I am writing to express my concern at the statistics used to inform Graham Badman’s review of home education, released 11 June 2009.
The review can be found here as a free download.
and the particularly disturbing section, on which the vast majority of the call to action and most upsetting recommendations are based is the section about child abuse, which was the primary reason for the review in the first place.
First, on the basis of local authority evidence and case studies presented, even acknowledging the variation between authorities, the number of children known to children’s social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population.
This statement has then been reported in the press as
Children educated at home are twice as likely to be on social services registers for being at risk of abuse as the rest of the population, the head of a government inquiry into home education said yesterday.
Graham Badman, the former director of Kent County Council’s children’s services, headed the review. He said the ratio of home-educated children who were known to social services was “approximately double” that of the population at large.
The statistics within this annex are at the very least problematic, and honestly, they are downright misleading.
First, only 25 of 90 authorities asked responded. It is reasonable to assume that it is likely to be the authorities that perceive a problem that will respond, so the immediate response should be called into question. Why were only 90 of 150 authorities asked in the first place?
We are not told which authorities responded, which seems unreasonable as we are therefore unable to do any research to prove or disprove theories based on their figures.
Next, the median is used as opposed to the mean. There is rarely any good statistical reason to use the median figure, the mean is the average that most people expect to be employed.
Thirdly these figures are then extrapolated to give figures across all local authorities, I do not know of any basis in statistical working to extrapolate from a median of such a small and self selecting sample to give authoratative figures. Even if this was reasonable, we are told that a median of 7 extrapolated across 150 authorities gives 1350 EHE children known to social care – by my calculations it should be 7 * 150 which is 1050.
We are then told that this figure is 6.75%, but as we have been told repeatedly in the report that the known population of home educators is about 20,000 while the actual figure could be as high as 80,000 this is utterly meaningless.
*If* we used 1050 over 80,000 we would come up with a percentage of 1.31 % which is so small as to suggest perhaps the government should instead be shutting all schools down and recommending home education as the best way to safeguard children – surely as reasonable a conclusion as the one that
they have drawn?
I await with interest your response to this complaint – can you advise what you are able to do about incorrect use of statistics in government reports?
ps please note, I originally sent this to firstname.lastname@example.org as listed on this page:
of your website, and my email bounced. I think you need to check the email addresses you are giving out.
I have now resent to email@example.com.
To readers – please feel free to also write and complain 🙂