Thursday, 24 September 2009

How many parents are opposed to Graham Badman's recommendations?

On the face of it, this seems an absurd question. We all know that every home educator in the country rejects Badman and all his works, with the exception of one or two idiots and lunatics like the present writer! Look at the petitions, see all those people sending in submissions to the Select Committee.

Nobody knows how many parents of home educated children there are in this country. Twenty thousand home educated children are known to local authorities and it is guessed that there might be many more who are unknown. Let us take fifty thousand as a ballpark figure. Obviously, some families will contain more than one child and all children will have two parents. This might give us perhaps seventy or eighty thousand parents. How many of these are so opposed to the recommendations contained in the Badman Report that they wish to do something, or indeed anything at all, about it?

Well to begin with there are internet petitions. I have to say that as somebody who was once very active politically, I am more than a little dubious about any sort of petition. In my experience, for every genuine name on a petition, there would generally be one or two added at various stages just to make the thing look more impressive. If you also take into account the number of friends, family and workmates who would sign the thing just as a favour, then only perhaps a third of the signatures represent those genuinely supporting the aim of the petition. If this is the case with pieces of paper that one actually has to sign, I shudder to think just how inflated must be email petitions, where one merely has to log on and click a mouse!

Perhaps the largest petition is that on No. 10's website, calling for the Badman Report to be scrapped. It currently has just under three and a half thousand signatures. They are not all home educating parents of course. I know this, because I recognise some of the names there. It is also easy to rig this petition by setting up a Hotmail account and submitting false names. This took me less than five minutes. I must therefore regard this particular petition with a certain amount of caution. Certainly, it tells us nothing about the percentage of parents opposed to the Badman Report. After all, as I said, they are not all parents. What about the Commons Select Committee which is going to review Graham Badman's conclusions then? Here, the situation is even feebler.

The Select Committee received about two hundred submissions. This hardly sounds as though those eighty thousand home educating parents are that inflamed about the Badman Report. True, some of the submissions were made on behalf of a groups of parents, but you would think that if they were that fussed they would write in themselves with their objections.
I have certainly heard people saying that thirty or so parents at their home education group are all of them are strongly against the Badman Report. It seems odd then that all these parents are not actually doing anything. If even a fifth of home educating parents in this country sent a few emails, that would mean perhaps fifteen thousand signatures on a petition or even fifteen thousand submissions to the Select Committee rather than two hundred.

The more closely I look at the furore surrounding Graham Badman's review of elective home education, the more I am beginning to suspect that it is the work of a few hundred fiercely dedicated individuals trying hard to create the illusion that they represent the masses. I am also starting to think it at least possible that most home educators, while having some reservations about the recommendations Graham Badman made, might possibly be in broad agreement with his views. In other words, perhaps I am not just a lone crank after all. A comforting thought indeed! So far, despite extensive searching, I have found no evidence to militate against such an hypothesis, except of course for the shrilly expressed views of fewer than 0.5% of home educating parents on sites such as HE-UK. The other 99.5% remain curiously and resolutely silent.


  1. Hi Simon

    Absence of proof is not proof of absence.

    If most home educators are not on internet lists, how do we know that most home educators are aware of Graham Badman's views?

    What ARE Graham Badman's views?

    Interesting post, thanks.


    Fiona Nicholson
    Education Otherwise

  2. Perfectly true, Fiona. I was putting it forward as an idea rather than making a definite claim. We don't even know how many parents there are, let alone what they do or don't know about some DCSF consultation! As for Graham badman's views, I think we can only be guided by the recommendations which he made.

  3. We can take an educated guess as to where Badman stands on home education ...

    Out here in the wilderness of Wales many parents know of the report but what my husband and I find is many parent have no idea what it’s about or the implications it will have for them, in fact many have not even read the report and are just voicing concerns on hear say.
    When my husband tried to get several local families to travel to one of the small bubble protest he was shock with the attitude of “oh it’s too far, it won’t happen to us”
    Theresa lot of head burying in sand down here ... still I suppose there plenty of sand around here for them to do that.

