The Review of Elective Home Education - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


3  EVIDENCE BASE FOR THE REGISTRATION AND MONITORING RECOMMENDATIONS

31. Much of the controversy surrounding the Badman Report—or certainly the challenge made to it—has been rooted in the perceived deficiencies in its evidence base, not least its statistical analysis. Home educators have also been highly critical of the way in which the review was conducted, which is where we start.

Conduct of the review

32. Home educators questioned whether, as a former local authority Director of Children's Services, Graham Badman was a suitable choice to lead a review into elective home education. His expertise and impartiality in this respect were both queried. The membership of the review's 'expert reference group' was also criticised for its lack of expertise in relation to home education—members were generally from an early years, schools or safeguarding background.[32]

33. The review was required to report in a short timeframe—just five months. Even members of the expert reference group said that they would have welcomed more time to address such a "complex area".[33] On this matter Professor James Conroy, a late addition to the review's expert reference group, commented that:

    The final report was somewhat rushed and there was little enough time to digest or reflect on either the report or the recommendations. ... In my 30 odd years of professional life in education I have rarely encountered a process, the entirety of which was so slapdash, panic riven, and nakedly and naively populist..[34]

Philip Noyes of the NSPCC pointed out that the pace of the review was no different from that of other of the Department's consultations.[35]

34. There was criticism of the disparity in the size of the questionnaire sent to home educators and others and those sent to local authorities. Similarly, there was criticism of the content of the questionnaires, with the suggestion that they contained leading questions or questions that misrepresented current law and guidelines.[36] There were similar accusations concerning meetings between the review team and home educators and others.[37] It should be noted, though, that those local authority officers who commented on the conduct of the review emphasised the professionalism and impartiality of the review team.[38]

35. On the review's Report many home educators pointed to its selective use of quotes, and use of quotes taken out of context. Of particular concern was the Report's use of a submission by the Church of England Education Division (CEED).[39] CEED officers themselves stated to us that they "…were disappointed with the impression left by the selective use of our submission".[40]

36. Many criticised the review for not engaging more fully with some of the research literature on home education. Some were also aggrieved that the Report did not consider legislative arrangements for home education in Scotland or the United States.[41] It is the case, however, that while Scottish practice is close to current relatively permissive arrangements in England, practice in the United States varies significantly across states and in some cases involves a similar or greater level of regulation than is recommended in the Badman Report.[42] Some home educators were disappointed that the full literature review supporting the Report was not published alongside it. Home educators later obtained a copy of the literature review through Freedom of Information requests.

Evidence base

37. In calling for the registration and monitoring of home educating families to be put on a more formal footing the Badman Report and the Department cite safeguarding as a, if not the, key driver.[43] This relates in large part to the suggestion in the Badman Report that home educated children are at a greater risk of harm than other children. Paragraph 8.12 of the Badman Report states:

    …on the basis of local authority evidence and case studies presented, and even acknowledging the variation between authorities, the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population. …despite the small number of serious case reviews where home education was a feature, the consideration of these reviews and the data outlined above, suggests that those engaged in the support and monitoring of home education should be alert to the potential additional risk to children.

The Badman Report itself does not include any actual figures in relation to this statement. The data on which it was based was subsequently accessed by home educators through Freedom of Information requests.[44]

38. Home educators' observations on the data were that:

  • the assertion is based on extrapolation from estimates provided by a potentially unrepresentative sample of 25 local authorities;
  • the data may be further skewed due to the review team using the phrase 'known to social care' as opposed to official reporting categories, potentially leading to differences in how local authorities interpreted their data;
  • home educated children may be 'known to social care' for reasons other than safeguarding concerns (e.g. having been reported by a neighbour who was unaware that home education is legal; or in relation to the child's special educational needs); and
  • the figures are artificially inflated as each referral to social care, rather than each child, is counted.[45]

39. The highly sensitive nature of the claim in the Badman Report led some home educators to remark on the "shameful" way in which a "poorly evidenced" suggestion that home educated children were at greater risk of harm had been communicated to the public.[46] A comment by Baroness Delyth Morgan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families, when announcing the review that: "…in some extreme cases home education could be used as a cover for abuse",[47] caused similar outrage—one home educator suggesting that it had "promoted mistrust of home educating families…" and "smeared" her decision to home educate her child.[48]

40. The review team subsequently contacted local authorities once again in order to gather "more extensive and statistically robust" data in advance of giving evidence to our inquiry.[49] Many home educators criticised this request, regarding it as an admission that the original data was inadequate. They were equally critical of the decision by the Secretary of State to accept the Badman Report's recommendations on registration and monitoring on the basis of the original data.[50]

41. When presenting his evidence to us Mr Badman stated that the new data, being concerned only with children subject to a Child Protection Plan, was not skewed by the issues raised regarding his earlier figures. He also stated that the new data confirmed his earlier finding:

    Just to be clear, the data sample was from 74 authorities. The percentage of the population of elective home educators from those 74 authorities who are on Child Protection Plans is 0.4%. From the same group of all children, it is 0.2%. So, it is [proportionately] double.[51]

