Sunday, 22 November 2009

The impact of the impact assessment

The impact assessment [opens PDF] for the Children Schools and Families Bill has been released. The CSF Bill section 26 relates to the proposals for licensing and monitoring home education in England.

Page 87:
"Children in the first year will all receive 2 * 4 hour meetings with LA officer
50% of children in the first year will receive an additional 2 * 4 hour sessions.
All children receive 1 x 8 hour visit at the end of the year.
50% will receive an additional 1 x 8 hour visit."


Remember: I have done nothing wrong. No one has any evidence to say I have done anything wrong. The same is true of nearly every other home educator in England. We are ordinary, honourable, law-abiding people doing the best for our children that we can. There is no evidence anywhere that says otherwise. The very few kids who have a bad time of it at home are caught by Children's Services or Education Welfare. Whether these services act to help those children depends on how well they understand their duties and the legislation that supports them in the pursuit of those duties. That is beside the point. Even by Badman's figures, 0.4% of the 20,000 children (about 80 kids) have been found and put on protection plans and the other 19,920 are not a problem. There is no suspicion that they may be a problem. There is no evidence of anything amiss, and without evidence there is no case for intervention.

What of the other 20-60,000 children who are not known to LAs, my own included; children that, a few LAs say (despite not knowing them, and having no objective definition of the term 'adequate'), are receiving an inadequate education? There is no evidence of a problem with them either. Not a sniff, not a hint, not a concerned note from a neighbour or doctor or an offhand comment from a friend or relative. Children not in school do not live in a vacuum. If there were a problem, someone would have noticed.

And yet the state will waste precious resources, which could be used to help children who actually are in need, on sending an inspector to my house for two four hour sessions and an eight hour session every year? And to do the same for every one of up to 80,000 other children who have also never given the slightest indication of a problem? All based on some unidentified person's "concerns" and another man's made up statistics? Statistics that are at best debatable, at worst conclusively proven to be wrong?

What the hell are these people on? Are they trying to drain Local Authorities of resources to help those actually in need? Do they want more Baby P's to happen? Or do they realise they are going out after the next election, and want to leave a big stinking mess on the desk of their successors?

It has been pointed out that registered childminders are inspected once every 3 or 4 years by Ofsted, despite the fact that they look after other people's children, often very young, and sometimes including those with special needs. I spend the daylight hours with my children and so I have to be inspected for a total of two working days every year. And they dare to call this proportionate?

Every good person should be outraged and amazed at this insideous Bill, and this attendant impact assessment, and should be writing to their MP right now. Every good person should be declaring their intent to oppose these massive and expensive intrusions on the privacy of families across the country for the sake of their own children, the children of all other home educators of England, and the children whose welfare is being put at risk because attention and resources are being diverted to hound the innocent, purely due to ideology, ignorance and fear rather than any evidence of need.

And their estimated cost of this unbelievable crime against children and the family? £20.5m to start up, £10m p.a. thereafter. Are they out of their tiny little minds? How can any reasonable person believe this?

This is not acceptable, it is a huge waste of time and money, and it will cost children their lives. I will not participate with this process. To hell with them all. If any of this goes through I will lose any tiny scrap of belief in this country that I still have. I will know for certain that the English Law is not just an ass, it's a corpse, and that England itself is heartless, soulless and dead.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Join the dots

... Dot... Dot...

My six year old daughter just loves join-the-dots pictures. This is fine by me. They help her with counting, something she has always enjoyed. Some clever people thought of creating them with the dots numbered in multiples of two, three and so on to help with learning 'times tables' and sequences. There are also basic alphabetised dot to dots for little people learning their ABC. Of course she also learns fine motor skills in the manipulation of her pencil in a straight line from point to point, patience to make sure she doesn't rush and join the wrong dots just because in her haste it looks likely, and image interpretation as she tries to work out what the completed drawing will be. And then there is the satisfaction of sitting back at the end and looking at the big picture. Perhaps colouring it in if she feels like employing such embellishments.

Dot... Dot... Dot...

Some people need help joining the dots.

Here are a few dots. Can you tell what it is yet?

