Saturday, June 20, 2009

Send a message to Dawn Primarola

she's taking questions. What a golden opportunity!

Dawn: Please urgently investigate the flawed Badman report into Elective Home Education.

It is hard even to know where to begin with its faults: The report itself goes way beyond its brief, and the recommendations bear no logical relationship to the report findings (there is no evidence that EHE is used as a cover for child abuse, but let's legislate as though it were...). The report is poorly researched - the author clearly has NO understanding of educational philosophies and approaches beyond the conventional, and what he does not understand he has disregarded. The report uses selective misquoting in spinning a particular viewpoint (please compare the CofE quotation in the report with their full submission to the review - I suspect more than a few CofE representatives are not best pleased by the way their views have been misrepresented). It is not evidence-based (hardly can be, given that the phrase "I believe..." 16 times!), is prejudiced, does not represent the responses to the review, and was partially pre-judged, since Badman said publically before he had finished gathering information that the status quo could not remain. It is hardly independent, authored as it is by a chair of BECTA and previuos head of Kent Children's Services, and almost every member of his "expert" panel is also government employed in one way or another. Not even a token HEer among them... (quite how they were regarded as "expert" I do not know).

The recommendations of the report are massively problematic. To mention only the largest problems:

- 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 ( - 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. 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, but perfectly reasonable, 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.

Given all this, why on EARTH did Mr Balls accept the report and immediately open a consultation? I suggest that you put pressure on him to withdraw his acceptance of the report and to urgently reconsider the labour party's priorities. Do you really believe that the State should be parent of first rather than last resort? Please talk to your department lawyers about how the proposals fundamentally reconfigure the relationship between the state and the family, and ask yourselves whether going down the route of 1930s Germany (as proudly trumpeted in Badman's report as a precedent!!!) is really something for which your party wishes to be remembered.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Thank you for being so invested in this.