Monday, February 16, 2009

The vultures are circling

Apparently our independent reviewer, Mr Graham Badman, is consulting a panel of 'experts' to help him with the second part of his review.

So can we think of a panel of home education experts to help him with this? I can, right off the top of my head:

  • Owner of Home Education UK and home educating dad: Mike Fortune-Wood;
  • Prolific writer of HE books and home educating mother: Jan Fortune-Wood;
  • Professor of education, senior lecturer and long-time proponent of home-based learning: Roland Meighan;
  • Chair of AHEd and home educating mother: Barbara Stark;
  • Author, professor and long-time proponent of home education: Alan Thomas;
  • Home educating mother and secretary of Schoolhouse: Alison Preuss

I could go on. The list is endless. Mr Badman shouldn't have struggled at all to find a panel of experts in home education to help with his review.

But strangely, it seems that he did. The information we have is patchy so far, but I haven't heard any of the above mentioned as panel members, or anyone else whose name I recognise as being an expert in home education.

So far, he seems to have chosen:

  • Martin Nairey, chief executive of Barnados who also chairs the End Child Poverty Commission, though I can't think what they've had to do in the past twenty years or so since there is no real child poverty left in this country! Oh wait, I know - they've been working with government to cook up that fifth outcome: 'Achieve economic wellbeing' - otherwise known as 'Wave goodbye to both parents'. So Mr Nairey's expertise in home education is....? Perhaps he was home educating his children at the same time as saving the world from relative poverty/ stay at home parents, contradictory position though that would have been;
  • Kathy Sylva: an expert in early years structured education;
  • Mick Waters from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority;
  • June Statham from the Thomas Coren Research Unit, whose background is listed as including healthy schools, asylum seekers, children in 'care' and early intervention programmes. But not home education; and finally
  • Steve Heppell, who so far appears to have no experience or special knowledge of Elective Home Education either.

Can you see how any of these people are going to help Mr Badman to investigate:

· The barriers to local authorities and other public agencies in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated children;
· The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude and advise on measures to prevent this;
· Whether local authorities are providing the right type, level and balance of support to home educating families to ensure they are undertaking their duties to provide a suitable full time education to their children;
· Whether any changes to the current regime for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes.

Because I can't. However, feedback from his meeting with EO and HEAS indicates that he was very interested in the use of IT in learning, which fits I know with Steve Heppell's projects, and also with what I was reading about the EU on Saturday.

::NB: I have removed a section of text here referring to Mr Heppell, due to his complaint in the comments below.::

OK, so none of these people, it's safe to assume, knows anything at all about Elective Home Education. The least they can do at so much public expense then, is to spend some time reading some of the hundreds of previous consultation responses submitted by home educators, to familiarise themselves with the subject somewhat.

Do you think they will?


Blogger Allie said...

Is that a pig nesting on the roof opposite?
No chance.

10:08 am, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...


10:54 am, February 16, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

words fail me - well polite ones anyway.

11:13 am, February 16, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I'm very glad you're doing this Gill, it is really helping me to formulate my response.

11:14 am, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Jax said...

I suggest that using the email address to comment on this would be a wise move, as well as sending another round of letters to our MPs. If the independent panel of experts is independent of any expertise about home education, I strongly suggest that we do not recognise its legitimacy. I dread to think how we could pull together a list of ppl we'd all be happy with though - I'd like some slightly more standard home educators to be involved rather than only the politicised ones.

12:58 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Tech, I had a few impolite words to say about it too!

Jax - just the inclusion of a home educator, of any sort, would have been something wouldn't it?

I was talking to Ali about it here this morning, and the first thing he said was that at least one of 'our people' should be on that panel. The fact that there's nobody from the home education community is deeply suspect.

1:04 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

BTW Jax, have you heard back from Chris McCafferty yet? I was thinking it was about time we did..

1:14 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

omg, pass me the sickbag :(

1:23 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

LOL Jax yes it is rather like trying to herd cats isn't it?!

What exactly is this panel of *experts* going to do? I absolutely do not recognise it's legitimacy. As people have said - it's like butchers commenting on vegetarianism. Stitch up, pure and simple. The only experts are those who are actually home educating, anyone else is merely offering an unqualified opinion, and most certainly should not be setting themselves up as *experts*. Morally reprehensible.

1:38 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

"butchers commenting on vegetarianism.."

Excellent analogy.

1:41 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

looking at the links - why do they always lump us in with exclusions etc? Do they think that EHE children are social misfits/trouble makers etc? Have they even met any EHE children?

