Thursday, May 14, 2009

A valiant hero

Matt Hupfield, home ed warrior, has been doing battle with Staffordshire County Council to see their response to the review here, on 'What do they know?'. He first asked for the information on the 23rd February and finally, after much determined perseverance, he was successful this Tuesday 12th May.

So, here is their response [opens Word.doc].

In its response to question 7, the authority admits:

We probably do not know about a fair number of home educated children in the area

but its response to the follow-up question 8: "Do you think that you will be better able to track children in your area in the near future? E.g. planned changes to your own systems, ContactPoint, other system improvements?" is puzzling:

Why do you think that?
There will be a number of families who would be willing to engage with the local authority……but… (see below)

One wonders why they think a number of families will be suddenly willing to engage when they weren't before. The 'but' part is here:

Why do you think that?
BUT….A number of families will not want to work with the local authority and will invoke "shielding" for their children and also want to hide behind the nonstatutory guidance ie not enable the LA to discuss arrangements with child/young person. It will therefore be impossible to ensure that CYP is achieving the ECM outcomes. Safeguarding a major issue!!!!!!!!

An eight-exclamation mark major issue! (!!!...) Blimey, it must be bad. And am I alone in cringing at our dear children being constantly referred to as CYP? How on earth Staffs council thinks that it can ensure that home educated children are achieving the ECM outcomes, when many of the aims attached to those outcomes are impossible for home educated children to achieve and most are unnecessary and not even compulsory (yet..) on the basis of the one annual home visit it later says it prefers to conduct in most cases, beats me. I'm reduced to wondering whether this response's author (Peter Traves, it says at the end) has even read the aims attached to the outcomes and therefore knows what he's talking about.

Accessing the authority's website page about home education (linked from the response) I see that the information there is reasonably accurate and within the law and current guidance. I wonder, then, how their utterly bizarre response to question 16 ("How is the ‘suitability’ of the education provided to the child assessed?") came about:

Parents are able to provide documentary evidence which demonstrated that their CYP is engaged in a range of activities - the evidence can be written verbal electronic or graphic. The CYP ought to be acquiring new and varied opportunities to further develop their personal learning, knowledge and thinking skills and understanding.

Particular emphasis should be upon reading, writing, mathematics, ICT, creative and problem solving / project work. An opportunity for the CYP to discuss their achievments [sic] and match with parents [sic] aspirations. The EHE provision should be well resources [sic]. Staffordshire County Council feels that on its own no EHE philosophy is enough, and that further evidence of an endorsement is required.

I mean, what?? (Yes, that was a two question mark 'what', but it could easily have been an eight.) I'm getting the horrible feeling that the person who wrote this abomination is actually the one who conducts the visits to the poor, beleaguered registered home educating families of Staffordshire, though I do hope I'm wrong.

Ignoring the first, inappropriate and ultra vires part: "An opportunity for the CYP to discuss their achievments [sic] and match with parents [sic] aspirations." .. What? Why..? Discuss their achievements and match with parents' aspirations..? The more I say it (even spelled correctly) the less sense it makes! What does he mean? Is it like one of those computer matchmaking services that put people together whose details sort of fit? What if the "CYP"'s achievements don't match with parents' aspirations? Back to school with him then? Or with them? The mind boggles. It's certainly got nothing to do with the legal position, or the theory, or practice of elective home education. Does Mr Traves receive public money for the issuance of this tripe?

The rest of that quote is, of course, incorrect. Parents are under no legal obligation to demonstrate anything of the sort, and nor should they be. School education has to be broad and balanced (new and varied, whatever..) to try to suit the majority of the high numbers processed through that system, but the home education of each individual child can be as focused and precise as necessary. If the child doesn't want to "be acquiring new and varied opportunities" all the time, she doesn't have to. Not all children do and nor is it always necessary for optimum learning (to which we are free - indeed legally obliged according to Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act - to fit with the child's aptitude as well as age and ability) to be constantly doing something new. Natural learning tends to be quite obsessive and seems to work best when the student is allowed to focus exclusively on the subject in hand for as many days, weeks, or months as they seem to need. This is how my oldest son developed the skills by which he now, as an adult, earns his living. If I'd kept making him stop doing that and dragging him off to "acquire new and varied opportunities", he'd be struggling to do that now and would probably be drawing from the public purse instead of contributing to it.

