Thursday, February 26, 2009

Transcript of Radio 4's PM interview with Shena Deuchars and Tony Mooney

:: Transcript begins 0:46:44/ 1:00:00 ::

EDDIE MAIR: Parents who teach their own children at home are often very passionate about what they do and some of them aren’t taking too kindly to a government review of home education in England. The intention is not to change parents’ rights to educate at home, but to:

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: “Ensure that everything possible is being done to guarantee all children their right to a balanced education in a safe, healthy environment.”

EDDIE MAIR: The NSPCC have agreed, saying that existing guidance is out of date, and that parents’ rights need to be balanced with Local Authorities’ duty to safeguard children and the child’s right to protection. What do they think is going on behind closed doors? I’m joined live by Tony Mooney, who inspects home schooling for one Local Authority and by Shena Deuchars, who schools both her children at home: seventeen year old Catherine and fourteen year old James have never been to conventional schooling. Tony Mooney first of all, what are your rights at the moment as an inspector when it comes to home schooling?

TONY MOONEY: Well we’ve got no automatic access to the house. We’ve got no automatic access to the child. We can only make informal requests for information about what the education involves for the child. As the law stands, all the parent needs to do is write a synopsis of what’s been covered and provide examples of work. And have the educational provision endorsed by a recognised third party. Or endorsed by a recognised third party.

EDDIE MAIR: Now you may not have the rights you would like but in practice, don’t parents respond to your requests for information? Do you need to know – do you find out everything you want to know?

TONY MOONEY: The great majority of parents invite me into the home and I see what they’re doing, as an ex-teacher I can give them advice, and they really appreciate it. But there are one or two who just don’t want to know. They will not let me go into the house, they won’t let me look at the work their children have done, and it becomes very difficult.

EDDIE MAIR: And what about this hint that children might somehow be coming to harm? The government talking about a safe environment and the NSPCC talking about the safeguarding and protection of children?

TONY MOONEY: That may be the case. I’ve never seen, in ten years, children coming to harm, um, but it may be the case, but I don’t have a remit to report on that. Although I have to say, if I did see any kind of abuse I would feel morally obliged to report on it.

EDDIE MAIR: Are you trained to spot abuse?

TONY MOONEY: Well as a teacher, I’d try to find if children were being abused when I suspected it. No, I’m not trained to spot abuse, but as a parent.. um.. I think I feel obliged to look and report if need be.

EDDIE MAIR: Shena Deuchars, let me bring you in at this stage, and I’ll let you talk and respond to some of that in a moment if I may, but just let me ask you why you’re schooling your children yourself.

SHENA DEUCHARS: It was something that I decided to do about ten years before my older child was born. I found out that home education in this country was legal at that point as I left secondary education myself, and decided that it sounded like a very good idea.

EDDIE MAIR: And what do you think of what the government in England is thinking of doing? It’s having a review and may want the right to come in and have a look at what you’re doing.

SHENA DEUCHARS: Well, one of the reasons why home educating parents are so angry about it is the conflation in the media particularly, but also in the terms of reference for the report, of education concerns with welfare concerns. And because Baroness Morgan has been quoted as saying that some home educating parents may be using it as a cover for child abuse. That’s why we’re so angry about it.

EDDIE MAIR: Well let’s look at those.. let’s split them up and let’s look at education concerns. Do you have any problem with someone like Tony Mooney coming in and having a look at how the schooling’s going?

SHENA DEUCHARS: Well yes, because in fact what we tend to find is that most Local Authority personnel actually have no experience of home education and mostly they only have experience of a school model of education. So, for example, I know of many home educated young people who leave school at perhaps ten or eleven: they’re withdrawn by their parents, unable to read or write, being predicted to get no GCSEs, and quite often what happens is that, left to their own devices and without being left behind by the rest of the class, they then learn to read and they go on to get GCSEs, do further education or higher education and hold down jobs where essentially the school system had written them off.

EDDIE MAIR: Tony Mooney on that point?

TONY MOONEY: A lot of my children, who are mainly on council estates, don’t actually sit any GCSEs or any examinations of any kind when they’ve been home educated and they just go out into the world of work and fend for themselves. I think it’s an indictment of the education they get at home. Um, you see often we get newspaper articles showing affluent, middle-class families educating their children. That’s not what I see most of the time. I do see some very good teaching, by people who know what they’re doing, but the great majority of my children don’t get GCSEs when they’ve finished and go out into.. onto the workforce, just trying to fend for themselves.

EDDIE MAIR: And, Shena Deuchars, I do want to talk about the second strand that you mentioned which is causing so much anger, you say, among home educators. Of course, most home educators – perhaps none of them – are involved in abusing their children, but should there be a system whereby at least someone like Tony Mooney can go in and check that everything’s OK?

SHENA DEUCHARS: Actually, could I come back on what Tony Mooney said about GCSEs? I think it would be very interesting to look at the reasons why young home educated people don’t get GCSEs and the answer to that is basically if their parents - if they’re not in school - their parents have to pay for it and it can cost £150 per GCSE.

EDDIE MAIR: All right, but just on the other point, because we only have a moment left and I’d like you to respond?