I can't see many EHEers being happy at the idea of dumping their unique learning environment for something like notschool, and what about the *socialisation* chestnut? Surely something like notschool would be frowned on in that regard? I do not like feeling that my family is a cash cow for people like this, I have no desire whatsoever to replace what we do now with a substandard *approved* system such as this.

2:27 pm, February 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Paula Rothermal either?
Surely he knows about her!

3:51 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Annkrozeika said...

It is just ridiculous that they aren't using any experts in the field of EHE. This whole review/consultation is such a useless and pointless waste of everybody's time. There's nothing wrong with the way we do things, why can't they just leave us alone to get on with it?!

Thank you Gill, for bringing this to our attention, and for all the research you've been doing, what an eye-opener.

3:55 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Mum6kids, you would think so, if he knew anything about EHE at all, wouldn't you?

And Zoe, here's why they don't want to just leave us alone IMO.

6:42 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

And I've got this in my browser - from Kent again! Dunno who flagged it up, but some more jigsaw pieces are starting to come together, aren't they?

6:47 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Jax said...

Where are you getting the information from about the panel he's putting together? I'm trying to formulate my wider comments email, which I intend to copy to my MP, Michael Gove and the libdems as well :) Can you think of anyone else I should cc it to?

11:11 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Jemmo said...

I work at the Institute of Education, home of the Thomas Corum Research Unit. Is there anything you would like me to ask June Stathum?

11:49 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Jax, I got it from the list mails of people who attended the meeting with Graham Badman.

Jemmo, we'd love to know whether she has any knowledge or experience of elective home education, please. Also, is she still - or was she ever - in touch with Alan Thomas?

5:28 am, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

According to this, he is contacting Paula Rothermel. Thank goodness for small mercies!

5:29 am, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Well, that is more than a bit harsh and pretty hostile. It's also completely - and I have to assume wilfully - wrong.

Let's clarify a few things: firstly, i've got nothing to sell you - I'm a professor in a few universities and run some very grounded non commercial projects with real children in real circumstances around the world. 10 minutes in Google would have helped you to grasp this. Your gratuitous "trying to tap home educators for a market." is not only insulting, it's just plain wrong and I've stood up passionately for public service and children's rights / voices loud and clear for decades.

I care about, and have fought hard, publicly, for, small, human scale learning and against the horrendous factory schools of the last century. I'm chair of governors of the parent power Stepping Stones School, in Surrey with its roll of 5 children.

Amongst a host of other things, I chair the Inclusion Trust - a charity which runs the project Notschool is a home based community for children excluded from school by circumstances or behaviour. The key word here is excluded. It is certainly not "being presented as an official, viable alternative to home education" by the charity. It is hugely successful - with re-engagement rates in the 90%s and a completely bespoke, personalised curriculum for each young person. Even your perverse and wilful misreading of my website must have helped you to understand that it is NOT school. We don't return the children to schools, but they do go on to FE, employment and HE. The charity is responsible some 1,000+ young people being educated at home each year without any special or additional funding.

The HorizonAL project is certainly not "concerned with tailoring education systems to future economic markets" it looks at future trends that may be damaging to learning - we did look at the alarming growth of global education markets, but from a concern for the damage to developing economies - hence the panel folk from Save the Children etc. We also looked at the problems of cognitive enhancement and worried about that too.

The five research challenges you gleefully highlight are nothing to do with me, or my projects at all - they are from Futurelab's Beyond Current Horizons work. Futurelab's Citizens' panel survey also has nothing at all to do with me either. Again, wilful misrepresentation. I certainly do not believe that "Self-directed study is 'boring'" nor have ever suggested so.

Here's a tip: sometimes web pages link to other people's. Your blog links to the Telegraph but I can see that you are not the Telegraph. Similarly, I am not Futurelab. It's not hard is it?.

BTW, your sons might be relieved to know that I am a lifelong Apple user, and fan. Again a mouseclick would have confirmed.

Finally - Mumology is a project to allow young mums, especially in developing nations and poor circumstances, to focus on their children's development, at home, and to eventually graduate as a result of that reflective practice at home. It's home learning and I'm very proud of the evolving project. It is tuition fee free. It allows children to be seen as a real asset instead of a cost. I can't begin to see what you could find in it to object to - or do you believe that these young mums don't deserve to learn and progress at home?

Personally, I think you are extremely lucky with the quality and experience of the panel that Graham is assembling.