The person who wrote: "The CYP ought to be acquiring new and varied opportunities to further develop their personal learning, knowledge and thinking skills and understanding," hasn't lived with a child and really - I mean really thought about how they learn. He has this strange idea that education is something that's done to a person, regardless of their opinion, interest or aptitude. That educating a child is like training a dog, only slightly more complicated. But it's not, if you want to do it properly. Whoever wrote Section 7 of the Education Act knew what they were talking about though, because aptitude is crucial.

Particular emphasis should be upon reading, writing, mathematics, ICT, creative and problem solving / project work.

Er.. no. Particular emphasis should be upon whatever the child needs it to be upon. This is not school education. We are not working in order to provide evidence of work. This is individually tailored, student-centred, uniquely adapted, M&S home education. It does not have to place particular emphasis upon reading, writing, mathematics, ICT, creative and problem solving / project work or anything else, unless it wants to and then for only as long as it wants to. It usually does involve a combination of most of those things, but it doesn't have to. It entirely depends on the child.

Staffordshire County Council feels that on its own no EHE philosophy is enough, and that further evidence of an endorsement is required.

Well then, Staffordshire County Council holds its residents in deep mistrust. And anyway, what exactly is "further evidence of an endorsement"? First, by using the word 'further', it admits that the ed phil does count as evidence (Not that the law requires us to provide evidence: it only advises us to provide information about the educational provision when asked.] and second, my dictionary defines 'endorsement' thus:

endorsement n. 1 the act or instance of endorsing. 2 something with which a document etc, is endorsed, esp. a signature

- and 'endorse':

endorse 1 a confirm (a statement or opinion). b declare one's approval of. [med.L indorsare (as IN-, L dorsum back)]

So basically, Staffordshire is saying that it must approve the provision. Not true, and not necessary. The law as it presently stands is perfectly adequate. If the LA thinks the provision is not suitable, it must issue an SAO which the parents can then opt to defend themselves in court. If the court decides the provision is suitable, the SAO is revoked. I know which one I'd rather take my chances with if I lived in Staffordshire, judging by this response.

At least, in its response to question 17, the authority admits that it is not clear about what the definition of a ‘suitable education’ is, because:

There are no national set standards.

- except that a 'suitable education' is nothing to do with national set standards and is clearly defined in the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf] as follows:

A “suitable” education is one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.

Question 21:

Does the local authority face any challenges in assessing whether home educated children receive a suitable education?

is answered:

Yes. Avoidance tactics by some parents which mean that the LA cannot see the child or the learning environment. It should be a requirement that parents must register and agree to undertake a review of their provision by a LA EHE officer where the child is also presnet [sic] and can desribe [sic] their achievements. A Statutory code of practice ought to support the rights of the child and the responsibilities of parents and Local authorities.

But how does 'seeing the child and the learning environment' prove anything, when both could be staged to suit the apparent requirements of the LA? A conversation with a child once a year would not be enough to prove the education was suitable. The LA would have to monitor 24/7 to do this properly and even then, only when the child, grown up, was successful in surviving "within the community of which he is a member" or in "some other form of life if he wishes" could the provision be definitively endorsed. In other words, it's a non-starter. If there is no appearance of failure to provide a suitable education, such as would stand up in court, the family should be left in peace.

Question 23 is about safeguarding..

Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?

and the answer:

A child may never been seen; the Education Act does not require this!

