"Make a positive contribution" and the "Path to success"
So I'm guessing that 'Make a positive contribution' probably amounts to a bit more that donating a weekly part of your spending money towards a programme that seeks to deprive some African children of their health and liberty. It will, knowing our quaintly aspiring One World Government, have something to do with criteria and tick-boxes, and the pointless consumption of time. There will, no doubt, be some stick and carrot involved and it might be even worse than that: let's see.
My question is: make a positive contribution to what? The answer will no doubt be: "Society," - whatever that is, nowadays. How can a child make a positive contribution to society? By smiling at passing old people, maybe? Skipping around and generally spreading happiness? Is that what the government had in mind? Hmmm. What do you think?
Wish me luck. I am about to dive into the deep and murky realms of gov.uk and associated areas to try and find out more. I may never return.
Well, here is a pdf chart about all five outcomes, though I can't read it without finding a zoom button. Oh, how neat! Each five outcome also has five aims! So it builds up like a little pyramid. What a surprise. The five aims of "Make a positive contribution" are:
- Engage in decision making and support the community and environment
- Engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school
- Develop positive relationships and choose not to bully and discriminate
- Develop self confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges
- Develop enterprising behaviour
Right. Well, my children have cleared some snow from our road this week and we have never refused the loan of a cup of sugar to a neighbour, when asked. Does that sufficiently 'support the community'? I'm guessing not really, but I don't know for sure yet.
What's 'positive behaviour'? Another definition to track down. Ditto 'positive relationships'. And yes, of course they choose not to bully or discriminate. They also choose not to try and impose convoluted laws onto other people that transform brains into spaghetti - does that count for anything?
Number 4, check. Number five, check - they're starting their own business this month. But it can't be that easy, can it? If so, it was hardly worth bothering with legislation for.
Let's dig deeper.
The next level down the pyramid takes us into the brave new world of some things called PSAs and DSOs. National Public Service Agreements and DCSF Departmental Strategic Objectives, and the ones relating to "Make a positive contribution" are apparently as follows:
- PSA 14 – Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success;
- PSA 9 – Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020
- PSA 20 – Increase long term housing supply and affordability
- PSA 21 – Build more cohesive, empowered and active communities
- PSA 26 – Reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism
- DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objectives to ensure young people are participating and achieving their potential to 18 and beyond (DSO 5); and
- keep children and young people on the path to success (DSO 6)
"Path to success" looks a bit ominous, doesn't it? It comes in for several mentions, so it must be something important. We'll find out exactly what it means soon, but the other question that springs to my mind is this: at least half of those subsections relate to action by Local Authorities, not children at all. So why are children being made to comply with them? Something doesn't quite add up, which is probably a clue to something else.
It looks like I'm going to have to read some of these PSAs and DSOs if I want to find out more.
But wait: we haven't got to the bottom levels of the pyramid yet. Here they are:
National Indicators [relating to "Make a positive achievement"]:
"Quality of life indicators":
- NI 79 (PSA 10 / DSO 5) Achievement of a Level 2 qualification by the age of 19 – L
- NI 80 (PSA 10 / DSO 5) Achievement of a Level 3 qualification by the age of 19 – L
- NI 85 (PSA 4 / DSO 5) Post-16 participation in physical sciences (A Level
Physics, Chemistry and maths) – L
- NI 90 (DSO 5) Take up of 14–19 learning diplomas – L
- NI 91 (DSO 5) Participation of 17 year-olds in education or training – L
- NI 110 (PSA 14 / DSO 6) More participation in Positive Activities – L
- NI 15 (PSA 23) Serious violent crime rate
- NI 28 Serious knife crime rate
- NI 29 (PSA 23) Gun Crime Rate
- NI 174 Skills gap in the current workforce reported by employers; and
"Quality of service measures":
- NI 19 (PSA 23 / DSO 6) Rate of proven reoffending by young offenders
- NI 21 (PSA 23) Dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour by the local council police
- NI 24 Satisfaction with the way police and local council deal with anti-social behaviour
- NI 25 Satisfaction of different groups about the way the police and local council dealt with antisocial behaviour
- NI 27 Understanding of local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime by the local council and police
- NI 35 (PSA 26) Building resilience to violent extremism
- NI 43 (DSO 6) Young people within the youth justice system receiving a conviction in court are sentenced to custody
- NI 44 (DSO 6) Ethnic composition of offenders in Youth Justice System disposals
- NI 45 (DSO 6) Young offenders engaged in suitable education, training or employment
- NI 46 (DSO 6) Young offenders’ access to suitable accommodation
- NI 149 (PSA 16) Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in settled accommodation
- NI 150 (PSA 16) Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in employment
The sheer quantity is completely off-putting, isn't it? And some of the points look quite reasonable: I can especially see why, for example, people might be concerned about anti-social behaviour by the local council and police ;-)
On the other hand, some of it looks worrying from a home educator's point of view. I don't even know what "level 2 and 3 qualifications" are. Do you?