  4. I don't think you can conclude anything from responses to the Select Committee. I didn't write to them yet have very strong feelings against the review. I didn't see the Select Committee as something that needed a particularly large response. I thought it's purpose is was to look into how the review was carried out, a technical enquiry into methods and accuracy if you like. I didn't see the Committee as a group of people that needed persuading about the actual content of the report, maybe I was wrong?

    I think the best source of information at the moment is probably the number of responses to Badman during his review. Even though people had not read the results (and they were worse than most expected) a 2% response from a population to a review of this nature, with relatively short notice and time to reply, is very high. As to responses to the petition, I think it's important that notice is taken by non-home educators. These changes represent a significant change to civil liberties. It's the first time access to the home will be automatic without a need for a previous suspicion of guilt (as in the examples you have previously provided). They are reversing the usual assumption of innocence situation and it's only a matter of time before this is extended to other parents. After all, it's children under 5 who are at most risk of harm from their parents.

  5. It's interesting that you mention under 5s being most at risk of harm from their parents. This is true. I caused absolute fury a few years ago by writing an article for a magazine drawing attention to this very fact. I suggested that instead of the "Stranger Danger" campaign, we should launch a new initiative against "Mummy Danger". That went down a storm with the readership of a parents' magazine!

  6. By the way Sharon, do we know how many of the home educators responding to the Badman review were opposed to change? I know that I was not the only one who felt that the law needed to be changed. Are we working on the assumption here that 2% of home educating parents responded to the review and that almost all of them were against any new legislation?

  7. it is engraved in stone our right to home educate we will never surrendar we will not give in to them we will never wave the white flag.bring it on who first?

  8. Autoymous, I don't think our right to home educate is engraved in stone. As far as I'm aware, our right to home educate rests too dangerously on two words "or otherwise'.

    Also, the worry isn't that we'll necessarily lose our right to home educate, but rather, that it will be made so difficult, that we may as well put our children in school.

    For example, in Portugal, you can home educate, but you have to register with a school at the beginning of the year and your children have to sit the same tests as everybody else at the end of the year.

    In Sweden and Germany, it's illegal, or as near as dammit to home educate.

    These are all European countries so our right to home educate feels far from safe from my point of view.

    Simon, I think the word we're looking for here is apathy. I know I've become a bit apathetic about all of this now. It's been one letter, one consultation too far, and I just can't be bothered anymore. The huge digests from the lists - massive amounts to read. I simply haven't got the time!!

    I know that autonomous educators have the most to lose, and I do not want them to lose their current freedoms as I believe in diversity and in a variety of successful educational philosophies. I have been autonomous and have benefitted from the freedom that gives.

    However, I think there are a great many structured educators who are fed up with having to justify their methods every time they post, and therefore, they just keep away from the lists, and get on with the job at hand, knowing that if more checks and measures come in, they'll be able to satisfy them.

  9. I think that you are quite right about this Gisela. A lot of the silence could well be due to apathy, the same feeling that makes people not bother even to vote. You are probably right as well about structured home educators being too busy teaching to spend time arguing in cyberspace! The truth is, nobody really knows. I have a hunch one way, a lot of people are guessing in another direction; we none of us know for sure. The silence and apathy of structured home educators is easy to understand. As you say, they are pretty sure of managing any new regulations. I am slightly puzzled though as to why we are not hearing more from autonomously educating parents.

    As for the right to home educate being engraved in stone, well I truly wish it were so!

  10. simon-did LEA man pat you on the head like the dog you are?

  11. Stress testing the Badman report: summary of weak points
    I'd like to draw your attention to two recent blog posts: this one at Bishop Hill, about the DCSF's bizarre and unfathomable excuse for resisting home educators' FOI requests, and this one at Patch of Puddles, explaining the equations of child abuse in home education. I can't help but be inspired by the sheer eloquence of such other campaigning home educators and the amount of hard work that so many people are putting into preserving our freedoms beggars belief, and is quite humbling.

