Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Maintaining the status quo is out of the question." Time for some blue skies thinking.

Well, it's that kind of a day:



Mr Badman also said to Julie last Thursday something like: "In the light of the current climate of concerns over child safety, things will not remain as they have been up till now."

So I'm looking at these blue skies and I'm thinking...


He's right.


In the current climate, a lot of children aren't safe and they aren't happy. And nothing stays the same: everything in the universe is always in flux.

Looking at the figures on AHEd's anomaly campaign:


More than 360,000 children injured in schools each year
450,000 children bullied in school last year
At least 16 children commit suicide each year
as a result of school bullying
An estimated 1 million children truant every year
Treasury statistics show more than 1 in 6 children leave school each year
unable to read, write or add up


Terrifying figures proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that children are not safe in school, and yet many of those will not officially count as 'child abuse'. That ground is shifting too. If you want to take a peek at what will be officially classed as 'child abuse' in the near future, you need to look no further than this NICE draft guidance, about which I blogged in January.

So you can be a child who is deeply unhappy, suicidal, being bullied at school etc., but as long as you look clean and presentable, wear 'appropriate' clothing and do not cling unduly to your parents, your state of wellbeing will not officially worry anybody. On the other hand, you can be happy, contented and thriving in home education, being free to wear what you like regardless of convention - but woe betide you if you're especially fond of a piece of clothing of which you have now outgrown, for this will officially be a sign of child maltreatment. And if your beloved parent becomes distressed during the ensuing questioning and you move to comfort her - slam. That's another one. (I wonder if they'll operate on a 'three strikes and you're out' basis? It seems only sporting to give us some sort of a fighting chance.)


So. Blue skies.

Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin' everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day hey,hey


First: what's wrong with the status quo?

Where do we start..?

  1. Too many children are stuck in a school system that doesn't suit them. They might be being bullied, they might not be learning. They might be deeply unhappy. This could be fixed, if Local Authorities complied with their legal duty to inform parents about the option to home educate.
  2. Many Local Authorities make it difficult for some families to home educate without official interference. If the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf] were, I don't know, made statutory? That might remedy the situation.
  3. The government is phasing out Income Support, which means that some families will be financially excluded from the option to home educate. This will create a biased situation, which could be remedied by the provision of a realistic rate of Child Benefit payments for all families. This would enable those parents who choose to devote their time to their children to reduce their working hours accordingly.
  4. The ECM framework [opens pdf] is problematic for home educators and needs to be changed.


Runnin' down the avenue
See how the sun shines brightly in the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mister blue sky is living here today hey, hey


And then there are still going to be those problematic families who struggle to look after their children properly, exception to the rule though they are. Their children don't necessarily thrive any better in school than they would at home, but they need help all the same.


Whether or not they're being home educated, we already have effective systems to deal with such situations.


The problem is not that home educators could hide abused children. It's that Local Authority officials are either reluctant to use their current powers, or - amazingly - are totally unaware that such powers exist. There is also a lack of research to demonstrate the negative effects of monitoring on a child's education and wellbeing. We need a new, balanced system that takes all of this into account, but that doesn't try to fix anything which ain't broke.


Mister blue sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong?


We don't have to go along with the rhetoric. Yes, there needs to be change, but it should be the kind of change that actually makes things easier for us to enable our children's lives to be as good as they are, if not better.


Hey you with the pretty face
Welcome to the human race
A celebration, mister blue sky's up there waitin'
And today is the day we've waited for


It's just an idea, but we still have so many opportunities to interact with the review. Not just the scheduled meetings still to take place, but also the invitation for us all individually to submit the electronic equivalent of one side of A4 to the review team, all of which Mr Badman has promised he'll read. We could be looking at what we think is wrong with the status quo, and suggesting solutions for the review to fix these things. After all, it has to justify its existence somehow.


Hey there mister blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you


I think I'm going to do just that with my side of A4, personally.


Mister blue, you did it right
But soon comes mister night creepin' over
Now his hand is on your shoulder
Never mind. I'll remember you this
I'll remember you this way


And I think we should collect all of our submissions into one huge document with a summary of them contained in a press release for immediate circulation on the same day that the recommendations of the review are published - just to show what we perceived the problems were, and how we asked for them to be fixed.


Hey there mister blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you


And now I think we're going outside to play in the sunshine and to plant some more seeds.

This blog was brought to you by the legendary Electric Light Orchestra [opens flv].

18 Comments:

Blogger Elaine said...

Excellent idea Gill then the media and hopefully the public can see how hundreds of families individual outlooks on life can be thrown into a pot by a ex head (despite searching I have never seen a jot of evidence to support the claim he was an ewok and as he was head of dept (science which explains why he only asks children about scientific subjects) by the early 70's I cannot accept that he interupted his climb up the ladder with a change of career along the way.
Yup I can well see a parent telling of a childs green fingered ability to grow the family veg will become many children are put to work to provide for their families.
Another who visits the local elderly who include his grandparents and pops to the shop for their bits and bobs will become the child burdened with caring responsibilities.
No I am being silly the panel will be homest and say the problems lay with the LA's who do not follow guidelines, that abuse, neglect etc are already covered by present laws.. because they know the LA's will understand, they know LA's will not let it influence them when it comes to buying their software.........

11:02 am, March 24, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

A thoroughly excellent idea that woman :D

12:01 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Yup. That is where I am fast approaching.

