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Home ed numbers

There has been much interest in the statistics that the government is using in its campaign to link home educators with child abuse.

The essence of the story is that a survey of local education authorities has determined that 0.4% of home ed children are on the "At risk" register. This compares to a figure of 0.2% in the population as a whole. The 0.4% figure is described as varying greatly between different counties, suggesting to me that it is a measure that is prone to error.

The figures appear to be being used as a way of answering the question "Are HE kids more at risk of child abuse than those in schools", with "on the At Risk register" being used as a proxy for "At risk". It strikes me that these are not the same thing at all though. There are clearly very large numbers of children who are HE but are not known to the authorities and there will also be some who are at risk who are not known to the authorities either. Because of this, "On the At Risk register" would appear to be a very poor proxy for "At risk", at least as far as assessing HE is concerned.

The question is, how would you answer the question properly? With the survey as presented there must be a possibility that that the risk associated with HE is actually less than that for the population as a whole. But how would you calculate this probability?

This is a question for a stats blogger - I wonder if this man knows? I'll ask him.



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Reader Comments (21)

Just a few random thoughts.
All children on child protection plans that home ed are known to the LA. Some of these may not have been known until they became known through child protection services becoming involved. So it isn't just those origially known to the LA that get child protection plans. ie it is not a service that comes about purely as a result of LA involvement with home educators.
We can only look at known to be at riisk as school does not provide a gold standard for how may children are at risk within the schooled population as there will also be children in school who are at risk and not known to child protection services as school does a fairly poor job of recognising abuse. This is backed up by ofsted report into serious case reviews.
So to know comparison we would need the true rate amongst home educated children AND the true rate amongst schooled children neither of which are really possible.
There is no reason to suspect that the at risk rate amongst home educators is higher than schooled children. In fact you would expect it to be lower as it is usually undertaken by a section of the population who have a great deal of concern and respect for their children whereas the default position of school will encompass all types of parent and thus have a higher rate of children at risk.
Even if a tiny minority of parents keep their children at home for abusive reasons it is really unlikely to dilute the figures so much that it matches the percentage of abusive families that send their children to school.
I don't think it is possible to know the risk level for children at school or home educated but there is no reason to assume the abuse rate should be any worse.
With regards to the figures.
The latest ones used by Badman .were the result of a hasty request to LAs for evidence to back him up.
Only 74 of 150 replied and it is fairly reasonable to suggest that these are more likely to have been those LAs that had Child protection cases and therefore "evidence" and that a lower number if any would exist among the LAs who saw no reason to reply. So it is hard to suggest that this is in any way a representative sample where the figures can just be doubled to represent all LAs.
In fact work done by ahed and others covers a much wider number of LAs and contradicts Badman's figures showing the rate of abuse to be lower amongst the home education population. However this is not perfect either but probably more accurate than the Badman figures.
Finally schooled children especially in secondary schools are probably more anonymous and less visible than the majority of home educated children who usually stand out as they are out and about at unusual times of day.

Oct 21, 2009 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

highly suspicious that it is not statistically significant, because it is an easy test to do; and they would say if it was !

However, one would need to have sight of what the raw data are, in order to try calculations. Are the data available, and where ?

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterper

Sorry that should have read that some schooled children will be more invisible
Also just wanted to clarify that I am not saying that parents who send their children to school are abusive. just that, as the default position for education, school will have the full spectrum of parents. Home ed usually is self selecting for parents who are really interested in their childrens' education. School will have those parents too but the majority of parents who have little regard for their children or are abusive will follow the default position.

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo


I believe the LA survey data are available, but I'm not sure about the 0.2% figure for the country as a whole. If someone from the HE community wants to email them to me bishophill(roundatsignthingy) I'll post them up. Otherwise I'll try to find them later on.

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


It seems to me that the best estimate would be to compare the proven abuse among home educators to proven abuse among the population in general. Neither would be the true figure, since not all abuse is identified, but there is no reason to believe that the differential factor (unidentified abuse) would vary between the two populations.

