Saturday, November 21, 2009

Assessment has an *ass* in it

First, I want to link to Dani's leaflet: “Parents bring up children, not Government” If you think this is New Labour policy, think again.

Parents bring up children, not Government

It explains the current situation for home educators, and contains some ideas regarding what we can do about it. I'll be linking to it from my sidebar: email me if you want the code for that and/or any of my other buttons there.

But today we're all talking about the impact assessment of the CSF Bill: this weekend's cat amongst the pigeons. The section on home education starts at page 83.

From this document we learn that the policy is expected to be implemented in April 2011. That gives us - and them - 17 months, if the bill goes through and everything goes according to their plan.

One question asked is: "Does enforcement comply with Hampton principles?" but I've never heard of those. Does anyone know what they are?

Costs relate to Local Authority professional and administrative officer time and also opportunity cost for parents/carers, giving a financial value to time spent with the local authority..

I wonder what is an 'opportunity cost'?

LAs estimate that 8% of 'home educated' children are receiving no education at all and 20% are not receiving a suitable education (including the 8%). Improving the educational attainment levels of these children would bring benefits in terms of increased job opportunities and salary levels.

LAs can't possibly have any idea about these figures, and - job opportunities for whom? And there is of course something deeply wrong with a system that openly measures our children's education in terms of financial output, unless we're to accept the ancient principle that only the elite can be allowed to learn for pleasure and everyone else must be trained for manual labour, which wouldn't be very Fabian of us, would it?

Page 86 contains something called the Evidence Base (for summary sheets), which is quite a hilarious title for what follows it.

There is evidence from serious case reviews and LA evidence that home educated children who are not regularly seen in the community are those where there are most likely to be child protection concerns.

That's straight from the Graham Badman school of logic, isn't it? Asinine.

While ContactPoint will lead to the right infrastructure for a registration database being in place and will prompt some follow up by local authorities, identifying electively home educated children is not its primary function.

No, but as a reason not to use it, this is weak.

We estimate that 100% of children will receive 1 in-year visit, with 50% receiving further monitoring.

There: you've got a 50% chance of being left relatively alone, if this goes through as it stands. I wonder if targets will be set.

We have not yet defined the content or rigour of a “statement of education”, but it is likely to be a short, word-processed document.

I'm lost now. Which 'statement of education' is this please, if anyone knows?

Registration will last 12 months, and will therefore be renewed every year. The intention is for this to be a light touch refresh of details, but may extend to a refreshed educational statement, which will be a short document.

Grasping at straws, but this is something we'd be able to hold them to, I guess.

Here's something about 'opportunity costs':

Opportunity costs to parents

The opportunity costs to parents of meeting with local authority officers have been factored into the costing. However, we have not included a cost for the preparation of an education plan on the basis that:

  • Even though parents and carers may not give it that name, it is a core part of planning ahead to deliver home education for their children. Any change will not represent additional time invested, but instead mean that parents and carers are using some of the time they devote to home education differently.

I've read this several times and I still don't understand what it's trying to say. Is it a recognition of the fact that all this malarky is going to take up our time, as parents? "using some of the time they devote to home education differently"? Is that a 'nice' way of saying that our children must sit in a corner and rot, while we compile plans and reports for the local authority? If so, I think we've just found the 'ass' in 'assessment'.

  • Curricula are available for immediate download from QCA and DCSF websites, and are adequate for the purposes of education planning.

*Baffled again.* Yes, but what have they got to do with us? We're not running schools. We don't do that kind of educational planning. And even if we did choose to do so, what's that statement doing in this document? It makes no sense to me.

The section on School Attendance Orders is slightly baffling too.

School attendance orders

The Badman Review makes clear that School Attendance Orders (SAOs) should be the ultimate sanction for taking a child out of elective home education and back into school. We considered including the cost of SAOs in our calculations, but have decided against it for the following reasons:
  • We have no direct data on the number of SAOs used by local authorities each year.
  • We can, however, use a proxy measure — Ministry of Justice figures on the number of adults sentenced for child truanting offences. This shows 1953 in 2003, 2072 in 2004, 2209 in 2005, 2952 in 2006, and 3,788 in 2007.
  • The actual number of children of 5-16 in school in 2006-07 was 7,440,000. So, the prevalence of sentencing was approximately 0.05%.
If we apply this percentage to 40,000 children, this means that around 20 children would be affected and for the (highly unlikely) prospective cohort of 80,000, this is 40 children. Divided among 150 local authorities, this is well within the margin of error.

