Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: looking for weak points: Part 3

Point 3.11 of the report [opens pdf] is perhaps one of the most crucial, in my opinion. It begins:

3.11 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. I believe it would be wrong to seek to legislate in pursuit of an all embracing definition of “suitable”. However, such is the demand and complexity of 21st Century society and employment that further thought should be given to what constitutes an appropriate curriculum within the context of elective home education. Such a curriculum must be sufficiently broad and balanced and relevant to enable young people to make suitable choices about their life and likely future employment.

First, Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act sets out duties, not rights. This is a fundamental - and, we have to believe, deliberate error running through this report. Elective home education: the deliverance (in elective home education) or delegation (to schools) by parents of any and all compulsory educational provision is a legal duty, not a legal right. It is our legal duty to ensure our children's education is suitable and efficient. The education acts confer this duty on parents, because parents know their children best and are therefore in a position to ensure the provision is suitable for them. Mr Badman seems not to have grasped this. His conflation of duties with rights is bizarre and goes some way towards explaining the damaging and vindictive tone of the whole report.

Also, if the parents hold deeply held convictions that curriculum should be child-led, then of course the review - indeed this very point - goes against them by recommending that "further thought should be given to what constitutes an appropriate curriculum within the context of elective home education". These are our beloved children. Does he not assume we think about such things all of the time? An enforced 'broad and balanced' curriculum does not 'enable young people to make suitable choices about their life and likely future employment'. My older son is already employed on a full-time basis in his own business purely because he did not have to follow a broad and balanced curriculum, but could devote his time instead to refining what he was good at. My younger son and older daughter look set to go the same way. If Mr Badman has his way, my younger daughters (aged 2 and 6) will not enjoy the same privilege. Instead, their lives will be more like mine was a quarter of a century ago: wasting their adolescence on subjects in which they had little interest with even less idea of how to live the rest of their lives. This is degenerative, not progressive.

He goes on to quote Article 29 of the UNCRC:

States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.

- adding the bizarrely unsubstantiated rider:

It could be argued that adherence to Article 29 would demand further definition of the term “efficient”.

How could this be argued? In my experience, autonomous home education complies perfectly and naturally with every aspect of UNCRC article 29.

Moving on from this extremely shaky position, Mr Badman's point 3.12 states:

3.12 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 [sic] 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.

Again, repetition of the meaningless rhetoric about parents' rights, instead of duties. There has to be a reason for it. It's a spot we must pick.

"..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.."

I think most of us could and would do this, even though we would prefer to spend all of our time focusing on our children instead of wasting segments of it pandering to such requirements for no good reason other than that we are not trusted to properly carry out our natural, inherent and legal duties. But this is the part at which we we baulk:

..and with their child demonstrate its effectiveness.

Because it's bad enough that as parents we may have to jump through hoops to pander to the government's mistrust, but unthinkable that our children should also be made to do the same. This, as Diane reminded me by email, is about checking - if such checks are necessary, with which we still disagree - the parent's provision of the child's education. Not the child's uptake of such provision, about which she still has a choice (unless the government is planning to legislate for that too?)

The potential damage caused to children by having to undergo such a process is immense. The stress and pressure of the implicit threat: If you fail to satisfy the officials of the effectiveness of your education, you will have to go to school will be extreme. Children will suffer weeks if not months of sleepless nights because of this. It will probably adversely affect their health, their wellbeing and of course their education, because how can a person focus on their studies if they're in a state of extreme anxiety? And all because the government does not trust parents to carry out their natural, inherent and legal parental duties.

Guilty until proven innocent, and punished as such: children and parents alike.

6 Comments:

Anonymous suzyg said...

It's not just that the government doesn't trust parents - this is a subconscious (or possibly deliberate and cynical) attempt to divert public attention away from the failure of government to provide an environment in which children have a high likelihood of being safe, well-educated and happy.

8:59 am, June 18, 2009  
Anonymous suzyg said...

Oh, and the 'rights' issue? I found it interesting that the 1944 Act sees the child's right to a suitable education as giving rise to a duty of the parent, the teacher and the community to educate the child according to its age, ability and aptitude [for the mutual benefit of all parties].

The European view appears to be that the State has an over-riding right to determine the content and suitability of the education for child, which doesn't appear to square with the UNCRC at all, and the history of state control of education should make us all worried.

9:06 am, June 18, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Thanks for the updated sidebar, Gill!

" Such a curriculum must be sufficiently broad and balanced and relevant to enable young people to make suitable choices about their life and likely future employment."

My 19yr old, autonomously educated daughter is in (more than) fulltime employment, doing the work she always wanted to do, and serving the community at the same time.
I dread to think what would have happened to her if she'd stayed in school, where they told us and her "to just accept the fact that not all children are bright enough to go to university, but luckily she had a pretty face, so she'd be alright" and her teacher literally said to her - in front of the whole class - to start specializing in making coffee, because that would be what she'd end up doing anyway.

And how dare he use the UNCRC quote that the "education of the child shall be directed to: [....]
(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, [....]

when in fact the whole report breathes "Don't trust the parents and most certainly don't respect their choices".

3:27 pm, June 18, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Suzy, yes I agree. I didn't realise there was a divergence between the UNCRC and the EU. It's on my list of jobs to do some research on that.

Mieke, good point. And ditto with my 20 year-old son!

8:12 am, June 23, 2009  
Blogger Carlotta said...

Hi Gill,

Thanks so much for this whole series. So many issues covered so brilliantly.

I just wanted to check that I have this right:

When you wrote "...Not the child's uptake of such provision,"

Is it that Section 436a is not about child's uptake of ed provision?

(Sorry, tired..prob missing something!)

=====================

Also, I think it's clearly rubbish that the review does not argue against parental rights/duties to provide a suitable education, since post Badman, the state in determining whether an education is suitable as a matter of course, will set the measure of an education, effectively determining its content, and the state will therefore become responsible for ed provision.

The parents will no longer ultimately responsible for the nature of ed provision and must act simply as agents of the state.

Although section 7 doesn't deal explicitly with the matter of who decides the nature of an education, it does implicitly suggest, by holding parents responsible for ed. provision, that they are also responsible for determining the nature of it.

This would be subverted post Badman, so in other words, GB is talking complete rubbish: The review does indeed argue against parental duties and rights over the issue of ed provision.

10:50 pm, June 23, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Carlotta,

As you know, Section 436A talks about the duty of local authorities to identify (so far as it is possible to do so) children who "are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school".

My Concise Oxford has 17 definitions of the word 'receive'! They range from the most helpful [to us]: "to be provided with or given" to the least: "have inflicted on one".

But the issue of provision -v- uptake is potentially key I think, because to date educational provision is compulsory - its uptake is not, otherwise nobody will ever again be allowed to daydream at the back of a maths class.

It's an issue that never seems to be officially discussed or researched, isn't it? I suspect because the outcome would be uncomfortable for all of those vested interests.

"The parents will no longer ultimately responsible for the nature of ed provision and must act simply as agents of the state."

Agreed, and this is the ultimate dilemma for all those who would seek to control other people: at its natural conclusion, those kinds of systems break down because people need a certain amount of freedom in order to act responsibly and in a useful, peaceful way.

But power[-over] is addictive, isn't it? It sucks people in like a vortex and then they have no choice but to carry on, desperately trying to grab more and more of it.

"GB is talking complete rubbish: The review does indeed argue against parental duties and rights over the issue of ed provision."

Absolutely.

8:35 am, June 25, 2009  

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