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Notes from Education Otherwise meeting with Graham Badman
February 11th 2009

Present:

Graham BadmanHeading up the Independent Review
Julie BunkerMember of Education Otherwise Disability Group, Midlands regional representative for Education Otherwise. Helps to run local group. Children removed from school following bullying and unmet special educational needs.
Ian DowtyHome educating barrister, director of ARCH, working in the field of human rights
Elizabeth GreenDCSF assistant to Graham Badman
Ralph LucasLibertarian Tory in the House of Lords with an abiding interest in education
Ann NewsteadEducation Otherwise Media Spokesperson. Member of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group. Home educating parent. Helps to run local group. Meets with local authorities at policy level. Trustee of Education Otherwise. Children removed from school following bullying and unmet special educational needs.
Fiona NicholsonChair of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group. Home educating parent. Meets with local authorities. Trustee of Education Otherwise. Child has never been to school.
Annette TabernerMember of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group. Trustee of Education Otherwise. Meets with the local authority at policy level. Helps to run local group. Children have never been to school. Has never had contact with LA on a family basis,”unknown” , but meets with LA as group representative.
General Points

EO extended invitation to GB from the various local groups they were involved with if he wanted to meet some home educating families and see home education in action. He said he would consider this and respond to the invitation later.

There will be another meeting with GB after he has spoken to some local authorities. We don't know which local authorities.

EO objected to what we saw as the assumptions behind the local authority questionnaire. EO said we could predict who would reply and what they would say. We felt they would not be representative. Some Home Education Advisors had not received the link to the questionnaire and were asking Education Otherwise for further information.

We know from Minister's letter that GB used to work in Education Welfare.

Letter from Sarah McCarthy Fry DCSF Minister passed on by constituency MP:

"If home educators wish to make wider points we hope they will include them either in the questionnaire or in a separate note to the review team. Comments can be sent to homeeducation.review@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk.

Mr Badman fully respects the rights of parents to home educate. He is fully independent of the Department; he is not an employee and his terms of engagement do not specify any constraints to the scope of the review or the range of outcomes he can report. He has extensive experience of engaging with those opting for alternative education including experience as an Education Welfare Officer and other posts in local government. The last post he held prior to retirement was management of Kent Children's Services."

Main points we gleaned from Mr Badman during the meeting and in follow-up questions

- GB thinks he is helping us. Initially couldn't understand why we wouldn't want support, was perhaps a little clearer on this point after the meeting.

- GB said he was independent.

- GB thought we would welcome "clarity". Possibly because people have been telling him that the law is "confusing". We said it depended what was meant by clarity. We said local authorities and national government should be aware of the law which was sufficient, and personnel trained.

- GB thinks national and local government has important duties around "wellbeing" and that this is related to duties for Children's Trusts and also for schools.

- GB is extremely interested in ICT and e-learning (is involved with Becta and the Home Access scheme)

- GB is meeting with NCB; Stephen Heppell from NotSchool, Paula Rothermel who acts as Independent Expert Witness about home education in court cases; Arthur Ivatts who writes about Gypsy Roma Traveller Education ; Ofsted which inspects Children's Services, NSPCC; Kathy Sylva ( Early Years) ; Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnados; Mick Walters from QCA; June Statham Professor of Education and Family Support at the Thomas Coram Research Institute.

- GB was interested in our view of what constitutes suitable education and how this can be demonstrated.

- GB outlined timetable- report, recommendations same as the Press Release. No mention of further consultation. No mention of amending legislation.

Main points from EO before during and after the meeting

- EO very hostile to terms of reference for the review

- EO angry about link with forced marriage and abuse

- Most of meeting taken up by scathing critique of the Terms of reference. EO fought this on every point- questioned the wording which eg assumes they will find abuse- no conditional language. EO got the impression that there could shortly be a case to hit the press where there was abuse and where the child was home educated.

- EO said the Home Education Review was sprung on us with [ http://www.dcsf. gov.uk/pns/ DisplayPN. cgi?pn_id= 2009_0013 ] dreadful press release and appalling headlines in the media. It has made it just about impossible to trust the impartiality of the process and to trust the DCSF.

