Memorandum submitted by Ms Harris, Todmorden
I am submitting this memorandum as a home educator
The main focus of the review appears to have been safeguarding home-educated children, but Mr Badman himself was forced to admit (section 8.14) ... "I can find no evidence that elective home education is a particular factor in the removal of children to forced marriage, servitude or trafficking or for inappropriate abusive activities. ... this view is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers."
Despite this, Mr Badman still made 28 recommendations for interventions into home education, many of which have significant legal and financial implications.
The recommendations are wholly disproportionate, discriminatory, misleading, and inadequately resourced. No evidence was offered that these recommendations are necessary or that they would be of benefit.
Summary of Submission on the conduct of the review and related consultations (e.g. the constitution of the review team; the scope of the terms of reference for the review; and the nature of the consultation documents).
1. Opportunity to input to the review was inadequate, and unequal for home educators.
2. "Evidence" was highly inaccurate and subjective.
3. Academic and peer reviewed research relating
to the effectiveness of home education for example, Rothermel, P.
4. The use of the number of HE children "known to social care" was deliberately misleading.
5. Several agencies have felt misled and/or
misrepresented during the review, and have felt the need to take steps to make
this public eg Church of
6. Articles from UNCRC were referred to misleadingly, and selectively.
7. No impact assessment appears to have been
8. The recommendations are in conflict with existing legislation, common law and good practice, and are discriminatory in their application.
9. The recommendations discriminate against home-educators as a distinct community.
10. Definitions of a suitable education already exist, and there is no evidence of this being unsatisfactory.
11. The recommendations are disproportionate, and will reduce the effectiveness of existing systems.
12. The review presents no case for increasing the
powers of LAs rather than simply enforcing existing powers more efficiently.
Details re Conduct of the review :-
1. There were no home-educators on the review team, and very limited opportunity for home-educators to contribute eg only 6 questions for individual parents to submit.
a. Data and Tracking - number of "non-registered" HE children - this can only be guessed at (even if believed by the person responding to be "accurate"), substantially distorting the statistics based on these figures
b. Assessment and Monitoring - "what proportion (as a percentage) in your estimation is receiving a suitable, full time (20hrs a week) education? (Please describe)" - this assessment would depend on the level of experience, qualifications and training of the member of staff (often minimal or none), and on whether it was being (inappropriately) compared to the school system, or in it's own right if child led / autonomous.
c. Assessment and Monitoring - "how many cases have you come across that use the premise of home education as a 'cover' for child abuse, forced marriage or other aspects of child neglect?" - not even asking whether it's considered a suspected cover, and also a very leading question.
d. Assessment and Monitoring - "Please include the number of Serious Case Reviews you know about that have a home education element" -very loosely worded, and doesn't differentiate between those where it is considered to be a factor, and those where it isn't, causing distortion of statistics.
3. Mr Badman stated that he was "not convinced by the existing research studies...both in this country and elsewhere." The review quotes small sample sizes as the reason for this and then goes on to base 28 legally and financially substantial recommendations on data from only 25 LAs. No evidence was offered that home education is less effective than school education. Colleges and Universities welcome the self-motivated and self-taught HE children, which is surely evidence enough in its own right of the effectiveness of home education.
4. Many home educated children are known to social care departments because of their special needs, and/or other services they or their family members are using, and sometimes for children below school age who are siblings of home educated children. In addition, as each referral to social services rather than each child is counted, the figures are artificially inflated. Several LAs will consider home education itself a trigger for safeguarding concerns and will automatically report families to social services, when there is no evidence of child protection issues. The clear implication was of a disproportionate incidence of abuse within HE families, and this seems to underpin and fuel the subsequent recommendations.
5. Misrepresentation has been both direct and indirect, and has included quotes taken out of context, based on incorrect or incomplete information, and inappropriate links to specific incidents of serious abuse.
6. Mr Badman failed to refer to Article 16 which protects children from arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy, family or home, Article 5 which instructs the state to respect the responsibilities of parents to provide direction and guidance to their children, and article 18 that requires the government and its agencies to recognise that parents have primary responsibility for their children's upbringing and development.
7. The financial and legal implications of the recommendations are enormous, and this should automatically be addressed when substantial changes are recommended. Compulsory registration will substantially increase monitoring and assessment costs, as will the enforcement of each of these. The various elements of support recommended will have considerable resource implications. Any requirement for LAs to seek legal advice / action will make the associated costs substantially higher - this is particularly likely to happen given how rushed, controversial and disproportionate the recommendations are.
Details re Recommendations made by the review :-
a. To allow routine and uninvited access to the home is in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR which states that government should not unduly interfere with family life.
b. Home educating families would be the only sector of society whose homes LA officials would have right of access to, when there is no cause for concern over and above home education.
c. Current legislation states that parents have the legal responsibility to educate their children (section 7 Education Act 1996). Giving the LA power to decide whether a family can home educate contradicts this.
d. The review argues that LAs need automatic right of access to the home educated child to ascertain the views of the child. This conflicts with current statute on family privacy. The rights of the child to be heard does not automatically give the state right of access to the child.
9. Firstly, it only appears to be necessary to ascertain the views of home educated children, while not enabling schooled children the same right to express their views on their education. Secondly, the implication is that home educating parents do not take their children's views into account, and that schools do. Thirdly, there is no explanation of why HE children are considered to be more vulnerable than other children not in state schools - eg pre-school children, children excluded from school, children in private schools, or school children during the holidays.
10. Education needs to be suitable to the age,
ability and aptitude and any special needs (section 7 1996 Education Act). Case
law (Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson) already states that a 'suitable
education' is one which:
11. Adding the extra burden of investigating all home educating families where no concern has been noted will dilute the ability of education and social services to target help and intervention where it is genuinely needed. Overstretched services will be further overburdened with "safe and well" checks. These recommendations will therefore make vulnerable children more vulnerable. In addition the vast majority of children defined as "at risk" were already known to LAs and are below the age of compulsory education, and therefore would not be covered by these recommendations anyway.
12. Local Authorities already have the power to act if they believe an education is not being provided, or if there are concerns over a child's safety. It is the failure to enforce these existing powers appropriately that is the problem. If this issue is not addressed, then the state will simply have more problems enforcing these new powers too, especially since they are so incongruent with existing law.