Wednesday, October 28, 2009

orwellian double speak

Can I suggest that in ALL our dealings with the PTB, the media etc, we refer not to "proposals for registration" but to "proposals for annual licensing (which the DCSF for some odd reason are calling registration)".

"registration" sounds fine to your average Joe. It just sounds like a list of who's HEdding. Who could object to that? Says Joe. [yes, I would even object to a list, but it gets quickly into a teasy weasy argument about the relationship between the State and the individual and we've lost Joe]

But "licensing", having to ask permission every year, at the whim of some numpty in the LA - yes, Joe is going to see the problem with that even if he reads the Independent. :-D

Balls and the DCSF are Owellian-doublespeaking us. We have to refuse to accept that.

Letter to a sympathetic friend

Dear xxx,

There have been cases of child abuse involving HE families, but they are very very few and far between. "There has never been a case of HE abuse" is a bad line to go down.

Of course there will be abuse among the HE population, although the stats coming out now (google AHEd lies, damned lies and statistics - I think that'd give you the links - HEers have done hundreds of FOI requests to get the actual comparative figures) indicate that the rate is very much lower than in the general population.

But the point of principle to hold onto is:

the current law as relates to child abuse is FIT FOR PURPOSE. Children's Services have the legal powers they need. The fact that they so abjectly fail to use their existing powers with good judgement in cases like Kyra Ishaq is not a good reason to give them more power - quite the opposite. Let them stop acting ulta vires before anyone considers widening the remit of the LA children's services.


of course

Even if 25% of HE families were under investigation by children's services for suspected abuse, that would still not be grounds for demanding access to the home and to the child alone for the other 75% of HE families. Otherwise we lose the principle that the State does not interfere in private life without probable cause.

More than happy to keep discussing any of these issues :-)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

home educated, not hidden

Walking along with old college friends today in a part of town miiiiiles away from where I live.

Random man in sainsbury's uniform walks by.

"Hello Emma!"

"Hello Tim! How are you?"

"fine. How are you all?"

My college friend "what is this, do you live in Eastenders?".

"No. This is what happens when you home educate. You are on first name terms with the check out staff at the local supermarket. Home educated; not hidden."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Get your responses in, everyone!

Thank you for responding to Home Education - registration and monitoring proposals.

If you have requested an acknowledgement we will send one to you as soon as your response has been processed.

Your response identifier is 1808.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Children’s Rights Ignored By Select Committee - HEYC Press Release

A Youth Council Has Found That The Views Of Home Educated Children Have Been Ignored, By A Government Proposing New Laws Supposedly ‘Supporting’ Home Educated Children’s Rights.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 9 Oct. 2009 – PDF version

Contact: Chloe Watson
Phone: 07870 104 216

The Home Educated Youth Council today discovered that absolutely no home educated children have been invited to give oral evidence to the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee(1), who are holding an inquiry into a report on elective home education published earlier this year(2), after challenges to the report’s integrity. In fact, the majority of the parties called as witnesses are non-home educating adults whom either work for government or local authorities.

The only people invited who speak for home education in any way are Jane Lowe, trustee of the Home Education Advisory Service, Fiona Nicholson, trustee of Education Otherwise, and Simon Webb and David Wright. The rest of the participants are composed of people from government and NGOs who have no real engagement with home education, such as the NSPCC.

The Home Educated Youth Council (HEYC) is an organisation created and run by children, to support the rights of home educated children and young people, and to provide an independent voice for those children educated at home. HEYC sent a written submission to the select committee, and also requested to give oral evidence to the inquiry, citing their rights under article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child(3), which states that:

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

When Chloe Watson, Chair of HEYC, called the committee to inquire as to why no home educated children had been invited to give evidence, she was told that the committee chose who should give oral evidence by selecting those they felt would answer the questions they wanted to pose best.

HEYC would like to know why the committee has chosen to ask questions that can not be answered by home educated children, especially since one of the criticisms of the report the Select Committee is investigating, is that it contravenes children’s rights. HEYC is also confused as to how the committee would know who would answer a question best, if they are not predisposed to hear a certain answer, and do not already know what the answer will be.

“If the committee already has answers in mind, as was implied to me, it surely can’t be impartial, and I don’t see how the outcomes of a partial inquiry can have any credibility.” says Miss Watson.

