Mr Badman, Professor Heppell, bullying, Notschool and Becta
Hopefully I'm still allowed to talk about Graham Badman and Becta, because I gather that's where he's going to work, or has started already. And I'd like to quote the following remark he made in a conversation at the Bromsgrove meeting as recorded on the Facebook group, in the hope that he won't also feel bullied by me so doing (but I think we are entitled to question the connections and business interests of those who are reviewing us):
He would have offered [her a] computer that talked when she was seven.
Hold on: I'd better put that in the proper context:
Hettie talked of her very severe dyslexia, not being able to read even her own name aged nearly nine when she left school. Talked about how any compulsion to read or spell before she was ready would have terrified her-ditto any home education inspector coming in to make judgements would have really upset her, she was so frightened after her experiences in school, to be judged again. And she also pointed out that anyone coming to assess the suitability of her education would have been highly unlikely to agree it was suitable when she still couldn't read at 12. She said she finally 'got' reading aged 13. as though someone had thrown a switch.
Now she reads well-he asked what she was reading now and she told him that her first ever novel was Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Grey as her home ed friend had recommended it as something she would enjoy. I said before that she had only practised with a Tarot card book and some magazines.
She also said she had concerns because she is sure a LA would insist she needed specialist help and she is concerned that if her parents had turned that down would they have been seen to have been failing her? She said she would find that very worrying and very distressing as we had been failing in our responsibility to provide a suitable and efficient education, when she was in school-and that is why we removed her to home educate.
She said it would be good if support could be offered to home educators as it may be welcomed by some, perhaps especially those who children have SEN, but it must never be imposed as that would be a disaster for some-including her!
Badman said he would have offered computer that talked when she was seven. Hettie said she would not have been ready at that age and to have had it imposed would have left her hating using computers as well as putting her off reading completely.
She also told him that MSN (instant messaging) fantastic aid for reading and spelling-because it was fine for her to have a go, talking to her friends and if she misspelled something folks would assume she was using text speak or had mistyped it. [Julie Bunker's words (thank you Julie) - my emphasis]
That's actually very similar to Tom's story: deregistered at ten with severe dyslexia, unable to write his own name, self-confidence on the floor. With the help of a friend who was qualified to teach dyslexic people, we tried various tactics to help him but nothing worked and his frustration seemed to make matters worse. A few months later, I started listening to my own instincts and to the advice of other home educators, and allowed him to deschool, after which we haven't looked back and Tom now feels to be practically free of his earlier, crippling symptoms.
But in the first year we were visited by an LA inspector, who gave Tom some text and demanded that he read it. Tom struggled and to my mounting horror the inspector proceeded to humiliate him, until I eventually interceded and asked if he knew how dyslexic Tom was: he didn't! He hadn't even read our file before coming to the house! This is a major reason why many of us are not in favour of LA monitoring, because experiences like that can only compound the damage that many of our children have suffered at school.
I digress - but only slightly.
In many of the newspapers I've picked up in the past few months, this advertisement has appeared on a half-page spread:
So I followed the link, which took me to here and clicking the about link takes us to a page that says, amongst other things:
Next Generation Learning is a government campaign initiated by Becta to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning and education. It is our ambition to utilise the benefits of technology to create a more exciting, rewarding and successful experience for learners of all ages and abilities, enabling them to achieve their potential. Only one in five schools and colleges are currently using technology to its full potential. Help us change that – get involved with Next Generation Learning.
We are living in a technological age. These days young people are likely to be more at home with technology than most adults. Whether they are sending a text message, surfing the web or using an interactive whiteboard in school, the daily use of technology is second nature to many children by the time they reach secondary school. This is great news! Evidence shows that when technology is used well in education it can offer enormous opportunities for your child.
So far, so much with which I'd agree.
Next I clicked on 'Partners' to find myself being urged to "Get involved with [and help promote] the Next Generation Learning campaign today!" What campaign? There's a 'get involved' button, but that just leads to this page:
which consists of a form to enable one to "Sign up to be kept up to date with the Next Generation Learning campaign," but I still don't know exactly what the campaign is for. If Becta is a government department, or an org sponsored by government or whatever, which wants computers put in every school and as many homes as still need and will have them, then why doesn't the government just do it, without bothering with a campaign? It's obviously more complicated than that, but I can't think how.
So they're into ICT, and they think it's a great learning tool. Good: so do I. Though you can call me a hippy (or a bully.. whatever..! ) but I don't love it at the expense of other things, like fresh air, freedom and spontaneity. And I think it's very important that we hear Hettie's voice when she said:
she would not have been ready at that age and to have had it imposed would have left her hating using computers as well as putting her off reading completely.
As parents, most of us have learned the hard way that to impose anything on our children doesn't usually lead to good outcomes for them. Each child is different and they all come to things in their own time, including computers. It so happens that my children have all enjoyed using them from an early age but not every child does, or even should. ICT is not the answer to every educational problem. (Though admittedly as far as I can tell, Becta doesn't seem to be saying it is.)
And many families, particularly the Steiner advocates(?) don't want ICT equipment in their house, or involved with their children's learning. I think these families' freedom of choice in this matter is protected under Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the EU Human Rights Convention, which:
provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.
But what still mystifies me is why Graham Badman, (who is reportedly good friends with his panel member Professor Heppell) is conducting this review, which - as we all remember so well - is supposedly all about protecting our children from parental abuse. These men are obviously very keen on the use of ICT in learning, and are both involved with organisations which exist partly to further this purpose, so what's the agenda? I suppose we don't have much choice but to wait with bated breath and see what the review recommends in June. (If the recommendations are actually published in June.)
Meanwhile, there are some things we can be doing. The petition closes tomorrow, if anyone still hasn't signed it, and I understand that there are some complaints going to the information commissioner about DCSF's failure to respond to FOI requests within the set time. This is also a great read, if you want a quick summary of what's been happening. I especially like the last paragraph:
It is undoubtedly an exciting and challenging time for home educators across the UK as they are face up to threats from Government and allied ‘rent seekers’ on an increasingly regular basis. While cats may be difficult to herd, they will still come out fighting when cornered; and the biggest cats of all, the lions, live in ‘prides’ and will savage interlopers who threaten their young. As a home educator once remarked: “Home educators make difficult and dangerous prey”. The UK Government and its NSPCC henchmen would do well to heed that warning.