I am writing with regard to a clause in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill, namely "improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home".
I believe that the inclusion of this clause is unwise and suggests that the government has not given due consideration to the principles of good legislation, namely that it should be proportionate, consistent and well targeted.
The clause is included in the Bill as a result of so-called evidence in the Review of Home Education, by Graham Badman (1) which was hastily conducted at the beginning of this year. The evidence and statistics in this review were not of a high quality, a point which Mr Badman now appears to concede as he has only recently (well after the publication of the Review) called for further evidence from local authorities to back up his foregone conclusions. (2)
Mr Badman's evidence has been subjected to scrutiny by home educating groups such as Action for Home Education (3). AHEd investigated his claims that there is sufficient evidence to prove that it will be necessary to monitor home educators more extensively and have found that contrary to the impression that the report gives, which largely consisted of the misleading claim that
"8.12 ...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"
in fact, that abuse of children in the home education is actually less than a quarter the rate of that found in the population as a whole. (4)
Basing policy and legislation upon the basis of a few statistical outliers, the reasons for which have not been investigated, is not sound procedure, and is likely to result in legislation which is neither proportionate, nor wisely targeted and which would be hugely wasteful in terms of money and manpower.
Further, there is good reason to believe that the full implications and consequences of implementing the recommendations in the review have not been considered. Baroness Morgan suggested (5) that no further funding would be necessary to implement the registration and monitoring arrangements, but given that implementation would involve a greatly extended workload for LAs, many of whom are already struggling to meet their responsibilities with regard to home educators, it is reasonable to assume that this will not be the case and that a considerable amount of funding will be required, much of which will be wasted investigating tens of thousands of well-functioning families.
The fact that home educators will resist the implementation of these recommendations should also be factored into the considerations about funding.
There are other issues of serious consequence, for example there does not appear to have been given due consideration to the legislative and constitutional implications of legislating for the Review's recommendations. Legislating to monitor home educators more extensively in order to assess for educational attainment will impact the interpretation of sections of legislation, such as s7 of the 1996 Education Act, (6) and upon s436a of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. (7) which will henceforth have to be interpreted as meaning not simply that parents must provide a seemingly suitable education, but that they must ensure that their children attain a suitable education. This will impact on all parents everywhere, not simply upon home educating ones, and for the law to remain consistent, should mean that schooling parents should also be held to similar account.
The many questions about the Review and its recommendations have resulted in an inquiry into it which is being conducted by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee (8). There is also a public consultation currently underway on the registration and monitoring proposals (9).
We do not know when the Select Committee will announce its findings but we would not expect anything to be available before the Queen's Speech. Furthermore, the public consultation does not close until October 19th, which suggests that there will not be enough time consider the input from stakeholders before rushing to primary legislation.
Several hundred home educators have been to see their MPs about this issue, raising many questions with regard to the Review's recommendations. We do not envisage that this clause will procede without extensive debate about it's disproportionate and poorly targeted proposals.
1. Home Education Review, Graham Badman
2. DCSF call for supplementary evidence to bolster the conclusions of the Badman Report in advance of Select Committee questions
3. Action for Home Education (AHEd)
4. Figures on Abuse in the Home Education Community:
5. Baroness Morgan on cost implications of the review:
6. Education Act 1996 s7.
7. Education and Inspections Act 2006 s436a
8. Select Committee Inquiry into the Badman Review
9. DCSF public consultation on registration and monitoring of home education