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:29 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Bishop Hill,
I agree but somehow I felt your post was suggesting this was not possible because of the large number of home educators not known to LAs. Which is why I was saying that Home educators become known to child protection services through other mechanisms than just being known to LA (and thus become known as home educators too ) so it would be faulty to assume that if double the number of home educators were known then double the number would also be on child protection plans.
I am not saying that you suggest this but that some people may take that meaning.
I have put a shout out for people to give more info about where to find the statistics although people are quite exhausted at the moment.
It is also fair to say that it has been quite difficult to gte a lot of the information from the review as the dcsf have turned down several FOPI requests and the data is not made available in Badman's actual report. Very frustarting. But at least that is why people started doing FOIs for individual LAs to build our own picture.

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

Just realised many home educators are online watching Ed Balls in front of the select committee. So may take a while to respond to this.

Oct 21, 2009 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo


Yes, I appreciate your point about Badman's approach to this and you are right to make it clear.

Oct 21, 2009 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Is it possible that home education is considered a criterion for including a child on the "at risk register" by perhaps ill-informed or over-cautious social workers; or possible that parents who fail to see to it that their children attend school might say they are educating them at home when challenged?

Is it not the case that the various registers being kept today are not just of proven cases, but include unfounded complaints and reports?

It all reminds me of G&S: "As some day it may happen that a victim must be found, I've got a little list-I've got a little list..."

Oct 21, 2009 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

I would say that home ed families are in some areas routinely referred to social services and in some others are referred if they take up their legal right to give in formation about their home education by written report rather than a home visit.Some are referred by members of the pubic who are unaware that home ed is legal. These families will then all show as being known to social services. I would not like to speculate that once those referrals are investigated they are then put on child protection plans when it is not warranted.
However it is an area that definitely required more rigour from Badman in looking at possible explanations for his stats rather than leaving people to jump to the most obvious conclusions.

Oct 21, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo

I also think it is fair to say that if these proposals are brought in then all home educated children will (without any basis) be automatically assumed to be at risk of being at risk. So families who have children who are struggling at school will have the message that it is perfectly legal to home educate but if you do your children will be considered at risk of being at risk and you will have to satisfy us that you are not abusing them. This alongside the stigma and suspicion that is being generated will be enough to keep some children in school who would have otherwise thrived from home education. It also means home educating families may have a higher threshold for seeking help and support they might need because of the fear that their lifestyle will be misinterpreted and lead to social services involvement. This fear already existed but is certainly much more of a factor now.
who appears to be hijacking this post.

Oct 21, 2009 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo


You're welcome to hijack. That's a good point you make.

Oct 21, 2009 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBishop Hill

You're barking up the wrong tree trying to measure if the "real" figure is 0.4% or 4% or 44%.

No other aspect of public policy or law can be justified on the basis of "percentage of people in group X committing crime Y".

Just a quick example: the percentage of rastafarians who do drugs compared to the general population. Is this grounds for banning their religion ?

The arguments for home ed are absolutes - to do with freedom of the individual, freedom for family life as defined by the family.

They are not arguments based on home-ed families being more or less likely to commit crimes.

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I'm visiting the UK after several years overseas.

I'm surpised by the bossiness of petty officials interfering in many aspects of daily life: what type of car to drive, how much food to buy, "risk assessments" for mundane activities.

And I'm surprised that you put up with this.

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Your grace...
As a newly emboldened homeschooler, we have just managed to have our youngest de-registered from one of Eduardo Balls bright new Charitable Academy Companies schools which came into being in September 2009, I have read far too much about the Badman report to be objective about it.

The report is ill conceived, biased, authored by a man with a strong desire to see every child 'held within the state' and thus become beholden to the state. Badman was chosen for a reason.

