Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: looking for weak points: Part 5

Part 5 of the Badman report [opens pdf] is about

The Current and Future Role of Local Authorities and Children’s Trusts

Its first paragraph:

5.1 As outlined in the previous section, local authorities were much criticised by home educators in their responses to this review, for their perceived lack of understanding of the various methodologies and approaches within home education and their manner of engagement with the parent and/or child. On the other hand, local authorities often expressed considerable anxiety for the wellbeing and progress of some children and the failure of some parents to respond to what they regarded were quite legitimate requests for information about the suitability of education. They have expressed in response to questionnaire and in interview their dissatisfaction with the current legislative position and guidance, which many find unworkable. In particular, the absence of a more precise definition of what constitutes a “suitable” and “efficient” education militates against benchmarked attainment and being denied access to the place of education, and the opportunity to speak with the child, prevents them from fulfilling their current statutory duties referred to previously.

contains 158 words, 45 of which relate to responses from home educators, on whom the review is supposed to be based, and the remaining 113 words are devoted to the sentiments and concerns of local authorities. This is a ratio of 2½ to 1, which I think just about sums up the balance of the report as a whole. Extremely biased against us - almost laughably so.

He goes on unsurprisingly in point 5.2:

I have been greatly impressed in my visits and conversations with local authorities..

and sets out some instances of what he calls good practice - including Stafford, of all boroughs!

Point 5.4, containing recommendation 7 is one that causes home educators and their children the most consternation:

Point 5.4, containing recommendation 7

Indeed, there are so many problems with it that it's quite a task to think about listing them all. But list them we must:

  1. Why should 'designated officers have the right of access to our homes', when we have committed no crime? Why should our private, personal, intimate retreats (and, more crucially, those of our children) be subjected to arbitrary invasion by strangers under threat of (we hear) forced removal of said children to full-time school attendance at best, or into the 'care' system at worst? What has this country come to?
  2. The family home should be - always was - sacrosanct. For children, it has to feel like a safe place, but its routine inspection by local authority officials will feel like violation, not safeguarding. Yes, some children do live in fundamentally unsafe environments in which case families might benefit from help and support, but traditionally this business was firmly within the realm of social workers, who are trained and experienced in the delicate management of such issues.
  3. Elective home education is not, on its own, sufficient reason to suspect child abuse or an unsafe home environment and it's a blatant lie to suggest it is.
  4. To allow 'designated officers' the right of access to people's homes without good reason is to set a dangerous precedent, with implications for all families, home educating or not.
  5. Allowing 'designated officers' the right to speak with each home educated child alone is another high risk manoeuvre, from the point of view of home educators. What if the 'designated officer' in question has secret motives, other than the ones stated? What if he upsets, or frightens the child, asks leading questions or misinterprets the child's answers? There are no guarantees that this will never happen, and for the government to allow such a right is a clearer statement than ever before that it has more trust in local authority officers - essentially strangers to a child - than it does in children's own parents.
  6. "In so doing, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well." Actually, not. They'll be able to satisfy themselves that on that occasion the child appears to be safe and well. Again, there are no guarantees that any children will be safe and well all the time, whoever is taking care of them. I think most of us would therefore contend that these proposals aren't really about the safety and wellbeing of children, but about the blatant invasion of government into private family life.
  7. "That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration," is such an obscurely-phrased suggestion that it certainly warrants closer inspection. My first thought on reading it was "Allow the child? Why would I ever prevent her from doing something she wanted to do?" Then on the second reading, I was struck by the incongruity of the words required to allow. Because surely, to allow something is to have the power to deny it - otherwise the whole concept of allowing is a nonsense. And then of course, the outrage. Our children are not performing monkeys. This proposal is for nothing less than testing to take place, the avoidance of such stress for our children being a key reason for many of us to elect to home educate!
  8. Again, the word 'allow' signifies some sort of choice in the matter for the child, otherwise a different word would have been used, like 'compel'. So, if the child has the option to refuse, what would be the consequences of such refusal? This is something the child would need to know before he could make an informed choice and of course, if the alternative to agreeing to perform such a demonstration was a school or care order, then it wasn't really a choice at all and would therefore be a fundamentally dishonest procedure.

After all of that, this is a joke, surely..?

Such new powers will still depend upon, and be more effective, where there are good relationships and mutual trust, respect and open communication between the home educating family and the local authority.

.. when the relationship is to be made akin to that between the East Germans and their Stasi? The degree of Doublespeak is astounding.

And then of course, in point 5.8 and recommendation 12, we have the oft-predicted ICT/Becta factor:

point 5.8 and recommendation 12

So in due course, one can't help wondering, are we all going to be made to run only Becta-approved software in our homes, on Becta-approved machines? You might think this an unduly paranoid or cynical fear, but seen in the context of the rest of the document, I don't think it is.


Blogger jenny said...

It is Orwellian. There is a deeper aganda behind all this.

3:45 pm, June 20, 2009  
Blogger Sheila said...

This is the "online" part of the Curriculum for Excellence which is being introduced in Scottish schools. (Heppell is a Glow fan...)

"If this works well it could provide a model for home educators, hospitals and children unable to attend school. It will also be technically possible for teachers to upload lessons for their classes from their sickbeds if they are absent ill and for poorly students to do the same in reverse. The most delicious promise is that some of the activities provided in the resource can be automarked by the system."

Thanks for doing all this Gill :)

4:59 pm, June 20, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

At the moment social workers have the right to ask to see a child if they have legitimate cause for concern , if access is refused they have automatic access to the courts / police to ensure they can verify whether the child is in need of support.

