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Education: Home Schooling

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 10 December (HL433), why they consider that individual children might be identified as a result of data released combined with other data publicly available. [HL759]

The department's policy is to employ statistical disclosure controls to ensure that statistics including those collected for research purposes do not reveal the identity of an individual, or any private information relating to them, taking into account other relevant sources of information. These statistical disclosure controls protect against both specific known risks and more general risks including unknown risks.

The figures provided by Birmingham on the number of electively home educated children who were subject of a child protection plan are small and we are not releasing them for these reasons.

The department keeps its statistical disclosure controls under review to ensure that arrangements for confidentiality protection are sufficient to protect the privacy of individual information, but not so restrictive as to limit unduly the practical utility of the statistics.

We provided a frequency distribution histogram to assist users in understanding the range of data provided by different local authorities that can be found at http:www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/ete/independentreviewofhomeeducation/irhomeeducation/.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 10 December (HL433), why they consider that the release of the questionnaire could make local authorities reluctant to cooperate with departmental surveys in the future, given that many authorities have already released this information. [HL760]

Local authorities responding to requests for information from central government, or contributing to reviews such as that conducted by Graham Badman, must be able to freely and frankly express their views, and provide examples and evidence, about what is working and what needs to change. Local authorities provided information in the expectation that it would remain confidential and any breach of confidence could make local authorities reluctant to participate in similar data gathering exercises in future.

There are two specific concerns in addition to the general concern that there must be space for officials to express their views freely and frankly. The first concern is that some of the information provided by local authorities related to small numbers, or individual, children and there is a risk that these individuals could be identified if the data we held were combined with other information, including newspaper reports, or could in the future be combined with other information released under the Freedom of Information Act. Secondly, where the home educators are unwilling to co-operate with local authorities, some local authority officials have difficult relationships with some home educators in their area and then releasing this information could make their relationship worst.

They have observed the campaign of vilification and harassment against Graham Badman and are concerned that they too could be targeted by home educators locally if their responses were released.

We and individual local authorities keep the release of data under review, bearing in mind the nature and intensity of harassment and the risks this indicates. Some local authorities have decided that the risks to individual children and their employees are sufficiently low to release the questionnaire responses. These assessments can only be made at local level and bearing in mind the circumstances prevailing at a particular point in time.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin on 10 December (HL433), why the release of the reply to a questionnaire might lead to harassment if the existence of that reply has not; and on what evidence that statement was based. [HL761]

We cannot say with absolute certainty that releasing Birmingham City Council's responses to the questionnaires would lead to harassment and vilification of specific individuals in the authority. This does, however, appear to the department to be a likely outcome. The internet campaign of vilification and harassment against Graham Badman and individual home educators who have declared they support aspects of the review has worried local authority officers. Some have suffered personal harassment through the internet, some have found individual home educators have ceased to co-operate with the local authority and others have come under severe pressure from repeated Freedom of Information Act requests which seem intended more to disrupt their day-to-day work than genuinely to be seeking relevant information.

We and individual local authorities keep the release of data under review, bearing in mind the nature and intensity of harassment and the risks this indicates. Some local authorities have decided that the risks to individual children and their employees are sufficiently low to release the questionnaire responses. These assessments can only be made at local level and bearing in mind the circumstances prevailing at a particular point in time.