(Only one exclamation mark?!) Sigh. Eunice Spry's foster children were seen both before and after their deregistration from school, by supposed experts in child abuse - much good it did them. Why do officials think that sight of an apparently healthy child is evidence of lack of abuse? It isn't. You can't prove a negative. I know people who were abused throughout their childhood, attended school every day and were quizzed by other adults on the issue, but whose abuse still went undetected. The solution to the problem of abuse (if indeed there is a solution) goes much deeper than mere sight of a child. It needs to consider the reasons for the abuse, and to protect against those, in my opinion, but that's for another blog post.

I wonder how Mr Traves imagines that home educated children might feel, being paraded before him on an annual basis, so that he can use his amazing bionic eyes to check for signs of abuse from their parents? Is that not in itself abusive? Must we all be subjected to ritual public abuse and humiliation in order to carry out this seriously flawed process of trying to detect some deeper, more secret abuse? How disturbing, and how bizarre.

Oh, next he admits:

Where the local authority may have undertaken regular reviews there are no guarantees that once these have taken place that the CYP would be safe until the next review!

Blimey. What does he suggest, then? Constant, total surveillance? What if the surveillors are closet paedophiles? There are no guarantees about anything.

Question 26 asks:

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families and ensuring that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes?

and now he really lets rip:

All CYP are registered and monitored - parents have a duty to demonstrate how there child is recvieving [sic] a suitable and efficient education to cover the key areas of:

A All ages (5-16)

• Understanding English, communication and languages
• Mathematical understanding
• Scientific and technological understanding
• Human, social and environmental understanding
• Understanding physical health and well-being
• Understanding the arts and design.

B Personal Learning and Thinking Skills - to be considered during Key Stage 3 & 4

Independent enquirer - process and evaluate information in their investigations, planning what to do and how to go about it; take informed and well-reasoned decisions, recognising that others have different beliefs and attitudes.

Reflective learners -evaluate their strengths and limitations, setting themselves realistic goals with criteria for success; monitor their own performance and progress, inviting feedback from others and making changes to further their learning.

Self manager - organise themselves, showing personal responsibility, initiative, creativity and enterprise with a commitment to learning and selfimprovement [sic];
actively embrace change, responding positively to new priorities, coping with challenges and looking for opportunities.

Team worker - work confidently with others, adapting to different contexts and taking responsibility for their own part; listen to and take account of different views; form collaborative relationships, resolving issues to reach agreed outcomes.

Creative thinker - think creatively by generating and exploring ideas, making original connections; try different ways to tackle a problem, working with others to find imaginative solutions and outcomes that are of value.

Effective participator - actively engage with issues that affect them and those around them; play a full part in the life of their home, college, workplace or wider community by taking responsible action to bring improvements for others as well as themselves.

Parents should give some thought of how they can best present evidence of learning of A , and B, so that the local authority can be satisfied that the child is receiving a suitable education. For instance this could be as

• drafted/redrafted written work;
• graphic / annotated drawings;
• photographic portfolio/record;
• video;
• Practical demonstration / presentation or demonstrate any flair / expertise / strength.
• Third party testimonials
• Reading log
• Project(s)

Where has he copy/pasted that lot from? What does it mean? Are all of our children supposed to be all of those things, all at once? Because it's not specified.

He doesn't want much, does he? Nice of him to give us a choice of how to demonstrate it all, though. Very kind.

In a nutshell, he seems to think our children should all be in school, or that we should all be school teachers. God help us if this nightmare vision ever comes to pass. It makes EO's plans look almost reasonable.

OK no, it doesn't do that, but it's laughably bad though, isn't it?


Blogger Gina xx said...

It is extremely difficult to totally hide a child unless you happen to be Josef Fritzel!

Can we quote Terry Pratchett to the LA's

[In the ninth book of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, Eric, one of the characters insists that "Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind." ]

A diseased mind indeed!

8:07 am, May 14, 2009  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

On how to keep children safe:

Blog post about the Convention on Modern Liberty, mistaken because children were discussed but accurate about what Cory Doctorow said on how to keep children safe.

