Stress testing the Badman report: looking for weak points: Part 11
11.1 International comparison suggests that of all countries with highly developed education systems, England is the most liberal in its approach to elective home education.
Is this actually true? Or is it yet another example of Mr Badman's lack of understanding of the present situation in England? My perception, from being a member of national and local online groups for many years now, is that England's approach to elective home education is a postcode lottery. If you're lucky enough to live in the 'right' place, then it could possibly be said to be liberal. If you're less fortunate in your location, it can be extremely controlling. I've even known of such variations to occur within the same local authority, depending on a family's actual postcode, family status and other prejudices.
So, would the Badman recommendations do anything to correct this imbalance? Let's see..
That the DCSF establishes a compulsory national registration scheme, locally administered, for all children of statutory school age, who are, or become, electively home educated.
[Selected bullet points of this recommendation:]
■ Registration should be renewed annually.
■ At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.
■ Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.
The DCSF should bring forward proposals to change the current regulatory and statutory basis to ensure that in monitoring the efficiency and suitability of elective home education:
■ That designated local authority officers should:
– have the right of access to the home;
– have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is
particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a
trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer.
In so doing, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well.
That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as
■ alcohol or drug abuse
■ incidents of domestic violence
■ previous offences against children
And in addition:
■ anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education
This requirement should be considered in the Government’s revision of Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance.
No. The same prejudices would apply, only moreso, and with the backing of whatever legal framework might be set up to try to legitimise it all. Those local education officers who refuse to understand or tolerate autonomous learning and/or who are of the opinion that parents who withdraw their children from school due to truancy or bullying are usually incapable of home educating successfully, or that single/poor/disabled/wage-earning/non wage-earning [substitute any other unfounded prejudice as appropriate] parents are usually incapable of home educating successfully, will have a field day. "Anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education"? Music to their ears. Badman is a gift to them.
On the other hand, I hope and suspect the opposite would probably also be true: that the officers who have in the past exercised fairness, knowledge and understanding will continue to do so. Such people do exist in the employ of some local authorities.
Liberal? Not always, and never for some. It's wrong that we should be placed even more at the mercy of such an unfair and unbalanced system.
Part 11 continues:
Legislation from the 1930s banning elective home education still persists in Germany...
- which I know for a fact made several home educators splutter, on first reading. Adolf Hitler was in power in 1930s Germany! His reasons for banning home education are plainly obvious and citing his leglislation for serious consideration adds nothing to the credibility of this report.
..and most European countries require registration, whereas New Zealand demands that the “person will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in registered school.” The majority of other countries also have processes for registration and the systematic monitoring of elective home education and require evidence of progress, often specifically in mathematics and reading.
11.2 The recommendations in this review do not go that far.
"that the 'person will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in registered school'? The Badman recommendations, if enacted, would ensure that home educated children were 'taught at least as regularly and as well' by government standards, which are often not the same as parents' standards - or indeed as children's themselves. These government standards are also, more often than not, not the same 'as in registered school'. The point is that many parents want more for their children's learning than "throwing popcorn at their heads and calling it eating" - a fabulous analogy I caught on one of the list digests this week. But the effects of Badman would nevertheless restrict all of our endeavours to just that.
I have sought to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child..
But parents do not have rights in the education of their children. They have, according to Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, a:
Duty .. to secure education of children of compulsory school age.. [my emphasis]
As for children's rights, I'll be looking more closely at those in future posts.
Back to Badman:
..and offer, through registration and other recommendations, some assurance on the greater safety of a number of children.
But in fact it won't offer any such assurances and anyway, as I set out here, the measures are disproportionate and the means don't justify the ends.
The final point in Mr Badman's conclusion says:
11.3 I recognise that much of what is proposed can be implemented and achieved through advice and changes in guidance in due course. However I believe certain recommendations require immediate action. To that end, I urge the DCSF to respond to recommendations 1, 7, 23 and 24 as summarised in the next chapter, at the next available opportunity.
1, 7 and 23 - the most devastating and unhelpful recommendations of the lot.
I'm planning to look more closely at all of the recommendations in my next post.