Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don't be silly

First: politely questioning something someone has said on behalf of home educators to the national media and inviting them to respond does not constitute an attack on that person. If the person thinks it does, I've got to wonder why they're doing that most crucial and important job.

Second: here's what I think about the Ivatts report:

Reports do not get commissioned and published by government departments for fun, or because the government is genuinely curious about what the report might recommend IMO. Anyone who thinks they do is being gullible. Reports are commissioned and published by government departments in order to specifically recommend the changes in the law that the government wanted in the first place. This is how the government 'drives change'.

Laming was 'supposed' to be all about Victoria Climbie. It ended up being about compelling the indiscriminate storing and sharing of information about families and children. In my view and the view of many other people, this was the aim all along and is standard practice in politics throughout the Western world.

Why, for example, has DfES not commissioned a report into the monitoring of home education from EO, HEAS or AHEd? Or from any of the individuals who publicly represent, speak about and advise us on what we do? Because such a report would not contain the recommendations that the powers that be wished to enact.

This isn't rocket science, or even conspiracy theory. It's just simple logic and common knowledge.

So the Ivatts report, which happens to have been commissioned and published by the DfES, makes the following recommendations:

"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."

- carefully enmeshed in a confusing mass of information about School Census data on the attainment of Gypsy/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage. I feel to be stating the obvious here but will say it anyway. These are the recommendations Ivatts was expected to make, and DfES wanted him to make them because it wants to use them.

Given this fact, I do feel entitled to express my alarm about the apparent raising of the EHE Traveller issue in the national press by an official HE spokesperson. I don't personally know any of the people concerned or anything about them. I'd be querying this, whoever had said it.

There is - stating the blatantly obvious again - a reason why the recommendations above were 'hidden' in the Traveller issue rather than simply commissioned from someone like Tony Mooney, who (I assume) would have gladly supplied the required conclusions. The Gypsy/Roma/Traveller issue is complicated and requires the kind of delicate handling which conveniently confuses everything. We could confidently argue against a Mooney report with a reasonable chance of success. An Ivatts report - making the same recommendations - is much harder.

So what I wanted to know is, given all this, why are some of us - in key positions - (trying my best to be non-personal here!) appearing to publicly sanction Ivatts?

If it was an accident, I'd just like to urgently request more caution, for all our sakes.

If it was deliberate, I think the home education community needs an explanation.

34 Comments:

Blogger Gill said...

PS: I'm going out now. Will be back after lunch. Please leave a message after the tone, I'll get back to you later ;-) Beeep.

8:23 am, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Louise said...

Gah! I'm often a bit behind with all the political stuff because I don't have enough time to trawl all the lists.
So, according to the Ivatts report home-ed (it is recommended) will be registered, regulated, tested and bloody well monitored leaving us really with very little freedom! Grrrrrrr!
I agree with you about reports Gill. What would be the point in one for the governement if it didn't recommend what they want anyway?
I think all home-edders have to be aware of what they are saying now, ESPECIALLY those that talk to the media so there can be no question of what was said.

9:27 am, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

What gets me about this report is that it poses as research when all it is is a survey of the opinions of TESs.

"It should be noted that only 56% of responsible officers within the sample LAs had attended in-service training on EHE and that only 36% had attended any training/briefing on Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities." This research finding raises serious doubts about the quality of professional judgements being made by officers during initial and or monitoring/inspection visits to families from these backgrounds." I would go further - I think it raises questions about the quality of the professional judgements they are making and which comprise the entire substance of the report.

Also "Twenty five percent (25%) of responding LAs do not have a written policy on EHE." So the whole thing appears to be effectively unmanaged from the point of view of LEAs, who it would seem are using untrained staff, who are receiving no proper guidance as to what they are supposed to be doing.

No attempt has been made to do any direct evaluation or research - for example, it is one thing for an untrained, uninformed TES officer to say they think these families are failing to provide: "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”.. but the report specifically includes evidence that they are not trained or equipped to make that judgement, nor has any attempt to directly evaluate the real situation, for example, by asking Travellers themselves.

In any event, has anyone ever sought to define what such an education would comprise, or establish whether it is possible to provide it within main stream schools? Because I think that is open to question.

One thing you say: "Why, for example, has DfES not commissioned a report into the monitoring of home education from EO, HEAS or AHEd? "

Does EO which is the most credible HE organisation even have any members from the Traveller community or indeed any knowledge of them?

HEAS is an advisory service only.

AHEd is a new, anonymous Internet group so I would not have thought it would (or for that matter should) even come into consideration for conducting any kind of research, nor for that matter, inclusion in any consultaion. I know you have joined it, but I must admit this page made me wonder if it is some sort of cult.