We must not be disheartened though, and stay focused on our objectives, the first of which is to find out what is officially meant here by 'Path to success', and that, I fear, will require the reading of a PSA, or a DSO. Which do you fancy?
PSA 14 looks like a juicy one: "Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success". I'll have to Google to find it. Here it is. [Opens pdf] At first glance, it reads like the signposts in a labour ward: Vision; Measurement; Delivery Strategy; Measurement annex; and Delivery annex.
But come on, what exactly is the "path to success"? It's quite exciting to think that we might find out in a minute, don't you think?
Introduction: Five outcomes... Children's Plan (Urgh, I'd better read that too).. blah blah..
1.3 This document sets out the delivery strategy for increasing the number of children and young people on the path to success. Most young people are already on that path. They do well at school make a successful transition to adult life and go on to build successful careers and families.
Yes, but what is it?
They're not allowed to be NEET, yes, we knew that.. Oh blimey, it looks like there are "eight key priorities" coming up. These people love their little sets and bullet points, don't they?
The 'Vision' bit doesn't really say much. Lots of words: no real information. Onto 'Measurement':
The PSA measures progress in increasing successful transitions to adulthood in terms of increased participation and resilience, and tackling negative outcomes
Indicator 1: reducing NEETs.. indicator 2.. oh, here we are.
More Participation in Positive Activities
AAaaargh! Look at this!
Participating in high quality structured activities is a key element in improving the prospects of all young people
Then it goes on about extended schools etc...
This will give children and young people opportunities to
participate in diversionary activities which are both developmental and fun.
The Children’s Plan established a new goal that by 2020 all young people will be participating in positive activities.
All young people.
The next bit's about drugs, booze, under-age pregnancy, and breaking the law. None of which are - strangely - usually a problem in home educating families. But force all of our 'children and young people' into "high quality structured activities" and that might change.
I'm fast running out of staying power, but "Delivery Strategies" is next. It contains the word 'incentivizing', which is enough in itself to make me crave huge bars of dark chocolate with cherries in it.
Anyway, here are the "8 priority actions":
1. integrating and simplifying governance, accountability and performance management for the PSA at every level – central, regional and local;
2. tackling problems associated with individual service thresholds by, where appropriate, re-allocating available resources across service boundaries and pooling budgets which target similar groups of young people;
3. incentivising effective programmes and interventions – including those in the third sector – where there is strong evidence of impact, and supporting commissioners and the frontline to apply them more widely;
4. ensuring there is a strategy in place to invest in the development of the workforce to support young people and to deliver the ambitions of this PSA;
5. embedding and building on strategies to empower and secure the active participation of young people and their families in the commissioning, design and delivery of services – actively seeking the engagement of all groups, including the most vulnerable;
6. ensuring that the role of schools, colleges, work-based learning providers and youth support services in delivering this PSA is widely understood and acted upon;
7. ensuring that the contribution that other key public services should make to this PSA is widely understood and acted upon; and
8. ensuring there are robust systems in place for the identification of, and interventions for, young people who do not attend school.
I'm stopping there. I can't go on - not today, anyway. The sun is shining, the children are waking, the snow is beckoning, breakfast is cooking.. blue skies.. those things that make us feel alive and free and sane.
But to sum up, Mr Badman hasn't been asked to review Home Education to find out whether our children can achieve those airy fairy vague five outcomes like smiling at passing old people. Of course he hasn't. His remit (and his substantial grounding in the programme of events as set out for our society for the next twelve years) is to be employed in ascertaining to what extent we can be made to fit in with the above intrinsically complicated set of criteria.
Number 8 of the last list is one that should perhaps be of particular concern to us.