It seems to me to be that he is there to 'prove' that there is a distinct possibility that every homeschooler is a potential child abuser so it's best if their kids are taught by the state because of course few state educated kids are abused outside of school hours.
It is simply a means to obfuscate the real problems that exist in state education. State schools are chock full of policies allegedley to combat every conceivable misdemeanour whilst keeping our children 'safe'.
Drugs policy, equality policy, environemental policy, climate change policy, ant-bullying policy, behaviour policy, sexual health policy, child protection policy, citizenship policy, Personal Health and Social Education policy to name but a few.

My family and I can educate our youngest at home without a single policy being 'in effect' other than 'gross national happiness before gross national product' to misquote the King of Bhutan.

We have only been doing this since the begiining of September but the difference in my son is remarkable.
He was one of few boys in Ed's 'gifted and talented' group within the predecessor school so he isn't 'academically challenged' but conversly school ,at the Year 7 level or KS3 as the DCSF call it, didn't 'academically challenge him'.
The biggest surprise to date though has been the change in our family life. This has just got better and better and was a totally unexpected and happy side effect of the decision to give our son an education that is of benefit to him and removing him from Eduardo Balll's teach to the test culture.

Oct 21, 2009 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek

the ahed work on the badman statistics is available here - Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics which contains a link to the spreadsheet of information gathered via FOI requests to all LAs.

There are other problems with the stats that Badman has used, in that it's entirely possible that different LAs have sent stats covering different periods. For the secondary info that was used at select committee stage, it appears at least one LA sent stats covering all time (whatever that means!) rather than a recent period, which rather invalidates their contribution.

Oct 21, 2009 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJax

All I can tell you as a former drugs worker is that the category of "child at risk" is a fluent one, depending on how many council social workers are in a department and how many children at risk they already have. If too amny, a child who should be classified as at risk may be listed as a "child in need", and conversely, in the rare event that there be not many children at risk, some may be transferred from the in need register. What worries me is that chidren who are being home educated who come to the notice of social services might have to be classified as at risk by diktat.

Oct 21, 2009 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrugal Dougal

Well, all I can say is that your UK home educators must be an abusive bunch (heavy sarcasm here--please not to take literally). Here in British Columbia we have not had a single court case that successfully connected child abuse to home education in more than 20 years. Two tried, but in both cases, the ruling was in favor of the family. Maybe we Canadians are just less abusive in general. What do you think?

Oct 21, 2009 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Jack: it's not that we want to be arguing over these stats. I agree, the principles of freedom are the important issues here. However, we are having statistics thrown at us as justification for draconian legislation, and unfortunately people are easily convinced by statistics, so they HAVE to be challenged, especially as they are intuitivly and factually wrong.

Jo & others: Badman moved the goalposts at the Select Committee hearing by changing his statistics from referring to "families known to social services" to "children under a CPP (Child Protection Plan)".

It was pointed out to me recently that some children are under CPPs due to school-related issues which are mitigated by their being HE'd. For instance, danger from a sibling who becomes aggressive and violent at home if made to go to school, but for whom home education is calming and therapeutic. This is the case with one little girl of my aquaintence (on the autistic spectrum) who, when she was in school, would sneak into her parents bedroom and try to kill them. This stopped as soon as she was taken out of school. Her little brother is on a CPP because of her, but it was school which caused it, not home ed, and definitely not the parents.

Oct 22, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJemmo

Interesting article on dodgy government stats here:

Heard them talking about this on Newsnight last and it reminded me of Badman and his approach.

"Government proposals on prostitution and "trafficking" hit the rocks this week, as an in-depth investigation revealed a distinct lack of evidence for a supposed evidence-based policy."

Oct 23, 2009 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSheila

I offer whatever assistance I can muster to those Brit homeschoolers who may find it necessary to become political refugees -- seeking asylum here in Texas. My three home schooledids would also be able to assist making the adjustment.

Oct 23, 2009 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

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