Friday, June 12, 2009

Autonomous learning can't be planned

That's the whole essence of the method! It is child-led, not parent-led learning, which is what enables it to so uniquely and precisely address the child's aptitude, as well as his age and ability as required of us in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.

In the introduction to his report [opens pdf] Mr Badman says:

Parental attitude, support and expectation are the key determinants of educational success. Indeed, as the national Children’s Plan makes clear it is “Parents not Government that bring up children” and there is nothing in this report which sets out to contradict or modify this contention.

And, while it may not set out to contradict or modify the contention, I'm afraid the effect will be to step too far across that crucial line.

In point 3.11, he says:

This review does not argue against the rights of parents as set out in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 outlined above, nor their deeply held convictions about education.

And yet Section 7 confers a duty, not a right. The conflation of these terms undermines the whole logic of the Badman review, in my opinion.

Section 3.12 of the report reads:

As stated previously, the term “efficient” has been described in case law as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”. On this basis there surely can be no argument against those who choose to educate their children at home being required to articulate their educational approach or ‘philosophy’, intentions and practice and with their child demonstrate its effectiveness. Indeed many do so already. This is not an argument for prescription; on the contrary it is simply an argument that the rights of parents are equally matched by the rights
of the child and a recognition of the moral imperative of securing education for all children commensurate with their age, aptitude, ability and any special needs. [My emphasis]

But articulating a philosophy is quite a different thing to setting out a detailed annual plan twelve months in advance and the child subsequently being required to demonstrate to officials all of the 'progress and attainments' (about which, more later) set out therein, at risk of being ordered into school if she fails to do so. This is quite Draconian and is absolutely not compatible with the method of autonomous learning or unschooling as we know it.

It seems, from this item in the first recommendation, that registration is even to be conditional on approval of the plan:

Guidance for plans

So if my plan says something like: "I plan to continue to facilitate the autonomous education of my daughter, undertaking to enable her self-directed learning and to respond and reply appropriately to her curiosity and preferences throughout," this is likely to be rejected and I will be forced, if I wish to remain registered as a home educator, to submit something more along the lines of: "This year, my daughter will learn to understand multiplication as repeated addition; understand that halving is the inverse of doubling and find one half and one quarter of shapes and small numbers of objects; begin to understand division as grouping (repeated subtraction); use vocabulary associated with multiplication and division" etc. (from National Curriculum Mathematics Key Stage 1) which seems to be the only language some educationalists understand.

We will then have to spend the ensuing year making sure that all of the aspects of our plan are fulfilled, regardless of my daughter's natural aptitude or inclination to do so. This will bear no relation to autonomous learning in any way whatsoever, and while as her parent I might still be bringing up my child, I will be doing so at the government's behest and under its specific instruction, regardless of my day-to-day interpretation of her needs, much of which I will be forced to ignore.

The final element of recommendation 7:

Allow the child to demonstrate

fails to make clear the consequences if the child declines the opportunity.

Other consequences, however, have been made clear - albeit through back channels. Failure to compel one's child to attend school full-time or to be registered as a home educator with the Local Authority will be prosecuted under the Truancy Act with the threatened penalty of imprisonment, which we know will be imposed by the courts without hesitation, just as it has been to date.

So we either home educate according to the government's idea of what an appropriate plan should constitute, or our children attend school full time, or we go to prison. These are the choices laid out for us by the Badman Review.

Recommendation 9:

Local Authority training

therefore looks pointless, as there will in the end be very little difference, variation and diversity in home education practice of which to gain an understanding.

It will, as a comment to my previous post asserts, therefore be impossible for Mr Badman's request in point 10.1 for further research into the efficacy of autonomous learning to be fulfilled.

If you read this post of Jax's to the end, you'll get a further poignant indication of how this will adversely affect our children's education and the day-to-day lives of our families.


Blogger Barry said...

Yes, the devil is in the detail again. It seems to entitle them to do little, or (more likely) a lot to intervene in how HE is conducted in individual families. It could be that you propose your autonomous approach, and they say 'fine, you clearly know what you're doing, we'll see you in a year's time, but get in touch if we can help at all'. Or (as seems more likely) you present your approach for the coming year, and they needle and fret and fuss, and say we can't approve it unless you have some plan of teaching these maths skills, or perhaps you could direct your child in this direction, or we need to see a plan of how progress will be measured...