Rather than being on the defensive about home educating - parenting, even - we need to be setting out our own stall for positive change, especially in the light of such things as the database state report etc. In terms of state expansion, I think the government are currently on far shakier ground than they care to admit.

Offering our own clear, positive recommendations for the future will also make it easier for non-HE families and other individuals to get on board.

Love the idea of a press release and bundle to coincide with the end of the review, but could we not leverage some of the concerns that have been stirred up the Joseph Rowntree Trust (and MMS for once) *now*? Maybe with a little something from Frank Furedi if you hear back from him?

Lisa

1:27 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Meant Joseph Rowntree Foundation :-)

1:29 pm, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Shirl said...

I love blue skies, particularly that you have to look up to seem them ... ;0)

Great idea Gill.

2:14 pm, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Shirl said...

Sorry, not seem but see lol!

2:18 pm, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

Gill, I have been thinking similar things recently - we can stop batting back the balls they throw at us (Tasmanian system etc)and throw a few of our own. I think a call to make the 2007 guidelines into statutory guidance would be excellent. I think I'll drop something in along those lines.

Beautiful blue skies, BTW.

5:32 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to be thinking about Blue Skies sung by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the musical White Christmas.

Maybe it's because they were so positive about everything. A problem? We can do this... It's difficult... No, we'll just do that.

Altogether a cheery film.

So saying, I think we should make it clear that WE are demanding, not asking. We are directing, not following. We are the experts. LAs are misguided and stumbling about in fogs of confusion.

We need to help them - give them support, as it were.

Diane

8:21 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

I will now have to go dig out all my old ELO CDs :-)

Oh, and excellent idea about making that A4 sheet something positive, telling Badman what changes WE want, because yeah, you're right the status quo isn't good enough. We've been settling for and making do and putting up with for too long.

9:04 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Barbara Stark said...

These are the corrected figures Gill

Each week: 450,000 children are bullied in school
(Yes, each week! We also misread it at first, but it is each week.)

Each year: more than 360,000 children injured in schools
Each year: at least 16 children commit suicide as a result of school bullying
Each year: an estimated 1 million children truant
Each year: more than 1 in 6 children leave school unable to read, write or add up

Barbara.

9:58 pm, March 24, 2009  
Anonymous Barbara Stark said...

Excellent idea. It would be good if we could think of a catchy title including the one side of A4 instruction from the BadMan. I am thinking of Labours 24 hours to save the NHS (!)
One side of A4 to .... ?

People could use the wiki to collect our sides of A4.

10:58 pm, March 24, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

I just think we need something hefty with which to counter the review recommendations when they come out, assuming they're not in our favour Elaine.

Tech, thanks - I should look at the sky more often!

Lisa I must read that JRF report and blog about it - I haven't caught up with that yet. Busy day today, but it's on the list of things to do, as is emailing Frank Furedi!

Shirl, me too :-)

Allie yes, because we're being steered in the wrong direction otherwise. It's time for us to do some steering IMO.

Ah Diane, I had that song in my mind too! It was a toss up between that and the ELO one. I totally agree with this:

"We should make it clear that WE are demanding, not asking. We are directing, not following. We are the experts. LAs are misguided and stumbling about in fogs of confusion. We need to help them - give them support, as it were."

Firebird, you have them on CDs?? You're posh, you are ;-)

Barbara thanks for that. I will correct my post. 450,000 a week?? :-(
I will try to think of something catchy, though it's not my forté really so don't hold your breath! The wiki would definitely be the best place IMO.

6:05 am, March 25, 2009  
Anonymous no_shoes said...

*Stands up and Applauds*

3:51 pm, March 25, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Agree wholeheartedly, wonder if we could have a list of pertinant points people could pick and choose from, especially for the human rights perspective, either on your blog or maybe the wiki. Not to make everyones page the same but to help people include everything they would want to and might forget. It could be started then added to in the comments.Just would be good to have it all in one place.

4:28 pm, March 25, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

Thanks Gill for a marvellous piece.
Just blogged and linked to you through my fever but blogger was having none of it! Shall try and come back tomorrow with a newly formed full response *sigh*.
Yes to everything and all comments so far, btw. Hooray for Mr Blue Sky!

10:11 pm, March 25, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the same era...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBAasek8NR4

Supertramp - the logical song


"When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well theyd be singing so happily,
Joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
Logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Wont you please, please tell me what weve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or theyll be calling you a radical,
Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Wont you sign up your name, wed like to feel youre
Acceptable, respecable, presentable, a vegtable!

At night, when all the worlds asleep,
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man.
Wont you please, please tell me what weve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am."

Sheila

10:42 pm, March 25, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Gill, just realised that was not the best version of lyrics possible. If I knew how, I would edit and replace with this which looks much better....



When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world's asleep
The questions run too deep for such a simple man
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am

I said now, watch what you say, now we're calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal
Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable

But at night, when all the world's asleep
The questions run so deep for such a simple man
Won't you please (Won't you tell me), (You can tell me what) please tell me what we've learned (Can you hear me?)
I know it sounds absurd, (Won't you help me) please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am

But I'm thinking so logical

Did you call, one two three four

It's getting unbelievable

10:55 pm, March 25, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

That's very appropriate Sheila - and another of my favourite songs. Thanks!

9:02 am, March 27, 2009  

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