has manipulated the statistics he gathered. It may well be that the number and content of submissions to this committee by HE will be a good guide to the actual numbers who reject his conclusion in this regard - though it should also be remembered that not all HE families have the skills to write such documents.
5.3. Perhaps the most conclusive evidence that GB knows he manipulated the results from his call for evidence in his report, is now that he has to justify them before this committee, he has sent out an urgent plea for additional data. If he had the data available to justify his conclusion, why is he looking for more? If he did not have it, why did he reach such a conclusion?
6. What does the known data show?
6.1. If he gets a larger
response this time from LAs, what will it reveal? Using FOI's, the HE support
group Action for Home Education (AHED) has obtained responses from most LAs
which cover most of GB's search for additional information. They are actively
being collated at:
and an article summarising key points in this data, and GB's misuse of it can be found at: http://ahed.pbworks.com/LiesDamnedLiesStatistics#DCSF/BadmanManipulatingFigures
A copy of the latter is included as Annex 1.
6.2. This article points out first that GB did not take into account why these families were known to LAs. Reasons which have nothing to do with 'safeguarding' concerns include: SEN requirements; wrongly referring all HE families to LA Social Services; ignorance and prejudice which could again lead to wrongly reporting HE children as 'not attending school'. I would also add another. In 4.4 of his report, GB cites a study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in 2007. This report concluded that , "Common reasons cited for opting to home educate include bullying, discontentment with the quality of education provided in school, or parents' religious, cultural and ideological beliefs. Risk of prosecution for non-attendance and inadequate provision for special educational needs..." No one has seemingly asked how many of those families who withdrew their children from school because of bullying or to avoid prosecution were known to LA Social Services before they started HE?
Unless all these factors are taken into account, then reaching the conclusion which GB did cannot be regarded as anything but a gross abuse of the data.
6.3. GB claimed that the number of HE children known to children's social care was disproportionately high, but the up-to-date figures gained by AHED show this to be a totally false assertion. The Google Spreadsheet referred to above (5.4.) is at present giving the following figures:
If these figures are correct, then GB's central 'finding' is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Rather than being disproportionally high, the number of cases of abuse in HE families which are known to LA Social Services, is significantly lower! In fact HE children are less likely to be abused than children who are not. The known abuse rate in all children is four times higher than that in the HE community.
6.4. GB's pivotal conclusion is certainly suspect and needs further investigation by those who can demand all the relevant information from LAs. Please see 8.1. below.
7. Other key issues
7.1. Space will not allow us to detail all the issues we have with the conduct of GB's review and the subsequent DfCSF 'consultation', but we do not want members of the committee to think these do not concern us. We have listed our main concerns in section 3. above, but would like to comment further on key ones here.
1) Undue burden of consultation on HE families : There have now been four consultations in less than four years.
2) Requirement to register annually is unreasonable and unnecessary : The burden of annual registration serves no proven benefit, nor do the criteria which are proposed at present. If the LA have the resources to support HE families properly, then registering children as HE once is all that is necessary.
3) Misrepresentation of the UNCRC : Please see Annex 2; a copy of an email from Leendert van Oostrum, Executive Officer of Pestalozzi Trust - Legal defence organization for home-educators in South Africa, which comments on this matter.
4) Significant changes to British common law : The proposals to grant the right of entry into private homes and the right to interview children as young as five without their parents present and without their consent, both without the need for judicial authorisation are significant changes which should not be implemented without full Parliamentary scrutiny.
5) The emphasis of the DfCSF 'consultation' is on monitoring and registration : GB's brief was also to look at ways of supporting HE families. The 'consultation' makes no reference to any of GB's recommendations in this regard, therefore it is not a full and proper consultation.
6) No costings of the proposals has been carried out : According to Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, DfCSF, her department did not expect the proposed changes to place any significant additional financial burdens upon local authorities. Two days before this submission needs to be received, Ed Balls has announced he can cut £2bn from the education budget. No responsible Government would put new burdens upon LAs without carrying out a full impact assessment first.
8.1. We request that in the light of GB's questionable report, the select committee recommends that no changes to the present law regarding HE are made until:
1) the actual figures of HE children known to have suffered abuse are obtained and properly analysed;
2) the relationship between the rights and responsibilities of parents and the responsibilities of States under the UNCRC are properly defined;
3) the legal implications of granting LA staff the right of access to private homes and to interview children alone with specific judicial authority is properly considered in the light of civil liberties, along with the rights of children to be protected from unnecessary duress by adults (including those representing the State);
4) the DfCSF have fully consulted HE parents, and the groups to which they belong, on appropriate forms of supporting them in the education of their children;
5) the DfCSF have carried out a full impact assessment on the financial implications of all the proposed changes.
8.2. We request that given the important legal implications of the proposed registration and monitoring scheme, the Select Committee recommends that these proposed changes be subject to full Parliamentary review and not implemented solely under Statutory Instruments.
 Not published.