Baby P was seen but it appears from what we are told that his home circumstances were kept hidden by meetings outside the home is that fact relevant enough for 11 million children to have their privacy disregarded or is that just a sign that social workers dealing with a difficult case should be paired up so they are more confident about entering homes???

Gov have decided that access to homes is needed and not just social workers they want health visitors uncle Tom Cobbly etc to have right of entry , they want privacy rights thrown out of the window.

Joe public will not stand for health visitors having right of access and the right to examine under 5's without parents present so they look for another way.

Ah lets go for the home edders they dont attract public sympathy and we have a court case coming up that will bolster our case , if we can use them to get right of entry / see child alone legislation through we can just word it so it gives any public service employee right of entry to any home (mmm lets think is it 750000 employees accessing contact point? ) so 750000 people who could theoretically access a childs details 'find' an unticked box and toddle along with their I.D. card and demand to see the child...alone

7:12 pm, June 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking that Badman and Heppell will benefit from this. Isn't it a crime to propose something to enslave a population to benefit from it yourself?

I ain't paying for their yachts.
New blog entry: I am fire!

11:45 pm, June 20, 2009  
Blogger these boots said...

Thank you for doing all this Gill. I am beginning to have hope that we can successfully fight all this stuff. The review is so full of gaping chasms of misinformation, isn't it?

On an aside, I've just been motivated to complain to the Press Compaints Commission about this TES article:

I was heartened to see so many sensible comments on the article, for once.

8:16 am, June 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

". On the other hand, local authorities often expressed considerable anxiety for the wellbeing and progress of some children and the failure of some parents to respond to what they regarded were quite legitimate requests for information about the suitability of education."
This the bit that absolutely gets me going.
OK they are anxious but this is usually about their lack of understanding and not justified.
however the worst bit is saying parents fail to comply with what they regard as legitimate requests.
It is the LA staff who fail by not accepting or recognising that those requests are not legitimate. if they were making legitimate requests they would have the powers to back them up.
It is precisely the fact that they are not legal requests that means they do ot have the power to back them up.
Their opinion does not make their actions legitimate - only the law can do that.
This wording is sloppy and outrageous ad shows absolutely no intellectual rigour.

10:59 am, June 21, 2009  
Blogger Tom said...

If a social worker rings our doorbell and we ask her if she has a legitimate cause for concern about our child, is she obliged to answer truthfully and say what the concern is?

12:02 am, June 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole thing is very badly written with obvious massive holes in logic throughout. I can't believe Badman cared much what he wrote because the whole thing is just a paper excercise for the agenda they intend to impose whatever happens.
While many Tory MPs are saying they are on our side-there is a marked lack of promise that this would never happen under them.

12:50 pm, June 22, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Jenny, I agree.

Sheila, what a horrible idea. Thanks for the link - I will follow it up.

Elaine, are they saying that if they'd had access to Baby P at home, they'd have removed him? First I've heard, if so. I agree with you that social workers must be given whatever they need to feel braver about entering homes if they're concerned, but it worries me that the only available solutions nowadays involve professionals. The drive to push mothers into paid jobs means there's no safeguarding community at home in a lot of places now.

I wonder, now that we've seen the vindictive nature of his report, if Mr Badman actually asked for this remit, or whether it was just given to him out of the blue. It strikes me as being more than a political manoeuvre where he's concerned.

"Joe public will not stand for health visitors having right of access and the right to examine under 5's without parents present so they look for another way."

Oh right yes, I see your thinking. So you think we're just the precedent for statutory home inspections?

Diane, it's called a conflict of interests, and it's deeply unethical even if it's not a crime. Seems to be par for the course in some circles though, nowadays.

Wow Lucy - I skimmed through the article when it was published and then dismissed it. I hadn't read the comments until you posted the link here - thanks. Yes they're fairly unanimous, aren't they? I don't think the TES has ever been our friend TBH.

Jo, you're quite right and Graman Badman is an LA man through and through isn't he? With the added Becta agenda.

Tom, I think she is, isn't she?

Shell, that's a good point. I think we might go and see our local prospective Tory candidate.

7:51 am, June 23, 2009  
Blogger Carlotta said...

That bit about requiring the parents to allow their child to demonstrate suitable ed is carefully written, I now think. It seems to suggest that despite Badman giving every appearance of not having listened to us about how HEors do take children's rights extremely seriously, he does actually understand that children have rights and that it is encumbent upon the LA to take them seriously.

A lot of HEks will want to refuse to demonstrate to some stranger that their educational provision is satisfactory. They could say, afterall, that it would be an infringement of their rights to copyright, after which, what?

Since LAs will have explicitly taken on the role of establishing that HE provision is satisfactory, and they won't be able to do it if the child refuses to show them anything, they will be liable for not being able to establish if a suitable ed is taking place, so presumably they will have to proceed to the issuance an SAO, when, if I have this correctly, it becomes a matter for the parents to demonstrate that effective provision is taking place, and I suspect that if HE children are involved in the court process, they no longer have the right to refuse to demonstrate an education, in which case, many of them will be found by the courts to be in receipt of a suitable ed, and hey ho, that's a waste of everyone's time.

In the meantime, the child could also take the opportunity to show that the LA had invaded his privacy, had tried to take away his intellectual property rights and had caused him such upset that they had failed in their duty to promote his welfare.

7:58 am, June 24, 2009  

Post a Comment

<< Home