Dear John Gummer,
I am writing to draw your attention to the review of home education carried out by Graham Badman and presented to the government on 11 June, last week. Ed Balls stated that he accepted all recommendations from the review, and immediately launched a consultation into changes in how home education will be regulated.
I do not accept the review nor the recommendations in it. I do not believe that Graham Badman was truly independent, nor do I think he approached the subject with an open mind. He has dismissed years of academic research into home education outcomes with the phrase “I am not convinced” and believes (16 times) in a variety of things that appear to have no basis in fact.
The most damaging slur to our community is the association of home education with child abuse. Graham Badman does this without producing any evidence for his assertion as follows:
“To return to the two questions posed earlier. 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. Secondly, despite the small number of serious case reviews where home education was a feature, the consideration of these reviews and the data outlined above, suggests that those engaged in the support and monitoring of home education should be alert to the potential additional risk to children. So saying is not to suggest that there is a causal or determining relationship, but simply an indication of the need for appropriately trained and knowledgeable personnel.”
Local authorities regularly admit that they don’t know how many children are home educated, so to assume that the number of children is high in proportion to the size of this population is manifestly pointless. Also many children who are home educated have SEN, meaning they are more likely to be known to a number of services. And finally, many home educated families are referred to social services purely because they home educate and the referrers don’t know that it is legal – which proves the point that the existing systems do get welfare concerns passed on to them, as well as adding to the number of home educated children known to social services.
Of course, this phrase has been picked up by the mainstream media and reported as “twice as likely to be abused”, and I’ve met many people in the last couple of weeks who have read this and picked up on it, including non home educators who feel that home educators are being unfairly labelled.
To give weight to the review a number of organisation and individuals including local authorities submitted responses. Mr Badman has editted those responses to give the appearance that he required, so for example, the C of E response, which was long, makes an appearance in the form of just one paragraph which states:
â€œthat children and young people not in formal education are missing the benefits and challenges of learning in community with their peers. Children who do not go to school may not experience the social and cultural diversity encountered there; they will not learn how to deal with the rough and tumble of everyday life; they may never meet people with different faith and value systems. All such encounters, even the difficult or painful ones are enriching. We are concerned not only with the five Every Child Matters outcomes, but also with the spiritual well-being of all children and young people. Spiritual well-being arises not only from being cared for in a loving family and/or faith community, but also in encounters with people of different opinions and backgrounds; in learning to listen to a variety of opinions; to encounter diversity and the riches and life-enhancement it can bring. Spiritual well-being depends on living and taking a full part in community life. Children and young people in schools learn about and from the five major religions. This may be a difficult part of the curriculum for home educators to provide, yet it is vital for the Government’s community cohesion agenda that all children learn in a balanced way about the variety of religious values and practices, and to be encouraged to question their own beliefs and practices.â€
The entire response can be found here: http://www.natsoc.org.uk/ (see links on the right hand side.
If only one paragraph had to be chosen, I think I’d have preferred point 10, (the final paragraph, the place most people put their conclusion or summary) which reads:
“We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children in a home-educating this should be a matter for Children’s Services.”
This answers the specific question posed by the review, but not in the manner that Mr Badman seems to have preferred, as it does not insist on changes to regulation. He has ridden roughshod over any opinion that disagreed with his and not highlighted anything of that sort.
I would appreciate hearing your opinion on the issues I have raised, and would welcome the chance to meet with you and discuss the issues further at your convenience. I believe that the recommendations accepted by the government were not the result of an independent, impartial review and as such I would also like to know if there is any way to challenge the results of the review, either via parliament or legally.
Thank you for your time.