Given that the total number of home educated children is not known, making claims about the proportion of these children who are at risk is problematic. Any child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan is known to a local authority. We know how many of these children are home educated. As we do not yet know how many home educated children there are in total it is not possible to come to any conclusions regarding the relative proportion of home educated and school educated children who are subject to a Plan. Mr Badman suggested that those home educated children who are not known to a local authority could be at risk of harm.[52] However, this could also be said of school educated children, though it is the case that these children are not 'under the radar' in the same way as home educated children not known to the authorities. It should be noted that home educators have anyway questioned the 0.4% figure on the basis of sample size and bias and sampling error.[53]

42. Between these two data gathering exercises home educators submitted Freedom of Information requests to local authorities in order to obtain their own data. They claim that these data show home educated children to be at less risk of harm than other children.[54]

43. Obviously, the home educators' analysis of their own data also involves making comparisons between populations on the basis of incomplete data. As one home educator did point out, there are further flaws regarding these figures.[55] There remains, then, no definitive quantitative analysis of the comparative safeguarding risk to home educated and school educated children.

44. Home educators have, in addition, commented on the evidence from recent Serious Case Reviews (SCRs), evidence that the Badman review also took into consideration alongside other case studies that were submitted by local authorities to the review. A working paper summarising local authority information returned to the review, again obtained by home educators through Freedom of Information requests, discussed four SCRs where there was "a home education element". The home educators pointed out that in three instances it was explicitly stated in the SCR documentation that parents complied with local home education monitoring arrangements and that no concerns had been noted. The home educators also pointed out that in two of the cases there had been extensive family contact with various social services departments either immediately prior to the event leading up to the SCR or prior to fostering and adoption arrangements being made.[56] But, as also outlined in the working paper, each of the SCRs recommended that procedures for monitoring and supporting home educated children be strengthened, whether for all home educated children or for those where there are safeguarding concerns. The working paper also referred to two cases of trafficked children who were said to be home educated.[57]

45. The case studies submitted to the Badman review were not published. We have, though, seen a selection of them, each of which illustrates the difficult task that local authorities currently face in managing instances where home education is taken up inappropriately—factors that cannot be accounted for in debates regarding the statistical risk posed or not posed by home education. As Sir Paul Ennals, Chief Executive of the National Children's Bureau, remarked: "We could do triple the amount of research…and I don't think it would highlight any further what's really a series of individual issues that we find across the country".[58]

46. This is not to say, however, that the recommendations put forward in the Badman Report would have prevented the SCRs discussed here,[59] or would assist local authorities in managing other challenging instances of home education.

Conclusions

47. Given the lack of information on the actual numbers of home educated children, we suggest it is unsafe for the Badman review to have reached such a strong conclusion about the relative risks of a child being home educated or school educated. We believe that any intervention should start from the educational needs of the child.



32   EHE 6, paragraph 6 (Epsom and Sutton Home Education Group); EHE 10, paragraph 4 (Steve Keen); EHE 20, paragraph 1.6.1 (Bristol Home Educators' Forum); EHE 21, paragraph 3.2.1 (Professor Bruce Stafford); EHE 25, paragraph 4 (Louise Walters); EHE 27, paragraph 2 (Roy and Jackie Thurley); EHE 33, paragraph 1.3 (Home Service); EHE 34, paragraph 4 (Christine Anne Eastwood); EHE 38, paragraphs 2, 8 (Andrew and Janet Shrimpton); EHE 39, paragraph 1h (Stockport Home Education Partnership); EHE 46, paragraph 4.1 (Stephen Tarlton); EHE 49, paragraph 2.5 (Sarah Conyers); EHE 60, paragraphs 1.1-1.2 (members of a Christian home educating group); EHE 64, paragraph 3.1 (Isle of Wight Learning Zone); EHE 70, paragraphs 7-8 (Schoolhouse Home Education Association); EHE 71, section 8 (Tina Robbins); EHE 79, paragraphs 1.1-1.2 (David Watson); EHE 84 (Dr K E Patrick); EHE 137, paragraph 1.1.1.2 (group of Bristol home educators). See also, Ev 35 (DCSF) Back

33   Ev 86, paragraph 4.2 (National Children's Bureau) Back

34   EHE 62, paragraphs 1-2. See also, for example, EHE 124, paragraph 1 (Kirsty Alexander)  Back

35   Q 87 Back

36   Ev 44, paragraphs 3.7-3.8 (Home Education Advisory Service); EHE 21, paragraph 3.2.4 (Professor Bruce Stafford); EHE 44, sections 3.3-3.5 (Dani Ahrens); EHE 53, paragraphs 13-17, 21-23 (group of home educating families in Yorkshire); EHE 60, paragraph 1.4 (members of a Christian home educating group); EHE 64, paragraph 3.2 (Isle of Wight Learning Zone); EHE 79, paragraphs 1.3, 1.5 (David Watson); EHE 88, paragraphs 2-5 (Peter Trevelyan); EHE 100, section 4 (HERA-Home Education Research Association); EHE 135 (Rebekah Fox); EHE 139, sections 4-5 (Elizabeth Scully and Michael Fell); EHE 157, paragraphs 3.1-3.3 (Oxon Home Educators) Back

