Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Are We F****d Select Committee Choice of witnesses

Home educators have been devastated today to see the list of witnesses called to the Select Committee Inquiry into The Review of Elective Home Education.  I do not wish to cast aspersions on the select committee procedure, for all I know all the evidence in support of home educators opposition to the review is so comprehensive and clear that it does not need presenting verbally, but if I wanted to make it look like the views of the 80% of home educators who voted for no change in the current arrangements had been ignored the list might look like this..

It is reproduced here

Children, Schools and Families Committee
Select Committee Announcement

Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
Media Enquiries: Rebecca Jones 020 7219 5693 / 07917 488549

No. 48 of Session 2008-09 7 October 2009

Elective Home Education

Oral Evidence Sessions

The Children, Schools and Families Committee will be taking formal oral evidence as follows:

Monday 12 October 2009 at 4.45pm
Wilson Room, Portcullis House


Graham Badman CBE;
Ms Diana R Johnson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, and
Penny Jones, Independent Schools and School Organisation, DCSF.

The purpose of this session is to examine the evidence base for and recommendations of the DCSF
commissioned review of elective home education in England.

Please note these sessions will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. It is advisable to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks. Committee rooms and timings are subject to change.

Please note that seating is limited and there is no guarantee of access to the Committee Room. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in Committee Rooms. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to follow instead a live video and audio feed of proceedings, which can be viewed on the Parliamentary website at<>.

Wednesday 14 October 2009 at 9.30am
Wilson Room, Portcullis House


(At 9.30am)
Jane Lowe, Trustee, Home Education Advisory Service;
Fiona Nicholson, Trustee /Chair Government Policy Group, Education Otherwise;
Simon Webb, home educating parent;
David Wright, home educating parent, and
Carole Rutherford, co-founder, Autism in Mind

(At 10.30am)
Colin Green, Chair, Families, Communities and Young People Policy Committee, Association of Directors of Children's Services;
Ellie Evans, Head of Children Missing Education team, West Sussex County Council;
Sir Paul Ennals, Chief Executive, National Children's Bureau, and
Phillip Noyes, Director of Public Policy, NSPCC

The purpose of this session is to examine the views of home educators, local authority representatives and national children's organisations on the recommendations of the DCSF-commissioned review of elective home education in England and assess the desirability and feasibility of those recommendations.

Please note these sessions will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. It is advisable to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security checks. Committee rooms and timings are subject to change.

Please note that seating is limited and there is no guarantee of access to the Committee Room. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in Committee Rooms. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to follow instead a live video and audio feed of proceedings, which can be viewed on the Parliamentary website at<>.


The Children, Schools and Families Committee is one of the House's Select Committees related to government departments: its terms of reference are to examine "the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Children, Schools and Families and its associated public bodies". The Committee chooses its own subjects of inquiry, within the overall terms of reference. It invites written evidence from interested parties and holds public evidence sessions, usually in committee rooms at the House of Commons, although it does have the power to meet away from Westminster. At the end of each inquiry, the Committee will normally agree a Report based on the evidence received. Such Reports are published and made available on the Internet. Copies are sent free to those who give oral evidence. Reports usually contain recommendations to the Government and other bodies. The Government by convention responds to reports within about two months of publication. These responses are also published.
The Members of the Committee are:

Mr Barry Sheerman (Chairman) Labour, Huddersfield
Annette Brooke Liberal Democrat, Mid Dorset and Poole North
Mr Douglas Carswell Conservative, Harwich
Mr David Chaytor Labour, Bury North
Mrs Sharon Hodgson Labour, Gateshead East and Washington West
Paul Holmes Liberal Democrat, Chesterfield
Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough
Mr Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central
Mr Andy Slaughter Labour, Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush
Helen Southworth Labour, Warrington South
Mr Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley & Holderness
Mr Edward Timpson Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich
Derek Twigg Labour, Halton
Lynda Waltho Labour, Stourbridge

Media Enquiries: Rebecca Jones, Tel 020 7219 5693 / 07917 488549, email:>
Specific Committee Information: Tel 020 7219 6181 / 1376, email:>
Committee Website:
Watch committees and parliamentary debates online: www.parliamentlive.
Publications / Reports / Reference Material: Copies of all select committee reports are available from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge St, Westminster, 020 7219 3890) or the Stationery Office (0845 7023474). Committee reports, press releases, evidence transcripts, Bills; research papers, a directory of MPs, plus Hansard (from 8am daily) and much more, can be found on www.parliament.

And here is our query emailed to them today.

As concerned home educators likely to be personally affected by the outcome of the Select Committee hearing and also as individuals who have made submissions to the committee we would like to know why no witnesses seemed to have been called who have the expertise  to assess the conduct of the review?   Graham Badman has had three attempts at collecting evidence to support his conclusions, one even after they had been published.  If the methodology of the review is wrong the results cannot help but be flawed.  It appears that no one with statistical expertise has been called, nor anyone with expertise in conducting research.
We would also like to ask why are there no representative home education groups included; EO do not represent most home educators , as Badman was made aware and I am sure the select committee have been made aware.  Why was no one From AEUK, or AHED or HEUK or thebadmanreviewactiongroup or the stopthegovernmentstigmatisinghomeeducation group called?  All these groups have sent in submissions and we know many have asked to be witnesses.  The word limit made it very hard for many to make all the points they felt they needed to make.

