Memorandum submitted by Pamela Perryman and Terence Perryman (CS 48)

 

Summary

(1) The review process and shortcomings: the terms of the review, value of academic studies, use of statistics, selective quotation.

(2) The State: appropriate role, appropriateness of qualifications.

(3) Discrimination: home visits, interviewing children alone, licensing, school children not treated the same.

(4) Berr guidelines and consultation: failure to adhere to guidelines, rushed consultation process.

(5) Select committee: findings not adhered to.

(6) Personal statement: view and personal connection.

(7) Recommendations

 

 

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"I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity. Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others. If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved."
Isaiah Berlin 'Two concepts of Liberty' (1958)

Relevant Background: We are home educating parents whose two children have never been to school and are now 14 years and 22 years of age. The eldest has a first class honours degree in Computing and Maths from Imperial College, London and is now in employment commensurate with his qualifications. He was educated 'autonomously' and did not begin any 'structured' maths until he was 15 years old. Both children have never attended school and have never had any association with local government officials in connection with home education matters. Pamela Perryman has experience in lecturing in further education and as a child protection social worker. Terence Perryman has experience in child protection as a social worker and in a subsequent career in the IT profession designed and implemented a Child Protection database for local government.

We would like it to be noted that we are in entire agreement with the submissions already presented by Education Otherwise, Roxanne Featherstone, Imran Shah, Rosemary McGruther and others in respect of Clause 26 above.

This submission would like to make the following additional points with regard to the above Clause and Schedule.

The Review

(1) The terms of the Review conducted by Graham Badman into Home Education were shown to have no foundation regarding forced marriage and child abuse. There were effectively no proposals for any meaningful increase in support which was the other component of the terms. This piece of legislation is based on these terms, but if unfounded there should in our view be no ensuing legislation on this matter.

(2) The Review makes critical observations on the validity of academic studies relating to outcomes for home educated children without serious consideration of the findings of Alan Thomas and Paula Rothermel in particular - the latter undertook a study considering the response of 419 families consisting of 1,099 children - there is a U. S. study which looked at some 20,000 children. See submission from Kelly Green in reference to the failure to make use of extensive North American experience. Whereas we are in agreement with properly conducted sociological studies to be undertaken with appropriate quantitative methods and analysis we feel these observations indicate the 'skewed and rushed nature' of the judgements expressed in this review.

(3) Mr. Badman indicated home Educators were twice as likely to commit abuse whereas the figures indicate that on the contrary they are half as likely to commit abuse. This issue was raised in the select committee proceedings. How can we have any faith in a review that makes such elementary errors in such a sensitive area?

(4) The review chose to use only selected quotes from home educators, ignoring others with whom Graham Badman spoke at three meetings to which he was invited. Many of those who spoke to him at the meeting we attended indicated the special needs problems for many home educated children and the patent failure of schools to be able to deal with these but this was not taken on board in the review nor has it been in this piece of legislation.

The State

(5) The government proposes that a family who refuse access to the home may be deemed to be providing inadequate information 19E (3) and 19F (1) (e). We believe that in a representative democracy there must be a limit to the powers of the State and a boundary between it and the everyday life of the citizens and their families. We believe that this legislation takes steps way beyond the normal balances maintained up to now in this country. Further we would ask that each member of the committee may like to consider the consequences of allowing 'rule following' agents of the State into the homes of citizens simply because they educate their children in that home. State employees are paid through the public purse, through taxes - does this not mean they should be accountable to us - not we accountable to them?

(6) In the case of state employees checking up on the quality of the education of home educators there are two further problems:

(a) The home educators may be more highly qualified than them in a formal academic sense.

(b) State employees have no experience and little training in home education. Most often they have experience only in schooling or mass education techniques and can be hostile in their attitudes as a result of their background (Graham Badman's own background is an example of this). In their personalised learning environment no single home educated child will be the same, either in their interests or in the level at which they attain particular skills. Therefore no amount of visiting or checking or monitoring will be able to determine a 'suitable education' based on the school model of attainment levels or any other system dependent upon rigid rules.

