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

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 be defective.

  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 Plans.

  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 safeguarding".

  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 footing.

  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 2010.

  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.[24]

  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 ADCS flag".

  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 children.

  The present system is described by the Government's 2007 Home Education Guidelines[25] which aimed to clarify the balance between the right of the parent to educate their child at home and the responsibilities of the local authority.

  Education Otherwise position as stated in our recent consultation response[26] 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:[27]

    "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".[28]

  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 budget.

  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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Prepared 16 December 2009