Memorandum submitted by Ceri Kruger

 

I would like to comment on the recent review of home education which was carried out in consultation with the public. My main points are:

lack of attention paid to home-educators / educated views;

already adequate laws in place for safeguarding children;

home education is not a safeguarding issue - home educated children are as seen as any other child in society, sometimes more so;

review team seem to have misunderstood home-education, and some of the resulting recommendations show this, particularly that of a requirement for a years' plan ahead of time;

recommendation to allow access to the family home gives greater powers than are necessary and that can only normally be had when substantial concerns for abuse;

to require a LA representative to see a child without their carer is unnecessary, and could even be felt as abusive to the child;

children should not be REQUIRED to show evidence of learning activities, but could do so if they wish;

based on a lack of statistical data, therefore unreliable;

recommendations are disproportionate - unsubstantiated claims as to worrying number of cases of abuse and high percentages of HE children known to social services;

parents should not need PERMISSION to educate their children - it is their RIGHT.

 

1. It would seem to me from the recommendations which Mr. Graham Badman has given that very little, if any, attention has been paid to the many home educators and home educated young people who responded. Mr. Badman said that he had to consider the needs of both the parents and the children in home education, as though the needs of the children are very different, even opposite, from that of their parents. He does not seem to have listened to many children who have voiced their opinions, including some in the original consultation, and many who are deeply worried with the proposals in the report from the consultation. These children who are important members of society in our country, and who should be represented fairly by the government, are actually having their needs ignored by the government. It appears very much to be a large PR exercise! They must listen to the needs and concerns of those who would be affected by these measures.

 

2. The review itself was very much focused on the idea that simply by being at home with their parents, home-educated children were very much at risk and therefore in need of protection and safeguarding. This is highly insulting to those in the home education community, of which I am a part, and is also an outright falsehood. If anything, children at home are in much safer, more caring and concerned hands than those who are out of home for the great part of any day. So many children and young people who are home-educated are doing so for their own welfare and protection as they were anything but safe when in the care of others in school. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of children are bullied in school at any one time, and yet the government has implied here that children are safer if in school, more in danger if at home. This appears to have been quite a deliberate thing, and has certainly done damage. If, as apparently is the case, the government is seeking the welfare of every child ("every child matters"), then home education is certainly assisting them in this. I find it hard to see any need for a consultation in the first place, considering the fact that many schools throughout the country do not meet the standards needed to protect and adequately educate every child in their care. The home education community is doing this quite adequately or more, and in many instances doing so BECAUSE schools were unable to meet the child's needs. Any monitoring of home-education at all is an educational, not a safeguarding, matter.

 

3. The conclusions of the review have assumed that the laws already in place are not already adequate in the case of assuring the safety of children educated at home. As for every other child in the country, who is at home for many hours outside of the school day, (including night-time, mornings, evenings, weekends and holidays), if a child is noticed to be in danger of any kind, there are already in place means whereby a concerned neighbour, friend, family member, or other individual in the child's life may report their concern and the child's safety would be assessed. The argument given that home-educated children are not seen and therefore are in danger is totally unfounded, and quite clearly shows the lack of understanding of the panel who made the report. Home-educated children and young people see people throughout their week, many of them tending to see people on a regular basis (ie. they will be well known to those people) and will see various people through the course of a normal day. The ONLY difference is that the people they see are often not a large number of people of exactly their own age, and an alternative care provider (a teacher) all day, every day of the week. No, they have their original care provider (their parent) and people of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. In fact this kind of true socialisation only assists them in becoming well-rounded people, and fully prepared for their future. They do not have to ENTER the real world, for they are already living IN it! It is a socialisation which allows them to feel confident in many situations and not only with their peer group. It is a positive thing in the life of a child, and certainly does not mean that they are hidden away in any way.