We  are further appalled that Simon Webb, a journalist who has earned money by publicly attacking home educators who do not share his exact philosophy in the press, is to be a witness for home educators.  He is no longer a home educator so will not be affected by the results of this review and he represents at best only a very small minority of home educators, as can be seen by this analysis of the responses to the review   It is his views on special needs as represented by the blog post below that make him most inappropriate.  An extract from and link to his post is reproduced below. 
 ‘ the proportion of home educated children with special needs higher than in the school population? This idea has been put forward, but of course without knowing how many children are educated at home it is a bit hard to calculate and compare percentages! There is no doubt that a quick glance at the messages on both the HE-UK and Education Otherwise listings seems to indicate that practically every child mentioned has a special need of one sort or another. A closer look reveals something very interesting.

Almost none of these children have what most people would describe as a special need or disability. There do not appear to be quadraplegics, children with spina bifida or Down's Syndrome, the deaf or the blind, those with moderate to severe learning difficulties. Instead, they apparently suffer from a variety of problems which are usually alluded to by a few cryptic letters; AS, ADHD,ME,ODD,OCD and so on. Since many of these mothers, for those on these message boards are almost invariably female, present as articulate, anxious and middle class, it is interesting to speculate about the reason for the sorts of problem which they claim their children are afflicted with.

It is a long standing joke among those with whom I work that middle class children are never illiterate. They "suffer" instead from dyslexia. Nor are they naughty and badly behaved; it is that they are displaying the symptoms of ADHD. Clumsy and ill co-ordinated middle class kid? Must be dyspraxia. And so on and so forth. In other words, there is a good chance that there is actually nothing much wrong with many of these children other than the usual childhood problems; namely that they are reluctant to learn, they drop and break things and don't do as they are told.’

For many parents home educating their children because schools have failed to provide sufficient and appropriate levels of support the last paragraph is particularly offensive.  He is still obtaining information about private emails to the lists he mentions despite being removed by the list owners, and comments on them on his blog.  The Select Committee should not in any way regard his extreme views as representative of many parents opting to home educate.
We are also concerned that the home educating parents called are both men, this is curious and definitely cannot under any circumstances be considered representative.
We are also concerned that a representative of the NCPCC have been called as a witness to this committee.  Their then policy adviser  Vijay Patel smeared home educators with unfounded allegations of abuse and had to make a public, if not well publicised, apology, and he lied about us again by linking Victoria Climbie’s death to home education, a link which was loudly denounced by the Victoria Climbie Foundation, more information on this can be found here
The list of witnesses contains no established researchers or authors on home education, for example, Paula Rothermerl, Roland Meighan, The Fortune Woods, or Alan Thomas?  We understand that some of these people have also asked to appear as witnesses.
Yours sincerely

Maire Stafford
Professor Bruce Stafford
(sent by email)

Not at all comprehensive but once again i am trusting that our gaps will be filled in by all the brilliant home educators out there.

Perhaps our destiny does after all belong in New Zealand.

An earlier version of this post claimed that Simon Webb was on the lists under a false name.  However, I have been informed that posts from the lists are being forwarded to him and he is not on the lists under a pseudonym, and so I would like to make a sincere apology to Simon Webb.  The post has been corrected to reflect my greater knowledge and a correction sent to the Select Committee.


Jax said...

They will not chase me from my home, and I will not lose my freedom to educate my children as I choose.

This is my line in the sand.

Maire said...

Always fancied New Zealand a bit and I agree Jax, would not want to be chased out. But should this rubbish go through and none of the truth exposed by us all make a bit of difference then I don't know that I would have the stomach to go on living here.

Tech said...

As ever Maire, you and Bruce had done us proud. I'm absolutely appalled at what this country had been reduced to :(

emma said...

THank you Maire. You are brilliant. I was too angry to be anyhting like as cohehent as this/

Lord - look at my typos - I think I'll leave them in so you can assess my state of mind by them!!!

Maire said...

Glad you like it, I share your distress Tech. emma you spurred me on and Bruce corrected my typos.

Baz said...

I have emailed the committee to express my concerns over their choice of 'Home Educator' witnesses (and included the quote about children with SENs you posted -- not seen that one before). I don't think they could have made a worse choice!

I'm not currently home educating -- or, rather, my daughter is nowhere near compulsory age, but I want to have the option of Home Education when she is.

Grit said...

catching up with all of this is hard work but atm i can truly say i am deeply saddened. i would have wished for a more representative round of speakers. i cannot see it at the committee choice of witnesses, and i wonder what support there exists for the position stated by simon webb. but thank you for your sustained direction over the last few months; i'm sure you won't be quietened by this next turn of events.

Kelly said...

I also sent a letter to the select committee yesterday, making many of your points, but you did it so much better, Maire. Trying to figure out what I can encourage Canadians and Americans to do to support you. Is there a central government place that one can make complaints to? If we were to send letters to the editor, which papers would you recommend? Is there anything else you can think of that we could do from here?

Maire said...

Baz I am really hoping one of them will shoot himself in the foot, the other one, the one we haven't complained about because we have no idea who his has been changed I believe for someone from Chard which I do not know.

Thanks for writing to them, this involves every actual and potential parent and grandparent if only they would wake up to it. It is about taking away their choices.

Grit I am hoping that the select committee have chosen certain people to give them a good grilling, they must be planning to do this with Bad Man. And thank you for your blog,it is one of the few things at the moment which consistently leaves a smile on my face. No I and I hope we will not be quietened.

Kelly thanks again for your support, I will try and get together a list of Newspapers with addresses/emails to write to soon.

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