Is there anyone aside from Paula Rothermel who has carried out any properly organised, formal and credible research? Aside from her work, all I have seen are things like this survey - hearsay and third party opinions.

Overall, this survey of opinions of the untrained, unqualified and ill-informed adds nothing to the very limited body of knowledge and research about EHE either for travellers or anyone else. It is simply ridiculous to use something as lacking in credibility as this as a basis for anything more than a revision of the working methodologies of the TESs themselves. Bet it forms the basis of legislation though.

10:59 am, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Pete said...

Well, there was a preliminary report before the consultation, which essentially said "Err, here's some figure spulled from the usual orifice, here's some opinions from government friendly EHE'ers, so obviously, they're begging us to take over their lives."

I'm sure AHEd's not a cult: I wouldn't want to be part of any cult that would have me as a member.

11:46 am, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Baz said...

Anyone who thinks that the British Government can pass a law solely against a minority such as Gypsy/Roma in order to bring them into line obviously knows bugger all about the European Court of Human Rights and the fact that such a law would be dismissed out of hand.

It is also a crime against British Race laws to discriminate against a person of "specific racial background" - and Gypsy/Roma people definitely fall under this category.

Any law passed by the British Government will have to encompass all sections of the population and be non-discriminatory in order for it to have any substance at all, which will then effect everyone involved in HE.

12:56 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

Baz has very succinctly hit the nail on the head there.

1:14 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Lou, yes indeed. I do think it's a good thing that we have people who are prepared to take time out to talk to the media. It is a very difficult job, no doubt. I've home educated for 12 years out of the past 15 and consider myself to be fairly politically aware but I don't think I'd feel qualified to do it, especially in the present climate. Things do get misquoted and misconstrued so much :-(

Love your new pic ;-)

Tim, I don't know about EO and the Traveller community. I would assume there would be a section in EO for them? There is one for single parents and I think one for SEN, not sure.

I can certainly think of several suitably qualified and knowledgeable people who would submit an excellent and useful (to us) report about EHE to DfES if asked. But they haven't been asked, AFAIK.

There does seem to be a distinct lack of research in our favour: I think Mike F-W is trying to fix that.

I had to laugh about you thinking AHEd is a cult ;-) I'll let you know if they start asking for a percentage of my earnings!

Hi Pete :-) Yes, that's not a report, so much as a general muttering isn't it? LOL

Hi Baz :-) Yes, I must admit I thought this was obvious to everyone... Right now I'm feeling a bit like the little boy shouting that the emporer has no clothes on! Ah well, the sun is shining and I have a bench to build this afternoon :-)

Hi Mrs Cult-Leader (ROFL) :-) Yes, he has a way of doing that ;-)

1:18 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

I agree with Baz. Also tho why should anyone think any section of the HE community be monitored anymore closely than any other even if it doesn't apply to all of us? Seesm very strange and judegemental and is the thin end of a very large wedge in my view.

I am sure AHED is not a cult:)

2:30 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Sorry about typos - I am so tired I can't see straight today:(

2:31 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, good point Ruth. Of course one group shouldn't need closer monitoring than the rest. Seems to me that would be unfair and discriminatory.

3:02 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Argh, something wiped my comment!

Oh well, to summarize.

Yup agree with Baz.

Tim - I've recently chatted to a local member of EO who is of Roma origin (married out) who has HE-ed for years, so they are out there :0) although likely in this area probably in hiding...

Any proposal to standardise any sort of curriculum for HE-ers raises alarm bells for me and would be the final nail in the coffin for choice in education.

I do think proposals to ensure that HE 'advisors' (or whatever the local bod decides to call themselves) are trained, could well be positive *if* such training took into account the huge differences in approach out there (and now I've said that I can also think of a host of problems that might also go along with this) but still, it would be a step towards perhaps evening out people's experience of the LA (where they are known).

One day I'll get to write a comment without it being wiped, or being attached by a chocolate-covered baby, or assorted children trying to strangle themselves etc. in the background...

3:33 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Nikki

"Any proposal to standardise any sort of curriculum for HE-ers raises alarm bells for me and would be the final nail in the coffin for choice in education."

Raises alarm bells for me too.

"I do think proposals to ensure that HE 'advisors' (or whatever the local bod decides to call themselves) are trained, could well be positive *if* such training took into account the huge differences in approach out there (and now I've said that I can also think of a host of problems that might also go along with this) but still, it would be a step towards perhaps evening out people's experience of the LA (where they are known)."

