Freedom for Children to Grow
The Law Relating to
The Badman Review of Home Education: Policy-Based Evidence Making
Government Plans for Home Education
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 November 18th. Government proposals to introduce a compulsory licensing scheme for home educators were put to a public consultation which closed on October 19 with over 5,000 responses.
Education Otherwise response to the Government consultation
The EO response to the Government consultation may be found here.
The Government justifies intervention on the basis that there is something wrong with home education and with home educators
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 of Children Schools and Families have made 3 attempts to collect evidence against home educators.
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.
The Department actively shapes media perceptions whereby Graham Badman tends to be reported as having "proved" or "discovered" something about which home educators are "angry."
Graham Badman's three questionnaires
At the beginning of the year the Department for Children Schools and Families asked Graham Badman, a former Director of Children's Services in Kent, to investigate whether home education was being used as a cover for forced marriage. Home educators were able to demonstrate through exhaustive research that there was no link between forced marriage and home education.
The Badman Report was published in June 2009. The author acknowledged in passing that he had found no link between home education and forced marriage. Instead, Graham Badman said we should be concerned that home educated children were more likely to be known to social services and also that home education was a factor in a minority of Serious Case Reviews.
Home educators were taken aback by the new risk factors being put forward by Graham Badman during the press conference since these were not topics or areas covered by the Review questionnaire.
We then discovered the existence of a second hidden supplementary questionnaire which did not form part of the original Badman Review and was not published with the Badman Report.
Home educators set to work to unpack the statements being made against them, pointing to the many reasons why home educators might be known to social services including being in need of services, malicious referrals particularly by schools or neighbours, or simply by virtue of practising home education.
Moving the goalposts
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.
In the month following publication of the Badman Report, the Select Committee for Children and Families launched an enquiry into the conduct of the Badman Review, prompting Graham Badman and the DCSF to make a third urgent call for evidence to back up the findings of the Review and to justify Government intervention in home education. The Department then sent a third set of questions to local authorities.
The present law is entirely sufficient but is inadequately understood and poorly implemented
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 link to the Government Guidelines may be found here.
Oral evidence to the Select Committee: NEETs and Prevalence of Child Protection Plans
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.
There are a number of points to understand about the NEETs statistics. Firstly, Graham Badman asked for information from Connexions, who are perhaps the very last people likely to know about outcomes and destinations for home educated young people.
The problem with Connexions
Connexions does not routinely speak to home educating families and many home educators refuse to deal or to continue to deal with Connexions because of concerns about data protection and confidentiality. In addition families who do have contact with Connexions receive a very mixed service because Connexions staff are not trained in home education policy and practice and do not understand alternative pathways to further and higher education.
Secondly, it is not understood that home education is full time education. If a young person in home education is 16 years old on or after September 1st and is not in college, is not in employment and is not studying for formal qualifications (all of which are the case with the present writer's son) then this young person is still in full time efficient education suitable to age ability aptitude and special needs.
Education is not and could not be defined differently beyond the present compulsory education age and thanks to the sustained efforts of home educators education will not be defined differently pre and post 16 when the participation age is raised.
Home educators challenged Graham Badman about Connexions in April
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.
"Call for Evidence" asked for the number of all children previously subject to Child Protection Plan, not just in the current year
In terms of Child Protection Plans, Graham Badman told the Select Committee that by May he had discovered a total of 41 Child Protection Plans in a small number of local authorities. In fact, the questionnaire asked a far broader and more misleading question which included all children who had previously been subject to a Child Protection Plan and all children who had previously been on the Child Protection Register.
It has since come to light that in September, 3 months after the Report was published, Graham Badman has apparently identified a further 10 Child Protection Plans for home educated children throughout the country.
As Graham Badman and the Department are wont to say, we don't know what we don't know. A self-selecting minority of local authorities are repeatedly giving different versions of the same information to Graham Badman. Authorities who have not responded to questions about Child Protection Plans or who have returned a figure of zero are not taken into account.
Education Otherwise Research: a tiny minority of local authorities including Kent have very high numbers of Child Protection Plans
Education Otherwise is conducting its own research into this area and is presently analysing raw data received from over a hundred local authorities, which represents over two thirds of the total. Setting aside the small number of local authorities who are unable or unwilling to provide the information, EO has found only 2 local authorities where home educated young people are currently subject to a Child Protection Plan.
Early evidence suggests that a very small minority of local authorities have a very high number of Child Protection Plans in place for all children in their area and that this is also reflected in the high incidence of Child Protection Plans in the home education population. Graham Badman's former area of Kent would seem to be a prime example.
The huge local variations in Section 47 Enquiries and Child Protection Plans would benefit from much closer analysis although it might not produce soundbites to justify regulation and monitoring of home education.
Smoke is used to prove fire
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.
Select Committee Witnesses not persuaded of evidence for change to the law
Giving oral evidence to the Select Committee on October 14th, 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.
Education Otherwise Research
For the past 3 months we have 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.
A regrettable feature of the Badman Review has been to compare partial uncorrected information about home educated children from a minority of local authorities with national data covering a different time span. It is clearly not acceptable to rush to legislation on the basis of this scrambled slipshod research.
9 Months of Policy Based Evidence Making
Home educators have been subjected to 9 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 October 13th and followed by Education Otherwise parliamentary event on October 20th.
Funding for support to home educators?
The lack of funding for support will be covered in a future article.
NotesDraft Legislative Programme 2009-10 Safeguarding Bill