Further supplementary memorandum submitted
by Education Otherwise
The Government has announced that the law on
home education will be changed via the Safeguarding Bill to be
announced in the Queen's Speech on 18 November. Government proposals
to introduce a compulsory licensing scheme for home educators
were put to a public consultation which closed on 19 October with
over 5,000 responses.
In order to justify new legislation with respect
to a compulsory licensing scheme and mandatory access to the child
alone in the family home, Graham Badman and the Department for
Children, Schools and Families have made 3 attempts to collect
evidence against home educators.
Home educators have been subjected to nine months
of policy based evidence making which has seriously damaged trust
in the political process. Members of Parliament have received
countless communications and representations from home educators,
culminating in over 400 home educators visiting their MP on 13
October and followed by Education Otherwise parliamentary event
on 20 October.
Following each onslaught, home educators are
able to deconstruct the data and to demonstrate the lack of solid
reliable evidence. However, the damage has already been done because
the general reader is left with a blur of media headlines which
give the impression that home educators are twice as likely to
Graham Badman has consistently dismissed home
educators' repudiation of his Report as "a vociferous minority".
It is possible that the Department will continue to maintain this
view even after receiving 5,000+ consultation responses.
It is all too easy to lose the plot in sifting
through a mass of information, trying to understand the basis
for Graham Badman's varied assertions about home educators, being
only too well aware that the goalposts are probably being dug
up and moved at this very moment.
As stated here and elsewhere, Education Otherwise's
position is that the present law is entirely sufficient but is
inadequately understood and badly implemented. We have also recommended
that the 2007 Government Guidelines on Home Education be put on
a statutory footing.
A few days before the Select Committee hearing,
Graham Badman returned to the fray and announced that home educators
were more likely to be NEETs, Not in Employment, Education or
Training and that home educated children were disproportionately
represented amongst those children with a Child Protection Plan.
As far back as April, Graham Badman presented
anecdotal evidence about NEETs from Connexions to a group of home
educators in Kent and the validity of the data collection method
received robust challenge from home educators. It is disappointing
but not altogether surprising that this methodological error has
now been repeated on a national scale.
In terms of Child Protection Plans, with reference
to Graham Badman's own authority of Kent, Education Otherwise
has written statements from Kent asserting both that there are
10 Child Protection Plans and that there are no Child Protection
It doesn't matter that each separate allegation
or concern can be unpicked because by then it is too late; once
more, smoke has been used to prove fire and a montage of evidence
has been hastily assembled to justify Departmental policy.
Giving oral evidence to the Select Committee
on 14 October, Sir Paul Ennals stated that we need to be satisfied
that change is proportionate and that he had not been persuaded
that a new criminal offence was required since the legal framework
on school attendance orders is already in place.
Another witness, Phillip Noyes of the NSPCC
said that when he looked at the Badman Report he was "surprised
at some of the lack of detail around how the relationship between
the home educators and the local authority works now". Peter
Traves said that "the problem would be if we rushed from
this to legislation that was based solely around concerns about
We should like to reiterate Education Otherwise's
position which is that the present law is entirely sufficient
but is inadequately understood. We have also recommended that
the 2007 Government Guidelines on Home Education be put on a statutory
For the past three months Education Otherwise
has been conducting our own research into policy and practice
in all local authorities and we are presently analysing raw data
from over a hundred authorities.
In contrast to the Badman Review, we have asked
the same questions of all local authorities and we will not presume
to extrapolate or draw sweeping conclusions until all the information
has been received and undergone a rigorous checking process.
In further contrast to the Badman Review, we
are comparing like with like, in that we have requested information
from each authority about all children in the area as well as
information about home educated children.
Paul Holmes MP: "What do you think we should
be saying as a Committee regarding the legislative process and
the Badman report, and whether it is protecting children's interests
or trampling all over the interests of home-educated children?".
Maggie Atkinson: "I would give you two
words, and they are the first and second names of the child who
died Khyra Ishaq"
Maggie Atkinson, Director of Children's Services
in Gateshead, referred to the case of a girl in Birmingham whose
mother and stepfather are currently being prosecuted for starving
the child to death. The trial of Khyra Ishaq's mother and stepfather
began on 3 June and was halted the following month after three
members of the jury were discharged.The retrial will take place
In July a spokesperson for Birmingham Council
said that an executive summary of the Serious Case Review on Khyra
Ishaq would be published after criminal proceedings had been completed
and Ofsted had scrutinished the report.
