Inspection plans for home schools create concern

by Vita Millers

SURREY home educators are taking a stand against a government report that suggests inspectors should be allowed to come into their homes and interview their children.

In January a review was ordered by the House of Commons into the phenomenon of home education. The aim of the report, which was carried out by Graham Badman, included finding out whether home education could be a potential cover for child abuse.

Among his comments Mr Badman said "During the course of the review I have been struck by the passion and commitment of many parents, who have chosen to educate their child or children at home.

"I have met some extraordinarily accomplished young people who have prospered as a consequence of elective home education, but I am not persuaded that I could argue this to be a universal picture."

He suggests that there should be more stringent checks on home educators, with government inspectors having the power to come into a home with two weeks notice and talk to children without an adult being present.

Guildford and Godalming parents who educate their children at home are furious at the proposals, feeling that they undermine what they are doing and that, if enforced, these recommendations would seriously infringe their human rights.

Home educator Eleanor Murton from Guildford said: "We're absolutely horrified by this report. It would give the local authority permission to come into our homes uninvited, even the police need to get a warrant to access your home. This is a serious human rights infringement.

"He [Badman] found no evidence whatsoever that home education could be a cover for any kind of abuse. It is just his opinion, the report is full of 'I believe', there is no scientific evidence at all."

She added: "I think it would be very frightening for children to be told 'this person is allowed to come in and talk to you whether you like it or not.' We are all concerned that it will get to the point where if we don't comply with this new law, it could be a criminal offence."

Another Guildford home educator Susie Maguire educates her son William, aged six, at home.

She has written to Guildford MP Anne Milton expressing her concerns about the review and calling on her to raise the issue in Parliament.

Susie's concerns include the fact that in the Badman review, no home educators were invited to be part of the panel. She also believes that there was no quantitative analysis, with opinion being presented as fact.

"The quotes used [from parents] are misrepresentative, hundreds of families spent hundreds of hours replying to the review question," she said.

"The underlying assumption in the review is that a home educated child is always at home and therefore not visible within the community and therefore not safe.

"This could not be further from the truth. Every week my son attends two drama groups, swimming lessons, family and/or home education group outings. We also help out with various environmental groups and attend meetings and demonstrations."

She added: "Our children are not hidden, on the contrary, they are in the community far, far more."

It is believed there are about 400 children across Surrey being educated at home, although probably more not known to the county council.

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