Dot... Dot... Dot...
  • The Independent Safeguarding Authority has been tasked with maintaining another database. This latest in a swathe of state databases will be used to vet anyone, including parents, who has regular contact with children through their church sunday school, Scout troop, football club, and so on. It will be the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world and involves unprecedented delving into the subject's personal and employment history.
  • DNA information is held for every person who has come into contact with the police, even those stepping forward voluntarily to help with enquiries. There are repeated calls to extend this to mandatory samples to be taken from every citizen of the UK. Police have been reported to be stopping children for inconsequential matters, taking DNA swabs, then releasing them without charge. Currently the decision as to whether such DNA information is ever destroyed is discretionary. After a long campaign against them, police recently agreed to destroy records of 100 children whose DNA was taken, but who have not been charged of any crime. 17,000 records still exist in Humberside alone.
  • Health and Safety inspectors are to be given access to the home to assess whether parents are providing a safe environment for their children. "All practitioners who visit families and carers with children and young people aged under 15 [will be asked] to provide home safety advice and conduct a home risk assessment where necessary."
  • All telecoms companies and Internet Service Providers will shortly be required by law to keep a record of all emails, mobile and landline phone calls, texts, and the history of websites visited for every person in the country. The new law will increase the amount of personal data which can be accessed by officials through the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which is supposed to be used to combat terrorism. The powers enacted by RIPA have already been abused causing millions of pounds of damage to private citizens, the elderly and even holocaust survivors.
  • Croydon Council have installed hidden cameras inside private homes, to spy on neighbours, teenagers and potential anti-social groups on the street. This is a pilot for a scheme planned to be rolled out in other areas.
  • Lincolnshire is piloting a 'wellbeing' questionnaire of 83 questions for parents to answer concerning their children and themselves. The Dept. of Health wants this to be rolled out to all parents in England & Wales. Questions include whether the child lies or steals, how many takeaways they eat, whether they have many friends, and how well the parents themselves did at school. The information is to be held on a database indefinitely. Filling in the questionnaire is not compulsory, but parents fear that not doing so, like disagreeing with a doctor or arguing with a teacher, will count as a 'black mark' against them and their children will be seen as being at risk.

Have you spotted the picture yet? Can you tell what it is? Maybe some more dots will help...

Dot... Dot... Dot...
  • The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee interviewed Maggie Atkinson, candidate for the post of Children's Commissioner. This position exists to "promote the views and best interests of all children and young people." The Select Committee recommended that Ms Atkinson not be given the role as she was deemed not to be independent enough of the DCSF to "challenge the satus quo on children's behalf." Secretary of State Ed Balls declined to take their advice and hired her anyway. There remain serious doubts as to Ms Atkinson's independence.
  • Ofsted have stated that they want all parents of home educated children to be CRB checked.
"Current guidance states that parents may employ other people to educate their children and that parents are responsible for 'ensuring that those whom they engage are suitable to have access to children'."
Therefore, they conclude, if the parent has access to their children for the purposes of educating them, it stands to reason they should undergo the same checks as everyone else.
"Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks should be a requirement of registration."
  • Home educators also face registration and monitoring to ensure that their children are safe and well and are receiving an education in line with what local authorities believe is suitable. This will give inspectors mandatory access to the homes of families, the power to deny the children's right to be educated outside of the state school system, influence over the curriculum and method of learning which the family uses, and the right to take the child away from parents for questioning. This is to be done with no evidence or suspicion that anything is wrong with the wellbeing or education of the child. It amounts to saying that, if your child is not in school in daylight hours on a weekday, they are vulnerable and need to be safeguarded.
Dot... Dot... Dot...

OK. Have I made this picture plain enough yet? This isn't just about single issues. I've been involved in the battle for the rights of honourable, law-abiding home educators to carry on with their lives unmolested by the state and its minions for quite a while now. Others have been fighting that battle for years, even decades. At every turn the Powers That Be collude to lie and cheat, to defame and patronise us, to get us the hell out of the way because they know what is best for our children, and we can either go along with it or be set aside. And don't imagine independent advice will be heeded. If that advice goes against policy, it will be ignored and the advisor vilified. This is policy based evidence making. This is ideology. Facts and truth have nothing to do with it, let alone free will.

We are distracted by our personal fights, but we need now more than ever to raise public awareness of the overall strategy behind the weapons of suspicion and ignorance being ranged against us. The desperation of the current government to arrange their tools of oppression before the next general election may be their undoing as these sledgehammers are falling at an ever increasing rate. Everyone is noticing because now everyone is affected, or knows someone who is. There can be little doubt now in anyone's mind that we are facing an attempt by state to wrest any remaining personal power and individuality from our hands in the name of safeguarding. Call it Fascism, Communism, Marxism or Communitarianism, it all amounts to the imposition of the will of the government over and above the will of the people. Time to get together with all those good people of like mind and tell them we've had enough.