The report that this inquiry stems from claims to redress the balance between the rights of parents to educate as they wish, and the rights of children to receive a good education. However, the views of home educated children overwhelmingly support the status-quo(4), and disagree with the report’s intrusive proposals, leading HEYC to question whether the report, or the inquiry into it, truly does support the rights of children after all.

HEYC believes that in the current climate of suspicion at the government’s behaviour among home educators and the wider population – with a report full of misleading quotes and shaky evidence, written by an author whose independence is questionable(5), a disproportionate response to un-proven risks, erosion of civil liberties throughout society, and current guidance on home education mysteriously disappearing from the DCSF website – such behavior will only reduce the confidence adults and children alike have in the government.

HEYC calls for the government to make moves to regain that confidence, and begin to take account of the views of children in the home educating community.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with HEYC personnel, please contact, or call Chloe Watson on 07870 104 216

* 1) The Children Schools and Families Committee Oral Evidence Sessions –
* 2) The Report to the Secretary of State on Elective Home Education –
* 3) UNCRC Article 12 –
* 4) Results of the public questionnaire used to gather evidence for the report –
* 5) Letter to Local Authorities by Graham Badman, author of the report, requesting supplementary evidence after publishing the report, to use as evidence in the inquiry –

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

select committe witnesses next week

sent to the select committee email address

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please would you reconsider the choice of Simon Webb as a witness to the commons select committee? Simon Webb is well known in online home educating circles and, it is fair to say, would not be a good choice for representing any sort of collective (or widely accepted) view. There is widespread shock and distress that he has been selected to speak for home education, given the views he expressed in the Independent earlier this year: here
A more unfortunate choice could hardly have been made.

I am also terribly concerned that so few of the widely representative and well informed HE groups appear on the list - how can there be no representatives from AHEd (the South of the Border sister group to Schoolhouse, who were key in making representations to the Scottish parliament when home education came under review there in recent years) or the Facebook "Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators" group, which currently has over 2300 members? Please reconsider.

the consultation questions

Draft answers. Feel free to extract bits you like for your own response. Criticism welcome.

Question 1 Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

No. This rhetoric of balancing parents’ rights to home educate with children’s rights to be safe and to receive an education is false. There are no opposing rights to be balanced. Parents have no right to cause their children to receive an education – they have a legal duty to ensure their children receive an education, and the State has the duty to provide facilities such as schools where invited, and to intervene where there is reason to suppose that parents are failing in their duty.

The recommendations involve a fundamental shift in the relationship between the State and the family, together with routine intrusive surveillance of innocent families in order to attempt to address a statistically undefined problem. There is no guarantee (or even likelihood) that the recommendations will prevent or detect harm, but certainty that they will cause harm through the monitoring process and through the inevitable false positive identifications of abuse.

Under the recommendations, LA staffers will have right of entry to home educating families’ homes, together with the right to detain (forcibly interview) parents and children separately without probable cause. Even the police do not have these powers!

LAs already have the powers to intervene where there are education or welfare concerns; too often, they fail to use them with proper judgment. Indeed, as regards HE, LAs seem almost universally incapable of following the existing 2007 Elective Home Education guidelines. These are not safe hands in which to put increased powers.

Home Educated children OVERWHELMINGLY reject the proposals:

Question 2 Do you agree that a register should be kept?

The proposed requirement annually to seek permission from the LA to home educate by 'registering' (NB it is not a register but a licence that you are proposing) removes responsibility for providing children with an education ‘at school or otherwise’ from the parents, instead placing that duty in the hands of LA staff, who will delegate it to parents who they deem suitable (Recommendation 23).

Question 3 Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

No. There should be no register.

The proposals make home educators vulnerable to LA prejudice about different educational and lifestyle philosophies.

The requirement that parents complete plans and submit to visits within weeks of beginning to home educate will be an intimidating and discriminatory barrier to entry; many families take some time to establish the educational philosophy and style which will suit them. Further, the well-documented necessity for a ‘deschooling’ period after removing a child from school is not accommodated.

The requirement to provide detailed plans of what our children will be learning in the next year, plans against which our children’s attainment will be measured at the end of the year, is inimical to the well established and effective practice among home educators of child-centred, personalised, responsive, informal learning. Since Autonomous home education – a venerable and effective educational style – follows the interests of the children, long term planning (as required by the registration proposals) is either counter productive or impossible.

