Memorandum submitted by Autism In Mind

 

Executive summary 

 

1. Autism In Mind (AIM) has several concerns;

 

That the elective home education review was conducted by people who had no knowledge, or experience of, Special Educational Needs (SEN) and/or disabilities.

 

No concrete recommendations specifically wrapped around SEN/Disability

 

Any changes, reasonable adjustments and support that are required by home educated children with SEN/Disability are being left to OFSTED.

 

Only two areas of the recommendations are being acted upon: Registration and Monitoring.

The government proposes immediate implementation of 'Registration and monitoring' but have not expressed the desire to act immediately upon the recommendations relating to 'Support'.

 

Some effective examples of good practice currently being used in various Local Authorities and informative literature were left out or not looked at.

 

Information about the law and legislative framework were inadequate, both from within the UK and European Law. Examples given were used in inaccurate ways which could change the way in which they were meant in the original drafting of those laws and statements.

 

Evidence given by AIM was inaccurately recorded.

 

No impact assessment was undertaken with regard to the lack of training and absence of support for children with SEN and disabilities.

 

ECM outcomes, intended to assess local authority provision, are to be applied to individual children.

 

That Graham Badman wrote to Local Authorities on September 17th 2009 in an attempt to strengthen his statistical evidence regarding a disproportionate amount of home educated children being known to social care and a small but significant proportion of home educated children are receiving no, or an inadequate, education in advance of the select committee hearing.

 

Local Authorities got more time to submit their opinions and submissions and a separate and longer questionnaire, home educators did not get this for the review remit.

 

Autism In Mind (AIM) recommends that the current consultation on registration and monitoring is halted and a new thorough review carried out by a panel with relevant expertise. AIM would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Select Committee.

 

Area of interest

 

2. Autism In Mind (AIM) is a national campaign and support group for parents and carers living with autism, run solely by volunteers. AIM campaigns for greater awareness and better resources and provision for children and adults with an autistic spectrum condition. Carole Rutherford, co-founder of AIM, is currently a member of the Autism and Education Trust and is also a member of the External Reference Group working with the Department of Health on writing the National Autism Strategy for Adults. AIM has also recently produced several reports for the current Brian Lamb Inquiry on the lack of confidence in SEN systems. AIM supports parents who have children who are being educated in school and at home and has written papers about the rise in home education and autistic spectrum disorders which have been circulated to the APPG for Autism as well as the National Autistic Society. This is also something that was discussed in 2003 with Lord Filkin. AIM continues to flag up the rising numbers of autistic children being educated at home and the reasons why parents are removing these children from schools and monitors the home education arena, alerting interested parties to reviews and consultations, and giving advice on them.

 

Review team

3. AIM is concerned that Graham Badman did not include on his Expert Reference Group, anyone with a depth of knowledge, understanding and experience of SEN, Autism, or any other disability. There was also no-one with sufficient knowledge of the law surrounding the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice or other educational law, making it impossible for the panel to understand the complexities of educating a child with SEN or a disability at home. The lack of understanding is reflected in some of the recommendations, and their possible impact on families' home educating children with SEN.

 

3.1 Carole Rutherford stressed to Graham Badman during the short telephone meeting, that there must be someone on the panel who had experience in these areas.

 

3.2 Beth Reid, Policy Manager for the National Autistic Society (who was also present during part of the telephone meeting mentioned in 3.1) later suggested Brian Lamb might have the relevant experience.

 

3.3 Graham Badman then invited Beth Reid onto his Expert Reference Group. The Expert Reference Group still had no members with experience in SEN law, home education law, and other disabilities and special educational needs such as Downs Syndrome, Visual Impairment and dyslexia.

 

Terms of reference

 

4. One of the terms of reference was "Whether local authorities are providing the right type, level and balance of support to home educating families to ensure that parents are undertaking their duties to provide a suitable full time education to their children".  However the consultation that has resulted from the review is only concerned with registration and monitoring and does not address the balance of power between the LA and the family, nor how an LA can best support a family home educating a child with sen/disability.

 

4.1 There is no compulsion within the recommendations for the LAs to provide any support even though support was wanted by the majority of home educators who completed AiM's questionnaire.  

 

5. The terms of reference also state: "Whether any changes to the current regime for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes." There is confusion about using the ECM outcomes for individual home educated children. The ECM outcomes framework is used to measure LAs and whether they are providing the right services to enable children being educated in their schools to achieve the 5 aims of ECM. This cannot be used to measure individual children and, therefore, is of limited, if any, use when dealing with home educated children in this way.

