Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing to express to you my concerns over the Badman review of Home Education and the subsequent consultation.
I am sure you have received many other messages detailing the bias, prejudice, poor level of argument, smearing, spin, ill-researched and apparently pre-determined findings of the report, the findings which follow neither from the evidence of the report nor from its brief ('I find no evidence that HE is used as a cover for abuse, but let's pretend I did and legislate accordingly', as it were) lack of independence from the State not only of Badman but of his entire "expert" panel and so on. If there is any way the report can be discredited and the consultation halted because of the poor conduct and poor quality of the review, please let the Home Education community know what we should to do to help!
There are three aspects which I regard as the crux of the report, aspects which should be complete deal breakers for conservatives (and, I hope, Conservatives):
- Badman suggests giving powers to LA employees to detain (ie insist on interviewing) HEing families without probable cause. Compulsory interviews are contrary to the basic principle of innocent until proven guilty. There are other, well established, ways for EHEers to provide evidence that an education is taking place according to the law, and they are contained in the 2007 guidance for LAs. And, in a recent survey, 77% of HEed children said they do not want to be interviewed by LA staff (http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/results-of-poll.html) - are their preferences to be entirely disregarded? Apparently so.
- Badman suggests giving powers to LA employees to enter private homes without probable cause. As you know, even the police do not have this power.
- Badman suggests giving power of veto over HE provision (its style or it happening at all) to LA employees. Rather than them having power to gather evidence and take a HE family to court, they would now have the power to act as prosecutor, judge and jury if they were in charge of granting or withholding registration. This is a very bad idea because of what I think of as the "numpty" factor. To have the final decision about whether an education provided is within the law or not resting with the courts, as now, grants us a level of protection from the ex-school teachers and ex-OFSTED inspectors who tend to populate LA education departments. There is no reason why they would be able to recognise or appreciate an education which doesn't look like school-at-home, and they absolutely must not be given power over those of us who choose to educate in unconventional ways.
Underpinning all of this is the potential overturning of the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
I understand that all of this stems from a level of hysteria about child protection. Please, as you formulate policy, keep reciting the mantra that we are innocent until proven guilty, or should be. And that HEed children are MASSIVELY more likely to be known to social services (twice as likely, as Badman says, although he remains curiously silent about the reasons...) than the general population - often because of having a SN and therefore having a case worker, or because of malicious referrals by the LA (standard procedure on learning of a HEing family in some areas - and they wonder why we don't voluntarily engage with them!), by neighbours who do not understand that HE is legal etc etc. There are already responsibilities within the community to report child protection concerns.
HEers might be prepared to accept making it compulsory to inform the LA of one's intention to HE (very different from registration!) but the rest is and should be in a free country, frankly, unacceptable.
I hope this is helpful to you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it soon.