Ew... this bit's controversial isn't it? We're 'known' but it's not a positive thing for the children in any way - except that there's no fear of becoming 'known'. There's certainly no benefit for my family, as far as I can tell, in having our home ed provision externally monitored. And as regards our autonomous learning, to quote from the points we cobbled together last week:
"The child's wish to learn can be damaged by being held to account over issues like output and progress." It IS damaged by it, I've seen this happen. I wonder how we can convince the people who make the decisions that this is the case though.

"One day I'll get to write a comment without it being wiped, or being attached by a chocolate-covered baby, or assorted children trying to strangle themselves etc. in the background..."

LOL! Yes, I can relate to ALL those problems! xx

3:54 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

We should probably - if it hasn't already been done (?) look at the report recommendations for any legal incongruities that might be useful?

Also - I wish this had been done years ago (has it?) - look at different learning methods and the effect on them of monitoring and externally imposed curricula.

Personally I can only really speak for the autonomous learning we do here, and say that it has been and can be proved to have been successful and that monitoring and externally-imposed curricula would and has damaged it.

Our LA advisor has observed the process periodically for the past eight years since we first deschooled, by means of visits, studying the documentation and supporting me when the provision was challenged in court by my ex-husband. She might be persuaded to work with us somehow on this.. *thinking aloud here obviously* ..

The thing is, we all have empirical evidence like this. Are we making the best use of it to preserve the legal rights we need? Not sure I am. Could do with some ideas or pointers as to how to do more.

Or maybe it's already been done and is unnecessary. I am a bit out of touch with things. Is it being/ has it been discussed somewhere? Sorry to be so behind with things :-(

4:49 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

"Also - I wish this had been done years ago (has it?) - look at different learning methods and the effect on them of monitoring and externally imposed curricula."

I think we would need a huge amount of data from families. I know my own children's learning halts for 3-5 months after every inspection of them. Even if this is just via a report. It puts them out of kilter. I also know from observing them that if I contrive their learning they do it but all their own ideas seem to get lost along the way so they no longer own the learning process and do not progress as well as if I had kept out of it. I think those of us with autonomously educated teens have a great case to show it works as well:)

5:56 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Tell you what, Ruth - there's a LOAD of valuable evidence on all our blogs.

6:17 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmm but that's still going to bring about the 'You're ok but they're not' reaction isn't it?

*Thinking* I'm sure there must be an answer to this.

If someone else knows it already, please tell me!

6:24 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh I see there's quite a lot on AHEd about Ivatts. Now that I've worked out how to get into the Wiki thing..!

6:56 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

The wiki has proved to be a fabulous tool, but it sure does take some getting used to!

7:36 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes I logged in ok, but not sure what to do next. Have posted to the list :-)

7:43 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Hmm but that's still going to bring about the 'You're ok but they're not' reaction isn't it?

Yes I think it probably will and that is the hurdle. I think HE are getting stereotyped. There is no easy solution.

8:27 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

"Ew... this bit's controversial isn't it? We're 'known' but it's not a positive thing for the children in any way - except that there's no fear of becoming 'known'. There's certainly no benefit for my family, as far as I can tell, in having our home ed provision externally monitored. And as regards our autonomous learning, to quote from the points we cobbled together last week:
"The child's wish to learn can be damaged by being held to account over issues like output and progress." It IS damaged by it, I've seen this happen. I wonder how we can convince the people who make the decisions that this is the case though. "

Yes - I think perhaps I didn't make my point well. For those people who are known to their LAs there appears to be some huge differences between people's experiences.

Training might address this (emphasis on the word 'might')

Also, if 'advisors' were trained to recognise exactly what their jurisdiction is then perhaps families would not be made to feel so harrassed, my own experience as an example:

The previous LA we were under found education to be satisfactory. Upon moving to a new LA (to which we became known - long story), I received a letter and questionnaire, stating that I would need to receive a visit, etc., etc.

I replied politely stating that we've HE-ed for a few years and thank you very much but we don't need any further support.

To which came a stronger letter insisting we must be seen, work 'inspected' etc.

I replied saying that there was no need, education had been found to be satisfactory in the past, did the LA feel that there was a reason why this might have changed and therefore did they believe that an education was not taking place? (as naturally they only need to act should they have reason to believe that a suitable education was not taking place).

Needless to say, this didn't go down very well...

