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Home Education – a parent’s right to choose

June 18, 2009

Home-schooling

I received the following e-mail yesterday from a friend and thought I would use my public forum today to give this some extra publicity. I have been following this story in the news and am appalled by this latest attempt to restrict our freedom of choice.  I have many reservations about the state education system so home education was an option I seriously considered for my own child. My circumstances unfortunately meant that it was not a viable option for us at this time, but I have the utmost respect for anyone who does choose to take this route. What particularly galls me about these reforms is the attempt to smear home educators as possible child abusers and the threat to criminalise anyone who refuses to acquiesce to the conditions of these reforms. If you feel equally strongly about this, please take the time to read this letter, sign the petition and/or write to your MP.


You may or may not know that the Government has just released the Badman Report on Elective Home Education and this represents a real threat to the rights of parents in this country.

The government are proposing changes in the law that will regulate our home life, in as much as we will be required to register, submit written 12 month plans, and be subjected to compulsory home visits where council officials will have the right to see our children on their own, without either of us present.

These proposals are far in excess of the powers that a child protection social worker has.  Under the government proposals, a council official need only request to see a child on their own. Failure to acquiesce could result in the council applying for an Emergency Protection Order. Why? Because we have chosen to educate our children at home. The Government is also trying to prevent schools giving parents information about the option of Home Educating, preventing freedom of choice.

Part of the thinking behind the report is that Home Educated children are ‘hidden’ and that HE is a ‘cover for abuse’. There is NO evidence for this and recent cases in the media have involved children who were already known to the authorities and were removed from school only after abuse had occurred. Home Educated children are in no way hidden. They are probably seen by more adults than school children. Also, children under 5 don’t go to school, but the Government isn’t suggesting that these measures apply to all families of under 5’s..

I do not want our home to be subjected to state evaluation, under the threat of a child protection order or criminal proceedings. It is our responsibility to look after our children, and bring them up. Provided that we are doing so without subjecting them to harm, I do not see what business it is of New Labour, how we teach our children. If you agree with this sentiment, I request your support.

Home educators being an anarchic, disparate libertarian de-centralised lot are engaging in all kinds of campaigns to prevent these proposals becoming law.  I am doing my part by initiating a letter campaign. This is where you come in.

Below is a copy of a letter for you to copy and print out, sign and send to your MP with a copy to the Department of Children, Schools and Families. If you prefer, the letter can also be e-mailed to your MP.

If you have friends who you feel may be sympathetic and may also be willing to show support, brilliant. Apparently, if an MP receives more than 3 letters on the same subject, it wakes them up a bit.

We feel that we are being targeted as criminals – it is legal to Home Educate our children and most families do a very good job, wanting the best for our children. Our children aren’t hidden, we belong to many Home Ed Groups etc. We just want our children to be happy and content and school isn’t the place for them at the moment.

If you feel as strongly as we do, please also sign the petition  at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/EHEreview/

We need all Home Educators and their friends to stand up for this. If you do not wish to support us for whatever reason, thank you anyway for listening.

If you do wish to support this cause further, here is the letter to send to your MP:


Dear

Review of Elective Home Education

I wish to seek your support in opposing the reforms to current practice proposed by Graham Badman in his “Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England” for the following reasons:

1. The Review fails to make a case for its recommendations. The Secretary of State says it contains strong arguments, but there is, in fact, little argument supported by evidence in the review. We would have welcomed a well argued, evidence based review, as this would have enabled an engagement. Instead there is assertion, but little analysis and evidence – for instance, the review simply says ‘I believe …’ 16 times.

2. The review lacks intellectual rigour, independence or impartiality. Where evidence is presented there is an absence of critical analysis, together with highly selective use of quotations from respondents. Thus it includes without comment a lengthy, and somewhat naïve, quotation from the Education Division of the Church of England, but does include a quote from a home educator which is less than complimentary about local authority staff. The use of quotations is not ‘neutral’, they serve to highlight certain views merely by their inclusion.

3. Evidence on abuse by home educators – a key argument used to justify action (see below) – is absent from the review report. Somewhat surprisingly given the review’s terms of reference there is no analysis of the actual number of suspected and found child abuse cases involving home educators. Indeed, there are no robust figures or trends presented (even at an aggregated level), instead there is a vague reference to ‘local authority evidence and case studies’.

