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ReviewToR

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 13 years ago

Home Education Review 2009 - comments on Terms of Reference

Please find AHEd's comments regarding the Terms of Reference for the Review of Home Education, inserted between the text of the Terms below:

 

Review of Elective Home Education - Terms of Reference

Background and Rationale

 

“The Department is committed to ensuring that systems for keeping children safe, and ensuring that they receive a suitable education, are as robust as possible.  An independent review of home education is part of this continuing commitment.”

 

The terms of reference for this review are brought into question by AHEd members. We are astounded that the Department feels it can practice such blatant discrimination and believe they only get away with it due to the lack of legal protection afforded to home educators as a group.  Are the DCSF performing an independent review of the education and welfare of other minority groups?

 

“Parents have a well established right to educate their children at home and Government respects that right.  There are no plans to change that position.”

 

Can you confirm that the Government has no plan/intention/desire to change the current freedom parents have to educate their children as they see fit and suitable in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996? Can you deny for example, that Government aim to bring about changes that will define a suitable education in terms other than those in Section 7 and/or that this is a driving force for this review?

Can you explain to us why, if government respects that right, they habitually hide it in national and local terms, most especially with the misnomer of "compulsory school age"? Also, can you assure us that this point will be considered and tell us what you will be recommending to correct this miscarriage of justice?

 

“However, where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child, effective systems must be in place to deal with those concerns.  The review will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements and will, if necessary, make recommendations for improvements.”

 

In light of the flavour of many media articles covering the announcement of this review and countless previous experiences of prejudice displayed by LAs, AHED members are concerned that you do not to conflate education with welfare, do not exercise prejudice against people choosing to home educate and do not abuse anyone's human rights. Please consider carefully AHEd's assertion that the current law is perfectly adequate and that any failings are simply due to LAs not using the law appropriately. Nothing at all need be changed more than LAs properly utilising current statute and properly respecting current freedoms. ALL historical cases of welfare problems with children who were not in school could have been dealt with adequately in this way.

 

AHEd would like to be furnished with any evidence that a welfare concern situation has occured with a home educated child,  that could not have been dealt with by proper use of current legislation.

 

Terms of reference

 

The review of home education will investigate:

 

“The barriers to local authorities and other public agencies in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated children;”

 

Firstly, this assumes there ARE barriers. In the opinion of AHEd members there are no barriers to any legitimate actions. You should consider only, why LAs wish to pursue illegitimate actions against which there are very important protective barriers.

 

Secondly, it is of utmost importance that, in considering ECM outcomes, one is aware that these outcomes are terms of reference for LAs to work with during the course of their legitimate duties. They are NOT terms of reference, aims or goals for any child to attain or for any child to be assessed upon.

 

“The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude and advise on measures to prevent this;”

 

This is an illegitimate aim. It is monstrous that government have commissioned such an aim and that anyone would accept the role displays either a tragic misunderstanding or a moral dearth. The basic tenet of this aim is a prejudice against home educators. It is immoral and discriminatory to ask this question of home education when not asking it for example of all persons of certain ethnic/cultural origins, of all parents taking advantage of the 6 to 8 weeks summer vacation from school or of all parents of pre school-age children.

 

“Whether local authorities are providing the right type, level and balance of support to home educating families to ensure they are undertaking their duties to provide a suitable full time education to their children;”

 

This sentence also belies an illegitimate agenda. How can "support" itself ensure anything? Either this sentence should read "Whether local authorities are offering ...support... to enable them to undertake their duty..." or the review team erroneously believe that LAs have a duty to ensure education - that of course being the parent's legal duty.

 

“Whether any changes to the current regime for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes.”

 

This aim is also illegitimate for several reasons.

 

First there should be no regime in any LA for monitoring any aspect of home education; if there is, it is ultra vires. Public money would have been better spent investigating LA's ultra vires activity and making recommendations re how to stop them.Home education is part of private family life; it is NOT a public body accountable to tax payers, or acting in loco parentis and therefore answerable to parents.

 

Second, there is no "standard" for home education; it has only to meet the requirements of Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 - ie be full time and suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and any special needs of the individual child. That cannot be assessed by the LA because it is the parent who is responsible for the education and the parent who knows what their child's abilities, aptitudes and special needs are. The education cannot be measured against some arbitrary yardstick used to measure school curriculae and the success or otherwise of a school's attempts to infuse them into children's memories.

 

Third, it is not the place of the LA to ensure a child achieves the ECM outcomes. As said above, these outcomes are terms of reference for LAs to work with during the course of their legitimate duties. They are NOT terms of reference, aims or goals for any child to attain or for any child to be assessed upon.