Discrimination

(7) Proposal to visit families in their own home under the threat that their 'license' to home educate may be withdrawn unless they comply- no other group of people are subject to this type of interference in family life. 19E (3) (d)

(8) To talk to the child alone without just cause with the implication being that if this is not agreed to by the parent that this could suggest an 'uncooperative attitude' and the license refused or revoked - this is akin to National Socialist Germany trying to enlist children in 'informing' on their parents, not a democratic society with checks and balances. Imagine the trauma for children who may have already been withdrawn from school because of either bullying or some other form of abuse by the agents of the state themselves. 19E (4)

(9) To maintain an annual register. This is effectively a license from the state to 'allow' parents to choose the form of their own child's education. The record of the state where it has removed and seized children from their parents has its own list of abuses and tragic outcomes. We hold that the risks of a parent raising and educating their own children are far preferable to the State doing so.

(10) School children are not subjected to (7), (8), or (9), so why should home educated children be subjected to such draconian treatment? Although most children attend a school it is not a requirement that they register with the local authority, but simply that the school has a register of pupils on its role. The parent has not abdicated the responsibility for their child's education and welfare but has elected a particular school to stand in loco parentis and therefore it is understandable that some sort of register of these children would be maintained.

Berr guidelines and Consultation

(11) The Review and subsequent consultation did not follow the Berr guidelines on consultations - please see the submission to the CSF Select Committee by Pamela Perryman.

(12) The new law was announced well before the findings of the DCSF Public Consultation Response on Home Education (registration and monitoring proposals) were published. The normal process should have been notification of intention to proceed within twelve weeks of closure of the consultation. In our view this indicated a rushed, unfinished and anti-democratic approach.

Select Committee

(13) Why is the government continuing with this when the select committee has presented considerable criticism of most of the proposals in this clause? These included:

(a) The validity of the cost of the proposals presented by the Government.

(b) That they did not believe that visits to the home are necessary.

(c) That they felt it to be inappropriate for state officials to interview children on their own without consent from parents.

(d) That they considered safeguarding issues should not be dealt with by education officials.

(e) That they expressed concern about the inadequacy of special needs provision.

Personal Statement.

(14) We felt that we would like to make this submission to the committee on this matter because we have a particular combination of backgrounds in that we have home educated both our children from the very beginning and have long working experience of local government in the areas which are most pertinent to this issue. We are sure that the committee is aware that there are many voices raised in protest against this clause and we want to add our own to the call to maintain a workable arrangement which has caused no public outcry and actually saves a not inconsiderable sum from the public purse. The only difficulty we can see in current arrangements is that by implication home education causes embarrassment for those purporting to represent themselves as educationalists along with the unholy alliance of 'rule following' officials who seek to justify and expand their material interests by departmental empire building. We cannot understand why a government in a time of great financial constraint would wish to expend yet more taxpayers money on an endeavour to restrict and make more difficult the lives of people already sacrificing much in the interest of future generations and patching up the manifest and considerable failings of a state apparatus which seems intent on ossifying and fossilizing the creative energies of its people.

Recommendations.

(15) That Clause 26, Part 1 and Schedule 1 are removed from the Bill in their entirety. An inadequately researched review, rushed and unfinished consultations and lack of knowledge of the subject under question should not form the basis for such far reaching legislation. We very much hope that this will be removed and therefore prevent the need for the matter to be tested in the European Court.

 

(16) Finally, we entirely endorse the words which Lord Lucas recently delivered in the House of Lords on this matter:

"We are considering a section of the Bill which will cost 20 million per annum, which is about 1,000 per home-educated child. These children receive no money to help pay the costs of examinations; no money to buy textbooks; no money to buy materials; no money and no tuition to help them over difficulties in education. Now the Government can find 1,000 for each of these children-and will spend it on auditing them. Not one penny will go to help the children; it will all go on auditing them. What have these people done to deserve that?" Lord Lucas

February 2010