What did not emerge during Select Committee
questioning of the Director of Children's Services for Gateshead,
was that Birmingham Children's Services and the Birmingham Local
Safeguarding Children Board have been under sustained attack for
a number of serious cases and for failings in statutory services
as a quick glance at the Birmingham Post will show.
Child referrals were screened by inexperienced
staff with insufficient management oversight. Lack of senior management
has been judged a serious risk. Investigators and inspectors have
a high number of case loads and there are a high number of vacancies
and sickness absences. An inquiry into Birmingham also highlighted
the failure of police, council and health trusts to work together
and share information.
Nineteen children from Birmingham have died
of abuse or neglect since 2004 and Birmingham Council has confirmed
that 16 of those children were known by social workers, police
or health trusts to be at risk of harm. Media reports of the trial
of Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza indicate that school teachers
had repeatedly raised serious safeguarding concerns with the council
while the children were at school but that Government guidance
on safeguarding procedures had not been followed.
The case cited by Maggie Atkinson is not an
argument for more statutory powers with respect to home education,
rather it is an argument for Birmingham Council to learn serious
lessons and to address the urgent issues of recruitment, retention
and training of social workers.
Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board was until
recently chaired by Birmingham's Director of Children's Services
On Friday 16 January 2009 the joint president
of the Association of Directors of Children's Services wrote about:
"a 24-hour session with the Department for
Children, Schools and Families and partners about the Children's
Plan. Ed Balls introduces. The event is excellent with a great
sense of opportunity and shared commitment. My co-president John
Freeman and directors Maggie Atkinson and Graham Badman fly the
DCSF launched the Badman Review of Home Education
on 19 January.
Where is the money coming from?
Graham Badman's Report into Home Education made
28 recommendations for change to the present system. Following
the Badman Report, there are two main areas where money could
conceivably be required. There could be wages or fees for local
authority officers to make house calls to 80,000+ children and
there could be payment for goods or services given or offered
or otherwise made available to 80,000+ home educated children.
At present, local authorities know of around 20,000 home educated
The present system is described by the Government's
2007 Home Education Guidelines
which aimed to clarify the balance between the right of the parent
to educate their child at home and the responsibilities of the
Education Otherwise position as stated in our
recent consultation response
is that the 2007 Guidelines should be put on a statutory footing.
If we take staffing costs first, Education Otherwise
estimates that around £4 million is currently spent on staffing
costs. Local authorities know of around 20,000 home educated children.
The Government estimates that there may be 80,000 home educated
children. The Government further estimates that the new system
would cost £9.7 million a year after initial start-up costs
and has undertaken to fund the difference between existing spending
and £9.7 million.
This may or may not mean that an extra £6
million will be given to local authorities to assist in implementing
the Badman Report.
If we consider goods or services offered or
made available to home educated children, the Government appears
to be suggesting that local authorities are already permitted
to draw down a small percentage of the Dedicated Schools Grant
under "Alternative Provision".
The vast majority of authorities do not draw
down funding from the DSG possibly because Government Ministers
have always proclaimed that home education is a matter of parental
choice and that there is no central funding.
In March 2009 Baroness Morgan stated that home
tuition would be a decision by a parent and no GUF [Guaranteed
Unit of Funding] would be paid in respect of such children and
that no other funding would be payable either by the department
or the local authority.
On Tuesday 3 November we learned that a home
educating parent is taking her case to the Local Government Ombudsman
after her son's college place was not funded:
"Astrid Jordan, of Moulton Seas End, is
making a formal complaint about the LEA to the Local Government
Ombudsman after her son Kieran (14) was refused funding to study
music at Boston College".
Penny Richardson, the council's interim strategic
manager for inclusion, said:
"We have looked at Kieran's case carefully
and while we can't provide funding for the further education course,
a mainstream school place has been found for him.
A course at FE college will be available to him
at no cost when he reaches school leaving age".
The Association of Directors of Children's Services
does not appear confident that new money will be available, saying
to the Select Committee that if the figures of home educated children
turned out to be much higher than the present number known to
local authorities, then the authority would need to vire resources.
In short, if statutory duties were placed on local authorities,
then money would have to be found from another area of the council
Essex has told the Government that there is
a huge potential cost implication, saying that in the county there
are only two paid staff for 700 families.
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