37   See, for example, EHE 47 (Herts Home Education Action Group) Back

38   EHE 163, paragraph 2.3; Annex 2 Back

39   Ev 41, paragraphs 17-18 (Education Otherwise); Ev 42, section 1 (Home Education Advisory Service); EHE 20, paragraph 1.5.2 (Bristol Home Educators' Forum); EHE 21, paragraphs 4.1-4.3 (Professor Bruce Stafford); EHE 25, paragraph 3 (Louise Walters); EHE 49, paragraph 2.2 (Sarah Conyers); EHE 52, paragraph 2 (a home educating parent); EHE 124, paragraph 3 (Kirsty Alexander) Back

40   EHE 59, paragraphs 24-29 (Church of England Education Division) Back

41   EHE 44, section 3.2 (Dani Ahrens); EHE 16 (Dr Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison); EHE 57 (Dr Paula Rothermel); EHE 67, paragraph 1d (Greater Manchester Home Educating Network); EHE 70, paragraph 6 (Schoolhouse Home Education Association); EHE 100, section 2 (HERA-Home Education Research Association) Back

42   For example, in Kentucky parents who wish to home educate must establish a bona fide school for their child to attend. Education should be offered in English, in the branches of study that are taught in public schools, and for a minimum of 1,050 instructional hours. Scholarship reports of each child's progress should be completed at the same interval as in the local public school, with grading for all subjects taught. All schools, including home schools, should be open to inspection by the Education Department. Source: INCA (International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks Internet Archive). Back

43   e.g. DCSF consultation, Home Education-registration and monitoring proposals, 11 June 2009.  Back

44   Independent Review of Home Education-safeguarding evidence. Working paper, available at: www.whatdotheyknow.com (request 14543; response 41308). Back

45   Ev 48, paragraph 5.5. (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE 9, paragraph 1 (Alexandra Barnes); EHE 18, (Louise Thorn); EHE 21, paragraphs 3.2.7 (Professor Bruce Stafford); EHE 33, paragraph 4.3 (Home Service); EHE 34, paragraph 3 (Christina Anne Eastwood); EHE 44, section 4.3 (Dani Ahrens); EHE 64, paragraph 3.9 (Isle of Wight Learning Zone); EHE 73, paragraph 3.3.3 (James and Michaela Turpin); EHE 100, paragraph 1.1.6 (HERA-Home Education Research Association); EHE 153, section 3 (Professor C G Mundell and Dr D L Shone). A more detailed critique is provided by EHE 91 (William Wallace). See also, EHE 75, annex 1 (Randall and Mary Hardy) Back

46   EHE 128, section 6 (Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators Facebook Group) Back

47   "Morgan: Action to ensure children's education and welfare", DCSF Press Notice, 19 January 2009. Back

48   EHE 18, paragraph 24 (Louise Thorn) Back

49   Graham Badman letter to Directors of Children's Services, 17 September 2009-'Select Committee hearing on the Review of Elective Home Education in England'. Back

50   EHE 39, paragraph 1b (Stockport Home Education Partnership); EHE 44, section 3,6 (Dani Ahrens); EHE 46, section 4 (Stephen Tarlton); EHE 66, paragraph 4.1 (Nicholas Hill); EHE 72, paragraph 3.6 (Mr R Barns); EHE 92, sections 4-5 (C Archer); EHE 168, paragraph 6.1.3.6 (Dr Ben Anderson) Back

51   Q 11. See also, Children, Schools and Families Bill-an Impact Assessment prepared by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Ministry of Justice, for introduction into the House of Commons, November 2009, pp 83-90. Back

52   Q 17; EHE 186  Back

53   EHE 91(a) (William Wallace); EHE 143(a) (the Sauer Consultancy Limited); EHE 153(a) (Professor C G Mundell and Dr D L Shone) Back

54   See, for example, EHE 24, paragraph 1.4 (Marie Stafford); EHE 66, paragraph 2.2 (Nicholas Hill)  Back

55   These concern the way in which the data was gathered through a series of separate Freedom of Information requests, the differences across local authorities in the way they record their data, and the failure to compare like with like. See, EHE 99, footnote 4 (Claire Blades) Back

56   EHE 18, paragraphs 22-23 (Louise Thorn); EHE 24, paragraphs 1.2-1.3 (Marie Stafford); EHE 82, section 2 (The Otherwise Club); EHE 99, paragraphs 2.12-2.17 (Claire Blades) Back

57   Independent Review of Home Education-safeguarding evidence. Working paper, available at: www.whatdotheyknow.com (request 14543; response 41308). Back

58   Q 84  Back

59   EHE 24, paragraph 1.3 (Marie Stafford); EHE 51, section 3 (Roxane Featherstone); EHE 138, paragraphs 6-7 (North Wilts Home Educators).  Back


 
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