Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The five outcomes

I've blogged about the Five Outcomes before, and am forced to come back to them again now, in the light of this latest government attack on home education, because they're featured in two of the six consultation questions:

2. Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

(The complete list of consultation questions can be found at the end of this post.)

Here are the five outcomes again then, interspersed with my comments in italics:

The Government's aim is for every child, Isn't it presumptuous of the government to have aims for our children? whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support which makes it sound like the children have a say in the matter, which they don't they need to:

  • Be healthy So my home-educated children can no longer do the old "How does it feel to eat nothing but chips for a week?" experiment. Or that other practical and most educational one loved by home educated teenagers: "Do I really need sunlight?" If they can't be free to experiment like this, because their aims are being decided for them by the government, how are they supposed to learn properly?

    And seriously, what about children who can't be healthy? Does this mean that sick children can't be home educated? Many Local Authority officers will interpret it in this way.

  • Stay safe So my home educated children can no longer choose to take risks? No more crazy sofa dives to test the angles of projection? If my child falls off the sofa during such an activity, will I no longer be allowed to home educate? Many Local Authority officers will interpret it in this way.

  • Enjoy and achieve Every home-educated child I know seems to enjoy its life, but how can this be proved? Just by asking them? What if they lie? Wheel out the lie-detectors? And what, precisely, are they supposed to achieve? According to Section 7 of the Education Act, which is the only legal requirement placed on parents regarding their children's education, "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." It doesn't say anything about achieving, does it?

    What this will probably mean, in practice, is that Local Authorities will want to test our children, to ensure they're learning on a par with the National Curriculum, which is precisely what some of us home educate to avoid! We don't want our children to be uniformly trained to jump through preset educational hoops. We want them to be free to learn at their own pace, according to their own interests, according to their age, ability and aptitude - not according to what an education officer, or the government, or anyone else thinks they should be learning.

    It will probably mean that we, like the poor beleaguered school teachers, will have to start teaching to the test. So, no more spending an extra hour in bed spontaneously learning about dinosaurs for my children, as two of them were this morning:

    There will no longer be time for that kind of thing. They'll have to be at the kitchen table, learning from key stage whatever books, whether they like it or not. And how are they supposed to *enjoy* that? OK, an intelligent, understanding education official might allow some leaway, but how much will depend entirely upon that person's prejudices about learning, 'achieving' and 'enjoying'. It's a recipe for disaster.

  • Make a positive contribution How on earth is this measured? Contribute to what, exactly? Are our children all going to be obliged to go and do charity work? If so, how does this fit in with making sure the above 'achievements' are met? Sigh. What do we have to do to make this go away?

  • Achieve economic well-being So the children of families living in relative poverty will have to go to school? And yet I've blogged exhaustively about how easy it is to home educate on a low income. Will home educating families be subjected to financial assessments before being allowed to continue with their educational provision?

Where did these five outcomes come from? I seem to remember reading that they originated in the Lisbon Treaty or some other EU mandate some years before the death of Victoria Climbié, which is given as the official reason for them. Either way, they have been imposed on us without debate, as far as I can tell.

I think most home educating families will be able to comply with, or otherwise get round, these five outcomes if they are being assessed by reasonable, open-minded officers, but sadly our collective experience is that such posts are not always filled by such people. And why should home educating families be subjected to such intrusions?

When children in schools are having to wear stab vests and be scanned at every verse end, when more than 360,000 children are injured in schools each year, when 450,000 children were bullied in school last year, when at least 16 children commit suicide each year as a result of school bullying, when an estimated 1 million children truant every year, when Treasury statistics show more than 1 in 6 children leave school each year unable to read, write or add up (thanks to AHEd for these stats) - why should home educators, whose children grow up healthier, happier, and more able than most, be the focus of such intense monitoring procedures?

My response to the last CME consultation included the following:

My own family was visited on this basis on several occasions over the years, and the visits were extremely disruptive to both family life and the children’s education. With hindsight, I wish I had supplied information of my provision by post or email from the start, but this option was not made available to me and I felt obliged to agree to the visits instead. I was pleased to see the 2007 guidance to local authorities seemed to strengthen the position of home educating families in this respect but am now dismayed to see that this draft guidance appears to undo that good work.

My 19 year-old son says: “The home visits put me off learning because I found I was concentrating on trying to convince the officer about my education instead of just getting on with learning. Also, from a child’s perspective the concept of having your knowledge and progress audited in that way is stressful.”

For this reason I think it’s vital that local authorities’ first port of call in dealing with electively home educating families should be the 2007 guidance [opens pdf]. I now have two younger children educating at home, whose educational status is currently not known to the local authority and I have found that having the freedom to home educate without official inspection enables me to offer them educational provision that is significantly superior in quality. My provision for the older children was certainly ‘suitable’, but my provision for the younger two, because of the absence of local authority involvement is exemplary. I am concerned that this guidance will directly and negatively affect this situation because my local authority may now feel obliged to seek us out and ascertain the suitability or otherwise of our provision, thereby damaging it.

- and I definitely stand by this opinion and will be restating it at every opportunity. (At least mine will be a direct, unmisleading quote from the consulation responses, unlike Baroness Morgan's this week in The Times: "Most said that the guidance was 'confusing and open to misinterpretation'.") Unwarranted state intrusion into family life damages children's learning.

NB: Lotusbirther makes a great point: "This is from the government that won't even let home schooling/educating single (lone) parents access funds for Income Support on the grounds that they would then be financially supporting home education."

And Carlotta has the revised CME guidance (the result of the previous consultation) here.

And Pete Darby makes an excellent response here.


Blogger Dani said...

"what about children who can't be healthy? Does this mean that sick children can't be home educated?"

I think, if you take it literally, it means that sick children can't *be*.

If your child has a chronic illness, no amount of 'support' is going to enable them to be healthy. It is ridiculous to have this as an aim.

1:23 pm, January 20, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Good point Dani. It is, at best, absolutely ridiculous. And at worst it's deeply sinister.

2:55 pm, January 20, 2009  
Blogger Ann-Marie Dewhurst said...

It is sinister, this society is so scary and it seems the majority is laughing all the way to Big Brother. I hate watching it happen.

(Hi Gill, at last, another who actually blogs more than me! x)

Glad I've found you x

5:35 pm, January 21, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Ann-Marie! *Waves frantically*

Off to check out your blog.. ;-)

8:07 am, January 22, 2009  

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