Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking at the panel (11)

The 11th and final member of the review panel is Beth Reid, from the National Autistic Society, who is there for her knowledge of Special Educational Needs.

Oh dear. I was actually quite hopeful about this panel member, but I've just come across a report she's co-written called 'Make school make sense for me' [opens pdf] in which "Samuel, aged 12, talks about home education, returning to school, and ambitions."

Turns out Samuel, aged 12, isn't being electively home educated or even receiving an education at home. He's actually receiving three lessons a day in a learning support room, presumably provided by his Local Authority. He and his mother think this isn't enough of an education for him (and nor is it: so much for "efficient, full-time, suitable.."!) and all he wants is to get back to school.

I really hope Ms Reid understands, now that she's on the panel of a review about elective home education, what we consider to be home education. How can the council-provided variety (which is when a pupil can't attend school for some reason but whose parents don't opt for deregistration so the Local Authority is obliged to continue to make educational provision) even be called home education, when it doesn't take place at home? I know, elective home education often doesn't happen at home either. Electively home educating families are often out and about attending workshops and gatherings and so on, but in most cases the provision remains at least loosely home-based, so the term's use can be justified. But the non-elective verson? They should call it LA Education or - at a push - EOTAS (Education Other Than At School) which it's already often known as.

In a cached article about the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act , Ms Reid said:

The obsession the government has created around testing has impeded the drive towards inclusion

So.. she's not a fan of testing, but she is a fan of 'inclusion'? I'm not sure whether that's good news or bad, then.

Ms Reid has written this article [opens pdf] about autistic children being the targets of bullies at school. I liked the article: it showed great sensitivity and was easy to read, but I was sorry to not see parental deregistration explained as a viable option, even though:

Many parents say that the added distress of bullying has
led their child to self-harm or to feel suicidal.

She attended this All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism [opens pdf] last April, although it was actually the government minister's answer to her question that I found fascinating:

Beth Reid, National Autistic Society thanked the Minister for her comments about the NAS and asked how independent living can be made a reality for individuals with Asperger syndrome who may be dependent on their family for support yet fall outside the Fair Access to Care Services criteria
• Anne McGuire replied that in terms of independent living, the general principles highlighted in the strategy document represented the direction of travel for delivering services.

The general principles highlighted in the strategy document represented the direction of travel. Is that another open admission of preplanned mission creep, or just the ordinary kind of waffle?

Enough. I've read a lot about Ms Reid now - as much as I could access, and I can see that she seems to be industious, eloquent and passionate about children with Special Educational Needs. However, sadly, I can find nothing to suggest that she has ever thought that parents could provide for those needs.

Still, if she campaigns as energetically for the rights of electively home educated SEN children as she apparently does for schooled ones, she will perhaps be a help, rather than a hindrance to our cause.

Tomorrow I'm planning to post a summary of the 11 panel members.


Blogger Barry the Jackal said...

I keep getting the impression of panel members whose experience or area of expertise may be interesting, and worth consulting and considering, but is rather tangential to the actual matter at hand - elective home education. SEN, care services, exclusion, children's rights, safeguarding, monitoring, provision of online learning platforms, curricula, welfare... One would be forgiven for thinking this is a panel assembled to address the 'problem' of families where the child has fallen out of the education system, is at risk of abuse or neglect, is missing out on any form of education (as though aducation and schooling were synonymous), drifting towards trouble, in need of re-engaging through regular visits, online learning options, tailored LA attention... Rather than families who are home educating and getting on perfectly well thank you.

But that's the crux of it, that gets lost in their reams of pdfs and white papers. The government sees a problem, most electively home educating families see no problem. They are getting on with enjoying their lives - reading, swimming, going to museums, playing with friends, chatting, cooking, investigating, sharing ideas, pursuing interests.

I'm increasingly convinced the whole thing is two-fold
a) home-educating families fall outside of the ideological 'norm' - they don't go to school, follow timetables, learn the 'proper' respect for arbitrary authority, wear uniforms or follow curricula, they aren't divided and graded, assessed, measured, they aren't constantly accounted for, supervised, watched by officials, they may not prioitise typical measures of success such as exams. They learn at their own pace in their own space with as little or as much time as is needed, no concomitant feelings of 'succeeding' or 'failing', learning life by living it. I'd imagine the govt don't like this in itself - in a society where they want to monitor and track our every move, and subject everything to targets and initiatives, the idea of a number of people deciding to go about their lives differently, freely, must rankle (ooh, all sounds a bit 1984!). Plus if everyone started realising they could live more freely, where would we be?!
b) it doesn't fit in the slightest with the ECM framework, as your careful analysis has shown, and which certainly needs no elaboration from me.

Feel like lots of things are overlapping in my thoughts at the moment, I've been (re-)reading Foucault's Discipline and Punish, a fascinating read and seems quite topical at the moment!

10:37 am, April 29, 2009  
Anonymous Paula said...

Sounds like Prof MacBeath would have been a better choice. Here's what he told journalists (after The Costs of Inclusion report):

"Physically sitting in a classroom is not inclusion. Children can be excluded by sitting in a classroom that's not meeting their needs."

The typical secondary school timetable - rushing from physics, to history then French, say - was for some children as bewildering as being "on another planet".

"You might call it a form of abuse, in a sense, that those children are in a situation that's totally inappropriate for them."

11:29 am, April 29, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

It figures. Why would they pick someone who knows about Autism AND EHE? They don't actually WANT panel members who know about EHE because they wouldn't give Mr Badman and the government the answers that they want.

1:33 pm, April 29, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Gill you have done a tremendous service this series is of great value both now and in the months to come, thank you

2:14 am, April 30, 2009  
Blogger Ruth said...

Echoing Elaine. Thanks Gill. From a Mum with kids with disabilities I think the party line is that inclusion forces them to be "normalised." I know it doesn't and forcing them to be like other kids is harmful and abusive. I also agree with Paula's quote that sitting in a classroom is not inclusion. I think the ptb are worried our children with disabilities will not be "normalised and "forced to conform" if they have their needs met at home. Ultimately this may mean more money being provided by the state as they grow into adults. It isn't always true of course. Both my AS dd's are at or going to college and many children who are schooled do not end up in paid employment regardless of disability. I also think that disabled people should be cared for and be allowed to be who they are and celebrated for that. But I am an idealist.....

10:58 pm, April 30, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Barry I think that's an excellent appraisal of the situation and I agree with your two-fold analysis. I've never read that book. Putting it on the list now though and hoping I manage it one day.

Paula, I've never heard of him/her but judging by that quote I quite agree!

Firebird, you might very well think that...

Elaine, thanks.

Ruth, you too, and keep going with that idealism! It's what the world needs IMO.

8:20 am, May 03, 2009  
Blogger Riaz said...

I am involved with people with Asperger syndrome and my experience of the NAS is that they are very pro school. A few years ago I read Make School Make Sense and I was uncomfortable with it. Knowledge of HE within the NAS does not appear to be very strong, and there seems to be an attitude that HE is bad and not in a child's interest and that inclusion in a mainstream school is best. Connections between the NAS and HE organisations are very weak and mainly exist on an informal basis.

I have a suspicion that the NAS is a fake charity operating as a servant of the government. Just like with EO and parents starting out with HE, the NAS is usually a parent's first port of call when they suspect or are informed that their child has autism or Asperger syndrome. This is because of its size and familiarity.

11:09 am, May 06, 2009  

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