 

Fouth, parents are NOT "partners" in the education and welfare of their children, with the LA or any other agency. Parents are the SOLE arbiters of that position. Outside agencies only have legal duties where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a parent is failing in any legal duty. It is an insulting infringement on the family to suggest otherwise.

 

Timing

 

“The review will be conducted over 4 months, starting in January 2009 and concluding in April 2009 with a published report in May 2009.  Ministers will then consider whether any further work is required on any aspect of home education, on the basis of the findings contained in the review report.”

 

An operation commencing late February and concluding in April barely gets four months airing; another sleight-of-hand attempt to give undue credence to the level of care this review is taking.

 

Scope

 

“The Review will focus on practice in England but may consider relevant material from the devolved administrations within the UK and elsewhere.”

 

Review methodology

 

“The review will be led by Graham Badman, former Managing Director, Children, Families and Education in Kent.”

 

AHEd call into question the impartiality and qualification for this role of Mr Badman. He has not only spent his entire career in the schooling industry and therefore has a vested interest in promoting schooling over home education, but he has thereby to automatically support the idea that children are safe in school and with state oversight, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It would also appear that he has read next to nothing and knows next to nothing about alternative education, particularly education otherwise than by a school. The latter would not be so problematic if it was not accompanied by the former, at least then the two situations could be fairly assessed.

 

It has come to our attention that it appears Mr Badman is accepting data and opinions from LAs and their partnership organisations, such as Connexions, without proper in depth scrutiny of the facts surrounding such data and opinions. Mr Badman should take seriously the many complaints of home educators that LAs and others can and do lie, manipulate figures and deliberately spread negative rumours about home education. AHEd can only assume this lack of due care and attention is due to Mr Badman's overwhelming bias towards LAs.

 

Despite the misleading title of this review, it has nothing at all to do with education and everything to do with place (home) and oversight of children. If the review were necessary, and AHEd believe it is not, the panel should be made up of persons entirely disconnected to schooling and education, but experts in child abuse, child safety and forced marriage and with no preconceived negative ideas or prejudices about home education.

 

It has also become very apparent that NSPCC, in particular Mr Vijay Patel, is discredited as an impartial player. Mr Patel attempted to link home education with the tragic death of Victoria Climbie. There is no such link and the NSPCC know this as their organisation was one of those, named in the Laming report, that failed this child. After complaints and a clear statement from the Victoria Climbie Foundation that Victoria was neither home educated nor a hidden child, Mr Patel still tried to back peddle with a half apology.

 

AHEd members also fully support Gill Kilner's comments (www.sometimesitspeaceful.bolgspot.com) regarding the suitability of the full panel from a home educator's point of view :

 

"...here is a summary of the panel members:

 

1.Professor Ted Melhuish, a Principal Investigator on the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education, is on the panel because of his expertise in 'early years, home learning environment and child development'. I found that he understands the importance of 'sustained shared thinking' and that "the quality of the home learning environment is more important for intellectual and social development than parental occupation, education or income." I think this is good news for us, because 'sustained shared thinking' is at the heart of most autonomous home education provision. However, he was also Executive Director of the National Evaluation of Sure Start, which, along with his other work on early years child care makes me wonder whether he is, in fact, a fan of institutional care for children as opposed to parental care. If this was the case, then of course it would bode ill for us.

 

2.Mick Watersis Director of Curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. He apparently believes that educational curriculum should be "shaped to fit with children's lives" - which is exactly what we do. On the other hand, he seems to have ideas about "the learning they should meet", which suggests that he would not be in favour of autonomous learning unless he understood that the method actually does teach children exactly what they need to know, without needing to set this all out beforehand. Mr Waters is well versed in theECM framework, so will understand how itneeds to be changed['pupil' instead of 'child' throughout will suffice] to iron out theanomalous positionof elective home education within it and the difficulties this might present to Local Authorities.

 

3.Delroy Pommelis a member of the London Safeguarding Children Board, which hasconspiredto cause us many problems resulting from spurious allegations. Mr Pommel is also UK director of education at Barnardos, which provides alternative education for some children. In common with every panel member other than Professor Conroy, Mr Pommel appears to have no experience or special knowledge of elective home education.

 

4.Steve Hartis supposed to represent 'safeguarding' on the panel. He has led the Secure Care Inspection Service and was CSCI's national lead for child protection until its merger with Ofsted. He is an HMI for Ofsted, which - as far as I can work out - means he is an inspector of schools. He is currently part of the Joint Chief Inspectors review of safeguarding arrangements. I could find no other relevant information about Mr Hart - certainly nothing to indicate that he has any special knowledge of elective home education.

