Education Otherwise is the home education charity in the UK and counts amongst its trustees researchers in the field. As a charity, we received the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme interview with extreme distaste, as a result of the deeply prejudicial nature of comments made by Robert Halfon MP, chair of the education select committee and Mr Richard Watts, representing the Local Government Association.
The interview was allegedly about home educated children, however, with reprehensible misdirection, Mr Watts referred to the numbers in the report from the LGA, which is about children not in a formal education setting, manifestly conflating these with home educated children. This can include: young offenders, children in hospital, truants, those who have been expelled, those who have been suspended and a significant number of children with special needs who cannot access school and have their education provided at home by their local authority. Mr Watts’ report seeks to redefine those missing education, a term protected in law, to include those receiving an education outside of any full time formal setting as outlined above.
The accurate data is as follows:
For 1st July 2020 we hold data for numbers of home educated children from every single local authority in England. The total at that date was 61,534. This is an under estimation due to 1st July figures excluding year 11 pupils (end of compulsory school age being 30th June 2020 for that cohort).
For 1st October 2020 we have received FOI responses from all but 5 local authorities in England. For those 5 only, data is used the 1st July temporarily, to give a comparative total of 69,499. We would add that there are now very few home educated children not ‘known’ to their local authority.
In using the figures from his organisation in this manner we believe that Mr Watts intentionally misled the public into believing that there was a huge cohort (between 282,000 and 1.1 M) of ‘problem’ children labelled as home educated. In actual fact the figures are many times less at 69,499 on the 1st October as mentioned above.
Mr Halfon then went on to use these figures and despite being in the middle of an inquiry, the evidence to which has not all been heard or read, he espoused what effectively was his desired result from the inquiry. This is a gross breach of the integrity and independence of the committee.
The entire piece was based on either bias or personal opinion and not on fact or evidence.
Education Otherwise considers the conduct of both Mr Halfon and Mr Watts to be reprehensible in intentionally misleading the public, Government and the media in order to further an aim based on nothing short of misguided prejudice.
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Complaints to BBC Radio 4 can be made at: [email protected]
Complaints to the LGA can be made at: [email protected] LGA
Parliament will not accept complaints in respect of MP comments, but a complaint can be made direct to the committee at: [email protected]