I'm horrified that your line after line of complete misrepresentation and fabrication might (as "cosmic seed" comments) help folk to formulate their responses.

Not a good start really. Rest assured I won't let your intemperate and hostile words deflect me from an objective contribution. You might perhaps take a moment to apologies to those you have misled, and to myself?

1:31 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

Although I am not the blog author, I feel compelled to comment on that last comment.
It is all very well having one's own agenda but as a hom eeducating parent I have been highly offended by th etone of this consultation - implying child abuse because we are home educators. The fact that on the panel there are no actual experts or people experienced as a user of home education DOES concern me considerably. It appears TO ME that the people chosen have potentially different agendas, for example child abuse rather than hom eeducation. It does not lok balanced. I personally find it difficult to look at the consultation as independent when I can see that at least a couple of members of the panel have close links with the DCSF and includes the head of the BArnardos charity (which many people do not consider are using their fundings to best effect) and the director of AQA curriculum department.
I would always be sorry to see that someone is offended by an opinion, but that does not mean that opinion should not be expressed. I notice that your own blog only allows moderated comments with the proviso that all responders consider a wide and varied audience, something which is well to remember by us all.
I remain sceptical of this new consultation which comes so soon after the introduction of the 2009 CME act.

1:51 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Just to clarify, again:

it is not opinion that I am objecting to. It is the wholesale misrepresentation of my work and perspective to create a misplaced anxiety about this panel.

For example quoting swathes from Futurelab's projects and then attributing their "five research challenges" and their "Citizens' panel survey" to me, when I have no connection or relationship to that work at all.

Oh, and by the way, my blog has commenting moderated because it is read by a substantial number of children, to whom I owe a duty of care.

2:07 pm, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Jeremy said...


You write: "Personally, I think you are extremely lucky with the quality and experience of the panel that Graham is assembling."

and write of the "misplaced anxiety" about Badman's panel.

The anxiety arises from concerns that the panel members don't have any experience with (or even real understanding of) home education.

You clearly have a huge amount of experience with various forms of education outside the "mainstream". Do you have any experience directly related to home education in the UK?

2:35 pm, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

I mean "elective home education", of course.

2:35 pm, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Jax said...

Stephen, you also say "Not a good start really."

Can I point out that we didn't start this? We are not the ones attacking a minority of the population and creating sensationalist headlines about them by virtue of press releases tying home education and child abuse together. Gill has done research on names she has been given, and if her research is inaccurate as you claim, perhaps that is more down to the fact that we are now used to being kept in the dark and denigrated by all and sundry. Perhaps a better way to announce the panel reviewing our lives would have been to have a website about this consultation where profiles could have been posted. After all, the internet is being used because we are known to use it, is it not?

And I second the query about elective home education. It's a very different beast to those educating outside of school due to exclusion. It would give much ease of mind I suspect to many of us if there were anyone with experience of actually home educating on the panel, not just in chasing ppl up who have been home educating (the EWO role) or even in researching those using it as a valid and legal lifestyle choice.

2:47 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Of course, I apologise if I have accidentally misled anyone and will remove from my post the parts to which you are objecting.

But the question remains, Mr Heppell: what is your interest in Elective Home Education?

2:47 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger mamadillo said...

Prof Heppell, I'm not the blog-owner here either, but I'd like to comment on your comment...

Your expertise, as it stands, appears to be grounded in curriculum, 'top down' education. The blog author, and many (most?) of her regular readers are autonomous educators, some by belief that the optimal way for children to learn is through following their own interests at their own pace and in their own way, some because their children simply won't accept 'top down' education. It is from this point of view, this bias perhaps, that we are asking what your expertise is with Elective Home Education, and wondering your inculsion on this panel will lead to, in terms of recommendations for Elective Home Education, and worrying that it may lead to new restrictions on how we provide our children with an education, when it appears that your idea of what education should look like is so different to ours.

3:02 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Tim said...


You have signed yourself up as an accomplice in the DCSF's persistent programme of unfounded vilification of home educators. (See the eConsultation).

You shouldn't therefore be surprised if people are inclined to the view that you have taken the enemy's shilling and then judge you by the company you keep.

3:18 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

If nothing else, it's encouraging to find that at least one member of the panel is trying to gather information 'from the inside'. Rest assured, Professor Heppell, I for one have never formed my opinion about someone on the basis of what one single other person says. I did follow the useful links on Gill's blog and came to my own conclusions.

