Friday, 12 June 2009

Letter to our MP re the review report

Written by Bruce with a little bit of help from me.

12 June 2009

Dear Mr Reed

Review of Elective Home Education

We 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 na├»ve, 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 our 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.

We 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:

If you or a member of your staff require more information or details of sources, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Prof. Bruce Stafford
Mrs Maire Stafford.


Dani said...

Thanks. This is excellent stuff. I think AHEd are collecting letters on the public wiki.

Sarah said...

Are they? I'm a bit out of touch but despite not being an active HEor I would like to wirte to my MP too, I just came by to ask if I could copy the letter please, Maire and Bruce. Will have a look at the wiki too.

Tech said...

excellent letter :) I was also wondering if I could use this for my MP? I know individual letters are better, but I would not be able to do anything this good.

Renegade Parent said...

Bruce and Maire, this is great, thank you for posting. I am returning to the document later on this weekend and well-thought through analysis such as this is incredibly helpful in the face of such overwhelming arrogance. Lisa

Maire said...

Thanks Dani I will put it on the wiki.

Sarah and Cosmic Seed please use some or all as you wish.

Maire said...

Renegade that is exactly what i feel about what you write.

lotusbirther said...

Great, well thought out letter. Thanks for sharing, inspiring and making the case blindingly obvious.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this letter, it says it all. Su

Ruth said...

Great letter. Thank you.

Mieke said...

Thanks, you two, for writing and sharing this! Without wanting to sound overly dramatic it's wonderful to have such a powerful piece available, now that we need to defend ourselves with all we've got. I'll gratefully link to it and mention it on the local list!

Anonymous said...

May I add this to my list of links on my blog entry?
I am trying to collate as many links like this as possible.

Maire said...

Thanks Lotus Birther, Su, Ruth and Mieke, mum6kids of course please do.

Annkrozeika said...

Thanks for this great letter. I hope you don't mind that I have borrowed parts of it for my letter to my MP. I'll also link to it from my blog, in the hope that more people see it (although I'm a couple of days behind here, so I guess most people will have seen it by now, lol)

Schuyler said...

The "I believe" count as well as the statement about not being able to come up with a proportion when you don't have a denominator are among my favorite points in your letter. It will be in a window while I compose the letter to my MP. Thank you.

Maire said...

We am very happy for you to use the letter, we are flattered and delighted that so many are finding it useful.

Maire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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