 

5.Jean Humphrysis Ofsted's deputy director for children. "When New Ofsted was created she helped to bring together inspectors of early years, Cafcass and social care for children. Jean is continuing to oversee aspects of policy in the early years and has maintained her strong interest in the inspection and regulation of social care provision. Prior to taking up her post as an HMI, Jean was a local authority adviser. She has extensive teaching experience and was headteacher of two schools. Jean has always been interested in finding ways to help children to succeed in life, particularly those who are disadvantaged and did extensive research into parental involvement in children's education." Obviously, elective home education that is free from state interference is the ultimate "parental involvement in children's education", so I imagine that Mrs Humphrys will be delighted to be given the opportunity to support it.

 

6.Paul Ennalsis the chief executive of the National Children's Bureau. Like Mr Pommel, he is there to represent the interests of the 3rd sector, although quite what they might have to do with elective home education has not yet been made clear. Mr Ennals is an avowed fanof theECM framework[opens pdf], sohe will perhaps be able to work with Mr Waters to iron out the anomalous position of home education which is worrying some Local Authorities, most simply by changing 'child' to 'pupil' throughout. This is because electively home educated children are fully cared for by their parents and therefore do not need the involvement of the state.

 

7. Professor Stephen Heppellruns Notschool - an organisation which supplies alternative educational provision to non-electively home educated pupils. Professor Heppell is the only panel member to have actively engaged with electively home educating parents by making conversation with usin commentson our blogs. He has said that he thought the fear of home education being used as a 'cover for child abuse' was a red herring, but also said "Tick box monitoring has no hope of solving any of this," whilst not making the nature of the actual problem apparent. In addition, he has said that he wants "A dialogue between school and home education," although it was not clear what the latter might need to gain from this, if anything. Professor Heppell is on the panel to represent the interests of ICT and "future technologies", although the explicit need for this in a review about elective home education is, again, unclear. Professor Heppell is reported to be a personal friend of Graham Badman.

 

8.Sue Berelowitzis the chief executive of 11 Million and the deputy children's commissioner for England. She is the third ardent proponent of the ECM agenda in the panel. She is in favour of the idea of removing children who are potentially at risk of child abuse, away from the family home and into the care system sooner than the current practice allows for. Her organisation is evidently all about "mak[ing] sure that adults in charge, including the Government, listen to the views of children and young people," and she is there to represent Children's Rights, but Ms Berelowitz's position on the panel is a relatively unknown quantity, as far as I can tell.

 

9.Professor June Statham, from the Institute of Education, is on the panel to represent safeguarding. She coordinates programmes of fast-response research for the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families and has experience of research into early childhood services and support for vulnerable children and their families, including children in need in the community and children who are cared for away from home. She appears to have extensive knowledge, sympathy and understanding of SEN issues, but to be in favour of integration for such children in mainstream educational and childcare settings, with which the practice of elective home education obviously disagrees. It seems that much of Professor Statham's work has been about finding a wide and immensely detailed range of solutions for children outside of the family home, being cared for/ educated etc. by people other than their parents - again, a policy which would not be compatible with that of elective home educators.

 

10.Professor James Conroyis the only panel member whom we believe to have actual experience - as well as detailed professional knowledge - of elective home education. Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow, he seems to be a man of integrity and profound intelligence, who understands the theory of autonomous learning and the precious - and fragile - nature of its existence. Professor Conroy appears to be alone on the panel in his awareness of exactly what is at stake in the review process. He hascommentedon the review: “The danger of undermining parents through a culture of suspicion is politically and socially injurious. It’s bizarre to pathologise others purely because they are other.”

 

11.Beth Reidis from the National Autistic Society, and is on the panel for her knowledge of Special Educational Needs. She seems to be knowledgeable about and sympathetic towards children with such needs, but there is nothing to suggest that she has ever thought that parents could provide for those needs: her work seems to be mostly concerned with their experiences in school and with service provision for them. Ms Reid has said: "The obsession the government has created around testing has impeded the drive towards inclusion," which indicates that she might have some understanding of one of the reasons why many of us choose to electively home educate, although if she too is in favour of the policy of inclusion of everyone into the mainstream, she may not have much sympathy with our cause. Ms Reid co-wrote a report called'Make school make sense for me'[opens pdf], which failed to explain the option and process of deregistration, despite stating that school bullying made some children feel suicidal, and which also described alternative Local Authority-provided education as 'home education'.

 

12. Graham Badmanwill be the 12th person in attendance at the review panel meetings. Mr Badman "has more than 40 years of experience in education, including being a teacher, Headteacher, inspector and chief education officer," but he does not seem to have had much experience or understanding of elective home education - specifically the autonomous variety, because when one of our number explained that: "Autonomous learning is like Schrödinger's Cat: the act of observing it changes its status," he replied: "I don't agree." Mr Badman is on theboardof directors atBecta, which is"the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning."The organisation's strategic objectives can be seenhereand many of these are in direct conflict with some electively home educating families' educational philosophies.

