Memorandum submitted by the Home Education
1. The constitution of the review team
The range of expertise does not equip
the members of the review team and the expert reference group
to make informed assessments of home education in the time allowed
for the review
2. The scope of the terms of reference of
The terms of reference do not allow for
a balanced consideration of both local authority concerns and
home educators' concerns
3. The nature of the consultation documents
The DCSF press notice: Morgan: action
to ensure children's education & welfare: an oversimplification
of the law
The public call for evidence versus the
questionnaire for local authorities: inequalities and ill-considered
The second questionnaire for local authorities:
Graham Badman's call for more information
to strengthen his statistical evidence three months after his
recommendations have been accepted by the Secretary of State
4. Comments on the review recommendations
1. THE CONSTITUTION
1.1 A study of the biographies of the ten
members of the expert reference group shows that the professional
knowledge of the members is strongly biased towards children's
services, early years and child development, disaffected, vulnerable
and disadvantaged children, inclusion and safeguarding. Third
sector involvement does not include any input from the home education
charities. It is clear that this collective expertise, without
a corresponding in-depth knowledge of home education, would render
the members of the reference group incapable of making balanced
judgements. The pressures upon these busy people would have made
it impossible for them to reach a proper understanding of the
complex phenomenon of home education in three months. In particular
it was a disappointment to HEAS that Dr Alan Thomas, the country's
leading expert on home education, was not invited to take part.
Dr Thomas has studied home education intensively for over thirty
years and he has undertaken detailed and rigorous research in
Australia as well as in the UK.
1.2 The review may be independent in that
it is not a civil service review but Graham Badman's professional
background in education and public service militates against an
objective assessment of home education.
2. THE SCOPE
2.1 The terms of reference are limited in
scope because they are framed from the perspective of the local
authorities; further, they reveal certain fundamental assumptions
that have influenced the findings of the review.
The review of home education will investigate:
The barriers to local authorities and other
public agencies in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding
home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that
the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated
2.2 This presupposes the existence of "barriers"
and makes the assumption that advice on "improvements"
is needed. These statements, made before evidence was gathered,
indicate that the conclusions were predetermined. The review report
relies heavily on rhetoric, opinion and hearsay (for example,
see the quotation from the submission made by the NSPCC, which
has since apologised to home educators for its unsubstantiated
The extent to which claims of home education
could be used as a "cover" for child abuse such as neglect,
forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude and
advise on measures to prevent this;
2.3 If the review really represented an
unbiased investigation undertaken to ascertain the facts, why
do the terms of reference set out to advise on preventative measures
before the problems have been shown to exist?
Whether local authorities are providing the
right type, level and balance of support to home educating families
to ensure they are undertaking their duties to provide a suitable
full-time education to their children;
2.4 This statement presupposes that families
receive support from the local authority at present, but education
law has never given them any such duty. Similarly local authorities
do not provide support for parents who send their children to
Whether any changes to the current regime
for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support
the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring
all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes.
2.5 Many HEAS subscribers have expressed
anger and alarm at the assumption that there is some kind of partnership
between parents, local authorities and "other partners".
The law gives parents full responsibility for the education, welfare
and upbringing of their own children; the public authorities have
a secondary role in the capacity of public servants in all but
a small number of special cases.
3. THE NATURE
The DCSF press notice: Morgan: action to ensure
children's education & welfare (2009/013)
3.1 Section 436A of the Education and Inspections
Act 2006 is misquoted by saying that statutory guidance "makes
clear that local authorities have a duty to make arrangements
to enable them to establish that every school-age child
is receiving a suitable education,
ours). Section 436A actually says that the local authority must
make arrangements "to enable them to establish (so far as
it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area"
of school age who are not receiving suitable education. HEAS deplores
such dangerously imprecise statements which by constant repetition
in the media will have a powerful effect upon public expectations.
3.2 Baroness Morgan is quoted as saying:
"Making sure that children are safe, well and receive a good
education is our most serious responsibility". Many home
educators have asked HEAS to reaffirm that the responsibility
for children's safety and education belongs to parents
and not to the Government.
3.3 The last paragraph contains the claim
that local authorities are "charged with ensuring
that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that
is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes
and abilities". This duty belongs to the parents, not to
the local authority, and home educators have reacted with anger
and dismay at this theft of their natural duty.
3.4 HEAS objects strongly to the distortion
of the legal position in the DCSF's press notice. Removing the
all-important qualifying statements places enormous pressure upon
the local authorities particularly with regard to safeguarding.