 

4. I feel that the review team for the consultation, although stated as being experts on home education, were if anything only experts in mainstream school education. There is a great difference between the two. It was stated that differences in styles of home education would be taken into account, and yet I do not feel that this has happened at all. I am not even certain that the review team were fully aware of those various types of education, and certainly not accepting of them, though they are all valid, and many would argue are more effective than the education offered in our schools. This should have been a requirement for anyone on this panel. Mr. Badman himself may be an expert in the school system, but if he had no experience in the world of home-education, he cannot in any way be called an expert on that. The parents and children who are participating in home-education, and those who have done so are the only real experts, followed by those inspectors who have taken the time to get to know these people and their world, and have been open enough to see the benefits both of the school system and of home education. Many of these have seen and commented on great benefits home education plays in the lives of many children throughout the country. The recommendation in the consultation report for parents of home-educated children to be REQUIRED to provide a years' plan of what their children will be learning, and expected targets (effectively) shows a total MISunderstanding  of a large part of the home educating community and how their form of education operates. This requirement is based very much on a school way of thinking.

 

5. The recommendation that parents will be required to register each year, and if moving, and that recommendation can be turned down is very much like an application rather than registering as a home educator, and would be totally open to the whims of local LEA officers, some of whom have shown themselves to be very anti-home-education. It is not for the government or any of its employees to dictate what type of education is or isn't acceptable. A parent knows best for their child. Many children also play a huge part in deciding on their own education, as in autonomous education. Children are not all one, they are as different as we adults, and with come very different, abilities and interests. Real education allows the child to enjoy learning, and to be free to do so in the way or ways that is suited to them. School education is certainly not suited to all children. For any human being to be fully interested and open to learning they need to WANT to learn about something. When an autonomously educated child learns about something, it is because they want to know about it, and there is great benefit in doing it this way. They may not necessarily have an across the board range of "subjects" (for want of a better word) in one month, or even one year, but their whole curriculum will very naturally flow from one area to another, some very in depth, and the child's knowledge, understanding, and experience over their years of 'education' cover a very broad and balanced range of interests. At the same time, the child is able to focus in on any areas of real talent or interest, which in many instances has or will prepare them to enter the adult world capable, well-experienced, and ready to work in whatever area of society they choose. They become highly innovative, and they do not lose their love of learning. The requirement to provide a years' plan ahead of time is not only unrealistic, but impossible. To do so would either tie the child and parents down to the plan instead of allowing them the freedom to really learn, or they would not keep to the plan. When a child dictates their learning according to their interests, (a natural way of learning - who doesn't do it this way as an adult?) they may not know more than a month or two ahead of time what they will be looking at, certainly not a year. To then be judged on whether those plans have been adhered to, will be asking for failure, either in adhering to the plans, or in meeting the real needs of the child, possibly both. Autonomous education is a very effective form of education, but would be made impossible if these recommendations became law.

 

6. An even more worrying recommendation is that of allowing local authority representatives access to the home of home-educated children. No person in the country should have their home invaded in such a way unless they are believed to be committing a serious crime, and it is being investigated. As in all situations, home-educators should be presumed innocent of any crime unless there is evidence or serious concern to prove otherwise. Home education is not, and should in no way be, a crime. Loving and caring for your child in the best way for that child is also not a crime. Home-educated children, have a safe haven in their homes, in it should always be that way. The same applies for those who are not home-educated. I do not see any recommendations for allowing Local Authorities to check the homes of all children in the country. If there were such recommendations there would be anger across the nation! It is withdrawing basic human rights to privacy and safety n your own home. If the government really is, as they say they are, looking to the needs of every child, then they should not force themselves upon children or their families in this way and take from them the feeling of safety they should always enjoy in their home.