"During the evening plenary, he announced (I paraphrase):

"If you want to keep your children safe from paedophiles, teach them not to submit to authority. If you want them to keep all their information safe, teach them how to use encryption tools. Don't restrict them, because that won't help them learn anything.""

I was there and that is pretty much what he said, it cuts straight to the centre of the argument that the Government and LAs just don't understand.

8:17 am, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Laughably bad, indeed!
CYP?! I'm still not sure what it means exactly, I guess something to do with Young Person... But anybody describing our children like that should be immediately banned from any further contact with them! The lack of proper interaction (socialisation?) with real people probably caused the frame of mind from which such terminology erupts. Damaging.

9:58 am, May 14, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

CYP had me jumping up and down shouting at the screen, and Elaine for that matter who was on the other end of messenger when I was reading it. It's utter discriminatory tripe, and the lack of proper spelling, punctuation etc etc is shocking.

11:44 am, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Ruth said...

O.K what is CYP? Also why is it that these government drones can never string sentences together in a coherent manner or spell correctly? I love his wishlist of learning targets. Bless him. I don't think anyone has told him we only need to provide an education suitable to age,aptitude, ability, taking into account any SEN. Well I won't be moving to Staffs.

12:03 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I'm assuming CYP means child or young person

12:06 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

There's more about Matt's battles with Staffordshire CC here. Thanks to Lisa for the link to that.

3:23 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Michelle, Nottingham said...

Well done to Matt for his dogged determination and end result and to Gill for writing, as always, such an eloquent composition.

As ever, it worries me that those charged with the job of "over-seer" have a poor grasp of not only the law, but also of the English language. Shame on them!

3:32 pm, May 14, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

You missed a sic. Understandable considering how many were needed :-)

"parents have a duty to demonstrate how there [sic] child"

6:27 pm, May 14, 2009  
Anonymous suzyg said...

CYP is child or young person - I've just commented on our children's trust's CYPP (children and young people's plan).

Of course, given Mr Treves' spelling and keyboard skills, it might stand for something completely different.

Back to school with him say I!

8:36 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Sheila said...

"Where has he copy/pasted that lot from?"

Sticking this into google comes up with a few clues:

• Understanding English, communication and languages
• Mathematical understanding
• Scientific and technological understanding
• Human, social and environmental understanding
• Understanding physical health and well-being
• Understanding the arts and design.

And rings lots of bells...

Beginning to sound like a very stuck record but Scotland is a bit "ahead" of England in terms of curriculum change and you should have a look at our curriculum for excellence (ignore the fluffy phrases borrowed from us nice folk :) and go straight to the "OUTCOMES").

Had a right old rant over on Renegade Parent last night (with pictures and everything thanks to DS) so will not repeat......boring myself now.

Why do people swallow this crap!


PS Thanks Gill :)

10:30 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

so who did write the bit about *aptitude* in the education act? I would be interested to know!

11:57 pm, May 14, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Strange aint it that all this has gone into Badman from many sources and yet to our knowledge he has at no point come back to the home ed community with any points he wishes to clarify.
How many researchers gather together everything they believe they need for a study and use ,solely, that material?
Surely a study of a subject involves a gathering followed by a studying followed by a filling in of gaps in knowledge that have come to light, seeking to clarify issues that have come to light and seem to have opposite fields of views etc
After all to just gather and sow results in a very poor crop

1:56 am, May 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My child with dyslexia can spell better than that.
I might add that all my children are persons in their own right and not CYPs or some other bizarre label.
I have just re-read that last bit about what they think parents are obliged to produce. Ye gods and little fishes. WHAT are these people ON?

7:02 pm, May 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Where has he copy/pasted that lot from?"

From the National Curriculum part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's website.

I believe that's called plagiarism? Tut, tut.

Read it for yourself on

11:38 am, May 22, 2009  

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