 

6. Under Review Methodology it states that the review will: Map existing practice and consider the effectiveness of different practice "including identifying best practice in England and elsewhere in monitoring home education from an Every Child Matters perspective". AIM feels that although views on effective best practice were sought, the report was biased in its choice of evidence and was also too quick to dismiss evidence. Evidence from other countries was not examined systematically and thoroughly.

 

7. The Scope included: "The review will gather views and evidence through a literature review, a review of the law and guidance and a series of interviews with key stakeholders representing the range of interests". The literature review was incomplete and some very good books that could have been very informative were not included. in particular Home Educating our Autistic Spectrum Disorder Children, Paths are Made by Walking, by Dowty and Cowlishaw.

 

7.1 The review on law was weak. The report seeks a balance between the rights of a parent and the rights of the child. In fact English law does not give parents a right to home educate, but a duty which is defined by the child's educational needs. If local authorities feel that a child might not be receiving a suitable education, existing law gives them powers to make further enquiries and to act if the parent appears to be failing in their duty.

 

AIM's evidence to the review

 

8. Carole Rutherford, on behalf of AIM, was interviewed as a stakeholder by Graham Badman.  Beth Reid (National Autistic Society) also took part in approximately half of the telephone meeting.   However, when the notes were presented to Carole Rutherford by Elizabeth Green there was no mention of Beth Reid being involved in the telephone meeting at all. The notes were not only inaccurate pertaining to certain issues they actually stated the opposite of what was said.

 

9. Carole Rutherford found that some items in the notes were actually not discussed during the telephone meeting at all, but in a later telephone conversation with Elizabeth Green. In particular, a reference to children with a diagnosis of Autism possibly having a key worker (as outlined in the Autism Exemplar which forms part of the National Service Framework for children), involved with any monitoring of the education and safeguarding of the children.  It appears that the notes from the initial meeting were prepared some time after that meeting and, therefore, may have been based on faulty memory.  Ms Green did agree to alter the notes.

 

9.1 It was also stated in the notes that AIM believed that the Tasmanian model of home education could work in the UK. Carole Rutherford had actually stated that she did not see how the Tasmanian Model could work in the UK, completely the opposite viewpoint.

 

9.2 Based on the above points, AIM is concerned that Graham Badman's recommendations might have been influenced by inaccurate and incomplete notes, as well as a lack of understanding of SEN and disability issues. The notes were issued to AIM after the review recommendations were made public and the current consultation was underway.

 

Consequences of the review

 

10. There has been no Impact Assessment for this review or the resultant consultation. There will be significant costs for the implementation of the recommendations, in particular the training that the LA officers will need to undertake in order to understand the vastly differing forms of education that can take place with regards to children who are disabled or have SEN.

11. The vast majority of recommendations have not been consulted on.

 

 

12. The recommendations which refer to SEN are confusing, open to misinterpretation and in some cases irrelevant. Statements are only legally binding within a school, and only pertain to a classroom situation. School Action Plus is initiated from within a school when that school requires additional support for a child with SEN. School Action Plus enables a school to access external support services that will see a child in school and where appropriate and practicable can advise teachers on IEP's, targets and accompanying strategies and provide more specialist assessments that can inform planning and the measurement of a pupil's progress.  School Action Plus is not applicable to the home educated child, and shows lack of understanding of the Law surrounding SEN.

 

13. The resulting Elective Home Education Consultation fails to mention children being home educated with SEN/Disability and any reasonable adjustments they will require in connection with monitoring.

 

14. Parents are already informing AIM that some Local Authorities are already introducing new policies wrapped around the Graham Badman Review Recommendations but using their own interpretations of them.

 

Conclusion

 

15. In conclusion AIM feels that the Elective Home education Review was not conducted with the level of expertise, reference to specialist literature and knowledge of SEN law that was required to fully understand SEN and disabilities. AIM is concerned that the consultation resulting from the Badman Review does not include any reference at all to children who are being home educated with a SEN/Disability, and how reasonable adjustments would have to be made for these children regarding monitoring and safeguarding. OFSTED play no part at all in the home education of a child but are being given a pivotal role to play in the future for these children. The Consultation has only paid regard to two parts of the review recommendations: Registration and Monitoring. Lastly AIM's evidence was inaccurately recorded. .

Recommendation for Action

 

16. AIM recommends that the Select Committee brings a halt to the consultation and further changes to the law, until a thorough review in a reasonable time scale (we suggest a year) is carried out by a panel with relevant expertise. This review should include, but not be limited to, a review of the conflicting laws surrounding home education and children missing from education, SEN and Disabilities, an impact assessment, and a thorough review of all literature.

September 2009