Some readers yesterday might perhaps have thought that I was being a little harsh when I suggested that Paula Rothermel’s contribution to the above book suggests either slapdash and shoddy research or deliberate dishonesty. The evidence however points strongly in that direction. Let us begin with what Rothermel has to say about one of the most well-known horror stories of British home education; the death of seven year-old Khyra Ishaq in 2008. The details of this case are familiar to most people in this country who are involved in home education. In the introduction to her book, Rothermel cites the Serious Case Review as a reference for her claim on page 8 that;
In the tragic case of one young child (Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board, 2010) the LA registered her as home educated simply because the parents stopped sending her to school.
This is of course absolutely untrue. In fact the child’s mother told the school as soon as she stopped sending her daughter that the child would be educated at home. As the Executive Summary of the subsequent Serious Case Review said;
The child and some siblings, were removed from state education during December 2007 and a clear statement issued by the mother, of her intention to educate them at home.
This is plain enough and the mother also told the police the same thing during a Safe and Well check. In addition to notifying the school and Education Welfare Service verbally of her intentions; on January 8th 2008 the child's mother sent a letter to the Special Educational Needs Assessment Service; explaining in writing that she would be educating her daughter Khyra at home. The inference is inescapable. Either the author has not actually read the Serious Case Review which she cites in her reference and is accordingly unfamiliar with its contents or she is intentionally misrepresenting the facts in order to strengthen her argument.
Consider another of Rothermel’s statements, when she writes on page 6 of;
the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee (CSFC,2010) set up to review Badman's report
In fact the Children, Schools and Families Committee was a standing committee established in 2007; two years before Graham Badman even began his investigations into home education. This select committee had nothing whatever to do with Badman's report, other than examining it briefly in 2009. Again, we are compelled to ask ourselves, is it the case that Rothermel simple knows nothing about the subject of which she is writing or is she exaggerating and romancing for dramatic effect? Neither of these would be what we look for in a supposedly academic work!
A charitable person will attribute errors such as these to superficial and inadequate research rather than outright mendacity, but a quick look at the body of the book provides us with a pointer that suggests that lack of knowledge alone is not a sufficient explanation.
It might be understandable, although still disconcerting, to find that an editor of a book like this knows little about the sources which she cites. Such ignorance could be innocent and unwitting. It is however quite a different matter where her own research is concerned. Surely she would know at once if anybody was making a mistake about that? Let us look now at Chapter 3 of the book, written by Noraisha Yusof; whom I mentioned yesterday. On page 44, Yusof says that;
Rothermel’s (2002) study of 419 UK families showed that the home educated children outperformed their schooled counterparts on a general mathematics test, achieving an average mark of 81 per cent, compared to the school educated pupils average mark of 45 per cent.
This seems clear and quite unambiguous. It is being claimed that Rothermel administered tests in mathematics to at least 419 children. No other construction could possibly be placed upon this sentence. In fact, as Rothermel herself knows perfectly well, the tests were given to just 35 children. We are left once more with only two choices. The first possibility is that Dr Rothermel simply does not remember accurately the research which she conducted. The second is that she knows very well that 419 children were not tested in this way, but feels that this figure looks 12 times more impressive than the actual one of 35. When reading through the contributions to her book, it would have been easy enough for Rothermel to correct something like this. That she chose not to is curious and revealing.
This is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of the mistakes or misrepresentations to be found in this book. Paula Rothermel is well known in British home educating circles as something of an expert on the subject and I think that we may really assume that she is not lacking in knowledge about such things as the Khyra Ishaq case; still less about her own research. We are drawn inexorably to the sad conclusion that the things which I have outlined above have been done by design, rather than accidentally.
I would be happy to be proved wrong about this and invite those able to put forward an opposing view to do so in the comments below. Anybody wishing to check what has been said here may go to Amazon, find the book and then use the feature which allows one to look inside the book at the text. I would not want anybody simply to take my word for anything written here, but urge people to look for themselves.