Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dear Kitty Ussher

On the Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee of the House of Commons, on Thursday 30 October 2008, in a debate about the Draft Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008, you said:

"I see no reason why a parent of a child over seven cannot successfully home educate their child and work part time. It is not common sense to presume that just because a child is at home, they are being educated all the time; nor should one presume that just because a child is home educated, they are unable to be cared for or appropriately looked after in child care when they are not in their lessons at home. That is why the provision applies to home educators."

I am writing to you now to express my shock and disbelief that you can be so misinformed about the lives of a group of people in relation to whom you seem to be in a key decision-making role and to correct your misunderstanding.

Pre-arranged, pre-set lessons are a necessary artificial construct of school learning and are not how most children learn at home. Home educating parents have found, often by a process of trial and error, that their children's learning outcomes can be vastly improved when they are allowed to learn naturally, following their interests in a self-directed way.

Home educated children are free to ask questions and be helped to find the answers on the spot, in a way that schooled children can never be unless they enjoyed much lower teacher:pupil ratios and the absence of an externally-imposed curriculum.

It is therefore vital for the continuance of their education provision that the parents of home educated children are allowed to remain in their position as full-time (in the literal sense of the term) educational facilitators. Regular interruptions to this process, in the form of a daily period of state-imposed childcare, will seriously damage the education of any child who learns in this way.

This may not change your thinking about whether Income Support should be payable to such families (Is this actually your thinking? Or do you simply follow your brief?) but you should know better about what you are talking in such crucial debates.


Blogger Ruth said...

Great letter Gill. I was appalled and very depressed over how misinformed and completely lacking in understanding of HE she is. Why do people get the power to decide our lives who know nothing about us and have no interest in finding out first?

7:01 pm, November 01, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Ruth, I was too. It was certainly a cathartic letter to write! You'd think she'd have managed to do her homework properly before speaking at such a crucial debate. I wonder if there's some legal recourse on our part. An official complaints procedure?

6:52 am, November 02, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

I've included a link to the debate now, and the letter has been sent to

11:02 am, November 02, 2008  
Blogger Riaz said...

Fantastic letter.

It disgusts me how MPs are so lacking in understanding of HE. Even worse is that they fail to even get off their backsides and find out more about HE from the people who actually do it, before making decisions which affect their lives.

11:03 am, November 02, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Exactly! She's new to the post, I understand, but it's really no excuse is it? So unprofessional (and damaging) to make sweeping assumptions without checking facts first.

11:11 am, November 02, 2008  
Blogger Riaz said...

Alternatively she could be trying to climb the political ladder by siding with the government ministers.

8:47 pm, November 02, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Could be. Perhaps we'll find out in her answer to my email (haha) ;-)

9:15 pm, November 02, 2008  
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1:38 pm, February 27, 2009  

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