SHENA DEUCHARS: OK, well, the thing is that Baroness Morgan, again in today’s Independent, was quoted as saying: “If there are problems, we have to look at the evidence.” This review looks more as if they’re looking for evidence, because to date there have been no problems. There are no cases of children who have been abused who also were being home educated who weren’t already known to the authorities. Victoria Climbié is a red herring: she wasn’t being home educated at all, and the Spry children were removed from school once Eunice Spry had been abusing them already for a number of years and had been checked over by Gloucestershire Social Services.

EDDIE MAIR: All right, listen, thank you both for taking the time to talk about this. We’ve tried to give it as much time as we can, but it may well be that you have a view on this and probably some experience too. If you’d like to share your experience, please just go to the PM blog, where you’ll find more information and a space where you can comment. Just put ‘PM blog’ into any search engine.

:: Transcript ends 0:54:01/ 1:00:00 ::


Blogger Gina xx said...

"TONY MOONEY: A lot of my children, who are mainly on council estates, don’t actually sit any GCSEs or any examinations of any kind when they’ve been home educated and they just go out into the world of work and fend for themselves."

So, what is wrong with going out into the world of work? That is more than most school kids do! And to bring in council housed kids into the argument, bloody cheek! Where someone lives has bog all to do with their education!

9:39 pm, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Good point Gina. He said "fend for themselves" twice in that context. I wonder what he meant, exactly? Very strange thinking IMO.

9:40 pm, February 26, 2009  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

but he did say
That may be the case. I’ve never seen, in ten years, children coming to harm
in 10 years, those council house children, who would have believed it!! [sarcasm obviously] so actually, if someone like tony can't believe it and hasn't seen it...

10:15 pm, February 26, 2009  
Anonymous Lanna Rosgen said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to transcribe and post this, Gill.

10:20 pm, February 26, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Thank you for this - I missed it.

Tony Mooney's views are patronising and arrogant. As it is the responsibility of the parent to ensure the child's education, and NOT that of the state, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the parents were in charge - as paying customers of such service provision they are surely entitled to scrutinise and shop around for the most competitive and suitable option to meet their needs.

Instead, (because state education is considered to be compulsory, rather than a choice) we have teachers and people like Tony Mooney falling over themselves to scrutinise home educating parents, demanding evidence and automatic access to homes and children, rather as a cart might lead a horse. Of course, this when done in the name of "child welfare" most people are too ignorant and unaware of the wider implications to do anything but vehemently agree. Telescreens next.

11:08 pm, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Michelle, Nottingham said...

Oh my goodness, where to start, firstly thanks for the transcript Gill and Shena and children for going along to Shepherds Bush.

Secondly, I object to this "My children" business that Tony Mooney said several times. I wonder what "his" parents would think at hearing that. I wonder how many bedtime stories he's read to "his" children, not to mention nappies he's changed?

I live on a council estate ("my" poor children) however, its the schooled children that my children have to fear; the angel faced boy from around the corner who carries a little bag with, "...what you need to be a gangster..." in it. That includes a bandanna (in the right colour of course), a heavy link, silver chain with a dollar sign (thats the U.S money symbol not the band)and a knife! He was 11 years old. When the schools closed due to heavy snow they came round to shove my son's face in the snow, push ice down his back and in his ears and then smash his head into a wall as he tried to get away. Nice schooled kids?

The catchment secondary school has almost 1000 pupils with 22% gaining 5 good GCSE results. Many do not gain employment when they leave and most of these children have been "fending for themselves" throughout their school career, unlike my sons who are nurtured and supervised. They are respected, not only by me, but by our neighbours and friends.

I think the best chance my children have got in a city with a terrible record of gun and knife crime, second from bottom on the gov't's league table of schools, the lowest number of children going on to University (in my constituency) in the country and the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe (pinpointed to a council estate near me)is TO BE HOME EDUCATED!!! (sorry if I'm shouting)

No evidence of abuse in 10 years Mr Mooney? That's because they've been removed from the place most likely to allow the abuse, perpetuate the abuse and compound the abuse Mr Mooney.

Didn't Paula Rothermel's research say something about socio-economic status not being too much of a factor in how successful HE children were? That my poor council estate children have as good a chance of success as middle-class children do?

My children are happier, more confident and more able to research subjects, in which they have an interest, than they ever were at school.

They've only just left a school where several teachers falsified pupil's results to make their career records appear better.
Why should I trust Mr Mooney? Put your own house in order Mr Mooney, before you come knocking on my council house door!

And climb down off soap box!

11:56 pm, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

Thanks for transcribing this Gill, I too missed it.
I also live in council accomodation and being a single non-working parent, I doubt if I'd be able to afford to pay for GCSEs. However, if my daughter chose to do them, I would find the money somehow. If I had to take out a loan or borrow from relatives then so be it. Just because I live in council accomodation, does not automatically mean that my child's future is doomed. Far from it, she is full of dreams and ambitions for herself which she is strongly determined to achieve. She is happy, but she would prefer us to have a bit more money sometimes - she does not want to end up as a single parent living in a council house, like me. And I'm proud of her for that. Incidentally, she plans to give high school a try in September 2010 so she may get free GCSEs after all, but we'll see how it goes.