These unreasonable expectations are perpetuated throughout the
Badman review report and recommendations. In turn, pressure upon
the local authorities will cause them to make unjustified demands
upon home educating families. Professor David Hoyle makes exactly
the same observation in his critique of the development of the
Every Child Matters agenda as a practical strategy (see Hoyle,
David (2008) "Problematizing Every Child Matters", the
encyclopaedia of informal education); HEAS can report that
during the past six months there has been a significant increase
in the number of calls from home educators who have been referred
to social services simply for electing to educate their children
The public call for evidence versus the questionnaire
for local authorities
3.5 On meeting the review team HEAS representatives
said that there had been many investigations into home education
in recent years and asked why this review had been deemed necessary.
Graham Badman explained that during recent consultations the Secretary
of State had been beset on one hand by local authorities and other
organisations calling for more powers and on the other by passionate
arguments from home educators against the procedures of some local
authorities. The review was represented to HEAS as an exercise
in evaluating the evidence for these opposing points of view but
it is heavily biased towards the local authority viewpoint.
3.6 The public call for evidence consisted
of a derisory and ill-considered six-question document that was
only available online. Home educators were rightly offended when
they were asked if their children were able to achieve the five
Every Child Matters outcomes. No question was asked about families'
experiences of local authorities. Further, a very short response
time was given and the online questionnaire was not widely advertised;
by contrast, the review team wrote personally to every local authority
in England asking for their responses via a detailed 60-question
HEAS was concerned about the fact that families
who did not have internet access would be excluded. In a Parliamentary
Question on 23 February 2009 (Hansard 23 Feb 2009:
Column 455W), Damian Green MP asked the Secretary of State for
Children, Schools and Families "what steps he has taken to
ensure that people who do not have access to the internet are
able to respond to his Department's consultation on home educators".
In reply Jim Knight MP stated that "Evidence can be supplied
to the review team using an online form, through email or by writing
to the review team". HEAS asked for the address for written
replies and circulated the questionnaire to all HEAS subscribers.
Despite Mr Knight's assurance the review team then retracted the
offer of receiving written responses on the grounds that it might
be unfair to other groups and individuals who had not been included.
Around 100 families replied to HEAS' mailing but their views
were not counted with the online responses.
3.7 The questionnaire for local authorities
consisted of 20 questions about data and tracking, 3 about
supporting families, and 28 about assessment and monitoring.
The questions on data and tracking included some which asked about
total numbers of children not registered with the local authority.
These questions invite local authorities to guess how many children
were not registered with them when it is obvious to anyone that
such "information" is worthless. Question 26 invites
the local authority to choose between the following: "yes,
we are confident we know about all home educated children in the
area/We think we know about the vast majority of home educated
children in the area/We probably do not know about a fair number
of home educated children in the area/We probably do not know
about a significant proportion of home educated children in the
area". It is difficult to believe that significant sums of
public money were spent in asking these questions, answering them
and collating the replies; this is simply "think of a number".
3.8 The questions on assessment and monitoring
have expectations of initial assessment visits, regular monitoring
visits, sight of the child (and "further action" if
the child is not seen) and systems to track children's educational
progress. Information is sought regarding how many children are
receiving "suitable, full time (20 hours a week) education".
None of these presuppositions has any basis in education law and
the DCSF document Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local
Authorities (DCSF, 2007) confirms that families are not required
to provide this information. It is unacceptable for evidence to
be gatheredupon which the review recommendations are basedby
means of questions about procedures that are not currently required
The second questionnaire for local authorities
3.9 This document was sent to the 90 local
authorities who returned the initial questionnaire and 25 local
authorities responded to it. The findings of this second survey
form a large part of Mr Badman's justification for his registration
and monitoring recommendations; by means of a highly improper
extrapolation from this very small number of local authority responses
he decides that 6.75% of home educated children are known to social
care in some capacity. This methodology is fundamentally unsound
and it calls into question the integrity of the entire review.
3.10 Mr Badman observes that "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". He omits to say how many local authorities
fall into this category; further, this assertion is worthless
unless further information is provided about the profile of the
3.11 HEAS considers that if a mere 20 out
of the 150 local authorities were the only ones to be troubled
enough to submit further evidence this indicates that home educators
do not cause much concern in the great majority of local authority
areas. Further, it would be improper to draw conclusions from
the proportion of home educated children known to social care
in the 25 local authorities without researching two related
issues: first, what proportion of children in the school
population in each area is known to children's social care? Second,
how carefully is the distinction drawn in each area between bona
fide home educators and non-educators who are already well
known to the Education Welfare Service for failing to ensure that
their children attend school regularly? It has been a matter of
concern to HEAS for many years that some local authorities do
not make a clear distinction between these two groups of families.