But I think I can identify with your feelings.
You must feel like I felt when I saw how in a national newspaper - which probably reaches more readers than Gill's weblog - the Baroness Delyth Morgan openly associated home education with child abuse. And when, consequently, people around me were whispering things about 'no smoke without fire', and all that. And my youngest daughter was asked very suggestive questions by a medical nurse...

About being misrepresented: You'll find yourself in this comment box amongst people who know the real meaning of that word. You suggest that we should be lucky with the quality and experience of the panel Mr Badman is assembling. But I wonder what you would feel like if everything you care and live for is being discussed by, and decisions are being prepared by people you feel have no real knowledge of your personal field of expertise.
If the only way you can voice your opinion officially is through six - leading - questions, the answers of which are going to be analysed by who knows who before they are being presented to the Reviewer.
It would be nice if at least one of the questions would have given us the possibility to suggest who we would like to be represented by.

Gill's blog is Gill's blog. Nothing more and nothing less. She doesn't pretend to speak on behalf of anybody but herself. She says what she says in her own very unique way, and for most people who read here it's more than obvious that she reflects her own thoughts and opinions. Most of all, whatever she says, there is always the possibility to comment and discuss. Which is why we were all able to read your response.

I suppose if I would be reading something that had my name in it, I would focus on the text around that. But I sincerely hope you will take the time and make the effort to make use of the links in Gill's sidebar. Maybe you will then understand why we are not ready yet to lie down and surrender ourselves to the wisdom and experience of the review panel or anybody else that seeks to judge us without full information.

3:18 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger mamadillo said...

*stands up and applauds Mieke*

3:34 pm, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have only one person who knows home education well in a panel supposedly judging home education, that says it all really.

I do not accept that S. Heppell or any of the other people mentioned are expert or even competent to judge how home education works. And, if they are not aware of how home education works, why are they on a panel judging it?

If G. Badman wishes to assemble a panel to talk about home education it should be a panel of home educators. You don't ask a panel of mechanics to supervise your hernia operation, do you?

D. Varty, Autonomous home educator

4:38 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Augustin Moga said...

I, for one, would had appreciated if Mr. Heppell also shared with us his thoughts in regards to Gill's proposals for the panel -- Mike & Jan Fortune-Wood, Roland Meighan, Barbara Stark. Could these named individuals improve "the quality and experience of the panel that Graham is assembling?"

(And, to borrow from the consultation's tone, if Mr. Heppell is of the opinion that the named individuals cannot possibly add anything of value to the esteemed panel, why does he thinks so?)

Sure, I understand that it is Mr. Badman who chooses the panel members; yet, Mr. Heppell's opinion about who should or shouldn't be a member of the panel would have been counted as the opinion of an expert in EHE. (As opposed to the opinion of someone, Gill, who is simply practicing EHE all day long.)

5:15 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Merry said...

"Well, that is more than a bit harsh and pretty hostile. "

Yep, that is pretty much how i felt when i saw the headlines linking home educators and child abuse.

I'm also not feeling very lucky at all to have a panel of experts collected together to pass judgement on my way of life when there is no evidence to suggest that we need judging. I'm feeling rather persecuted actually.

In the past, academics were once rounded up because of their interests and beliefs; if you can empathise with how they must have felt, Prof Heppell, can you empathise with how we feel? If you can feel outraged that Gill has perhaps made an incorrect assumption about you, based on perhaps misreading some information that was perhaps presented with a bias, can you empathise with our anger and frustration at being "reviewed" and judged without a voice of our own and without anyone understanding what we actually do? Can you imagine that we, who would rather be concentrating on our children, have been driven to fight our corner because we are being WOEFULLY misrepresented by people who have no idea what home education is REALLY about?

5:29 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I think a lot of Steven Heppell's work looks quite interesting, TBH. I also think that we should look for allies where possible and believe that there are academics in the field of education who might very well be just that. Our daughter, for example, goes to a fortnightly group run by the South Downs Centre for Self-Managed learning, which sits quite comfortably with our autonomous, home based approach. I don't think it helps us to assume that everyone who is not a home educator has no grasp of the theories involved. The practice is, of course, something else. But govt is always rather more interested in the views of people who have the time to write papers about things than the people doing them! Which is why our responses probably carry little weight.

Also, I agree that there are not enough people on this panel with specific knowledge about home education which is, after all, what this review is supposed to be about. Jan Fortune Wood's book "Doing it their way" (which I believe was her doctoral thesis) is an excellent synthesis of the theories behind autonomous education informed by years of experience in the UK home educating community. If she were on this panel then I'd sleep a little more easily.