And what excatly is wrong with 'fending for themselves' - they are learning to be independent people, nothing wrong with that in my eyes!

PS. Gill, your sons' website looks great, I love the simple way it is set out, very clear and easy to understand. I wish them the very best with their business! Are you anywhere near Huddersfield? I'm dying to get my grandparents set up with a computer and that's where they live! I have a feeling from some of your posts you may be somewhere out that way...

2:57 am, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Good point, Helen. Yes, I was surprised he admitted that.

Lanna, you're welcome. It was much shorter than the last one I did!

Renegade parent, you're quite right IMO.

Michelle, you too. I said on one of the lists that listening to TM is just like listening to my dad, with the 'my children' thing. Same political ideology, I suspect: all children belong to the state.

Zoe, I don't think GCSEs are the be all and end all anyway. In fact I think they're a monumental waste of time and money. You can do A Levels without them and college courses without either. My sons just wanted to work for themselves, which meant they could dispense with all of the above. If that's called 'fending for themselves', so be it, but they get to choose their own hours and terms of employment etc., so they're very happy to do so!

Thanks for your comments about the website. We are indeed about three miles from Hudds :-)

7:00 am, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Oops, this was the last one I did. So memorable they are..!

7:37 am, February 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These transcripts you do are invaluable Gill, not only for people who missed the show, but also for referring back to later on when we might need a juicy quote or too - so a big thanks from me too.

7:41 am, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Gina xx said...

"Good point Gina. He said "fend for themselves" twice in that context. I wonder what he meant, exactly?"

He means that we kick them out at 16 to live on the streets obviously! ;-)

8:23 am, February 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gill can I have the link address for this; I'm going to fisk it.

I'm not surprised many families wont let this man into their home!

8:40 am, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Link for this post:

9:02 am, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Thanks - again - for the transcript, Gill!
The way Tony Mooney talked about 'my children' really gave me the creeps. Yuk!
It's fascinating to see how representatives of 'local authorities and other agencies' are shooting themselves in the foot left, right and centre. Did you see comment no. 74 on the PM blog? Proving the point that not the home educators need to be reviewed, but local authorities and agencies, as time and again they demonstrate their lack of knowledge of existing and quite sufficient legislation and guidance.

11:02 am, February 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Gill-I have now fisked the interview.

8:00 pm, February 27, 2009  
Blogger mamacrow said...

I gather Tony Mooney doesn't like children - or families - 'fending for themselves'.

of course thats all wrong isn't it. The State is there to look after them from cradle to grave after all (no need for parents).

9:12 pm, February 27, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what he meand by fending for themselves. Don't re-interpret it to mean something positive.

Some critique on the interview:

"Well yes, because in fact what we tend to find is that most Local Authority personnel actually have no experience of home education"

Even if the local authority was to autonomous home education, do you want them to check if parents facilitate the children's interests well?

"parents have to pay for it and it can cost £150 per GCSE"

That's not the point to make. It should have been mentioned that much more children leave school to fend for themselves. Home education might not be infallible but neither is the school system!

10:55 am, February 28, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Mieke I hadn't seen it but now have. Thanks! Interesting debate going on there. I like the way the EHErs dealt with that comment.

Mum6Kids, oh good! I'll be checking that out soon :-)

Debs, thanks for the thanks xx

Gina, "He means that we kick them out at 16 to live on the streets obviously! ;-)" You'd think so, wouldn't you? Because that's likely after years of home educating, isn't it? *rolls eyes*

Mamacrow, yes I think you're probably closer to the mark. He makes it sound as if 'fending for themselves' is a bad thing, but what else is a fully grown, well-educated adult supposed to do? Cry for his mum?

Leo: *sigh*. You don't know what I know, do you?

6:32 pm, February 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Leo: *sigh*. You don't know what I know, do you?"

The tone and content of this reply is not clear to me and I rather no assume either way. Care to explain?

12:23 pm, March 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh - yes, I was disputing your earlier statement:

"You know what he meand by fending for themselves."

You don't know this at all. You can't possibly, because it's not true.

1:14 pm, March 02, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That wasn't the most interesting commentary I made, but ok.

The expression means the parents didn't care to help the children become independent and couldn't wait to kick them out at 16.

3:28 pm, March 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

I see. Then thank you, I learned something.

I do know that some parents feel that way about their children: I was the daughter of one and the wife of another. But still - like with the pain of childbirth - I forget and genuinely didn't understand what he meant.

To address the rest of your original comment, I think that the best point to make might be the above. Home educators tend to have strong bonds with their children (?) and are therefore less likely to kick them out at a certain age.

We could do with some evidence to back this up though. Maybe a straw poll on the lists or something?

I think our brains (mine at least) must just filter the bad stuff out, over time.

3:35 pm, March 02, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A poll is a good idea! For instance:

"Are you planning to have your kids to "fend for themselves" from post compulsory education age, even if when they could use more help from you?"

3:49 pm, March 02, 2009  
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