Memorandum submitted by Jacquie Cox (CS 45)
Schedule 1 - Home Education.
1. As a home educating parent whose children have never been to school, I have of course been following the passage of this bill very closely. I am concerned with what I see as the repeated misuse of data and misquoted information that is being used to persuade both public and Members of Parliament alike, that Schedule 1 of the Children's, Schools, and Families Bill 2009, is benign and intended to support home educators.
2. In the House of Commons last week (25/01/2010), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ms Diana R. Johnson was asked by Mr. David Anderson, MP on the Badman Report,
"What assessment he [Graham Badman] has made of the accuracy of data used to produce the Badman Report."
3. "...does she [Diana Johnson] acknowledge that my constituents and many others feel that the data that were pulled together meant that Badman got this badly wrong, particularly when he said that children who were home educated were twice as likely to go on the at-risk register? They believe that that information means that they, as parents, are being scapegoated and that a bad decision might be made. May we have a reassurance that that will not happen?"
4. To which Ms Johnson replied, "May I...make it clear once again that Graham Badman's report is about home education? On the safeguarding data, Graham Badman asked for information from local authorities about child protection plans, because they are the only evidence of rigorous multi-agency processes that show no bias or subjectivity in relation to safeguarding. Seventy-four of 152 local authorities responded, which covers over 55 per cent. of the local authorities in the country, and Graham Badman found a higher incidence of home-educated children in those child protection plans. I reiterate that there are safeguarding provisions in place generally in our law. The report is predominantly about education."
5. This statement appears to suggest that more than half of all local authorities in England presented data and therefore give credence to the 'numbers' bandied around by Mr Badman. While I have made previous submissions about the Badman statistics alongside a number of other home educators, my concern here is that Ms Johnson appears to be one of the many failed by the State education that she received. I am mathematically challenged myself, but even I know at a glance that 74 out of 152 LAs does in fact equate to 48.68%, not 'over 55%'. As we have seen, infinitely smaller fractions of percentages appear to have great significance in the context of home education and in light of our status as potential abusers, religious fanatics and racists. While I understand that the position of under secretary is unpaid, it is unconscionable to me that she should be allowed to play fast and loose when Home Educators fundamental freedoms are at risk.
6. Ms Johnson argues ad nauseum that the Badman report is about education and the support of home educating families. The problem with ad nauseum arguments is that they are logical fallacies that employ intentional obfuscation, where rationality is ignored in favour of preconceived ideas and subjective reasoning.
7. This government and the Badman Review have variously portrayed parents of EHE children as potential paedophiles and child traffickers. Most recently the DCSF has associated us with vilification campaigns and insinuated that we are religious fanatics and racists.
8. The recent consultation on the registration and monitoring of Home Education chose to ignore thousands of responses by stakeholders directly impacted by the proposed legislation, on the basis that they (the DCSF) perceived responses to be from 'campaigns' apparently lead by organisations like Education Otherwise, a charity created and run by home educators for the benefit and information of home educators.
9. This government made no effort to contact the estimated 20 000 home educators that they know are registered with local authorities, in accordance with its own best practice guidelines on consultation. How else were home educators to be made aware of a consultation proposing life changing legislation, in the absence to notification by this government, than by their own organisation? Many of the responses to both the Review and the Consultation were those of EHE children, none of whom belong to the BNP as this government insinuates.
10. Everyone from Ed Balls to the Baroness Drefelin argues (once again ad nauseum) that this Schedule 1 is about the rights of home educated children. What about EHE children's right not to be discriminated against? What about their right to express themselves on issues that affect them? Inherent in their right to have and express an opinion, is the right to express such an opinion in opposition to what this government intends for them.
11. What about their rights to the protection, promotion of and support for their basic human dignity. Our family has suffered an increasing number of attacks on our home because of this government's insinuations and blatant vilification of home educators. Where is this government's consideration for our children's human dignity when it makes outrageous, wholly unsubstantiated, erroneous, and frankly disgusting public comments about home educators?
12. How are our children to develop a respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for their parents and for their own culture and that of their nation, when these are clearly not in evidence in the way EHE families have been treated by this government? There is no evidence at all of the "spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin" [As enshrined in the UNCRC] in this governments dealings with the home education community, who are for all intents and purposes a minority, based on our social and educational status.
13. What Schedule 1 proposes is to give local authority employees more power over EHE children than both the police and social workers, all in the absence of any evidence of any potential let alone real harm to an EHE child. Ensuring that all children are safe and well and learning is a grand and laudable aim, but how can that be acceptable at the expense of MY children's rights? Or at the expense of the rights of the vast majority of other home educated children?
14. This government intends to legislate to give local authority employees, who may well be child abusers themselves, unrestricted access to our children if they see fit. If the parent, and even more importantly the child, refuses interrogation without the parent present, this will be a sound basis for refusing registration and consequently, for forcing children into schools against their will.
15. My last point concerns the memorandum submitted to this committee by the LGA (CS23) concerning their "understanding that councils have a statutory duty to promote high standards, ensure fair access to educational opportunity and promote the fulfilment by every child of his or her educational potential. This applies whether or not children attend school."
16. While everyone expects LA officials to act professionally, it has been my personal experience that this is often not the case. They are prone to serious misinterpretations of the law to suit their own agenda, and as the Education Welfare Officer that door stopped me said, "I don't know what the law says, that is just how we do it!"
17. s.1 of the Education & Inspections Act (EIA) 2006 - which inserts s.13A to the Education Act 1996 states:
(1) A local education authority shall ensure that their functions relating to the provision of education to which this section applies are (so far as they are capable of being so exercised) exercised by the authority with a view to-
(a) promoting high standards,
(b) in the case of a local education authority in England, ensuring fair access to educational opportunity, and
(c) promoting the fulfilment by every child concerned of his educational potential.
(2) This section applies to education for-
(a) children of compulsory school age (whether at school or otherwise); and
(b) children under or over that age who are registered as pupils at schools maintained by the authority,
and in subsection (1) "functions" means functions of whatever nature.
(3) In this section "child" means a person under the age of 20."
18. This section refers to functions where the local authority PROVIDES EDUCATION. Clearly, the local authority does NOT provide education to HOME educated children, home educating parents DO! This selective and erroneous interpretation of legislation is a common theme among local authorities, and makes for bad relationships with home educators who have made a particular effort to read and understand the law to the best of our abilities.
19. Clearly an understanding of the language of a Bill (or guidelines for that matter) is essential to interpretation of it by local authorities. What appears obvious and reasonable to Members of Parliament is often not so to local authority officials.