On 19 January, the Department for Children, Schools and Families launched an independent review of home education by Graham Badman, former director of children and education services at Kent County Council.
Mr Badman has been charged with investigating the current system for supporting and monitoring home education and asked to look at ‘how any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of children are dealt with’. This month Mr Badman will report his findings.
From the outset, the government has emphasised that ‘There are no plans to change parents’ well established rights to educate their children at home’. But home educators are concerned that the government is manipulating current anxiety over child abuse to intrude further into the sphere of home education when it has no legal right to do so. This latest review marks the third such consultation pertaining to home education in four years and the majority of home educators feel that the government is simply incapable of trusting parents to do the best for their children.
There is deep concern that the Badman review will result in closer monitoring of home educating families. The majority of home educators reject such monitoring as it makes little financial sense, has the potential to divert resources from truly vulnerable children and infringes parents’ rights to educate their children independently of the state’s ideas and standards. They contend that current legislation in this area is perfectly adequate but poorly understood. The problem for many is that they find local authorities are increasingly confused as to what is law and what is merely government guidance on home education as the Every Child Matters agenda has conflated issues of education, health and welfare. As such, home educators are reporting an increase in social service visits to check on the welfare of their children.
Rather than viewing home educators with suspicion, the government must guard the sacred right of parents to educate their children whilst vigorously tightening the current system when it comes to child welfare. After that, it should look at its own ability to fulfil the Every Child Matters objectives rather than continue to pursue those who put their faith, time and passion into home education.