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. "By the way Sharon, do we know how many of the home educators responding to the Badman review were opposed to change? I know that I was not the only one who felt that the law needed to be changed. Are we working on the assumption here that 2% of home educating parents responded to the review and that almost all of them were against any new legislation?"

    When asked "Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?", 4.1% of home educating parents and children replied 'no'. 3.4% of home educating parents and children wanted more/regular checks and mandatory registration.

  14. Ah Sharon, one can always rely upon you to have the facts at your fingertips! Thanks for that.

  15. You know Anonymous, I am not at all sure what psychological damage might be caused by a child speaking to an unknown adult. I honestly think that any child of normal robustness should be able to cope with this. Obviously some children with special needs, perhaps those on the autistic spectrum, might fnd this a problem, but I am sure that sensitive provision could be made for such cases.

    You make a good point about parental and children's rights. The point here is that few of those objecting to the Badman Report mention their duties. Almost invariably they talk of their "rights", in some cases scrabbling around to look for backing in Humans Rights legislation. The only right worth considering at all here is that of the child, the right to a proper education. I have certainly seen parents talking of their "right" to home educate and this is, as you say, nonsense.

    I do not find the DCSFs refusal to comply with certain Freedom of Information requests either bizarre or unfathomable. If I were Graham Badman, I too would be growing increasingly uneasy at the extraordinary level of hostility exhibited towards him by a few hundred home educators and their fellow travellers. I think that we are both probably familiar with attempts to attack him and blacken his name.

    You say that autonomous education in its "purest form" will no longer be possible. In society we all have to compromise. It is seldom possible to undertake any enterprise "in its purest form" in a modern industrialised country. I was unable to undertake structured education in "its purest form", but that is a penalty of living cheek by jowl with millions of others in a complex, modern society.

  16. By the way, just look at this quote from a comment above to see what I mean about many home educating parents' view of rights;

    "it is engraved in stone our right to home educate"

    As I said, here is a parent who thinks that the rights are his, rather than his child's. He is not alone in this viewpoint.

  17. "I am not at all sure what psychological damage might be caused by a child speaking to an unknown adult. I honestly think that any child of normal robustness should be able to cope with this."

    And tough luck for the hundreds of families that will be falsely accused of abuse, I suppose?

  18. it is engraved in stone we will never surrender our right to home educate no one will stop us never! only death!

  19. Sharon, I was responding to a specific point made in earlier comment. The possibility pof false accusations of abuse is a separate matter. Shall respond more fully to this poiint later on.

  20. "You say that autonomous education in its "purest form" will no longer be possible. In society we all have to compromise."

    There is no need to compromise on this issue. Give me one good reason why it's necessary in this case.

  21. It's necessary in all cases. There may well be a Platonically pure way of carrying out any activity, be it educating one's child or mending a shoe, but in this imperfect world we can never aspire to it. All our personal attempts are fraught with difficulty and error, we never can achieve that Platonic ideal, that beautiful idealised abstraction. That, Sharon, is the nature of the world.

  22. But why in this specific instance is the parent planning the education a year ahead a necessary compromise? By definition, autonomous education is child led learning, a following of interests as they arise. It cannot be planned a year ahead. What purpose does the plan serve above and beyond the current system (usually a description and information about the previous years education)?

  23. P.S. The petition address, for any who may have missed it:

  24. On further reflection, planning a year ahead for autonomous education is not a compromise. They are mutually exclusive.

  25. It's often said that 1 original letter to an MP is considered to represent the views of 100 others who didn't bother to write. If this is anywhere near accurate, the responses to the Badman review represent the views of about 140,000 home educating parents!

    Sorry for lots of short comments, I'm supposed to be working!

  26. Succumbing to the Streisand effect
    19-9-09 at 17.55 by: Alison

    When Barbara Streisand tried to sue a photographer in 2003 for including an aerial photograph of her beach front property in a publicly available collection for the California Coastal Records Project, the action backfired on her spectacularly. Public knowledge of the case resulted in a privacy “own goal” as many more viewers were drawn to the website on which the image appeared.