6:12 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

IMO, in a panel of 6, at least 3 should come from a background with direct experience of HE. If they want academics they have 4 to choose from in Roland, Alan, Jan and Paula.

7:07 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Well, thanks one and all - perhaps especially Allie, Mieke and also Gill for her apology and presumably corrections.

I'm in Sydney right now then the US and it wouldn't be appropriate to start to committee's work here online - we haven't met yet - so I'll bow out here.

No doubt as with all these processes we will be taking advice, listening to witnesses, looking in places like this and informing our judgements.

No doubt too you will continue to worry. But we are assuredly not all predisposed to a model grounded in curriculum, 'top down' education, very far from it. It is a very good panel in that way.

I speak often enough of the death of education and the dawn of learning - search for me on YouTube for example - that you should take heart.

Thank you for all your contributions.

7:39 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

You're welcome, but you didn't exactly answer my question! What is your specific interest in elective home education?

Or - to put it another way - why are you on a panel of experts about us, when you seem to know so little about us?

Whatever other kinds of education you know about, unless you have actually done elective home education or spent a lot of time with families who are doing, I promise you won't know much about it.

This is why we're worried. We're being judged for something we haven't done, by people who don't know what it is that we do. And, as Merry said, we're being largely kept in the dark.

You might not be in favour of top-down education, Professor Heppell, but from our point of view this review certainly feels like a top-down process, so far.

7:49 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Martin Nairey
Oh goodness here we are an alternative to badmans ict
and I cannot resist asking if bringing the concept of ''we don't trust your parents not to abuse you'' is really an appropriate alternative to demonising children

6:40 am, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Kathy Sylva is involved with dcsf
I am struggling to find independence in this review panel

7:14 am, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks for those Elaine, bad news though they are.

I would respect an 'expert' panel advising about Elective Home Education if it was made up of home educators in the majority. Otherwise, not.

7:35 am, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Heidi said...


Having a review of elective home education run by an ex-teacher is like having a review of organic free-range chicken farming run by a battery chicken farmer. Asking an ex-EWO to review home education is like asking a great white shark to review swimmer safety.

If you don't understand why we say these things - or if you think we're less than completely serious in this viewpoint - then that is precisely why people like you should not be presuming to voice opinions on home education.

<<< But we are assuredly not all predisposed to a model grounded in curriculum, 'top down' education, very far from it. >>>

The idea of applying "a model" of any kind to home education is inappropriate. It is up to the parents of each individual child to determine what constitutes a "suitable education" for that child.


8:25 am, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

There was a different analysis from Firebird on this yesterday.

2:59 pm, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

And another from Mum6kids.

3:20 pm, February 18, 2009  
Blogger mamacrow said...

Dear Professor Heppell, I am sorry you felt unwelcome and unfairly critisised. I think maybe that the instigators of this review, and the writers of the questions within it remain (unhintentionally or otherwise) unaware at how deeply hurtful, worrying and insulting it is, which is frustrating.

This is NOT just about educational choices. This about the whole identity of the family, and society and goverment's respect and trust in parents.

I for one was appauled at the construction of the review. Termonolgy was extremely vague and unspecific, there were leading questions, questions that were contrary to current legislation, and the whole thing - being so open-ended - is going to attract heavy amounts of qualitative results, and I fail to see how accurate and useful quantative analysis could ever be derived from it.

In case you are wondering what qualifications I have to critically comment on the review in this way, my degree is in Library and Information and I worked for a Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust for three years in Governance, training, designing and carrying out clinical audit.

From what I have seen of your work, to me it appears you are trying to re-invent school - which is a great thing, but it is not EHE. The panel has attempted to be balanced, but fails to have any EHE specialist on there - if someone with personal experience of EHE was not wanted, why was the flexible learning network not utilized?

I hope you feel able to pop back here from time to time, and maybe even visit other EHE blogs - I for one, find it a valuable experience to have (virtual) face to face discussion with a member of the panel.

Even if your first comment was a little antagonistic and agressivly defensive - not a good start really :D

Still, debate is great... if the two sides actually wish to increase their undestanding and knowledge of the other's point of view.

11:04 pm, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Here are LB's thoughts on this.

11:15 am, February 21, 2009  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

It seems that Barnardo's will not be participating in Badman's review.

10:01 pm, February 23, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Excellent news. Thanks Jeremy.

8:23 am, February 24, 2009  

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