Stress testing the Badman report: points arising: Illogical
Now onto the next set of points arising from my work on the Badman report [opens pdf] to date. This collection comprises the four aspects I've noticed in which the report seems to contradict itself, or otherwise make no sense. I suspect more of these aspects might occur to other people. If so, please let me know.
The four illogical aspects are as follows:
1. Relations with local authorities. The report on the whole, including many of the recommendations, would render good relations between home educators and local authorities almost impossible. The de facto licensing system, compulsory home visits and separate, unaccompanied, enforced interviews with the children are all proposals which have already caused despondency and disconcertion amongst home educators and yet point 5.7 of the report talks about families "having rejected the schooling system, not re-engag[ing, with local authorities] for fear of further requirements or restrictions". So the author knows that we don't tend to engage with LAs for those reasons, recognises the usefulness of such an engagement, and then recommends a raft of changes which amount to.. a lot of extra requirements and restrictions.
2. Autonomous learning. As I said on the day the report was published, the requirement for parents to produce a year's detailed advance plan would render the autonomous education method almost impossible to practice but then point 10.1 calls for "further research into the efficacy of autonomous learning". If the recommendations are enacted, there will be no autonomous learning left to research! I know that Mr Badman received a lot of tireless, patient explanation about autonomous education when he was gathering information, so he will have known perfectly well the effect of his recommendations on the method.
3. Publicising the option. The report makes no mention of the duty of local authorities to inform parents about the option of home educating, and yet this is a legal responsibility of theirs. Instead, in point 6.4 and recommendation 15, it seeks action to prevent the practice of 'off-rolling', which is when LAs suggest home education to parents as an alternative to prosecution under truancy laws. (I myself see nothing wrong with this practice and think that LAs would be extremely lax not to point out this option to those parents whose children refuse to attend school. If the legitimate escape of some of them from the day prison causes problems for neighbours, this is part of a wider social issue and nothing to do with education. Does anyone actually believe that forcing a young person to sit at a desk all day is a realistic solution to those situations anyway?) So how can local authorities comply with their legal duty to tell parents about the option to home educate, without.. um, telling parents about the option to home educate? Ohh I see, they should only tell the right parents! Incredible.
4. Refusing registration on safeguarding grounds. I'm back to recommendation 24 again for this one, even though it appeared as a 'safeguarding' point arising also. But it is stupefyingly illogical to suggest that some children might be quite safe at home with their families in the evenings, through the night, at weekends and throughout the entire school holidays - but not between the hours of 9am and 3pm whilst being home educated instead of attending school. It makes no sense whatsoever, and most home education usually goes on through the evenings, weekends and holidays etc anyway. We don't even confine ourselves to school hours for learning, which further adds to the irrationality of that recommendation.
I'll finish this set of points arising with a brief post about finances, then I'll finally sum up my thoughts on the Badman report, before moving onto the Ed Balls letter of reply.