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Open the door to list of home educators, says expert

opinion | Published in TES magazine on 5 October, 2012 | By: Darren Evans

Review author says Welsh register would be ‘key step’ for child safety

The author of a controversial review of home schooling has backed plans to register and monitor home educators in Wales and called on the Westminster government to follow suit.

Professor Graham Badman, who chaired the official inquiry into the death of Baby P, said Welsh government proposals to monitor home educators - reported by TES last month - were “absolutely right and proper”. The move, which has provoked fierce opposition from the home education lobby, would be a “key step forward” in ensuring child safety, he added.

Professor Badman, a former director of children’s services at Kent County Council, is no stranger to conflict with home educators. In 2009 he authored a review of the issue in England, which also recommended the mandatory registration of parents who want to teach their children at home.

The review was accepted by then education secretary Ed Balls, but was dropped before the 2010 general election in a deal to push through other legislation.

Professor Badman said local authorities backed his plans for greater scrutiny of home education. “There is not a broad public understanding of home education: its strengths, weaknesses and, on rare occasions, dangers,” he said. “If the (Westminster) government were to reconsider, of course there are issues around curriculum, resources and attainment. But they would, in my view, have to consider safeguarding issues first and foremost.”

Professor Badman’s comments come as the Commons Education Select Committee is again investigating home education, including the duties of local authorities and whether the Westminster government needs to change its approach to supporting home educators. Education Select Committee members in the last Parliament described Professor Badman’s 2009 report as “flawed” and “badly handled”. But, despite the fallout, he is still keen to see his recommendations enacted.

The Labour government in Cardiff Bay is consulting on a similar set of plans, after recent figures suggested that the number of home-educated children is on the rise in Wales, from 722 in 2009-10 to 986 in 2011-12. Education minister Leighton Andrews said current legislation has “shortcomings” because there is no legal duty on a parent to tell their local authority their child is being home educated.

Professor Badman said there would probably be “relatively muted responses from local authorities and strong responses from home educators”. “The government need to balance that against what they are trying to achieve. The rights of all children should be foremost in their minds,” he added.

Home educators in Wales have reacted angrily to the plans and have already gathered more than 900 signatures on a petition. Mike Fortune-Wood, who edits the journal Home Education, has called the Welsh government’s plans a “retrograde step” that would change the relationship between parents, children and the state.

Professor Badman said he understood the concerns. “I think it’s this notion of the state intruding on something they hold to be deeply private,” he said. “I don’t think registration is about that. It’s about safety and receiving a suitable education.

“I’m not saying home education doesn’t work; in many cases it does. There are many examples of home-educated children who have thrived. This is about minimising risk.”

He added that the Welsh government must ensure suitable support for home educators, and understand how home education differs from regular schooling.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education in Westminster has said that ministers were considering whether any policy changes regarding home education were needed.

From the forums

“The draconian proposals will drive (parents) underground in order to protect their children, some of whom are home educated because the authorities have already let them down in school.”

AlisonCSauer

“Mr Andrews should really get his house in order first. Until the failures are addressed, I’m sure home educators will call into question the competence of the government to assess them, especially when many local authorities demonstrate a worrying level of cluelessness when it comes to the current law around home education.”

Thienz

Have your say at www.tes.co.uk/forums.


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Comment (12)

  • Graham Badman made identical claims during the 'Badman debacle' and made strenuous endeavours to prove himself correct; he was unable to do so.

    It is a fact that home educated children are considerably less lkely to be subject to abuse than other children are, approximately one fifth as likely.

    I have personally undertaken research on this specific question within Wales. This confirms that electively home educated children are disproportionately likely to be referred to social services as they are so peculiarly visible and yet they are considerably less likely to be on an at risk register. This research included statistics on CPRs from 19 of the 22 LAs who answered.

    Graham Stuart, Chair of the all party house of common select committee on education confirmed recently:
    'I've never seen any evidence that home education is a risk factor for child welfare nor, where children are harmed, any evidence that home education meant that abuse was hidden from the authorities. Home educated children aren't hidden - they are peculiarly visible. A registration scheme will contribute neither to an improved education for children nor to an improvement in their welfare. We looked hard at the issue in England and rejected registration. I'd be interested to see any evidence from Wales that suggests that they would be right to come to a different conclusion.'

    There is already evidence from Wales, evidence that Shows Graham Badman to be beating a dead horse: without exception every serious case review that involves a child who was home educated is in respect of a child who was already known to their LA prior to that education commencing. A registration and momitoring scheme would do nothing to help those children.

    Further and yet again the 'baby P' case is mentioned. This sad little child was 3 years below school age, it must have been an unpleasant thing for Graham Badman to deal with but it should not inform his views on Elective home education as it has no relevance to that. It has relevance to the fact that the highest risk group for abuise in the UK is children under 5 years old. Are we suggesting that those children should be registered and monitored, perhaps the 'nappy curriculum' should be extended to mnitoring parental ability to feed, clothe and potty train?

    Mr Badman please do not bring your peculiar prejudices to bear on children in Wales, you have done so much damage to relations between LAs and EHE parents in England that I would have thought that sufficient for a lifetime.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10:00
    5 October, 2012

    witchofthewest

  • Mr Badman was so strongly discredited following his review that it is amazing that he still continues to speak on the subject.

    Even senior civil servants and members of the last government, who really wanted to bring in the proposed legislation, had to admit that there were no safeguarding issues with home education despite doing their best to find some.

    When Mr Badman went before the Education Select Committee to discuss his "independent review" he wrote a panicky call to Local Authorities begging them for more information that was supportive of his view. These are not the actions of someone trying to form an objective view of the data but of someone scrabbling around to find anything that would add weight to his flawed and subjective findings.

