If it did, then like the rest of the five outcomes, it wouldn't really bear close inspection. As a passing thought, it sounds like quite a laudable aim: of course, everyone wants to be healthy, don't they? The government is just being helpful and caring. This is what you're supposed to think.
But - as many home educating parents have pointed out - what about those children who, for whatever reason, can't be healthy? Do sick children somehow fail the test? As soon as you start thinking about these five outcomes, what passes for the logic in them starts to fall apart.
From the Framework [opens pdf] we can see that the five aims of 'Be healthy' are:
- Physically healthy;
- Mentally and emotionally healthy;
- Sexually healthy;
- Healthy lifestyles; and
- Choose not to take illegal drugs.
(Don't get me started on the risks of taking legal drugs! But obviously doing so would be classed as being 'healthy' in ECM Wonderland.)
And of course, none of that says what it actually means. To find that out, we have to go down at least one more level of the pyramid and read some other documents. Down we go..
- PSA 12 – Improve the health and well-being of children and young people
- PSA 22 – Deliver a successful Olympic and Paralympics games with a sustainable legacy and get more children and young people taking part in high quality PE and sport
- PSA 25 – Reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drugs
- Supported by: DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objective to secure the well-being and health of children and young people (DSO 1)
You thought the Olymics had nothing to do with your child's health? Think again.
Onto PSA 12. Let's see what's in there..
Here it is [opens pdf].
1.3 Children and young people are healthier now than ever but inequalities persist. There has been a sharp increase in child obesity and rates of mental health disorders remain worryingly high.
And they seriously wonder why?
The PSA will be delivered only by looking at all aspects of the child’s
life in the round by making strong links to a number of the Government’s other PSAs.
This is how it works. I'm starting to think that recent events like that UNICEF report were part of this frog-boiling process. It certainly highlighted a 'problem' in need of a 'solution'. When it was published, I said: "If all this report does is increase investment in forced education systems to the age of 19 and sanction governments' planned further incursions into peaceful family life then I think it can only damage children's genuine well-being," and I certainly still stand by that in the light of what we're finding out now.
1.5 Getting the right help at the right time is key – from health visiting, midwifery teams, general practitioners and others. With greater co-location, Sure Start Children’s Centres have a key role in delivering this support, including guidance, health protection, promotion and surveillance to all children and families, including those at risk of becoming obese.
What does 'co-location' mean? They're building more of them? They're moving families closer to the ones they've already built? I don't want to get my parenting support from a government-sponsored Children's Centre. I want to get it from my friends, my family and my neighbours please. I prefer bonds to bridges. Is that choice still mine to make?
1.7 Adolescence brings new challenges with increased exposure to risky health behaviour. The Government’s PSA 14 to increase the number of children and young people on the path to success, aims to help young people make healthy choices as they grow up to become adults and, potentially, parents themselves.
Oh yes, that's the one about making them all attend school between 8am and 6pm isn't it? 'Diversionary activities' etc. But my teenaged children made healthy choices just from being allowed to think for themselves. Is that option still open to us?
Emotional health and wellbeing will be measured through the annual ‘TellUs’ survey of children and young people from 2008.
What's the ‘TellUs’ survey? Oh. It's this [opens pdf], if you've the stomach for it.
Back to PSA12.
3.1 The delivery strategy for this PSA focuses on:
• prevention – helping children and families lead healthy lifestyles;
• early intervention – identifying risks and difficulties early and offering help promptly; and
• effective support from practitioners.
Call me paranoid, but it's words like 'offering' and 'help' that really worry me, coming from government. What was it Reagan said? "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." And that's before we get started on 'early intervention'.
• review the levers of health and children’s services reform to ensure they support an increased focus on the health and wellbeing of children and young people;
• develop a national coalition of interests with statutory and third sector partners who need to work together to drive progress;
Ohh they're talking about driving things again, like the herdsman with his cattle. And: levers of services? And all that 'third sector' stuff is definitely fishy, though I haven't explored it enough to work out exactly why yet. When I do, I might start somewhere like here.