What's the relevance of the existing truancy figures? They're nothing to do with home education at all. The section seems to be saying that there will be hardly any SAOs issued, so funding doesn't need to be allocated for the process, but I fail to see why such draconian rules and sanctions should be introduced when there are evidently no plans whatsoever to use them. It's bizarre.


LAs tell us that home educators who avoid interaction with the local authority tend to be providing inferior education.

LAs could tell us the moon was made of green cheese, so should we put in a bulk order for cream crackers? How do they know that home educators who avoid interaction with the local authority tend to be providing inferior education, if they're avoiding interaction with the local authority? Back to 'LAs don't know what they don't know'. At least Badman admitted this, instead of trying to assert that they do, as here.

A survey of local authorities found that in the opinion of officers monitoring home education, 20% were receiving an inadequate education and within that figure, 8% are receiving no education at all. This means that if there are 20,000 home educators, 4,000 children are getting an inadequate education among them 1600 are receiving no education at all.

Right. In the opinion of officers monitoring home education. There are quite a few of those, nationally, who flatly refuse to recognise education which doesn't include timetables, desks and workbooks. These figures mean nothing.

And then we're lectured, sternly. (Did the infamous Penny Jones write this, I wonder? I can hear echoes of her "Well, want or not, I am a government official, and these five outcomes are government policy!" in this:)

The consequences of receiving a poor or inadequate education in later life are that the young people denied an adequate education are unlikely to achieve recognised qualifications and more likely to turn to crime or substance abuse.

No. The statistics are useless for this. A child out on the streets running drugs from his 13th birthday is more likely to turn to crime or substance abuse. People like my older children, in a loving and educational family environment who make a conscious and well thought-out decision to opt out of doing GCSEs, are not. These differences are profound - and completely ignored.

The document then, disgustingly, goes on to put a monetary value on our children's heads. If they get X number of GCSEs, they'll go on to earn X amount of money and if they don't, they won't. So these decisions must be taken. There can be no freedom. They must earn the money. What if they don't want to? What if they'd prefer to have less money and more freedom? That's apparently no longer a choice they're allowed to make.

One of the next sentences contains a syntax error:

Or proposals for funding this support have been set out in the Secretary of State’s full response to the Review of Home Education in England conducted by Graham Badman.

And back to the time issue:

We envisage that home educators will spend a significant time with the Local Authority early in the process of planning the delivery of home education. These meetings will address the child’s educational needs, and identify the best way to meet these which may include access to educational and support services available in the area.

And where will the children be? Will we be expected to just dump them in a Children's Centre or something, while we lounge around chatting to local authority officers? I think not. No, local authority officers will have to get used to meetings containing our breastfeeding babies and toddlers and other children - as bored and disruptive as they become in listening to all of this droning bureaucracy taking place above their heads. No wonder they're allowing 8 hours for the ordeal. It might take that long to get past the first paragraph. Cloud cuckoo land. Hugely impractical. These people obviously don't have young children and if they do, they're the farmed-out variety.

Monitoring will improve the ongoing standard of education in individual homes.

At present, although the local authority engages with some families when they deregister their children from a school, there is no structured approach that sets out how any or all local authorities maintain contact with these children to monitor their educational attainment.

Some home educators want more support and access to a fuller range of support services. Engagement from the local authority will enable the types of support the families need to be offered, including in the form of personalised services.

Educational outcomes will therefore be improved overall by more consistent identification and intervention in homes where standards are low or there is no education plan. In extreme cases, it may be in the child’s best interest to attend a school, and this will also have an impact on attainment.

However, we cannot at this time make any detailed evaluation of the quantitative or qualitative impact this has on electively home educated children. This leads us on to the next benefit.

As a justification for home visits, this is laughable. How does the amount of support parents might want relate even remotely to official sight of their homes? To find out what someone wants, you have to ask them. You can do this by snailmail, phone, email or face-to-face meeting. You don't have to invade the privacy of their homes to try to second-guess what the answer might be. Where is the logic, here? Where's the common sense?