3.12 HEAS notes that although local authorities
were asked by the review team for anonymised case studies and
specific details of their concerns about families, the home education
organisations were not asked to provide corresponding evidence
of their concerns about the procedures of local authorities. The
organisations were, however, asked by the review team on several
occasions to provide details of good practice amongst local authorities.
3.13 HEAS representatives have been advising
families for the past 15 years; there have been many cases
where local authorities have treated families unfairly through
lack of awareness of the legal position. Some local authorities
adopt draconian policies which cause a great deal of distress
to families. Sometimes these problems cause a dramatic drop in
the number of home educating families known to HEAS and Education
Otherwise in these areas, and localised problems of this kind
may often be attributed to the influence of a particular officer.
3.14 Unfortunately some local authority
staff do make ill-informed and subjective judgements about families'
arrangements; sometimes local authorities will not be persuaded
that school criteria do not apply to education at home. It is
manifestly unjust that the Badman review failed to make any inquiry
into the issue. Paragraph 5.1 of Mr Badman's review report
is a clear demonstration of his personal bias. It is certain that
Mr Badman's "evidence base" (letter to the Directors
of Children's Services dated 17 September 2009) which shows
"a small but significant proportion of home educated children
are receiving no, or an inadequate, education" will include
a number of cases where inadequately-trained local authority officers
have failed to make a proper assessment of the home education
Graham Badman's call for more information to strengthen
his statistical evidence three months after his recommendations
have been accepted by the Secretary of State
3.15 HEAS was astonished to learn of Mr
Badman's attempt to improve the quality of the evidence upon which
his recommendations were based after they have been accepted and
included in draft legislation. We hope that he will be seeking
to provide breadth and balance in his evidence by enquiring about
the experiences of families who have been unjustly treated by
their local authorities.
3.16 Mr Badman is also seeking more information
to justify his claim that large numbers of home educated children
are not in education, employment or training (Neet). He has appealed
for comparative figures for home educated young people and for
all 2008 leavers from the local authorities' input to the
Connexions annual survey but this information is likely to be
misleading. HEAS' information about local authority involvement
with young people in the last year of compulsory education has
shown that pressure on resources means that very many are not
followed up at this stage. Our own information from our membership
indicates that it is rare to find a home educated person who is
4. COMMENTS ON
4.1 Mr Badman is disingenuous in his claim
that most of his recommendations have not been challenged because
the evidence base for them is sound. The DCSF consultation provides
a mechanism for challenging the four "urgent" recommendations
concerning compulsory registration and monitoring only (numbers
1, 17, 23 and 24) but HEAS, along with many other home educators,
finds that the remaining recommendations are mostly irrelevant
and of negligible benefit.
4.2 Mr Badman's highly selective evaluation
of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, European legislation
and education law imposes a crude and totally fictitious polarity
between the parents' rights and the child's rights. Legal opinion
obtained by HEAS indicates that the registration and monitoring
proposals are unsound.
4.3 What would be achieved by making registration
compulsory? How would children be kept safe by means of an annual
visit from a local authority official? Registration and monitoring
will have no benefits for vulnerable children because their identities
are already known.
4.4 There is no evidence for the assertion
that there are thousands of children who are unknown to the local
authorities or to the home education networks. The hypothetical
risk that unknown children may suffer harm is outweighed by the
real suffering inflicted upon children by local authority staff
who do not understand home education; many of these could be forced
back into school without due cause.
4.5 LA monitoring staff would be held to
account if abuse of a home educated child were to go unnoticed:
fear of the consequences would result in a great number of false
positives which would traumatise decent families and take attention
and resources away from children who are genuinely at risk.
4.6 A study of the financial implications
of the review's recommendations commissioned by HEAS has revealed
a minimum cost estimate of the need for a £60-£150 million
increase in the state education budget. Only 8% of this figure
would be attributable to the proposals for support for home educators.
A worst case scenario could result in costs of up to £500 million
annually if the proposals were to lead to the virtual extinction
of the home educating population, if this should amount to approximately
4.7 HEAS calls for this hasty and ill-considered
review and its recommendations to be abandoned; there is insufficient
evidence to justify its recommendations and they represent a massive
expenditure of public money that will achieve nothing of any significance.