Thursday, November 16, 2006

The situation regarding the current policy, provision and practice in Elective Home Education for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children

I was going to bed, but I just finished reading this that Tech sent to me and had to blog about it before I shut the PC down. I know it'll propel me out of bed at 3am if I don't do it now.

It's barbaric. It refers throughout to the problems caused by racism, then goes on repeatedly about problems with this section of the home educating community, "Mainly due to concerns over parents’ skills, especially in regard to literacy and numeracy. These concerns also included issues surrounding; the level of parental commitment, enthusiasm and motivation; the parents’ recognition on the children’s needs, attitudes and aspirations."

Oh, but "The specific focus on these particular groups within the context of the increasing number who are being educated at home should in no way be interpreted as an implicit statement of criticism of the families themselves or the provision of home education." and "Readers are also advised to note the author’s concern regarding the creation and or confirmation of stereotypes, either negative or positive, within the context of a short research report constrained by the need for brevity. Further, that the representation of these groups as a focus of Departmental concern should in no way be seen as an implied cultural pathology or a deficit model of the lifestyle and culture of all or any of these groups."

But notwithstanding all of that, "7(43%) of LAs noted concerns over whether EHE Traveller children were receiving full and appropriate educational provision, mainly due to concerns over the parents’ skills especially in literacy and numeracy," and "For some, the limbo period of uncertainty may not always be used wisely by parents, and especially so, if the children are needed to engage in domestic and or economic activities/duties within the family."

I think it's time we had another look at what we mean by the word 'education'. To me it means learning. In my opinion the best possible way of providing an individually tailored education, perfectly suited for a child's age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs it may have, is to follow the child's own interests within the lifestyle of its family.

To the people in the education business, education now seems to only mean a pen and paper-based, pre-set, pre-planned, goal-orientated course of study within clearly defined (by someone other than the learner) limits.

These are two very different and mutually incompatible definitions.

The report admits that "A ‘suitable’ education is defined as one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so” and "The law also secures the right that the education that children receive is in accordance with the wishes of their parents so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure." (I like the last bit.)

But then it contradicts itself by saying: "And yet these are the communities most ill placed to organise or deliver an efficient and suitable education for their children. Many parents have very low level literacy skills, have limited and negative experiences of attending school themselves and are among the least qualified to be able to make a sound and informed judgment on the quality of the education that they are managing to provide or organise for their children. There is little doubt that few Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents are providing their children with a suitable education."

If a ‘suitable’ education is defined as one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole", how can what these people are doing not be considered 'suitable', just because there are perceived low levels of numeracy and literacy in the community?

Here's the bit that's relevant to the wider home education community:

"The DfES needs to address the issues and take action to safeguard the interests and welfare of the very vulnerable children in these communities, and indeed, all those children being educated under the EHE arrangements. The demand for more rigorous legislation to protect the child from harm and abuse has been prompted by the high profile cases that have shocked the nation. Contemporary demographic and social profiles of the public at large suggest that most of the abuse of children takes place within families and the home and that there are now many more families where one of the partners is not the biological parent of the child(ren). Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities, in common with all the other families registered nationally with EHE, are as vulnerable as any other sector of society to these changed social circumstances."

"In the light of the recent legislative programme to improve the education of all children and to protect them from harm and abuse, it is strange that elective home education is the only area of education and child care that is not subject to more rigorous statutory regulation concerned with quality assurance and accountability.
The existing legislation is essentially only concerned with parents’ rights and may now be judged as inadequate to protect the educational rights and to safeguard the welfare of children."

"In terms of securing uniform guarantees of children’s rights and entitlements to a quality education irrespective of provider, and the safeguarding of the care and protection of children from possible harm and abuse, parliamentary legislation is required."

When did we start assuming that parliamentary legislation protects children from possible harm and abuse? Oh yes, at the time of the Laming Report. I still don't believe it to be true.

"Legislation should apply uniformly to all families with children currently being educated at home and those wishing to elect for home education in the future. It is suggest that the legislation should ensure that: a) a standardised national system of registration be implemented by each local education authority in terms of assessment criteria; monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the assessment process."

"A clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced. All children to be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen initially and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in relation to expectations of educational progress."

We can have such games with them here. "You want to see my child in her normal teaching and learning situation? Better come out to our field then. I hope you've got a warm coat. Do you like rats? Here's a fox hole. They had a fight last night. I hope they're both OK. Oh dear. Never mind. Got a test tube? We can do something with that sample."

"Literacy? Yes, we're learning phonics, it's a new textual scheme. Pass the kapok. Can you thread needles? Oh look, she's brought you a story to read. Peter and Jane, how nice. She needs you to put real emphasis on the bit where we all like the dog. Hey I hope you know some nursery rhymes." They can send us visitors and broad and balanced curriculae, write reports, set criteria and measure progress and we will survive it all and still allow our children to have the education of their choice.

We can reply by dumping reams of reports on them, masses of evidence of every kind. Answer all their questions and then some until they wish they'd never asked any. It will be fun: a home ed project of sorts. When Ali was at school he tried to single-handedly beat the Numeracy and Literacy Hour guidance. In the end the school couldn't stop delivering it but nor could they find a way to legally force him to comply. He was 8 years old and having the time of his life.

But still the question of "What is education?" needs answering. Because if a ‘suitable’ education ceases to be defined as one that "primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole," then I fear that certain, so far unhomogenised sections of living cultural heritage will be lost.

I wish the writers of these reports stopped to picture, sometimes, a world with no original, creative thinkers and no cultural differences. It's not that difficult to imagine what it would be like.


Anonymous Elderfaery said...

Crikey. Of course everybody has a point, but when it is so one sided it's a bit frightening..what gets me about the excerts I read that you posted (I'm too yellow bellied to read the full report cos I know I'll get hysterical) is that they make out that there is such a danger hidden somewhere amongst the home education..the danger of kids being abused and damaged and exploited. As with all things..this sort of abuse happens across the is not about whether a kid is home ed or schooled. My gym teacher at school saw that I had a back black with bruises and cuts and was satisfied when I said I had fell...after all who would believe my respectable tweed suited phd stepfather who worked for the government would do that? Why is it that they reckon that kids are safer from undetected abuse in schools? The teachers haven't got the bloody time even these days. And they are all complaining about being abused by the pupils so WTF???? (I know I am generalising).

And that bit about the parents not having a positive experience of school themselves...too bloody right. Jeeez!

We withdrew our kids not just from a state school but also from a waldorf school because of repeated abusive happenings. The fact is that the schooled kids abused and damaged eachother as a part of their every day. The fact is that the school teachers abused my kids verbally and with their seriously f****d up attitudes and in one example physically hitting one of my kids over the head with a ringbinder. The fact is that legions of these kids herded through the school system are at far greater risk than home ed kids of being damaged by the experience. All home edders or people living an alternative lifestyle with kids know from the offset that they are gonna be examined through a is one of the hassles of 'living by the sword, dying by the sword'. We take this stupid crap wearily but in our stride and occasionally spit feathers about it but that just is the way it is..we have to be able to stand up and be counted. We are, after all, pioneers.

If you subjected an individual teacher or a school system to such relentless and personal investigation they wouldn't come off as good. At the end of the day their primary role is as crowd controllers..where is the welfare of the individual child in all-a-dat?

*gurgle* Can you write something really boring next Gill? I can't keep getting all hufty pufty like this;)

11:53 am, November 16, 2006  
Anonymous Ruth said...

I read this and it made me blood boil.

4:04 pm, November 16, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

I'll get back to answering comments to this one when I've sorted my blog out

Should be tomorrow I hope.

8:47 pm, November 16, 2006  

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