    The so-called Streisand effect is described by Wikipedia as

    “an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples of such attempts include censoring a photograph, a number, a file, or a website (for example via a cease-and-desist letter). Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks.”

    News has reached us through the internets that Graham Badman, author of the controversial report on elective home education in England which continues to cause a fair furore, has been doing a Barbara Streisand. His singing and dancing routine is backed by a full chorus line from the DCSF who have been clyping to the Information Commissioner about members of the public brazenly using the Freedom of Information Act to request information about the Badman review. While some of them are harmless home educators who simply want to satisfy themselves that the puiblished report was based on evidence, others have apparently been asking more awkward questions about possible conflicts of interest. Many FOI requests have been refused on highly dubious grounds, but the Information Commissioner is assured by the DCSF that they are doing their level best to respond to genuine enquiries, which of course excludes any potentially embarrassing ones from the awkward squad.

    The DCSF letter to the ICO makes for very interesting reading and we must thank Feargal Hogan for making it available on the What Do They Know website, itself a target for DCSF criticism because people are using it to submit legitimate FOI requests (which is of course why the public service site was set up), then going on to publish the responses for the wider public benefit. Simply by availing themselves of this useful online service to request information, some home educators now stand accused by the DCSF of “vilifying” Mr Badman.

  27. As far as the DCSF is concerned, Ian Hislop and Private Eye have nothing on Blogdial, who is said to have accused Mr Badman of being a liar in this post , which was highlighted to the ICO as one example of vilification and abuse, along with this satirical spoof blog which showed “an image of Mr Badman manipulated to show him reading Mein Kampf”. Continuing to demonstrate severe sense of humour failure, this animation, produced by a home educated child, was identified by the DCSF as a direct threat to Graham Badman because it showed a big boot crushing a cartoon character in true Monty Python style, with an accompanying caption making a serious point about trampling on rights.

    If a child’s video was enough to place Mr Badman in a state of fear and alarm, the classrooms of Kent must have been a truly terrifying experience for such a sensitive soul. We hear he has been nominated for a Big Brother award from Privacy International, but the gong carries a health warning for those with a jackboot phobia. Mr B had also better take care to avoid watching this video produced by home educated young people. The Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! computer game is similarly out of bounds, despite its developer having no known connection to home education and his choice of the name Badman being entirely coincidental.

    Another vilification reference by the DCSF was to a random post on the social networking site Facebook, which was unfindable (by this blogger at least) from the link provided. Facebook is used by millions of adults and young people worldwide for sharing information, love and bile in equal measures, as well as for game playing by those who are that way inclined. It is used to great effect by businesses and other organisations who want to get their message “out there” and has even been infiltrated by the likes of MPs who tend to talk about themselves a lot. Facebook groups like Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators (with over 2000 members) and Home Education Forums (with its more modest 200+ fans) are a new medium for networking and online communication on single issues and causes which are often ignored or misrepresented by the mainstream media. As with youtube and the blogosphere, the Facebook phenomenon worries the powers that be who like to control the flow of “information” for our own good. It is probably no coincidence that agents provocateurs and trolls have become increasingly prevalent across the social media, and even Mr Badman’s daughter covertly joined a home education Facebook group as a “friend”, making some interesting as well as irritating comments before she was outed.

    Getting back on topic (as they say in social netwoking circles), the tenor of the letter from the DCSF to the ICO is incredibly worrying. In anticipation of an avalanche of complaints about its failure to adhere to the statutory timescales for FOI responses, the DCSF is actively seeking to manipulate the situation by asserting that many FOI requests have been made vexatiously by home educating troublemakers with a grudge against Graham Badman. Evidence? None, m'lud! Nothing new there then.

  28. The author of this loaded letter “helpfully” proceeds to perpetuate the state sponsored smear campaign against home educators, citing the safeguarding of children as “one of the factors which led to the review” and crying crocodile tears in an effort to gain sympathy.