- EO said we keep having to meet with officials who don't know about home education.

- Ian said he came into home education because the truancy provisions of the Crime and Disorder Bill. The Home Office didn’t know you could legally home educate.

- Any changes proposed would impact on LAs- increased liability. Fundamentally it is about who has responsibility for education: law says it is parents- is GB proposing a change to the law?

- EO said we keep having consultations going over the same ground. We meet civil servant or minister and then we get bombshell new consultation, new draft guidance, new review,

- EO said we are very very wary about the concept of "support" and we indicated some of the many reasons why.

- EO made the point that home educators in some areas ARE talking to local authorities on policy level. All 4 EO members round the table meet with local authorities to discuss policy issues. In other cases have also met with Education Welfare Officers and the Police.

- We have identified for the DCSF a local authority which has open days and open meetings where home educators can meet LA not on one to one inspection basis, where LA is trying to listen to what parents want. In early February there was a field trip to North Yorkshire with DCSF to meet representatives from the local authority and from the local home education community. We're not saying that this LA is perfect, but we think the way forward is for the authority to canvass views of home educators and to engage with them at a policy level.

- EO: The law says it's the parent's legal duty, which is why the parent is responsible if the child truants. Because it is the parent in law who is responsible for ensuring that they receive that education. And the only defence to the offence is that you're providing a suitable education otherwise than at school.

- Ian Dowty said what about being happy as a desirable outcome. Emotional stability. The feeling that what you do and say MATTERS and that you are a person in your own right. EO said this is NOT the same as "enjoy and achieve."

- EO said children in school aren't meeting the 5 outcomes eg children are not safe when they are being bullied. This doesn't just happen in schools which Ofsted would categorise as problem schools, it happens in schools which get a good Ofsted report and good exam results.

- ID: Parents have got to deliver an education which uniquely suits their child in a way that schools don't quite have to. The parents are responsible for that, so we have a much more specific duty. "Broad and balanced" is something that people say we should deliver, and it's not something that we should deliver. We have not got that get-out clause. We can't just waft a general education in front of our children.

- EO gave the instance of Bexley where a home educated child was bundled into a police car and taken to a police station when he insisted he was home educated and wasn't truanting. Even though the local postman stopped and said he'd known the family for years and they lived just round the corner. It was an unmarked car, and a plain clothes police officer. There was a full apology from Bexley police and the welfare team who also invited EO to train the Education Welfare Officers and the police on the law regarding home education and the legal guidance with respect to truancy sweeps.

- EO said we come against the same problems over and over and over again. We have people emailing us and phoning us and writing to us every single day. The same stuff, the same issues. People embattled, frightened, what they think is being required of them, or they've just had this really scary letter. We're trying to deal with them all on an individual basis, not give advice but try to support them and put them in contact with other local people. The lobbying and campaigning is to do with going higher up the food chain to address issues and recurrent problems on a policy level.

- We don't know what an assurance is worth, that someone is "listening." We've had people listening before. And then they move on.

- We want local authorities to engage in the existing processes and the law that's there. To be able to engage with local authorities who have sufficient training and understanding of the current systems, and confidence in the systems. We want to help them have confidence in the system because we believe that the current situation works and has the potential and the flexibility in it to deal with bad cases, should they come up.

- Discussed where EHE person located following end to local education authorities and move to Children's Services. Home Education is not embedded, not funded. Local authority officers do not not understand their powers or the limits of their powers. Critically, some key personnel in local authorities do not understand why the law is as it is and think that only one aspect could be changed. They are not aware of how the whole system fits together and that it is built on the cornerstone of parental responsibility. The state is not acting in loco parentis for home educated children.

- EO objecting to the way that somehow in Every Child Matters the wording has changed from being "promote" to become "ensure/achieve". There is no responsibility that all children should achieve those, because you cannot have a local authority - central or local government, responsible for a child achieving safety.

- EO says extreme difficulty filling in the questionnaire because of this, because of the phrasing of the questions. It isn't possible to answer yes no or not sure to the questions. So what are we meant to do?


Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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The DCSF thinks school is the best place for children.
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