Evaluation will be planned now to ensure that changes in outcomes and standards can be measured accurately. The quantitative data we currently hold about home educated children’s educational attainment is limited. We do know, however, that post compulsory education, home educated young people are 4 times more likely not to be in education, employment or training than other young people.

I'd definitely query this figure. Out of all of the home educated young people I know - and because I've got three of my own, that's quite a lot - none of them is NEET. Not one of them: a properly home educated child would have no need to be. So where has this "4 times more likely" come from? It's just rubbish.

The rest of the document relating to home education is about safeguarding, again trumpeting those statistics which are now well known to be faulty.

The whole thing is a sham, isn't it? Badly put together, poorly researched and just a shoddy piece of work. Has it really come to this? I can hardly believe we're in England.


Blogger Elaine said...

As they have sunk to the depths with this garbage can they be charged with pollution

11:39 pm, November 21, 2009  
Blogger OrganisedPauper said...

There's a revised leaflet that now includes clause 27.

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

Hard to know what to say.

Total lack of regard for logic, common sense or any kind of sense. I know I'm tired...

I'd just like to point out that if the confused maze of complete and utter trash is what a school educated person comes up with, thank God for home education. Whoever wrote that sounds like they were smoking hash or something worse.

Funny, last night I was just thinking assessment has an 'ass' in it.


12:17 am, November 22, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

I tried to think about what kind of a mindset someone must have to write in such a way about what may be a minority of the total population, but is still a large group of living, breathing people. It was a sickening exercise and I'm glad to say I did not achieve my goal.
Up to now I have always been very careful not to speak in a judgmental way about school education, because I do not want to be in judgment of people who choose it. But now, after reading this assessment, I can only say that my 14yo daughter was right when she said that school education mainly leads to uninformed and stereotypical thinking and consequently bullying.
What a load of tripe.
Thanks for your fisking, Gill.

12:35 am, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Ruth J said...

I particularly like the veiled threats - if you were doing it properly, you'd already be writing a twelve month plan, so don't be complaining that it takes up your time.

They just don't get that the education of your own (relatively small number of) children can be managed IN YOUR HEAD. You know what they've learned, you know what they're interested in, you know what resources you're going to make available to develop that. Autonomous or curricular, you don't need the piles of paperwork, you keep it in your head.

8:23 am, November 22, 2009  
Blogger Dani said...

Here's the revised leaflet. Sorry to keep mucking about with it. Thanks for the link.

Thanks also for breaking down the impact assessment for us. It's all a bit mindblowingly mad, isn't it?

10:02 am, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Gill,

Opportunity Cost is economic jargon. Wikipedia gives a good definition - "the value of the next-best choice available to someone who has picked between several mutually exclusive choices." In other words, you've got it bang to rights - its the value of the time you'll spend meeting with LA officials when you could be doing something more interesting.


10:34 am, November 22, 2009  
Blogger Barry said...

This does seem to be descending into a complete maze of incomprehensible offensive nonsense.

I seem to recall them saying both parents (in a two parent home) would have to be seen. What if, as is quite likely, one of them works? You have to use your valuable leave, not to spend fun time with the family, but to satisfy the inspector that you're not an abuser. Absurd.

And not that, despite these facts and figures mostly having been rubbished, they're still there.

Oh, and they remain convinced they have a Midas touch, and that all these children will suddenly triple in value once they've interfered...

It took me a day or so of feeling knocked sideways, before I was able to start feeling enraged.

10:42 am, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barry, you've just triggered off a thought.

If physical fiddling with a child is actual abuse, isn't fiscal fiddling with a child a form of abuse as well.

Surely it is for each person to decide with which talent they wish to earn money, and, if they are not able to, it is a righteous and just society's role to maintain them in a reasonable condition. Most people I know do not mind paying into a common fund for aiding others who cannot work, find work or are otherwise unable to work.

Have we evolved so far in technology and cognition only to see that our personhood is to be judged on how much we are worth in economic terms?


11:46 am, November 22, 2009  
Blogger GoodWife said...

Hampton Principles

1:47 pm, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the same sort of utter garbage the Badman Review came up with, and quite possibly written by the same bunch of people.
I would be starting to feel sorry for them if this garbage did not directly affect my family. It's almost as though the politicians and civil servants at the DCSF have been really badly traumatised by a home educator in the past.