My next post will hopefully deal with what needs to be done. Here's a hint: Just say no.

Dot... Dot... Dot...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Our case against change

"In my 30 odd years of professional life in education I have rarely encountered a process, the entirety of which was so slap dash, panic driven, and nakedly and naively populist."
From the submission by Professor James C Conroy, member of Graham Badman's Expert Reference Group.

I have been delighted to read the many submissions to the Children Schools and Families Select Committee by home educators, their supporters, organisations and several independent interested parties. This body of evidence shows the lie in Graham Badman's words to the Select Committee that opposition to his Review of Elective Home Education was mainly being perpetrated by a "vociferous minority."

"I have to say, Chairman, I have been somewhat surprised by the reaction of a vociferous minority - and I do think it is a vociferous minority; I can actually count the number of people who have done it. " - Graham Badman, oral evidence to Select Committee, 12 October 2009.
At the time of writing, over 200 submissions have been listed on the Parliamentary website, all but a fraction of which give thoughtful, erudite, knowledgeable and damning critiques of the Badman Review, its supposed independence, its methods and conduct, and the recommendations that have come out of it. Memoranda have been supplied by home educating parents; national home education organisations such as Education Otherwise, the Home Education Research Association, and Action for Home Education; local home education groups; and other bodies such as the Church of England, The Family Education Trust, The National Autistic Society, and the Institute of Education.

If Mr Badman can count the number of people represented here, he must h
ave a very good head for figures. Unfortunately, as shown by the submission by William Wallace BSc, MSc, MPhil, FSS, AFIMA, hs figures simply do not add up.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

William Wallace
has served as a Local Government Statistician, and is a Research Fellow and Senior University Lecturer in Statistics.
"I can say without any hesitation that the information on methodology casts grave doubt on any use of the results from the Badman Review, or its follow up, to sensibly inform government decisions with respect to elective home education."
His memorandum gives extensive evidence that the statistical basis for Graham Badman's conclusions, particularly that relating to his key idea that the number of home educators known to social care is "disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population", is unsafe and very far from the standard and rigour that should be expected from a document informing possible changes to this country's primary legislation.

Perhaps responding to public criticism of the use of the term "known to social care", Mr Badman changed his terms of reference in his Select Committee hearing and referred instead to children subject to a CPP (Child Protection Plan). Mr Wallace finds his evidence to support this also extremely lacking.

"...some authorities have been using CPPs as a way of forcing EHE children back to school. With such small numbers involved with EHE and certainly CPPs, any distortion in the representativeness of the sample is likely to result in statistical error."

This lack of academic rigour is noted also by Dr Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison. Dr Thomas is a Visiting Fellow at the University of London Institute of Education He has spent 15 years researching home education, particularly autonomous education and informal learning and is an acknowledged expert in his field. It is worth noting that he came to autonomous education as a sceptic, but through his studies of its use and its outcomes, he has become a passionate advocate for informal learning and home education generally. He says:
"Overall, the Review displays a lack of rigour and accuracy combined with unsubstantiated opinions in relation to our area of expertise. Mr. Badman proposes that research into autonomous education should be undertaken and, at the same time, sets out a detailed system of monitoring that would actually prohibit it."
We will look at the unsubstantiated opinions later when we consider whether Mr Badman is as truly independent as he says.

Dr Thomas also comments on the literature used to inform the review. Despite Mr Badman's assurances, no literature review was included in his report, and had to be recovered by Freedom of Information Act requests.
"It ignores vast swathes of relevant educational research both in the mainstream and in relation to home education. Moreover, it is impossible to see on what basis the ad hoc and piecemeal selection of research referred to within the Review has been selected.

"Similarly, reference is made to the policies and circumstances of home education in some other countries but why these countries have been selected from the very large numbers of countries in which home education is practised is not discernible. As well as research into home education, including ours, research in mainstream education also sheds considerable light on alternative, informal and autonomous education. Examples of this are research into personalised learning, experiential learning, the importance of parental involvement, following the interests of the child and pupil responsibility for learning. None of this is discussed in either the Review or the literature review."
A group of Muslim Home Educators found the uncritical inclusion of German policy on home education especially distasteful.
"The report makes favourable reference to German case law. Germany is the only Western nation where home education is illegal... Home education was outlawed in Germany in 1938, as Adolf Hitler did not want children escaping the influence of the Hitler Youth and Nazi philosophy. We are alarmed that a report commissioned by New Labour should make such uncritical reference to a law passed by a Nazi government, while at the same ignoring the situation in the US where there are over one and a half million home educated children and a considerable body of evidence, both state and independent, which attests to the validity and efficacy of home education."

