Saturday, June 06, 2009

I know I've had a break, but....

What on earth is this all about?

Sources close to the review have confirmed that its author, the former director of children's services at Kent county council, Graham Badman, is looking "favourably" at proposals that would require parents to register their children with their council when they are born or when they move to a different local authority.

Don't we already all have to register our children at birth? And won't Contactpoint join all the dots anyway, making the above idea tautological?

The part that interested me a bit more was this:

The review, which is due to be published in the next week, is also expected to recommend new guidelines on minimum standards for educating children at home. This would clarify the circumstances under which a local authority can order a child back into school, if it believed the provision at home was not up to scratch.

This is likely to mean - for example - that if I think my child is ready to read at ten years old, and the Local Authority officials, who don't know her at all, thought that she should have been ready to read at six years old, my child would be 'ordered back into school'. Actually, that's also the same as the present situation, isn't it? A school attendance order if the information supplied doesn't satisfy the LA that the provision is efficient, full-time and suitable etc., in the Local Authority's opinion? Then the parent gets to defend her provision in court.

I suppose the worry is, as Carlotta sets out here:

Since home education for many families is integral to the whole of their private as well as public lives, the state will now have access to and power over the most intimate parts of their existence. It isn't just a question of the state deciding the form and content of an education. It is about families having no autonomy or freedom whatsoever.

but I don't know, personally, whether I would make that leap based on the content of the Guardian piece. It doesn't say anything about home visits or the state having access and power. Being registered as a home educator with a Local Authority doesn't presently give LAs automatic access to the home and I can't really see any reason why it should.

Jacqui Newvell, a principal officer of the children's charity the National Children's Bureau (NCB), which took part in the review, said: "We need to put children's interests at the heart of this and embed a children's rights agenda instead of a parents' rights agenda. This is a very, very sensitive issue, We know a lot of home educators are doing a great job but our concern is the minority who slip thought the net."

Yes you're right Jacqui. It is a very, very sensitive issue. We've been having a lot of discussion about parents' and children's rights and which 'agenda should be embedded'. It comes down to this: who knows best the exact needs of each individual child on a daily basis - officials who don't know the children at all, or parents in the vast majority of cases? Parents, of course. Parents are in the very best position to protect their children's right to a suitable education, good health and happiness. Many of us see unwarranted official intervention as a threat to this, meaning: it's a threat to our children's rights and to our parental responsibility to protect those rights.

And don't muddy it all with the Khyra Ishaq case. Lisa talks about that very powerfully here. The child died because she allegedly had cruel parents: not because of home education. If we need full-time school attendance to spot cases of serious abuse or neglect in children nowadays then there's something seriously wrong with our society, isn't there?

I'd like to see a review looking into that please, and leaving well-functioning home educating families in peace to do what they do best for their children.

I needed some time off, but it's good to be back :-)


Anonymous Jax said...

And it's good to have you back.

I'm not sure about this registration at birth idea at all, just doesn't sound plausible to me. Wonder if they are doing the ask for big thing when they are prepared to settle for small, which would be registration at school age?

Think Contactpoint may be falling apart at the seams from some of the reports I've read, don't think the data quality is up to much. It's supposedly live this month in our area, so I'll let you know if I get any contact.

I'm intrigued by the minimum standards. For starters they don't achieve that for school going children do they? So how are they realistically going to impose it on home educated children? And how would they work out whether these targets are being attained? Would they be set according to the age, ability and aptitude of each child? How would they determine that ability and aptitude?

Think maybe some votes on the petitions site for the general election that the Conservatives are calling for could be the way forward! At least the Conservatives as a party are slightly open to the notion of home ed.

7:01 pm, June 06, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

The leaked reports of the report aren't sounding too encouraging in my opinion. Isn't it the case that the early results of reports are usually quite accurate when they are disclosed?

The quote in the press from the NASWE representative who claims that school is the best place to keep children safe is beyond a joke, far out from reality. I am surprised that with all the evidence to the contrary the organisation hasn't stepped n to apologise, distance itself from the remarks and announce categorically that his comments are outright lies. Then again, it seems that apologies from national organisations are hard to come by.

I remind myself that the report is just that - and any recommendations still have to be officially noted and assessed, also that the system in Eire (which is what the leaked reports sound similar too, to me) are well known to be unworkable.

Glad you are back Gill :)

7:11 pm, June 06, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Jax. I've racked my brains and can't imagine how 'minimumn standards' can be imposed either. I haven't got the first idea how they can ascertain the ability and aptitude of children who don't attend school.

Thanks LB. You're right: it is just a report.

12:24 pm, June 07, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great that you're back, ducks.

Badman has to earn his £275,000 (or whatever) salary somehow so he has to produce 'a report.' He isn't likely to bite the hand that signs the massive cheque by saying 'Aw, leave them home edgercaters alone, they ain't doin' nuthin.'


3:28 pm, June 07, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Welcome back Gill.

I wasn't shocked by what the Guardian report disclosed- compulsory reg and an attempt at minimum standards are what I am expecting to see as recommendations.

I am, however, really frustrated that logic and rational argument has been consistently ignored by policy makers, bureaucrats, the media (often but not always) and many individuals - in favour of emotive but unsubstantiated claims, soundbites and spin.

We'll have to see what happens this week but the effort that people are putting into tackling unhelpful attitudes is fantastic.


4:41 pm, June 07, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Oh! Welcome back! I thought I had typed that bit... Lovely to see you in Google Reader :-)

4:42 pm, June 07, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Diane, and good point!

Thanks Lisa - you did type that bit! :-) And public policy seems to be powered by unsubstantiated claims, soundbites and spin, doesn't it? Although who or what is doing the steering is quite another matter.

8:15 am, June 08, 2009  
Blogger Carlotta said...

Hi Gill,

I agree that simple registration in itself wouldn't be much of a problem though I also suspect that there could be more to it, eg: it may involve a sort of vetting process.

However, if it is just simple registration, I would still be very concerned about mission creep.

In the last week alone, I have heard so many more stories of unwarranted LA intervention in HEors lives: of LAs putting more and more pressure on previously unhassled families, of them being dissatisfied with evidence of education, and even two cases where the evidence has been massively distorted and misrepresented to other parts of the LA.

I fully expect to see more of this sort of problem, even if registration is only of the "sign here on the dotted line" kind of thing.

10:36 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Carlotta,

I think there's a lot wrong with compulsory registration for home educators only: I'm dead against it and always have been. My point in this post was about the 'registration at birth' idea, which presumably all parents would have to comply with, not just HErs. It seems tautological because when you put the current requirement to register births to national government together with Contactpoint (assuming it ever gets off the ground and works properly) then local authorities should always know which children are where.

I agree with you about the problems that compulsory registration is likely to cause.

6:50 am, June 11, 2009  

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