 

7. The recommendation for a LA representative to have the right to see the child alone is also a breach of these basic human rights. The child has done no wrong, the parent is not committing a crime - and should never be presumed to be doing so - and they deserve to have the safety of a parent with them when speaking with what would normally be a stranger. Many parents, myself included, would never leave my child alone with a stranger, or with someone who I was not absolutely certain would not pose a danger of any kind to the child. Working for a Local Authority does not, I am afraid, automatically mean that a child will be safe in your care. Even the fact that adults can very easy twist words if they so choose to, imply meanings when the child would not even be aware of it happening, and guide discussions to their own aims, means that it is not suitable to leave a child alone to discuss their education or otherwise with a local authority representative. No parent should ever be forced or even coerced to do so, nor should a child be pressured in any way to do so. It would go against the whole ethos of home-education anyway in many people's eyes to apply such pressure.

 

8. The child should likewise not be required to give evidence of learning activities, but of course is perfectly at liberty to do so should they choose. An adult entering the world of a child should apply no pressure anyway, especially if they are a stranger. To know that they are learning and are happy is all that the representative should need to know. Some children, especially up to the age of 10 or 11, possibly even older, will not be learning in a formal way and so have work as such that they could 'show'. Many younger children will learn in ways that are most meaningful for them and will perform tasks merely for show when they are unnecessary, maybe even unhelpful, to their learning style. They should not be required to do so.

 

9. Graham Badman's recommendations in general were highly contentious and disproportionate. The number of children outside of this sector of society are more in danger in so many ways, including in our schools where children are overlooked, bullied, and highly pressured. His review was clearly a very biased one with unsubstantiated claims. It has recently come to light that only a very small number of local education authorities gave information in this consultation (only 25) and yet very blanket statements were given. This lack of statistical data should have made it impossible for Mr. Badman to come to any real conclusions based on information from those local authorities who did submit to the consultation. Any recommendations he has made are clearly unreliable without substantial evidence to prove that a need or concern is there. I do not believe there is any!

 

10. The claim that in some areas a far greater number of home-educated children are "known to social services" is I believe a highly misleading statement. This statement in the review appears to be deliberately misleading, and in some areas of the country has had what appears to be the desired effect, in people assuming that children educated at home are greatly in danger. My Badman should surely be aware of the many reasons that children are known to social services, including for speech and language and other disabilities for which they are receiving help. A large number of children are educated at home specifically BECAUSE of their personal disabilities, whether due to bullying in school, or their needs being more readily met in a one-to-one situation rather than in a classroom with few teachers and many children. It would not be uncommon for there to be a larger number of children with varying learning needs in a home-education community, simply because many parents of children with a special need recognise that they can do as much if not more for their child in having a normal life as well as giving them the chance of as high as possible a level of education by having them learn at home. It also appears that some LAs have automatically referred home-educated children to social services, so it is no wonder in such areas that the percentage of children educated at home that are "known" to social services would be higher than the percentage of children in schools! It is not exactly a cause for concern, but rather a result of bureaucracy!

 

11. Parents are responsible for their children receiving an education. Many choose to hand that responsibility over to schools to fulfil, but many others do not and are at perfect liberty to do so. This has always been the case. For those who do hand over this responsibility, it is fair for the government to ensure that those schools are delivering an adequate form of education and are caring well for the children they are responsible for. That reporting is to the parents, through the government. However, parents who retain that right and responsibility to themselves do not need to report to anybody. Theirs is the God-given responsibility in the first place, and their it remains. They do not be dictated to, and they do not need (nor should they need) permission from their local authority to do so. It would not be right in any way to turn down a parent's right to educate their child because an individual wasn't satisfied with a proposed plan of education, especially for those who have not even had the chance to share those learning experiences as yet. The idea of requiring a plan of any kind is unnecessary, and would never be required anyway by any reasonable inspector when a person is first setting out on the road of home-education. Parents and children learn together what best meets their needs, through doing it, and it will evolve along the way as do the needs of the child. Mr. Badman's recommendation is more like issuing a year's permission, or license, which can be revoked at any time, and who are they to grant that permission in the first place?

September 2009