What’s been said?
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has decided to conduct an investigation into the link between off-rolling and gang grooming. According to a Guardian report published on 15 July 2018, ‘The office of the commissioner, an independent position backed by statute, is conducting an urgent analysis of confidential government data, including exclusions and police records, to establish how many off-roll children are drawn into gangs’. This is, in itself, curious, as Ofsted has already announced that it is conducting investigations into the issue of off-rolling, paying particular attention to the destination of these pupils. So why, one might wonder, does Longfield feel the need to conduct her own investigation? Maybe looking for an angle?
But the article doesn’t end here. It makes the now customary link between off-rolling and EHE, but in a gratuitously vicious way. She says, ‘Where do these excluded children go? Some are educated at home while others go to pupil referral units (PRUs) – both are associated with worse educational outcomes’. She also told the Observer that, ‘Anecdotally, people report that more children who aren’t in mainstream education are being marginalised and are more vulnerable to gangs, who are preying on them and grooming them’. The key word there is ‘anecdotally’. Her wild claims are, quite rightly, described by the journalist who wrote the article as ‘extraordinary’. Maybe a stronger condemnation comes to your mind.
Where, Ms Longfield, is your empirical evidence that EHE children experience worse educational outcomes than those educated in school? Or that a single home ed student is a gang member? If you are going to make statements from your official position, you could at least make sure that you the facts you spout are correct.
Why does it matter?
This kind of wild, unsubstantiated rhetoric matters because it demonstrates to what extent EHE has become a target. There have been various wild and unfounded claims in the past few months about the dangers of home ed, but of them all this is undoubtedly the most ridiculous. And this comes, remember, from a public official, who hasn’t even bothered to check the facts before issuing fatuous statements in the media. It calls her integrity and suitability for public service into question.
It’s not easy to obtain accurate, up-to-date figures on the number of young people who belong to gangs, because statistics are held by individual police forces. It is, however, likely to run into tens of thousands. So unless the whole EHE community in England is covertly involved in gang violence, you can be reasonably sure that gang members under 18 are enrolled at a school.
What can I do?
Write to Anne Longfield at the address below or by email.
Challenge her to present empirical evidence of any link between EHE and gang membership, or publicly withdraw her statement, which should include an apology for the smearing of many thousands of caring home ed parents.
Children’s Commissioner for England
20 Great Smith Street