I stood my ground and maintained that we did not have any legal obligation to provide examples of work for inspection etc. and in the end the LA conceded - however, it was an incredibly stressful time and unfortunately we are not the only family in this area to have had such an experience and indeed a few of those families have children who are now at school (as have I, however, my eldest's choice to go was unrelated to the LA issue - anyone who knows my eldest knows that he's not easily swayed by adversity, I wonder where he gets that from... :0)

I agree that in my own families case there is no benefit whatsoever to us in being known to our LA.

I am not saying that such a thing is positive - however, I am saying that some sort of training *might* improve such a relationship and that indeed, for those who are known to the LA, there should perhaps be a move to forming positive relationships based on mutual respect (i.e. parents being seen as capable etc, not something that appears to happen here unless the method of HE tallies with what the local advisor thinks should happen).

So, I don't see my comment as particularly controversial - the sort of training I would like to see would be the that which would stop potential bullying of HE families taking place.

Whether such training is possible is a whole new can of worms ;0)

8:46 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

You made your point well, it was me who didn't :-)

"the sort of training I would like to see would be the that which would stop potential bullying of HE families taking place.
Whether such training is possible is a whole new can of worms ;0) "

Yes, my instinct says we need to get proactive about protecting our alternative learning methods from unreasonable LAs and incoming threats to our liberty.

As you say - it's just(!) a matter of working out the best way to do that.

People do training programmes with LAs don't they? But as Ruth said, hers was trained and it didn't make much difference.

9:00 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Yes our inspectors were trained but the only one who took it on board got made redundant last week - leaving the rest still in place to annoy us all. I agree people have different experiences with the same inspector.

My belief is the L.A's should not be the ones inspecting us. They are not neutral. In the US it is much less emotive. They don't have the bile over children being HE there somehow. No one comes round with screeching of tyres to make sure the child is O.K. Threats and bullying do not seem to be the norm. I am not saying all US HE have the same experiences but it does seem to me the system is more impartial than here. Here we have a lot of power mad, petty minded nitpickers who have no lives and have axes to grind who think school is the default. That is the minset, in the main, we have to deal with. I think it springs from the policis of the government that we are no longer capable of bringing up our own children without a blow by blow of tick boxes to adhere too:(

Sorry ranting and not helpful......

9:28 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Ruth, I think I understand where you're coming from on this. I would agree that the main line is that 'school is the best place for children' and that HE is not necessarily recognised as equal to this.

That is not to say there aren't some great people working within LAs across the country - there are. Unfortunately, there also seems to be more than a few who see HE as threatening in some way, or as being used as an 'excuse' not to send children to school (etc.) and unfortunately, some of these people also refuse to take any notice of anything that doesn't fit in with their 'world view' - so, regardless of what information you offer them, they don't pay any attention (or even, in some cases, read any information sent).

9:54 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

How does inspection work in the US Ruth?

10:23 pm, April 05, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

It is a state by state thing Gill.
http://www.hslda.org/laws/

Some info there.

12:30 am, April 06, 2007  
Blogger IndigoShirl said...

I'd say be careful for what you wish for..... we could all end up being monitored by OFSTED or some other completely impersonal but not necessarily impartial organisation. Hmmm, anyone for a 25 page questionnaire which must be filled in regularly every 3 months and forwarded with the correct fee??

7:24 am, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Ew - no thanks :-(

7:35 am, April 06, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

It was my understanding that in some states HE was run by charter school? Which as I understand it requires HE-ers to follow a curriculum. I'll toddle off and visit that link :0)

10:23 am, April 06, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Crikey - wouldn't fancy living in North Dakota!

10:28 am, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I hardly dare ask what happens there..

1:56 pm, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

No - I didn't make myself clear - sorry. I would hate any US type legislation but I do think it is a two edged sword. Each state laws on HE and providing evidence are crystal clear - leaving no room for any inspector to interprete it their own way and put their own slant on it. I think the problem here is the law is open to too much interpretation by the ptb. Some areas need clarification. However it is not an option to push for it in case it is gives the DfES the chance to change it in their favour.

I meant to say as well I agree not all LA's are them same but even "good ones" seem to foul up like the latest episode in Derbyshire:( I don't feel very optimistic at the moment.

2:30 pm, April 06, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

I would agree that differing interpretations of the law appears to be one of the roots of problems that HE-ers might experience with the LA. I would like to see clearer guidelines - but in many ways I am also deeply suspicious of any move towards such for exactly the same reason as you stated.

2:51 pm, April 06, 2007  
Blogger mamadillo said...

iirc from discussions on US-based yahoogroups in the past, the hslda is not the most impartial source of info on homeschooling in the US, as they're known to have a specific view on 'the right kind' of homeschooling. When I find the other link that I sometimes quote I'll be back.

1:10 am, April 07, 2007  

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