I have been wondering how on earth to coherently blog about the Badman review and the proposed government legislation announced immediately it was accepted by government. The trouble is, it’s tricky to communicate the full enormity of the can of worms this opens, not just for home educators, but for education more broadly, and for the balance between the state and the family in society.
So, I have decided to write a series of blog posts, that will try and make some sense of the issues. So, here’s the first one. The intro.
Parents have a legal responsibility to
“cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable ;
a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
This is just one of the many responsibilities we have as parents. Many discharge their responsibilities by sending their child to school (though arguably if the school fails them the parents may be failing in their legal obligations). The “or otherwise” bit allows for things like home education, private tutors etc.
The state has a role to play in protecting children who are not afforded their rights under the law. For instance, the state steps in if a child is beaten by their parents, or starved by them. They also have the power to intervene if it appears a child is not being furnished with an education. The local authority has some serious muscle in this area. After making enquiries of the parent if they are not satisfied they can issue a School Attendance Order, forcing the parents to send their child to a designated school. There is no right of appeal against this.
However, some local authorities have complained that they cannot discharge their duties if a) education is not further defined and b) they cannot see the child/access the “place of education”/know who is home educating in their area at any point in time (if those sound like reasonable requests, keep reading as I publish more, they may appear reasonable on first glance but there are many reasons why they are not). This led government to commission what has become known as the Badman Review.
Alongside the bleating local authorities, a rumour started that home education might be used as a cover for all manner of abuse including servitude and forced marriages. This rumour was put around by organisations including the NSPCC, who unfortunately command a level of respect. They were entirely unfounded – no specific allegations were ever made, and when challenged the NSPCC apologised for their comments. But by that time the wheels were in motion, and the government decided to commission an “Independent Review”. I should specify that Independent can be read in several ways. Graham Badman was appointed to oversee the review. He is ex-head of education at Kent County Council. The review panel was made up of representative of various bodies most of whom have close links to government. No home educators or home educated children were represented on the board.
The review reported, and the government instantly accepted its findings and simultaneously launched a consultation on new legislation that will change the way home education works in England. It will also change some basic principles of English Common Law. It will define what Education is in more detail than any government or judge has ever deemed appropriate. It puts in peril our own families system of education. Oh, and it will cost a vast amount of money to implement, but no resources will be provided by central government.
I’ll start to break down the big issues in part two.