Quotes out of context

As well as showing a lack of rigour in his statistics, Mr Badman on several occasions uses quotations to support his argument in a way which seems less than honest.

The Church of England Education Division submitted evidence to the Review. Mr Badman used three paragraphs from their submission to support his spurious theory that home educated children are cut off from 'the real world' (the school environment couldn't possibly be described as an artificial society, could it?) and may be denied exposure to other beliefs, philosophies and religions. However, it was disingenuous of him not to also use the main point of their paper, that:

"We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children in a home-educating this should be a matter for Children's Services."
This selective use of quotes was not missed by the CofE. They say:
"We regret... that the paragraphs [from the CofE submission] were used to support what appeared to be the predetermined outcome of the report, given the terms of reference."

"...officers in the Education Division were disappointed with the impression left by the selective use of our submission."
Another selective quotation used out of context for the sake of effect was that of a home educator. It was used to show the 'wacky' ideas of some home educators in their attitude to Local Authorities.
"... no one from the LA would in my opinion be on my child's intellectual level or they wouldn't be working for the LA."

Professor Bruce Stafford, Professor of Public Policy at Nottingham University, was Director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy for 11 years until 2006. He explains:
"Leaving aside the questionable motives for the inclusion of this quote, the Report fails to give the apparent context to the observation:

" 'It was in response to a question about whether a scientifically gifted child would benefit from having a science teacher from the LA come and give them tuition. It was to point out that scientists at the top of their profession are rarely working for the LA, so anyone sent out would not be on the same intellectual level as the scientifically gifted child.' "
Mr Badman not only made selective use of quotes in his report, but also seems to have based his report on inaccurate notes on interviews with expert witnesses. Alison Sauer is director of a company which trains Local Authority personal in dealing with home education.
"Meeting notes taken by the review team during my meetings with Mr Badman do not agree with my notes of the same meetings... Upon receipt of the inaccurate DCSF meeting notes I contacted a number of other people listed in the 'Annex B' of the report as having been giving evidence and found that my case was by no means unique."
Even the quote from Mr Badman's favourite philosopher, Isiah Berlin, which opens the Report was misused. The quote was:
"The need to choose, to sacrifice some ultimate values to others, turns out to be a permanent characteristic of the human predicament." - Isiah Berlin, (1969) Four Essays on Liberty.
Jeremy Yallop says:
"This quotation comes from an essay by Isaiah Berlin in which he argues that personal liberty to determine one's own path through life is essential to happiness -- that it is the choosing, not simply the result of the choice that is so essential ('the need to choose'). Badman is apparently attempting to use the quotation to argue that he and the Government ought to make this choice instead. While this is, perhaps, a small point, it is indicative of Badman's use of others' words in general: he uses a passage from A.S. Neill in a similar way."
With all the above evidence of problems around selective use of quotes and even misquotation of evidence, one begins to wonder whether Mr Badman is as independent as he says...

The independence of Mr Badman

Mr Badman spoke to many experts in the course of evidence-gathering for his Review. Amongst these, as one would expect, were two of the main researchers into home education in England today, Paula Rothermel
and Dr Alan Thomas.

Paula Rothermel is one of the leading academics in the field in the UK and the only expert witness specialising in court cases where home education is an issue. In her submission she talks about her two interviews with Mr Badman.
"At our first interview, Mr Badman was interested in what I had to say. His opening question was to ask me if home educating mothers suffered from Munchhausen's by Proxy. I thought this to be a curious starting point - that of questioning whether home education is a symptom of mental illness. I am not medically qualified, but I was able to inform Mr Badman that there is no research evidence available that I am aware of, which makes this link."
Yes, Mr Badman's first question in his first interview with one of the leading authorities on home education was whether home educating mothers suffer Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP). For those not in the know, MSbP is a factitious disorder; a mental illness whereby a person (usually a mother) is said to pretend that someone in their care (usually their child) has a physical or mental illness, when that person is actually not sick. The disorder is controversial to say the least, and organisations have been set up to aid the many vicitms of misdiagnosis.

