Saturday, April 25, 2009

Looking at the panel (7)

The seventh member of the review panel is Stephen Heppell.

Hmmm.

Well.

I suppose you could say that Professor Heppell and I have history in terms of discussing his membership of the panel on blogs, although he bowed out of the conversation (again) a couple of weeks ago - which has given me time to think through and try to process exactly what was going on there.

He - and a few other people - talk as though we should be grateful for his close involvement with the review (remember, he is a personal friend of Graham Badman) because of his commitment to alternative education, the extent of which I do not doubt. But when I first looked at the original panel line-up, it was actually his name that caused me the most concern.

The problem is that most of the other Ofsted and obviously pro-establishment people are easier to dismiss, because nobody expects that they will wholeheartedly accept the idea of educational freedom. But Professor Heppell kind of looks like he might be on our side but isn't and this is what makes his involvement with the process more dangerous and worrying to me.

He has seemed to be in favour of what we do, but we mustn't forget what it is that he does. There is definitely a conflict of interests in my opinion between the fact that he runs NotSchool (and I'm linking to my son Ali's appraisal of it there) which offers alternative, remote IT-based provision for expelled pupils, and his position on this panel. It was when we started talking about NotSchool being very expensive for what it is, that he started to smear me as a bully, though it was only in hindsight that I put the two things together.

He has a business to defend. One with charitable status, maybe, but a business nonetheless. It presumably pays him a salary and enhances his reputation, which enables him to travel around the world for his various other projects. I wish him luck with it all, and would have been very happy to never think of him again had he not become involved with this supposedly independent review of elective home education.

And his comments on this thread of Carlotta's blog bear out my concerns I think. It seems to me as if he sees the present legal position of deregistration [from school] on demand as being a problem, as do many education officials. (I'd be delighted if he came here to tell me I'm wrong, by the way. If I am wrong I'm sure he'll have absolutely no hesitation in so doing.) Yet it's something that elective home educators feel very strongly about keeping. He also seemed to be - by a process of asking leading questions and making pointed suggestions - wanting to challenge the explicit absence of obligatory, regular monitoring as enshrined in this DCSF Guidance to Local Authorities.

Many of us have extensively and repeatedly explained how regular Local Authority monitoring would seriously damage our children's education and I'm not going to go through it all again now. I'll just link to my post about it here instead, if you want the details.

My fear, in a nutshell, is that Professor Heppell's contribution to the review might consist of "Yes, I think parental provision can be effective BUT it needs to be monitored and regulated.." and the others will nod sagely and say, "Well, if our friend here the alternative educator says that.." Which would be treacherous, from our point of view and I think is one of the reasons why - despite his best efforts - he could find nobody from our ranks who would go along with his 'concerns'.

Professor Heppell might well be an expert in persuading some disaffected and troubled children to engage with the government's view of what constitutes education, but he is not an expert in elective home education, which is a completely different thing.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Gill,

Yes, I agree with you. I think that Mr. Heppell is dangerous. I also think that he is selfish. If (big IF here) he knew anything about home educators he would know that most of them are as poor as church mice because they CHOOSE to educate their children instead of using state baby minders called teachers. Yet, he throws in comments about his boat, and his trip to Hong Kong.

No one said anything about Anonymous's comment either around the same time. It said something like whatever you think about the review panel it's not going to go away, no matter how you feel about it. That, to me, seems to sum up the governmental attitude in a pea shell. We will do whatever we like to you, with no reason at all, simply because we feel like it and you'll have to lump the consequences. A nasty mixture of ominous and childish really.

Only they've really taken on the wrong group. We aren't just any group. We are (mainly) mothers fighting for an important right. The right to allow our children to remain unaffected by an essentially bullying and potentially detrimental institution.

As I said to someone recently, "I'm a mother - don't mess with me!"

threedegreesoffreedom.blogspot.com

12:15 pm, April 25, 2009  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

"It seems to me as if he sees the present legal position of deregistration [from school] on demand as being a problem, as do many education officials."

As soon as they prevent us from taking our children out a school that is providing an inappropriate education for our children they take away parental responsibility for the child's education. That's when everyone can begin to sue the state when the provide a poor education surely.

It could be worse, look what they are up to in the states.

"The Mother's Act, if passed, will mandate that all new mothers be screened by means of a list of subjective questions that will determine if each mother is mentally fit to take their newborn home from the hospital."

http://www.dailypaul.com/node/89675

4:27 pm, April 25, 2009  
Anonymous suzyg said...

In response to Elizabeth and the comment about the Mothers' Act:

The Association of British Neurologists' response to recent NICE guidelines on recommended treatment for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) included the following:

"It almost seems that a select group of psychiatrists with a polarised view of this complex condition is directing the development of the guideline from 'behind the scene'".

ME treatment is clearly not the only thing they are directing.

8:22 pm, April 25, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

"No one said anything about Anonymous's comment either around the same time. It said something like whatever you think about the review panel it's not going to go away, no matter how you feel about it."Oh yes..! I noticed that too. "A nasty mixture of ominous and childish really." Yes, I completely agree.

"As soon as they prevent us from taking our children out a school that is providing an inappropriate education for our children they take away parental responsibility for the child's education. That's when everyone can begin to sue the state when the provide a poor education surely."That's the point of tension, isn't it Elizabeth? The march to totalitarianism seems to be turning into a kind of undignified, panicky gallop. Next thing: a law banning people from suing the state. After that in the UK: the Mother's Act, because these ideas seem to come from the same universal source, don't they? Gov.uk will just rename and rephrase it slightly in the hope that no-one here notices, as in No Child Left Behind and Every Child Matters.

7:11 am, April 26, 2009  
Anonymous Jax said...

I've just read the text of that act linked to, and I must be missing something, as I can't find anything about mandatory questionnaires before you get your baby.

Not that I'm saying it's a good act or anything, just that I'm not sure that we're looking at the base of the problem, more the hyperbole surrounding it.

1:18 pm, April 26, 2009  

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