 

Conclusions:

  • Only one member of the panel seems to have experience and a proper understanding of elective home education. At least one panel member - and the leader of the review himself - has demonstrated an extremely worrying lack of understanding about this. However, one other member is aware of the importance of 'sustained shared thinking', and one further member has conducted extensive research into parental involvement in children's education.
  • Three members of the panel are there to represent the issue of safeguarding, even though the need for this has been described as a 'red herring' by one panel member who happens to be a personal friend of the man leading the review.
  • Two members of the panel are said to be there to represent the interests of the 3rd Sector, although neither the need for this, nor the 3rd Sector's interest in elective home education, have ever been made clear.
  • The Becta/Heppell stated ICT agenda is obviously a factor in the review, although how this specifically pertains to elective home education has not been made clear either.
  • At least three members of the panel are expert proponents ofECM[opens pdf], so should have a good understanding of the anomalous position of elective home education within it, and be well able to work out how it needs to be revised to resolve this situation.
  • Both of the stated SEN representatives appear to be in favour of the policy of inclusion of children with such needs into the mainstream of service provision. This directly conflicts with the philosophy of elective home education.
  • Some of the panel members might be seen as having potentially something to gain from certain outcomes. If this is the case, it gives rise to aconflict of interests(which "occurs when an individual or organization has an interest that might compromise their reliability. A conflict of interest exists even if no improper act results from it, and can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the conflicted individual or organization.") For example, two of the panel members are employed by charities which provide alternative educational provision, and the leader of the review is employed by Becta."

 

It will:

 

“Map existing practice and consider the effectiveness of different practice – including identifying best practice - in England and elsewhere in monitoring home education from an Every Child Matters perspective;”

 

Illegitimate methodology; there is no right or duty to monitor home education for anything, not least ECM issues - see points above re ECM. It is so grossly unacceptable to conduct a review on these terms which seek to identify best practice of something which in itself is illegitimate. AHEd members are frustrated and angered that government ignores these fundamental matters as if they were minor, forgivable indiscretions rather than the illegal actions.

 

“Identify what evidence there is that claims of home education are, or could be, used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse under current monitoring practice;”

 

AHEd and others have been calling for hard evidence that a claim of home education has been used in this way. There have been plenty of scurrilous attempts to connect high profile-child abuse cases to home education, none of which stand up to scrutiny. It is also wrong to assume that, had there been any such case, it would justify any intervention into the lives of all home educators, any more than one could justify interventions into the lives of all "fathers" just because one "father" has abused one child.

 

Any claims that home education "could be" a cover for anything can only be fantasy and speculation. Home education is no more likely to be a cover for these issues than is, for example:

 

Taking a job as a teacher, EWO, LA officer, social worker or care home manager;

Taking one's child on holiday;

Having a pre school-age child;

Being a Director of Children's Services;

Taking one's child for a drive in the countryside;

Inviting one's child's school-friend over for tea.

 

“Consider evidence of the effectiveness of current monitoring practice contained in Serious Case Reviews, Joint Area Reviews and other relevant inspections and reviews;”

 

See above re the illegitimacy of monitoring

 

“Seek evidence on how the systems operate in practice from key stakeholders including home education groups, home educating families, local authorities and children’s charities;”

 

AHEd has not been approached for any such information. Education Otherwise has been consulted but Mr Badman has insisted that minutes of those meetings are not given to members of the organisation or the wider home education community. This lack of transparency is completely inappropriate for a government review and raises suspicion about motives for secrecy.

 

“Identify areas for improvement and make recommendations for any changes to strengthen current arrangements.”

 

“The review will gather views and evidence through a literature review, a review of the law and guidance and a series of interviews with key stakeholders representing the range of interests.  It will consider how effectively arrangements are currently operating, focusing on the operation of systems and procedures and not on individual cases. The review team will contact key stakeholders and invite submissions.   Other stakeholders who wish to contribute can do so by going to www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/ete/homeeducation.”

 

This web address has no active link for continued representations after the consultation closing date of February 20th. In contrast, LAs have been given an extension to the closing date for their submissions. This is a gross bias toward the input of LAs against that of home educators; another reflection of the dismissal of the point of view of the only real "stakeholders". 

 

“The review will also consider the views of stakeholders gathered as part of the recent public consultation on the statutory guidance on children not receiving a suitable education.”

 

AHEd members are curious to know why this particular consultation is being re-visited when other recent HE relevant consultations are not -please clarify.

 

In Conclusion - AHEd members believe this commentary on the Terms of Reference makes an unarguable case for the illegitmacy of this review and we would like the courtesy of a full response.

 

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