At her second meeting with Mr Badman, he went from being rude about home educating mothers, and dismissive of home educated children with special needs, to being rude about Paula herself.
"At our second interview Mr Badman was dismissive of my work. He insisted that my study covered just 30 children. He indicated that someone had told him this and insisted that my conclusions and findings, therefore, were of little significance. Nothing I could say would sway him from this view. He had clearly not informed himself about my work by reading it.
"I am one of the leading academics in the field in the UK and the only expert witness specialising in court cases where home education is an issue. My 2002 research involved 1099 children and remains the largest and most in-depth and authoritative, independent of home education, carried out in the UK. The research involved 419 survey questionnaires to families and 238 targeted assessments (with 196 different children) to evaluate the psychosocial and academic development of home-educated children aged eleven years and under."
Paula's experience was not unique. Dr Alan Thomas also found Mr Badman dismissive of his 15 years of experience in the area of home education and autonomous learning, as well as the informed opinions of one of the world's leading educational research institutions. Alan's research partner Harriet Pattison explains:

"Dr Alan Thomas spent an hour explaining our research on informal or autonomous learning to Mr Badman. While he had every right to appraise and criticise our work, it was completely ignored. It appears therefore that Mr Badman had already made up his mind on this issue.

"Mr. Badman also ignored the submission from the Institute of Education in which reference is made to autonomous/informal learning as a legitimate educational approach."
Alan continues:
"Mr Badman claims to make no judgement on autonomous education, at the same time insinuating that it is little more than "childminding" by quoting an unsubstantiated legal opinion.

"His dismissal of our work is at odds with what we have experienced in other jurisdictions. Our work has been used to inform home education policy in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania) and in the Republic of Ireland."
Overall it seems that Mr Badman has taken a somewhat partial view of home education from the outset. Are there reasons for this? Techla Wood, a home educating parent and owner of the FaceBook group Stop The UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators!, puts it thus:
"During the review process, Home Educators have obviously been very interested in finding out what professional interests Mr Badman holds, especially given that we have been told time and again that he, and therefore his review, are independent. Many home educators were surprised to find that an independent review into Home Education could be carried out by a former teacher, former head of children's services, and current chair of BECTA. Whilst looking into Mr Badman's professional interests, it was discovered that he was listed as the director of an Education Management company by the name of Nektus."
Freedom of Information Act requests to the DCSF requesting copies of correspondence between themselves and Nektus have been rejected on the rather thin grounds that to provide them may put Mr Badman in harm's way.
"It seems that, regardless of the truth of the allegation that 'attempts have been made to vilify and harass the author of the Review of Elective Home Education,' the best way to combat such 'attempts' would be to tell the truth. If the interactions between the DCSF and Nektus have been completely above board, then it would seem to be in the best interest of everyone to disclose all interactions between the two entities. Not to do so merely raises the question that there might be something the either the DCSF or Nektus does not wish to be disclosed for public scrutiny."

The independence of the Review

As well as Mr Badman's own independence as chair being called into question, the whole basis and terms of reference of the Review has been looked at in detail by many witnesses to the Select Committee.

The Church of England Education Division again:
"We felt that the terms of reference of the Review were too heavily weighted towards monitoring and the perception of barriers to monitoring. There was an insistence that the Government's five Every Child Matters outcomes are the most important for children. This seems to contradict the Children's Plan mantra that it is 'Parents not Government that bring up children.' For Home Educating families, these may not be the most important or valuable outcomes.
"The premise that things need to be improved, changed, monitored and that children who are home educated and their parents must conform to Government's agenda for school-educated children pervades the whole of this review. It appears that the Review has been written to concur with the view that there should be more regulation and legislation, despite having received many submissions sent in to the Review by home educators."
The idea that the Government is trying to impose their agenda for school children upon the home educated is shared by Dr Alan Thomas:
"The recommendation that the key terms 'suitable' and 'efficient' be redefined in the light of the Rose review of primary education shows a clear intent that school based criteria and benchmarks will be used to measure and judge home education.
"The recommendation that a curriculum at home should be 'sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated curriculum' (recommendation 2 of the Badman Review) reflects the desires and constraints of schooling where a curriculum must be devised to answer the needs of a large number of children simultaneously. This recommendation lies at odds with current mainstream policy in regard to the importance of individuality in education."