Home educators whose patterns are more formal, following curricula and regularly producing ‘educational product’, are also unhappy at the lack of flexibility and responsiveness permitted by such a requirement.

Question 4 Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

No. THere should be no register.

Question 5 Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

No. There should be no register.

(hint: when designing questionnaires, it is best to avoid asking questions which assume a particular answer was given to a preceding question)

Question 6a Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

No. Schools are provided with taxpayers' money as a resource for parents to use if this is the most convenient and appropriate way to cause their children to receive an education. If parents choose not to avail themselves of the state-provided service, that is their business.

The 20-day notice period would provide school staff and LA staffers with the opportunity to place undue pressure on parents to keep their children on the school roll, pressure which they have no business placing on the parents. The current arrangements for deregistration recognise the responsibility of the parent in causing the child to receive an education at school or otherwise; this proposal changes the balance of power so that the approved and default setting is school and parents must apply for permission to educate their children themselves.

It is unclear whether a child deeply unhappy at school would be forced to endure a further 20 days of it, or whether caring parents removing their children from a traumatic situation would be vulnerable to truancy prosecution. Either of these is a completely unnecessary punitive measure.

The 20-day notice period would also be a discriminatory barrier to entry.

Question 6b Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?

No. The school should provide the PARENTS, who are now going to be providing the education, with the data. Quite apart from the potential for schools to provide false or misleading information (a common complaint among those beginning to home educate children with SEN), it is the parents, meeting their duty to educate their child, who should be provided with all school records, not the State.

Question 7 Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?

No. The current laws are adequate if LAs act within them. The DCSF should instead transform the 2007 Guidelines into statutory guidance.

Question 8 Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

No. I think that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should be in close contact with Children's Services, where social workers are properly trained to deal with such concerns, and there is an established legal framework within which they should act.

The place of education is irrelevant. If there is reason to believe that a child is not safe at home with their parents then they should not be left in the unsupervised care of their parents for any hours a day - the place of education is a complete red herring.

Question 9 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?

No. State employees should not have right of entry to private homes without probable cause. This proposal fundamentally shifts the relationship between the State and the home, and between the State and the family.

Educational provision can be ascertained through written correspondence; the explicit purpose of these compulsory visits would be to check for abuse. Proposed annual safe-and-well checks for all home educated children is disproportionate to the perceived problem and will be ineffective.

The danger of false positives is large, particularly in families with unconventional lifestyles (for example, Attachment Parenting, living according to Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting method, or Unschooling and similar philosophies of consensual family living), and in families where children have additional needs of various kinds (families with a selectively mute child, or one on the autistic spectrum, say, may have chosen not to seek diagnosis; to a hostile stranger their behaviour may well appear suspicious).

An abused child is highly unlikely to confide in a complete stranger on a short annual visit. For many abused children, their suffering goes unnoticed at school for years, despite familiar adults seeing them regularly. Before moving towards legislation which treats a minority group as particularly dangerous to children and which infringes their civil liberties in a fundamental way, it would behove the DCSF to produce evidence that their proposed regime of surveillance would uncover such abuse. Someone who has been horribly abusing their child since birth is hardly going to pause to register them as home educated. Someone who deregisters their child from school under suspicious circumstances should be referred to Social Services by the school.

Question 10 Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?

No. If there are safeguarding concerns about a child, then social workers should be involved.

The Badman recommendations threaten to work AGAINST rather than FOR safeguarding. They will massively divert limited resources from where they are needed – the resources to finance the costly registration and monitoring procedures would have to come from LA Children’s Services budgets, which are often already struggling to cope with the at risk children in their areas. The proposed annual safe-and-well visits would be highly unlikely to detect abuse, but would certainly risk throwing up false positives, with the attendant trauma for the families affected. The visits would also cause stress and anxiety for families, by the intrusion of an authority figure searching for abuse into their safe haven (this would be particularly acute for children who have been taken out of school because of bullying – especially bullying by teachers – and also for those with special needs or school phobia, but has been raised as a concern by other home educated children as well).

Police do not have the right to detain (forcibly interview) without probable cause, and the power should not be given to LA staffers. This proposal fundamentally shifts the relationship between the State and the home, and between the State and the family.