My kids are autonomously home educated,(autonomous, that's SELF MOTIVATED, and in their cases LEARNING INDEPENDENTLY, to you Balls and Badman) completely unknown to the LA, but loving it, achieving great things and academically well ahead of their age group - I mention this only because GCSEs seem to be the only aspect of education the DCSF cares about. BUT, my children are doing so well precisely because THEY are in charge, not me and certainly not somebody from the LA. The kind of intrusive monitoring and assessment and the mindless application of the National Curriculum contained in these proposals will have a massively detrimental effect on my children's motivation and hence on their education. I shall not wait for this to happen, I shall take my family's 'economic contribution' out of England.

I don't see anything in the impact assessment about the economic impact of the loss of families who can and will emigrate to avoid this. England's loss will be Scotland and other country's gain. Probably this government thinks that a small price to pay for a compliant population, but are they sure they have analysed this accurately? Home educated children, according to the research, do better than their schooled peers. They also tend to be more independent and creative thinkers. Just the sort of people this country needs as it tries to rebuild its economy over the next ten to fifteen years, you might think. Presumably Balls knows better and so is happy to let this pool of talent enrich other economies.

3:10 pm, November 22, 2009  
Blogger Heidi de Wet said...

Thanks, Goodwife!

So, the Hampton principles say:
"Regulators, and the regulatory system as a whole, should use comprehensive risk assessment to concentrate resources on the areas that need them most. ...
"No inspection should take place without a reason."

Therefore the answer to the question is no, these measures blatantly flout the Hampton principles.

Not that anyone in government cares, of course.

3:12 pm, November 22, 2009  
Blogger Heidi de Wet said...

Gill, I think the guff about the "statement of education" and the reference to DCSF/QCA curricula means that (a) HErs have to provide a statement of their 12-month education plan every time they register, and (b) those (vanishingly few, they think) who don't already have this to hand can simply download a curriculum description and forward it to their LA.

Demonstrating amply just how far these numpties are from understanding HE.

BTW, in case it helps anyone, I've hacked together some thoughts on what should go into a realistic IA: see (should be visible to anyone with a FB account).

3:22 pm, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

almost as though the politicians and civil servants at the DCSF have been really badly traumatised by a home educator in the past.

Thats us Peter the chess player who refused to back down when they served the school attendance order(have all the paperwork including A johnson approving it!) its being done because of Peter! We will nver give in!

8:04 pm, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street

Dear Ed Balls (MP)

I have just read the part in the Queens Speech about safeguarding the vulnerable to do with home education. How are home educated children more vulnerable than any other child? I will not be complying with the registry system or any other silly laws. No forced visits for me! My parents disagree with the review just like me. It is my own decision to disagree with the review. I have researched all the evidence (Unlike Graham Badman when he wrote it.) and have concluded that there is no need to give LA’s extra powers. Time and money would be better spent improving schools. And shouldn’t we be saving money during the recession. Why are you ignoring home educated children?

I invite you to come down and visit me to discuss this further and to see home education in action. I look forward to meeting you.

Yours Sincerely
Peter A Williams
A Home Educated Child

8:07 pm, November 22, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering."

— Doctor Who, The Face of Evil

1:17 pm, November 23, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Dani. Have changed my links now and shown your leaflet to a few people IRL also. It was very well received. People love the simplicity and clarity of it.

4:58 pm, November 23, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Also thanks everyone for your answers to my questions, both on and off-blog. Very helpful! I'm reading a lot and thinking things through ATM.

5:01 pm, November 23, 2009  
Anonymous FreeJohn said...

Dear inspector.

Home Education in our household takes place between 6pm and 10pm weekdays and saturdays, and all day sundays. (That's full time). We cannot accept visits outside this time, especially as the kids are educated by dad who is at work otherwise!

Also we take holidays (about 13 weeks per year - like school kids) so may not be available at a time to suit you.

Our primary education location is the local sports centre and library.

Please bring your CRB check if you wish to speak to the kids. Oh, and your swimming trunks or roller skates, depending on the day.

I realise that the above is a little inconvenient, but the question is - is any of it illegal? I thought not. At least not yet, eh?

Free John

5:48 pm, November 23, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

My mental image of my self has changed from a fierce and stout English bulldog this overnight.

2:28 pm, November 24, 2009  

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