The rights and the wrongs

There can be little doubt that home education in England will never be the same after the Badman Review. Hundreds of years of constitutional law and tradition are being swept aside. Basic rights of privacy and non-interference in family life have been ignored by its recommendations.
"Giving local authority officials the right to access the home for the purpose of monitoring is a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK is bound by the ECHR under the terms of the Human Rights Act 1998 which makes it unlawful for government to unduly interfere in the right to private and family life." - Group of Muslim Home Educators

The Report makes much of children's rights, even setting out a conflict between the rights of the child and the rights of the parent. This is of course nonsense as it is well established in English Law that the parent is the first guardian and promoter of their children's rights. The Muslim Home Educators say:

"To support his perspective Mr. Badman quotes from paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is intended to ensure that children have a say in matters affecting them. However, his references are highly selective. He ignores paragraph 2 of the same article which says that children should be involved in such a process, rather than as in the case of this Review, have changes imposed on them.

"Mr. Badman omits to mention Article 5, which instructs signatory states to respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents to provide direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention.

"He makes no mention of Article 16 which seeks to protect children from being subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, and home, and asserts their right to protection of the law against such interference.

"No mention is made of Article 18, paragraph 1, which requires government and its agencies to recognize that it is parents that have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child since the best interests of the child will be their basic concern."
They sum up by saying:
"There appears to be little understanding of child development, attachment, and child protection, resulting in a betrayal of the of the children's rights that Mr. Badman claims to support. Children will be subjected to a visit whether they want it or not; whether they are in need of it or not; whether they want to talk to an LA official or not. They have no rights at all."
"This is a bold claim as the Report makes much noise about upholding the child's right to education amongst others (European Convention on Human Rights Article 2 of Protocol 1). However, this is interpreted by the Review to mean that a child has an obligation to receive a state-approved education. This is by no means the same thing.

The Report's use of rights issues as an underpinning for its recommendations is important. However, its author seems confused as to what these rights are and how they apply under English law.
"Badman writes 'This review does not argue against the rights of parents as set out in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996', but that section does not confer rights at all; rather, it sets out the duties of parents. This apparently deliberate confusion between rights and duties has been used repeatedly in the report and the press by Badman and DCSF ministers. For example, in a press release of 11 June, Childrenʼs Minister Delyth Morgan said 'We have to balance the rights of parents with the pre-eminent rights of children' ( The truth is that the law sets out duties for parents which are clearly not in conflict with childrenʼs rights." - Action for Home Education.

We will come to the Law in a moment, but here is one more fundamental problem with the Report's view of rights:
"Legal rights are seen [in the Report] as granted by the State rather than recognized by it." - Dr Peter Kahn, university lecturer.
"The fundamental issue here is the relationship between the individual and the state. Ed Balls and Graham Badman see people as property of the state, who have rights given to them by the same." - Steve Keen, Senior Lecturer in Research within a university department of Social Work.

Laying down the Law
"Current law places the primary responsibility for a child's education very clearly with the parent. This is the first level of the fourfold foundation of which Lord Bingham (in Ali v Lord Grey School [2006] UKHL 14) said, 'This fourfold foundation has endured over a long period because it has, I think, certain inherent strengths. First, it recognises that the party with the keenest personal interest in securing the best available education for a child ordinarily is, or ought to be, the parent of the child. Depending on age, maturity and family background, the child may or not share that interest. But the parent has a statutory duty.' He also says, 'It is plainly intended that every child of compulsory school age should receive appropriate education in one way if not another, and that responsibility rests in the last resort with the LEA.' The primary statutory duty lies with the parent and responsibility rests in the last resort with the LEA." - Alexandra Barnes, Home Educating parent.
Lord Bingham's judgement is important as it goes on to set out this fourfold foundation of a child's education - the parent, the Secretary of State, the LEA (now LA), and the school - and then defines the relationships between the various parts. As Alexandra rightly points out, Lord Bingham says that the parent is the person most likely to have the keenest personal interest in the success of the child, and therefore must be granted the primary responsibility to oversee its provision. The intervention of the Local Authority should be a last resort.

The action of the LA as a 'safety net' is its primary function with relation to home education. Most submissions argue that the powers that Mr Badman proposes are redundant as local authorities already have sufficient powers under current legislation to protect children who are suffering, or at risk of suffering significant harm, or who are not receiving a suitable education.
"These powers are enshrined in the Children's Acts 1989 and 2004, and in the 1996 Education Act. The report makes no reference to Section 437 of the 1996 Education Act, which empowers local authorities to require parents to demonstrate that they are providing a suitable education, where they have a concern. If the parents fail to do so, then the local authority can issue an attendance order, compelling the child to attend school. Failure to comply by the parents can result in prosecution.

