Stress testing the Badman report: summary of weak points
So here finally, on the eve of our Select Committee deadline (Mr Badman has secured an extension to this for himself) is the summary of my critique of the Badman report [opens pdf].
The report seems to make careful use of language in several key areas to obscure or dress up its real meaning, repeatedly referring to such things as parental rights, for example (instead of - as the law states - their legal duties). This supports the erroneous suggestion that there is some conflict between parents' and children's rights, when in fact these are completely compatible with the more accurate position of parental duties.
The recommendations describe a system of licensing for home educators, but refer to this throughout as a system of registration, which it is quite evidently not and even at one point (Recommendation 7) descends to such a linguistically tangled contrivance as: "That parents be required to allow the child.." [my emphasis] instead of stating its real meaning: '..compelled to coerce..'. These and the many other examples throughout the report of obfustication combine to signify a serious underlying degree of fundamental dishonesty, which the author must have deemed necessary to convey what can therefore only be a set of publicly unacceptable concepts.
The review itself was launched on the pretext of alleged safeguarding concerns, and yet a compilation of local authorities' own statistics demonstrate that such concerns were unfounded and that a strict monitoring regime would therefore be disproportionate. An hour spent in the company of a child once a year by a local authority's education officer would also be an absurdly ineffective method of safeguarding and the potential psychological damage to children and families by such an inspection regime as the one proposed in the report is completely overlooked.
Recommendation 24 contains the nonsensical suggestion that a family might not be deemed able to provide a sufficiently safe environment for home education, but nevertheless be left with residential care of its children. We would contend that a child at risk of severe neglect or abuse in its family home is at the same level risk regardless of whether education takes place at home or at school.
The report's recommendations give rise to five serious legal issues, namely: (from recommendation 7) whether it's the educational provision, or the child's uptake of this which is compulsory; that the method of autonomous education in its purest form will not be possible under recommendations 1 and 7, due to the necessity to plan and demonstrate uptake of planned learning; that the proposed de facto licensing scheme will breach a parent's inherent right to educate his child according to his own philosophy; that the 'anything else' rider of the list in recommendation 23 might potentially lead local authority officers to make arbitrary and prejudiced decisions; and that several of the recommendations ride roughshod over the presumption of innocence.
There are four aspects of the report which defy any form of logical reasoning: recognising the need for good relations between home educators and local authorities, but then recommending a list of procedures which would render this all but impossible; calling for "further research into the efficacy of autonomous learning" - after recommending the effective outlawing of the practice which would somewhat challenge the availability of data for such research; [in recommendation 15] seeking to prevent the alleged practice of 'off-rolling' whilst failing to allow for Local Authorities' duty to publicise the option to home educate; and again, in recommendation 24 suggesting that 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.
Finally, the report raises a financial issue in its section 9, in which it implies that the AWPU of home educated children should be drawn down to fund the administration of the recommendations, but not their actual educational provision.
Since I had very little to do with the conduct of the review and related consultations and have mainly focused here on the content of the report since it was published in June, I think I will submit the above summary as my written contribution to the Select Committee Inquiry tomorrow.