• develop effective communication with children, young people, mothers and fathers so that they understand: the importance of health and wellbeing to their lives; where to get advice and support; and how they can influence the design and delivery of services.
Is "Leave us alone please," still an option? Is this still going to be a two-way communication?
3.6 Ultimately, the key to success will be empowering children and families to meet their own health goals.
If we consider that we've met them, can we then be left alone?
Improving health for individuals involves changing behaviour in some way, which in turn means understanding what a healthy choice is and being motivated to make that choice when there are less healthy options. Using the knowledge gained from past successful experience and an understanding of how individuals can be motivated to make personal change, services will support children, young people and their parents to:
• make informed choices about eating healthily, making breastfeeding the norm, keeping fit and avoiding risky behaviour such as smoking, unprotected sex, and substance misuse;
• influence the services they want to support them, for example, in how they want to access health advice and information, help transform school food, access and help design play facilities, or shape local services for disabled children and young people.
I guess not.
3.11 The single most important factor in delivering aspirations for children is a world class workforce..
Yawn.. surprise surprise.. Oh wait, they're not kidding:
The DCSF has set out what has already been achieved and commitments over the next three years in Building Brighter Futures: next steps for the Children’s Workforce.9 It also describes the challenges that still need to be addressed.
Another pdf to read? Has the government got a strategy for active interevention of the prevention of death by pdf??? Probably.
The following chills me to the bone. Does it you?
3.14 Support during pregnancy and the first years is particularly important – this is a significant window of opportunity where mothers, fathers and carers are receptive to help and where the neurological development of children is most rapid and vulnerable. To ensure it is underpinned by the right skills and expertise, training and clinical governance, DH will review its standard for the CHPP and publish commissioning guidance that updates the programme in the light of new knowledge, integrates parenting support and offers support for all and more help for those who need it most.
A 'window of opportunity' when parents are receptive and children are vulnerable. I don't know. If you're happy about the mainstream medical industry and you like the idea of the state taking care of everyone's health, then you probably won't see a problem with this. If you're slightly more cynical, or have different views or experiences, you will.
• promoting the social and emotional skills of children and young people to improve their personal resilience;
I do that myself, just by natural parenting. Am I still allowed to, or is it to be out of my hands now?
• offering a varied menu of activities and childcare between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm, including sports activities, play and other recreational activities;
Thanks, but are we allowed to opt out of this without ringing any alarm bells? It's just that I want to actually know my children as they're growing up, which means spending some time with them myself.
• offering parenting support including structured parenting programmes, information sessions, for example, encouraging healthy lifestyles;
What is the point of offering structured parenting programmes when the children are to be hardly ever at home or actually with their parents?
We're missing something here, though, aren't we? "With rights come responsibilities"? "Parents have a duty to take up the services offered.."? I wonder when we're getting onto that.
3.42 Delivering against the five priorities in this agreement will also require specific action by Government and delivery partners, ensuring at national, regional and local level that the views of children, young people, mothers and fathers shape the way support is designed and provided. This will ensure that they are empowered to make informed choices about their health, and have real influence on the services they want to support them.
And if the answer is still "Leave us alone, please. We feel perfectly healthy,"?
This document was obviously written by very different people than the others I've read in the past few days. There isn't much talk of stick and carrot, but perhaps it isn't perceived as being necessary in the field of Health, or perhaps I'm reading the wrong document. I can't read any more today: there isn't time.
But to try to tease out what Mr Badman might be looking for, in ascertaining how home educating families can be made to fit with this part of the ECM pyramid, well he'll perhaps be considering factors like NI 57 (PSA 22 / DSO 1): "The percentage of 5-16 year olds participating in at least 2 hours per week of high-quality PE and sport at school and the percentage of 5-19 year olds participating in at least further hours per week of sporting opportunities," in which the use of the words 'at school' might present a problem, even if the "2 hours per week of high- quality PE and sport" doesn't.
My Local Authority provides local home educators with a free sports hall for two hours every week. Does yours? If not, or if you might wish to exercise your freedom to choose not to avail yourself of it, what other activities count as "high-quality PE and sport"? Should we even be trying to comply with this stuff?