"The Report fails to demonstrate that the powers enshrined in the Children's Acts of 1989 and 2004 are in any way deficient. Under the terms of those Acts, local authorities have duties and significant powers to investigate allegations of child abuse, and ensure that children who are at risk of significant harm, or suffering significant harm, are cared for and protected." - Group of Muslim Home Educators.
The lack of understanding exhibited by many LA officers of these statutes and the powers granted by them has long been a source of irritation to the home education community (to put it mildly). In the past, this has been due to LA officers attempting to act ultra vires, assuming powers which they do not actually have. Now we also have an ironic situation where, through not understanding and using their actual legal powers, LAs and the DCSF are begging for more! This does not extend to all LAs, resulting in a 'postcode lottery' where the amount of harrassment a home educating family experiences depends on which LA they fall under.

Claire Blades, organiser of the recent Mass Lobby of Parliament on 13th Oct. 2009, adds to the irony by citing Ofsted as her witness:
"Ofsted said the following: 'Our experience from inspections of childrenʼs services and evaluations of serious case reviews is that there is variation across the country in how proactively local safeguarding children boards ensure these (home educated) children are safeguarded. Some local child protection procedures address this robustly while others do not.'

"If some local safeguarding boards are able to ensure the safety of home educated children under current legislation, why is a change of law necessary at all? Surely all that is needed is that good practice and robust procedures for protecting children educated at home should be adopted in all areas. Social services already have extensive powers to investigate if there is reason to believe a child is at risk of harm."
It seems that LAs are not alone. Graham Badman shares their legal confusion. Alison Sauer

"The report, and indeed the questions sent out to Authorities at the beginning of the procedure, show a considerable misunderstanding and misinterpretation of current statute and case law.

"There is marked emphasis on procedures such as 'monitoring', tracking 'educational progress' and 'assessment' in the questionnaire sent to Authorities - such procedures are not legal requirements, indeed monitoring is expressly referred to as being not mandatory in section 2.7 of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities thus: 'Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.' "

Mr Badman's confusion even extends to the understanding of laws affecting home education in other countries:

"The summary of international law was severely inadequate. This summary begins 'International comparison suggests that of all countries with highly developed education systems, England is the most liberal in its approach to elective home education', which is false. In the United States, which has far more home educators than anywhere else in the world, education law is up to individual states; several of these have laws which are more liberal than England's (" - Jeremy Yallop
Perhaps Mr Badman did not think that the USA has a highly developed educational system, or that with over 2 million home educated children (2002-3 estimates, and almost certainly more than the rest of the world put together) the sample size was too small. Given his refusal to accept Paula Rothermel's research, seeing the 1099 children involved as just 30, perhaps this is understandable. Mr Badman seems to be rather micropsic when viewing figures that work against him. Conversely he sees tiny percentages of small minority groups as hugely significant if they seem to help prove his point. What a strange affliction!

Relationship problems: LA vs. EHE
"We explained to Graham Badman how home educating parents in North Yorkshire had worked with the local authority to build up working relationships. We told him how in essence we had come out from behind the barricades and met in the middle and how this process had taken nearly three years after we met with them because of the first consultation on home education. "We stressed to Mr Badman that any element of compulsion would destroy the things we had achieved in North Yorkshire and indeed a lot of home educators in North Yorkshire have withdrawn from engagement with the LA as a protest." - Denise McCallum
Graham Badman, in his Review methodology, asserted that the Review would:
"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."
Despite this, the terms of this Review, along with Graham Badman's Report, has done nothing to help and much to harm relationships between the two. Previous fruitful relationships have been suspended for the duration of this battle, and it is eminently possible that, should the recommendations pass into legislation, they will never be taken up again.
"I have already seen the negative effect this report and the recommendations contained within have had on the relationship between home educators and authorities. Indeed one Authority which was previously working very well has had virtually all communication cut from the EHE families in fear of the recommendations." - Alison Sauer
In her supplementary memorandum, Alison goes into detail, reflecting Denise McCallum's experience:
"North Yorkshire has had its exemplary good practice destroyed overnight by the distrust and fear the publication of this report has caused. EHE families, who for the last 3 years have had an extraordinarily good relationship with the Authority, are refusing to engage at all, have stopped all communication and where they were taking advantage of services and meetings offered by the authority they have gone to ground. North Yorkshire has a good, well trained advisor with the back up of an excellent admin team and, to my knowledge, the best Education Welfare department in the country."
Back to Alison's original submission:
"Authorities I have worked with generally do not feel they are without tools to carry out their duties. Neither is there evidence these authorities are missing cases of abuse because of the current system. In my experience many of the authorities who complain about a lack of powers to carry out their duties wrongly believe that they have additional duties that simply do not exist.
"The best outcomes for all are based on positive relationships. Such relationships are more likely where a light touch and a positive attitude prevail. For this authorities need clarity in legislation and guidance, funding, suitable training and contact with the home educating community - not more regulation and draconian procedures."
Perhaps the failure to find any 'best practice' is explained by the use of the phrase "from an Every Child Matters [ECM] perspective." The Home Educated Youth Council, a campaining group of home educated children and young people, explains:
"ECM shouldnʼt have been used as a basis for this report, as it is irrelevant to EHE families. The aim of ECM is to 'give all children the support they need to: be healthy; stay safe; enjoy and achieve; make a positive contribution; achieve economic well-being'. 'Support' is a word implying choice on the childʼs part, so the fact the reviewʼs terms of reference use the word 'ensure' therefore goes against the entire ECM ethos.

