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


APPENDIX I

OBSERVATIONS ON HOME EDUCATION STATISTICS TAKEN FROM THE HOUSE OF COMMONS CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE HEARING

  Meeting started on Monday 12 October at 4.35 pm

  Prepared by Jonathan Camfield

  MA (Cantab) (Mathematics) and Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries

  Home educating father (believed to be one of those that the local authority do not know about)

SUMMARY

  This note explains why Graham Badman's statistical conclusions on the incidence of "at risk" children in the elective home education (EHE) community—apparently broadly twice the incidence of that in the wider community—appear to be flawed. This note has been prepared solely by reference to the discussion held at the Select Committee hearing on 12 October 2009.

DETAIL

  At 1:08 in the television recording of the Select Committee, Graham Stuart MP asks some questions about the statistics for "at risk" children in the EHE community.

  What is clear from the earlier questions and answers is that extensive work has been done on this by Graham Badman's team. In particular:

    — 74 local authorities (around half of all local authorities) have provided detailed figures (providing a helpfully large database); and

    — It is clear that children at risk are being defined carefully and quite narrowly in the statistics, ie only those who are subject to a child protection plan (CPP) under Section 47 (that is, it does not include children who are simply disabled; they must have been formally assessed as "at risk" by a local authority and reached the end of that assessment process).

  On the basis of the statistics, Graham Badman has identified that 0.2% of the whole UK child population are subject to a CPP whilst 0.4% of EHE children are subject to a CPP. Whilst it is accepted that there is a wide range of statistics from different authorities, Graham Badman has reached the broad conclusion that the risk of a child being "at risk" within the EHE community is double that in the wider population.

  However, as pointed out by Mr Stuart shortly thereafter in the discussion, this analysis appears to be statistically flawed. In particular, there are three known figures, and one unknown figure. The following are known:

    — The number of children in the whole country is broadly known;

    — The number of CPPs in the whole country is broadly known;

    — The number of CPPs from EHE families is broadly known (in that, by definition, a CPP must be known to a local authority and that local authority will also know whether or not that child is at school).

  However, the number of home educating families is not known. Graham Badman states that the estimate for known EHE children is around 20,000, but that most local authorities believe that there are at least double that number. If there were in fact double, then the crude statistics for the incidence of CPPs amongst the EHE community would revert to 0.2%. If there were in fact (as is believed by local authorities) at least double, then the statistic would fall to less than that of the general population.

  After misunderstanding each other for a few minutes, Graham Badman understands this point as it is made by Graham Stuart (at 1:13:20). However, Graham Badman goes on to make a seemingly controversial statement. He says "Who is to say that they [the children] are safe if you don't know anything about them?". The point he is trying to make is that, in the "unknown" EHE community, there may be more children who, if they were known about, would indeed swiftly find themselves subject to a CPP. (He makes this point again very clearly at 1:34 when the Committee re-sits after the break.)

  On the basis of the information available to me, it appears to me that Graham Badman's logic is statistically flawed. In particular, he is making an assumption that:

    — Both "lack of knowledge" to a local authority and being a EHE family;

    — Puts a child more at risk (indeed, doubly more) than;

    — Both "lack of knowledge" to a local authority and being a non-EHE family (ie child at school).

  This appears to be a clear bias in his view.

  In particular, it seems clear to me that out of all the unknown EHE families, there will be children at risk who should in fact be subject to a CPP.

  However, it also seems clear to me that out of all the non-EHE families whose children go to regular schools, there are also a number of children at risk who the local authority does not know about, and who should in fact be subject to a CPP.

  Whilst Graham Badman is clearly entitled to his personal views it seems unreasonable to me for him to suggest that the statistics demonstrate something for which there is no statistical evidence. That is, to suggest that the incidence of being "at risk" is greater amongst "unknown" home educating families than it is amongst "unknown" regular schooling families. This is even more the case when the crude statistics themselves (after doubling the numbers of estimated home educated children) suggest that there is in fact no difference in incidence between the two groups.

  This conclusion (that there is no higher risk) is stated clearly by Graham Stuart at 1:13:40. I believe that his statement at this point is 100% correct based on the raw statistics, and that Graham Badman has drawn a statistically incorrect conclusion from his data. He has omitted the fact that the number of home educated children is estimated to be at least double the number actually registered and, at the same time, he is coming to a strongly biased conclusion about unknown children.

  After the break Graham Badman states that he will write to the Committee to confirm his statistics, including his view (which I note is a personal view, not a statistical one) that his statistics are correct because not being known to a local authority and being an EHE family puts you MORE at risk. It seems clear to me that it is unreasonable to draw this conclusion from the data he has available to him.

  As a final aside, what the whole discussion on statistics also does not take into account is the statistical feature of "cause and effect". That is, there may be good reasons why a child with a CPP is more likely to be either at school or home educated. That is, even if the incidence of children with CPPs is in fact higher in one community compared with the other (eg in the EHE community), this does not necessarily mean that in general home educating families are in some way more at risk of having a child subject to a CPP (ie it is unreasonable to assume that home education is a causal factor in children being "at risk"). What is far more likely to be true in such a case is that there are other reasons (alcohol, drugs, learning disabilities in the home etc) which both:

    (a) make it more likely for a child to be subject to a CPP; and

    (b) make it more likely for a child to be removed from school (or at school, depending on what the statistics show).

  However, given that the statistics appear to demonstrate that there is no difference in incidence of CPPs amongst home educators and the wider population at the crude level, this does not seem to be a point worth exploring further. Normally it would be a crucial point.

  In conclusion, it appears to me (and I believe Graham Stuart is of the same view) that Graham Badman's own statistics clearly demonstrate that the incidence of CPPs amongst both home educators and non-home educators are broadly similar, at around 0.2%, and that therefore government policy should not be formed on the basis of there being a greater incidence of children at risk in the EHE population. Indeed, this sad statistic might suggest that it would be far better to allocate increasingly scarce resources to children who are in fact at risk, rather than to the home educating community or to the schooling community.



 
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