Thus it is impossible to tell whether the concerns about possible child abuse are based in fact or merely imagined.

The review rightly points out that the number of parents opting for elective home education is unknown. Yet it also claims that ‘the number of children known to children’s social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to their home educating population’. But given that the size of the home education population is unknown, it is impossible to calculate the proportion, unless these councils have made up a base for the calculation; in effect the statement is meaningless.

4. This lack of evidence and analysis is compounded by the absence of expertise amongst the review panel. In the absence of evidence, some degree of confidence in the review’s judgements might rest on the expertise of those involved. They could perhaps be forgiven for simply making assertions if they had expertise or relevant professional knowledge of the subject matter. Unfortunately this is not the case. No home educating parent was on the review team. This does not accord with a Government that wishes to listen to the public and empower them.

Combined with my first point, this undermines the legitimacy of the review – why should what appears to be no more that the prejudices of this group of people be imposed upon the home education community?

5. Furthermore the recommendations are not logically consistent with review’s limited evidence.

a. The review says that many LAs are not performing adequately, but then recommends they have more powers. Without an analysis of why they are failing it would seem inappropriate to give them more powers; this would simply create problems and maladministration claims for the future.

b. The review recognises the diversity of home educators, but fails to take this in to account in its ‘one size fits all’ recommendations.

6. A key statement from the review, informing its recommendations is:

“The question is simply a matter of balance and securing the right regulatory regime within a framework of legislation that protects the rights of all children, even if in transaction such regulation is only necessary to protect a minority.”

This guiding ‘principle’ is presented with no provisos or limits. It is highly risk adverse position, and assumes that all parents are capable of abuse. This leads to  recommendations that are disproportionate and even the Secretary of State is wary of the cost implications.

Indeed, it logically follows from this that parents of all pre-school children must be registered and inspected annually; even that visits are required of children attending school during vacations.

You also need to know that the review was poorly conducted – for example:

• It was announced as a consultation on the consultation website then when it was pointed out that it was not compliant with the Consultation Code of Practice it suddenly became a review;

• The review outcome was partially pre-judged in advance, Graham Badman, author of the review, publicly said as much when he asserted the status quo could not remain long before the review was completed; and

• The on-line questionnaire used to gather home educators and others’ views was badly designed involving leading and poorly constructed questions.

In addition, the review process has angered and alienated many home educators. The review report and the Secretary of State highlight the importance of there being good relationships with home educators. However, the review has undermined this objective; it has even been counterproductive. Many home educators are now opting out of any involvement with their local authorities after many years of effort to improve relationships with them.

I realise that policy on home education is probably seen as part of the ‘backwater’ of political debate in Parliament, and that at present other issues have higher media and public profile. However, the home education community is a vocal and organised, if disparate, group, and you might like to advise your colleagues to take an interest in this issue as it has the potential to generate some very adverse publicity for the party.

The review report can be found at:

http://www.freedomforchildrentogrow.org/8318-DCSF-HomeEdReviewBMK.PDF

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

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2 comments

  1. I would suggest where at all possible, ppl write their own letters to MPs using the points above. You can also use sites like writetothem which will help you find your MP, and nag them if they don’t respond to you.

    From writetothem:

    If you’re a pressure group, think about what you’re doing. Ask your supporters to write to their own representative in their own words. Your message will be much more powerful. Even though your supporters may send fewer messages, their impact will be ahead of the game.

    Still not convinced? Here’s a quote from a Parliamentary researcher, whose job is to make the MP he/she works for as accessible as possible (such people are the hidden gems of our democracy):

    MPs rather naturally take a sudden influx of identical or similar messages with a large pinch of salt, since they know that what they are seeing is stuff from a minority of constituents who are either impassioned/neurotic about the topic concerned or who are easily gulled into agreeing with some plausible story and sending the message, since it takes minimum effort to do so.

    Given a daily mailbag of (say) 50 individual messages from individual constituents, on a wide range of topics, when the mailbag suddenly rises to 100 a day, 50 of which are much the same as each other, the representative has no way at all of knowing whether the message concerned is representative of opinion in the constituency.

    Just a thought.

    Though I still think more letters that look the same have got to be better than no letters at all.

    There is also a petition on the government petitions website, over at petitions

    thanks so much for your support.


    • Thanks for taking the time to share that useful information and advice, Jax.



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