"The Children Act 2004 [c.31] forms the basis of ECM. It doesnʼt at all imply that children be forced to achieve these outcomes; itʼs clearly meant for childrenʼs services authorities, and those they work with. For this reason, ECM shouldnʼt have been mentioned in the terms of reference as something to be 'ensured'."

Conclusion: A rush and a push and the land is ours

Perhaps the most obvious thing to note with the Badman Review, its formulation, conduct, the formulation of its recommendations, the following consultation, and the DCSF's attempts to enact parts of it in law through other Bills even before the consultation on its recommendations had ended, is the haste with that this has all come to pass.
"The present Review was unduly rushed. As the terms of reference make clear, it was to be conducted in 4 months. It is not clear why such speed was required, particularly as the area is a complex one with a long history. There was no apparent need for immediate change, nor did the report discover one. Mr Badman was engaged, at the same time as this Review, in conducting the second Serious Case Review into the death of Baby P. It is impossible that this did not take a great deal of his time. It would have been inappropriate had it not. However, a four month period would have been too short even for a full time, experienced researcher to conduct work of this magnitude. We estimate that a proper survey of local authorities would, by itself, require two to three months. It was, during the course of the Review, clear that pressures of time prevented Mr Badman from fully engaging with stakeholders, and particularly from attending meetings. It is also, unfortunately, clear that the final Report was not the product of sufficient consideration." - Education Otherwise (home educating charity).
Professor James Conroy was a member of Mr Badman's Expert Reference Group. He says:
"The final report was somewhat rushed and there was little enough time to digest or reflect on either the report or the recommendations. Of course the unseemly haste with which the review was conducted will simply re-affirm a quite widespread view that the case was decided before the evidence was heard. "
He concludes:
"In all of this I would recommend that a series of serious studies be conducted on the effects and efficacy of home education. This might then preclude the rush to judgement on the basis of prejudice, single issue/moment claims."
This article has just been a small selection of the vast amount of evidence against changes to the law regarding elective home education. This is evidence that Graham Badman should have taken into account back at the beginning of 2009 when he started this affair, but which he ignored. His actions and those of Ed Balls and the DCSF have fundamentally and irrevocably changed the character of home education from one of generally happy, if sometimes embattled, family life to one of outright war against totalitarian forces which seek to make life very difficult for most of us, presumably in the hope that we will give in and send our children back to school, and to change the rest into something we are not; something less.

For my conclusion I will quote 14 year old Myrna Tennant, a home educated child in Carlisle but originally from the Netherlands. Her family moved to England to escape the persecution they had experienced there merely for their choice to home educate Myrna and her brother who has Asperger's Syndrome. England was a haven for them, and we really should be proud of that. However, now we are on the verge of recreating of the situation she came here to escape. Her fighting spirit is shared by many many other home educated children and their families. If by some profound injustice Mr Badman's recommendations pass into legislation, we will not go down quietly.

"It's going to take a lot more than petty assumptions to make us back down, we fight for our rights, like any other person would.

"We fight to keep things as they are now. There is no need for changes, there is a good law that protects people who need protecting. And we will protect the law that allows us to Home Educate and do Autonomous Education.

"Government, spend your money on things that make a difference for the better. Start making things, stop breaking things."