    “There have been a number of serious case reviews in which elective home education has been a circumstance taken into consideration, [Redacted under section 44 - prohibitions on disclosure}."

    There’s nothing like being economical with the truth, or "lying by omission" as Blogdial might put it. In none of these very few cases ( for which details have been conveniently redacted) was elective home education found to be a relevant factor; rather it was established that the professionals involved failed to use existing powers to intervene in situations to which they had already been alerted. Not that this has anything to do with the DCSF's failure to respond to legitmate FOI requests.

    “Of course a few cases do not characterise all home educators, and the review made this absolutely clear.”

    The same could be said about teachers, social workers, youth workers, police officers and other caring professionals, some of whom download pornography, groom, abuse, rape and even murder children. Of course a few (or even many) cases do not characterise all such caring professionals, which is why there is no need for an expensive review to determine to what extent they may be using their privileged professional access to children as a cover for abuse.

    “Ultimately the review is leading towards legislation to address the concerns it identified, and that in itself, it is anticipated, will lead to an increase in FOI requests.”

    The review can only lead to legislation if it is passed by the UK Parliament, which is (we would hope) beyond the sphere of influence of the Great Graham Badman (although you never know these days). Counting legislative chickens is never a good idea for a government which is hanging on an increasingly shoogly nail and heading for electoral wipe out by next May at the latest. There is also the spectre of the parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into the debacle which has sent Mr Badman scrabbling around for evidence to substantiate statements he has already made in his report; claims which have been refuted by hard working members of AHEd and scrutinised by a professional statistician who has cast serious doubts on Mr Badman’s mathematical ability. So yes, DCSF, there are bound to be more FOI requests as there are far too many unanswered questions.

  29. is widely believed that Mr Badman’s recommendations had already been determined by Big Brother Ed Balls in advance of the public consultation, "con" being the most appropriate prefix for the shameful sham that wasted the time and energy of more than 2000 concerned home educators and others who believe in that old fashioned presumption of innocence principle. Their respectful representations were ignored and it is therefore hardly surprising that these same people have run out of patience waiting for common sense to break out. Having taken it upon themselves to ask some searching questions of their own, as is their legal right under the Freedom of information Act , they have been consistently stonewalled by the DCSF, yet now stand accused of vexatious and abusive behaviour.

    The pot and kettle show is selling out fast, folks! According to the late Tim Field, a world renowned expert on bullying, it is a typical tactic for bullies to turn the situation around and claim that their targets are in fact the bullies:

    "When close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victimhood and turns the focus on themselves - this is another example of manipulating people through their emotion of guilt, e.g. sympathy, feeling sorry, etc."

    All this subliminal smearing on the part of the DSCF is obviously geared towards getting the Informaton Commissioner on side by any means – just in case they have to answer the outstanding questions that could reveal the Badman review as a pre-planned stitch up. However, such attempts to suppress or censor information are far more likely to achieve the opposite ‘Streisand’ effect of attracting extensive publicity.

    Home educators are not stupid and will not be deterred by DCSF spin dispensers who refuse to satisfy their thirst for truth. Like Angus MacNeil MP and Telegraph journalists before them, they are not going to go away until they get to the bottom of Badman. That is not a threat, but a promise.

  30. Abuse in Elective Home Education (EHE)
    Analysis Full EHE Figures Children in Need

    Description No. of LAs % of total

    Total LAs 150
    awaiting response or refused to answer 22 14.67%
    LAs with complete answers % who answered
    LAs with full answers [1] 128
    LAs with zero abuse 106 82.81%
    LAs with abuse rate less than national average 12 9.38%
    LAs with abuse rate more than national average 10 7.81%

    No. at Risk Total No. Percentage
    abuse rate in HE community 44 15,222 0.29%
    national abuse rate (all children) [2] 142,459 11,000,000 1.30%
    Author: L Daley with stats obtained by Ahed members [3]