    This article also hints that the coalition government are considering those pesky home educators again via the Education Select Committee. However, the committee are meeting as it has been shown over and over again that many, many Local Authorities misrepresent the law on home education, act outside the law and do not offer support when they could do so. This is very different than looking to see how home educators may need to be regulated as it is about getting local authorities to act within the law.

    Indeed the chair of the Select Committee, who also sat on the select committee during the Badman Review, had this to say about the Welsh proposals

    "I hope that the Welsh government think again. Registration and enforcement will be costly and alienate families. The money would be better spent elsewhere. I've never seen any evidence that home education is a risk factor for child welfare nor, where children are harmed, any evidence that home education meant that abuse was hidden from the authorities. Home educated children aren't hidden - they are peculiarly visible. A registration scheme will contribute neither to an improved education for children nor to an improvement in their welfare. We looked hard at the issue in England and rejected registration. I'd be interested to see any evidence from Wales that suggests that they would be right to come to a different conclusion."

    Home Education has never been shown to be a risk factor despite several reviews over the last few years.

    The money would be best targeted at services who, despite knowing about abused children in all sorts of settings, continually fail to act..

    This is not a benign move it will serve as a diversion of attention, money and resources away from where they are most needed.

    Routine scrutiny of a population that are low risk only creates a bigger haystack in which to find children suffering from abuse. It makes it harder. What is needed is for services to act effectively where concerns come to light. Something they regularly fail to do.

    Many people think that it is ok that this is likely to throw up many false positives and lead to the disruption of many families. It is said to be worthwhile if it saves just one child. What is not thought of is that it may well lead to some children not being saved as resources are targeted to a low risk population and not where they are needed.

    Of course, last time home educators were routinely dismissed as being a vocal minority who obviously didn't want to keep children safe, despite having submissions from social workers and others who also believed that the proposals didn't act in the best interests of children. It was easy to level that against us rather than engage with the issues which were properly raised.

    Jo - a home educator

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10:27
    5 October, 2012

    jo70mo

  • More information about the Welsh Assembly proposals here http://edyourself.org/walesbriefingpaper.pdf

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    10:34
    5 October, 2012

    FionaJNicholson

  • To add another 2p, I would challenge Graham Badman or anyone who is in favour of registration to a debate on exactly how a simple registration scheme would protect home educated children. How would annual monitoring help?

    I think that what is proposed will take resources away from those who do actually need assistance and may harm some of those it is purported to help.

    Perhaps TES would like to set up something where the 'experts' can be properly challenged in live debate by some of us who think they're wrong.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:30
    5 October, 2012

    Thienz

  • Graham Badman is a visiting professor at the Institute of Education but I don't think he holds this post because of his knowledge of philosophy, law, statistics or research methodology.

    In his 2009 review report http://is.gd/nQpHvw he quotes from Isaiah Berlin (favourably one assumes) and then proceeds to set out a view of human rights that appears to directly contradict Berlin's.

    Badman framed his report in terms of balancing the rights of parents with the rights of the child - despite English law presenting the education of children in terms of a parental duty, not a right.

    Prof Badman disagreed with Graham Stuart, now Chair of the Education Select Committee, over the level of risk to home educated children. Despite previous experience as a science teacher, Prof Badman made a basic sampling error in his statistical analysis, but despite repeated attempts Mr Stuart was unable to persuade him of this. You can follow the discussion here (Q85 onwards) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmpublic/childsch/100119/pm/100119s05.htm

    As another commenter has observed, Prof Badman then sought additional data to support his conclusions, not an approach to research that's generally viewed with approbation in academia. Here's what Prof James Conroy, then Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow had to say about the review

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmchilsch/memo/elehomed/me6202.htm

    If the English or Welsh governments are happy with independent policy reviews of this quality, then we need to be prepared for some seriously deficient legislation in future.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    14:15
    5 October, 2012

    elsiepiddock

  • Appallingly, disgracefully dishonest and incompetent report:

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/ep/2012/00000008/00000003/art00007

    Makes a useful teaching tool though!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    18:11
    5 October, 2012

    Donoharm

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QjdcdG4mP4

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    18:26
    5 October, 2012

    HenryO

  • http://sprout-and-squidge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/tes-and-badman-did-i-get-in-time-machine.html

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:15
    5 October, 2012

    Donoharm

  • If it wasn't such a serious issue, this would be laughable. Your so-called 'expert' has been widely discredited. How about actually interviewing people who have done research into it? Or maybe talk to Graham Stuart who actually has a clue about home education! Home Education and welfare are two separate issues and should not be conflated. And of course someone with a financial interest in the proposals going through is going to agree with them?! (Or did you conveniently forget that part from last time?)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:32
    5 October, 2012

    hemummy16

  • For anyone who wants to read a true account of Khyra Ishaq's death

    http://www.uncharted-worlds.org/blog/2010/07/systems-people-and-the-death-of-khyra-ishaq/

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    23:09
    5 October, 2012

    Augustaaida

  • I have to question why a publication of the standing of TES is giving space to airing the views of the thoroughly discredited Graham Badman. He may be an expert in something, but it most certainly is not the subject of Home Education, about which he has been shown to know almost nothing. His review was indeed, as this article states, "flawed" and "badly handled". He should not be allowed anywhere near policy-makers in Wales or anywhere else.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    14:53
    7 October, 2012

    earthtracer

  • BTW - what does Education Minister Leighton Andrews know about education when his Department, who have now overseen a generation through the Welsh state school system, hold the worst educational performance record in the UK according to OECD's PISA rankings? Will Home Educating families be judged by the Welsh Government's own inept performance?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:09
    29 October, 2012

    Zangler

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