Children learning informally would have their learning restricted (and thus damaged) by being forced to ‘exhibit’ to LA staffers (who, at present, are almost all ex-teachers or ex-OFSTED inspectors, and thus are heavily invested in school-style learning). Production of educational artefacts and the child ‘exhibiting’ to LA staffers would also depend on the interests and activities of the child, and their willingness to share their achievements with judgemental and potentially hostile strangers. Producing material for assessment always interferes with learning, as every trained teacher has learned in their training!

The plan to interview individual children to measure their attainment is inconsistent with the treatment of children in the population at large: in school settings, the provision is inspected rather than the attainment of individual children. Neither are schooled children taken aside by state officials and asked if they wouldn't rather be home educated.

The proposed compulsory visits will themselves be damaging to children – not only those with special needs, but any children who would prefer not to be scrutinised alone by strangers with the power to force them to attend school. It is often easy for those in the child protection industry to forget how much harm they do simply by investigating and invading the lives of innocent families.

These invasive powers will not be applied to the families of schooled children or to pre-schoolers, despite abuse being statistically much more common in these groups. The proposals are thus discriminatory.

Question 11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

No. Police do not have the right to detain (forcibly interview) without probable cause, and the power should not be given to LA staffers. This proposal fundamentally shifts the relationship between the State and the home, and between the State and the family.

It is also inconsistent and disproportionate: state schools do not endure annual inspections, despite being answerable to the taxpayer.

here we go - the consultation

I think I want to work in a critique of the background...

1. Background and Context
The Review of Home Education in England published on 11 June (click here) took evidence from a large number of home educators, many local authorities and other groups who work with home educating families. The terms of reference recognised that parents have a well established right to educate their children at home and that the government respects that right, and has no plans to change that position. They also set out the Department's commitment to ensuring that systems for keeping children safe and receiving a suitable education, are as robust as possible. They recognised that 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.

Those systems are already in place. Before changing the law, you need to clearly lay out what the existing systems are and why they are inadequate (hint: they are not)

The review's recommendations set out specific proposals for improving the capacity of local authorities and other public services to support home educators. The government, in its initial response (click here), is considering carefully the best way to implement them: a significant amount of further development work will be needed with local authorities, home educators and other organisations. We will publish a full response to the review's recommendations by the end of September.

You should not be consulting on the recommendations before you have responded to them fully - how do you know that this consultation is asking the right questions?

The review found no evidence that home education was used to cover forced marriage, servitude, or trafficking other than in isolated cases. However, the reviewer was provided with evidence showing that the number of home educated children known to Children's Social Services in some LAs was disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population. There are well established procedures for supporting children known to a local authority where there are safeguarding concerns. However, the review notes that without knowledge of, or access to, a child, such powers are meaningless. HMCI, in her response to the call for evidence, noted that ‘schools have an important responsibility to monitor children's safety and welfare but this safety net is missing for children educated at home.'

the statistical basis for "disproportionately high" has been blown out of the water. All that remains is the vague fear that there may be unknown numbers of entirely hidden children not known to anyone outside their family. Where is the evidence that school attendance is an effective safety net? Where is the evidence that the proposed powers will be proportionate and effective?


For these reasons the government has decided to take immediate steps to reduce the risk that home education can be used as a cover for child abuse or neglect. The response to the review records our commitment to tighten up safeguarding procedures by:
Establishing a register of home educated children in each local authority;
Giving local authorities discretion to prohibit children from being home educated in circumstances where there are safeguarding concerns;
Introducing tougher monitoring arrangements which will require local authorities to interview home educated children and visit the premises where home education is taking place to ensure that a suitable and efficient education is being provided and the children are safe and well.

you are conflating educational provision with welfare. This is reprehensible.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

keeping the pressure up

Dear Ms Godar,

I was interested to read this quote:

'However, the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) regards the introduction of more stringent measures as invaluable. Badman's proposals, it argues, will allow local authorities to help ensure home educated children get the same opportunities as those that attend school, which include being safe and achieving academically.' in CYPNow (

Are you claiming that the opportunities children get at school include being safe and achieving academically? Are you aware that 450,000 children are bullied in schools every week, at least 16 children in the UK commit suicide every year as a result of school bullying, 1 in 6 children leave school every year unable to read, write or add up (, and the government's own benchmark is for '30% of pupils getting 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths' (Ed Balls here: at 13:18:42) - hardly what one can trumpet as 'achieving academically'.

Home Educated children outperform schooled children statistically on both academic and well being measures. Please do your research before trotting out the usual smears.

Yours sincerely,