Will they accept that Child A's parents intend to teach maths for 3 hours a week, and Child B's intend to teach maths as and when it occurs in everyday situations?

We're some years off school age, but I'm not intending on home educating so I can sit at home teaching the national curriculum for 7 hours a day!

1:13 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Diane Oliver said...

Brilliant. You said what I failed to articulate whilst reading the report last night.

All autonomous beings in our household are horrified by all this.

2:17 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Tom said...

A better approach would be to discuss and show some evidence of progress made over the *previous* year. This applies to all education.

Submit a plan, by all means, and then ignore it.

As for re-applying to be home educators each year: that's ridiculous. We *are* home educators.

They are school bureaucrats.

2:27 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

Well put, Gill. This is the heart of the threat to autonomous HE. As I was saying to D last night, I refuse to be told who I must be to my own children. I am not, and will not be, someone threatening and cajoling my children to keep to some plan.

3:36 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I had to splurge on this. I've blogged it.

I was part of a conversation between about twenty/thirty home ed parents at a group today. People are not just going to give their children's freedoms up.

5:32 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Augustin Moga said...

My comment is somehow related to Tom's...

Can't remember on what blog I've read about a family who kept notes and artifacts produced by their home-schooled kids with the main purpose of using them when the time came to submit a study plan to the authorities. (They were required to provide such plans every year.)

Well, each and every year they were "planning" on doing precisely what the kids have been doing the previous year.

This way, I'd guess one can obtain a 100% "efficiency" (to use the term as Badman defines it).

6:14 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger saralexis said...

Thank you.

They're nasty pieces of work aren't they!?


6:21 pm, June 12, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

@ Augustin Moga

LOL! What an excellent idea! I've got enough old stuff of dd's that I could probably do that :-)

But seriously, they can take their 'minimum standards' and their monitoring shove 'em. My dd is NOT a performing animal.

6:34 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Fioleta said...

I suspect that most parents will figure out a way to write a plan that is vague enough to allow different interpretations to fit whatever learning their children achieved at the end of the year. (which will make the whole thing just a big waste of time).

Here is a post I read ages ago done by a Unschooling mum in US who had to write Individualized Home Instruction Plan

6:44 pm, June 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Gill. You've very clearly articulated something that I've been struggling to word since yesterday - I'm very glad I came across this and can direct people here where they can read such an excellent expression of the concerns that I feel myself.



7:50 pm, June 12, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Thanks Gill, I love the clarity you bring to this.

Augustin Moga what a great idea and I just love the subversiveness of it.

10:31 am, June 13, 2009  
Blogger Schuyler said...

The idea that I have to take my big, wonderful, embracive life and take it apart, weigh it and measure it and force fit it into the little boxes that they believe a well educated life inhabits.

I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestions to use your previous years "attainments" (what an awful understanding of life) to set up the current year's goals. It won't work for a school leaver if the proposal that a school can state what a child's future attainments will be goes through. How awful that is given the need for deschooling and time to heal from the damage they wrought.

Oh, it just beats at me.

11:31 am, June 14, 2009  
Blogger Schuyler said...

I didn't finish my first sentence. Man, school clearly educated me to standards...

The idea that I have to take my big, wonderful, embracive life and take it apart, weigh it and measure it and force fit it into the little boxes that they believe a well educated life inhabits makes me so sad and so fearful. I don't want to see the things that I do with Simon and Linnaea, the moments of looking at a heart on-line, or having a conversation about Norse mythology, or Linnaea drawing a picture of one of the cats, as a check on the balance sheet of their education. I don't want to dance to a beauracratic beat.

1:38 pm, June 14, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Can we tell the parents of school children that the gates are now open and they can SUE SUE SUE if their child has not learnt to read by age 8?
Do parents throughout England realise that come Oct employees of the Local Authority will be able to take their child alone into a sideroom and ask them intimate questions in order to determine (by their own criteria) whether their child is being abused.?
Would it be wise if parents throughout England woke up and realised that the Home Ed review was merely a cover to allow them to bring in new legislation which will effectively leave their families at the mercy of state officials , that their responsibilities as parents will be removed and enter the hands of the state.

6:06 pm, June 14, 2009  

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