Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Reply from David Bell, Permanent Secretary, DCSF

David Bell

Permanent Secretary

Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street Westminster London SW1 P 3BT

tel: 020 7925 6938/6236 fax: 020 7925 6924 permanent.secretary@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

Professor Bruce and Mrs Maire Stafford

23-July 2009


Thank you for your letter of 20 June 2009 to Sir Gus O'Donnell about the conduct of the review of home education. I am replying as the review falls within the responsibilities of my Department. You also enclosed a copy of a letter of 14 June that you sent to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls MP.

You make a very serious allegation about the conduct of the review undertaken by Graham Badman. I should first point out that Graham Badman is not an employee of this Department nor is he a civil servant. However, we do demand the same standards of integrity from those we have commissioned to do the work on our behalf.

As an independent person conducting the review, it was for Mr Badman to decide what, if any, extracts from the representations he received should be included in his report. The context in which the extract is used is clear in the report and the Church of England were happy for it to be used in this way. While I appreciate your concerns, I think both of these are important factors in determining whether its use was misleading, rather than what additional information might also have been helpful.

I am satisfied that the report honestly and fairly represents the wide variety of views of those who submitted evidence to the review. However, if you are not satisfied with this reply, and you continue to believe that the publication of the report amounts to maladministration by this Department, then you should discuss your concerns with your MP. Your MP can make a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman on your behalf if he wishes to do so. You may also wish to be aware that the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee have announced an inquiry into the conduct and findings of the review and so you may wish to provide evidence to them so that further scrutiny can take place.

I also note the additional concerns you express in your letter of 14 June to the Secretary of State and I have nothing to add to the reply you have received.


department for

children, schools and families

letter from David Bell 1

Letter from David Bell 2


emma said...

"I am satisfied that the report honestly and fairly represents the wide variety of views of those who submitted evidence to the review."

Interesting. I am not satisfied of that. So where does that leave us?

Maire said...

On reflection it seems to be one step closer to admitting that the review might not be perfect. He distances the DCSF from Badman and gives information on how to take the complaint further. Something Balls has certainly not done in any of his reply's.

We have had the cloned belief statement from Balls in a number of different guises.

R said...

Most people I know on many home educating lists do not feel the report represents our views. We spent hours writing our replies to the review questions. We put forward countless reasons why this would harm children and walk all over our human rights. We put forward many reasons why autonomous education would be ruined by monitoring. We told them that the law, as it is, is perfectly adequate but many LA's refuse to follow it properly. He couldn't have been less representative of our views if he tried! Many home ed. parents wrote some eloquent submissions and he quotes one out of context to make us all look bad. That is NOT representative. But yes, at least they mention the select committee, unlike Ed Balls.

R said...

btw my anger is not directed at you Maire. It is so frustrating to hear all this nonsense about this review being fair and right etc. when It is all so wrong.

Maire said...

I totally agree Raquel, I suspect it spectacularly misrepresents most home eductors views.

We have and Foi in for the counts of the answers to the six questions. The answer will make interesting reading if we ever get one.

Maire said...

Understand that absolutely Raquel, vent away on here!

Firebird said...

DO they seriously think that if they keep saying that Badman is INDEPENDENT it's going to become true?

He's been a DCSF* insider for YEARS!

CBE (thanks to the DCSF)
Chair of Becta
Specialist Adviser to the Education and Employment Parliamentary Select Committee (1997)
Member of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families' 8-13 Expert Group (2007)
Member of the Minister of State for Schools and Learners' Home Access Taskforce.

*or whatever they were called at the time.

Anonymous said...

"On reflection it seems to be one step closer to admitting that the review might not be perfect. He distances the DCSF from Badman and gives information on how to take the complaint further."

I agree Maire. Is this the beginning of the scapegoating of Badman by the DCSF? I don't know - and I'm not even sure if that would be a good or a bad thing for us.

And I am heartily sick of seeing the phrase "I am satisfied" in these letters.

Littlepurplegoth said...

I do think though, that this is a beautiful example of the Sir Humphrey effect (in that it is the Civil Service dislike being hung out to dry by myriad political interests, and that they have a point where they start to fight back as well....)

Anonymous said...

I'm infuriated by the "I'm/we're satisfied" ... like it is suddenly going to brainwash me into being satisfied without them supplying anything to convince me more of any reason to be satisfied.
It's a "Why?" ... "Because I say so ..." kind of authoritarian parent response! argh. It offends.

Maire said...

@Firebird,I have seen a list of even more 'rewards' he has had from government I was going to blog it but Bruce says that in view of the select committee it would be unwise.

So there goes my second imaginary headline, oh well, frustrating though.

@Debs and Sally I think 'I believe' and 'I am satified' should be outlawed in any government publication or tweet.

@Littlepurplegoth, I keep thinking of Sir Humphrey too and though technically I should be outraged at the thought that democracy could be 'guided' in this way I do keep hoping that we have a few Sir Humphreys on our side.

Renegade Parent said...

Firebird, Debs and Sally hit the nail on the head for me with the comments about repetition - simply saying something over and over again WILL NOT MAKE IT SO.

The other tactics they use are:
1. completely ignoring inconvenient questions/evidence/truth and
2. making assertions such as "We must ensure that every child is safe" - not only a false assertion, as achieving such a thing is utterly impossible, but also deliberately emphasised to imply that vocal home educators are in opposition to the concept of child protection.

We need to be explicitly aware of these tactics when we voice our opposition, which I think we're doing pretty well. And I do agree that the tide is possibly starting to turn a little. Even Ed Balls is changing his rhetoric (although what he says is still nonsense).

So, onwards! Thanks for all of the hard work, Maire and Bruce.

Ruby said...

Thanks for posting all this information, Maire. Just wanting you to know that your concerns are shared by homeschoolers across the pond, too.

I have been following the Badman issue with much interest, and no small amount of anger, for a couple of weeks now. One thing that strikes me is the courage and perseverance with which British home edders are defending the rights of their families. I feel privileged that you are sharing this process with people like me!

Please know that many others are thinking of you and doing what we can to support your efforts.

Ruby in Montreal

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