Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lord Lucas speaks, and the one political dividing line between home educators

I barely seem to have time to blog, these days: the children currently seem to be sleeping in the same hours as I do, which for a single parent leaves not much time for anything else. Either I'm getting older, or they are. Hmm. Actually, we all are, aren't we?

Well, I was very pleased to watch Lord Lucas's speech on Clause 26 (Schedule 1) on Thursday. You can watch it here if you like, at 5:08:30.

("Why are the chairs red in this one, and green in the one we were watching last week?" asked Lyddie. This led to an autonomous, impromptu lesson [see, we do have them!] in British politics, the like of which your average seven year-old school child isn't likely to see and I'd have never been able to plan in advance.)

Here's a taste of his speech:

This part of the Bill is ill thought-out and unjustified, and I hope very much that we will delete it. In its current form it is a skeleton exposing home educators and their children to the unknown because so much will depend on how the regulations are written. Nothing in it secures their rights as home educators to look after their children in the way they see best. There is an unfortunate conflation of education and welfare which makes the business of improving or looking after the education of these children much harder.

I found "I hope very much that we will delete it" most reassuring, after his very real suggestions of compromise from last month, although "In its current form.." worried me a bit. Like, there's another form we'd rather have? No, just the status quo please, which works quite well from our perspective and perhaps just needs a bit more guidance and training for the LAs to fully understand their part in it. Let's have reviews and inquiries to work out how to change the ECM framework [opens pdf] to fit with what we do, not to work out how to change the people to fit the new laws, please, if holding reviews and inquiries is what people want to do. Seems bizarre to me, but I suppose they must do something for a living.

There is no recognition in the Bill of the curricula and forms of education which are commonly used in home education, particularly in autonomous education. Instead, the impact assessment refers to the exemplar curricula which will be produced by the QCDA. In other words, everyone is to be corralled into state education and not allowed to go their own way. There is no reference to the training of local authority staff, which is recognised to be one of the major deficiencies in the current arrangements. There is no proper arrangement for independent appeal when a local authority decides that a person may not home educate.

He's right, and there are also some more outstanding issues regarding the impact assessment, about which more from me in a future post, I hope.

But, as a fully paid-up [ - not, 'cos it's free] member of the People's Front of Judea, I am, of course, a bit concerned about Lord Lucas's recent and ongoing fraternisation with the Judean People's Front.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the allegory was Twittered by Graham Stuart MP, can be seen here:

- and still makes me laugh!

But there is a serious, real reason and a simple explanation (for the bewildered, with whom I have much sympathy) for the various splits and factions in the home ed community. You can basically draw a line down the middle of us: those on one side want to compromise with the powers-that-be, and those on the other side do not. Both of those links are worth following and reading for some real understanding into the situation. The second is AHEd's recently published open letter to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education.

Trying to compromise when you're being robbed of your freedoms is not wise. If someone's threatening to kill you, you don't ask if they wouldn't rather just maim you a lot instead? You fight or you run, or you die honourably. You don't invite them to chop off all of your appendages and then praise them for letting you off so lightly. And if you're shoving yourself into the powerful position of negotiating other people's freedom away, you have to tread very, very carefully, and be open and transparent about what you're doing. And, yes, open to criticism. This does not seem to be what's happening. There are secret groups forming and secret discussions taking place, excluding all but the compliant. It's extremely worrying to the rest of us, because it's our children and their freedoms they're talking about so glibly, arrogantly, powerfully and confidentially. These people do not speak for me - not least because I don't know what they're saying! But if I did, I suspect they still wouldn't.

So yes, the Monty Python references are all very funny and trite and I did appreciate the light relief... but, dear politicians who want to help us, please try to understand the origins of the problem before you get lured into accidentally conspiring to make them any worse!

One of the most distressing angles of all this for me is witnessing the best of the 'new talent' that's come to home ed politics with fresh enthusiasm and surging ideas, being nimbly co-opted by the compromisers, who are obviously more politically on-the-ball than the rest of us ( - which is worrying in itself). Some of them seem to have been advised not to work with some of us, or even to talk to us. Of course, this deepens the divide and I'm not sure if these new people are fully aware of what's going on. Suffice to say, I can understand the temptation of pragmatism, but I think it's a fool's game.

Enough, from me for today. Future posts in the pipeline include more about that impact assessment as well as something about the Ofsted agenda, but for now I'm going to leave the last word to Loubeeloo, Baz Kirby and the invincible Firebird, who says what she thinks about the government reply given to Lord Lucas in that debate - and doesn't pull any punches.


Blogger Mieke said...

You tell it as I would like to be able to, Gill :), thanks once again.

11:39 am, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Loubeeloo said...

Brilliant Gill... Thanks for this, have quoted & posted ya! xx

11:57 am, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Sassy said...

Thanks Gill and to all you other bloggers, you put into words the way I feel.

J. xxx

1:14 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

I'd like to make it clear that where my childrens rights and well being are at stake I never have and never will compromise, I also want to maintain those rights for others and would never be part of anything that was doing that. I know I can look anyone in the eye and say that with total conviction. Engagement and compromise and two totally different things.
Thanks for the inspiration Gill, I very much admire your work.

1:29 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

"Engagement and compromise and two totally different things."

I'll second that, Denise. And I also think that we shouldn't compromise people just because they choose to engage.

1:58 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks to you too, Denise and anyone else who commented, or just read. Are you part of one of these secret groups, then Denise? If so, are the rest of us missing much?

I agree, re: compromise and engagement BTW :)

2:00 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

I'm with Mieke, thanks for this.

2:15 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

I would also like to know if the rest of us are missing much?

2:16 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...


2:42 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Gill, I think I am part of the group that some people seem to have come to the conclusion is a secret society making decisions that affect other home educators. FWIW the group has never been a secret, I've never denied being part of it and I still can't recognise what other people see so no I don't think anyone is missing anything.

3:26 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Denise. I guess we'll be relying on people like you to keep us informed then, and to let us know if that situation changes.

3:55 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Dani said...

Hi Denise (and others),

Knowing many of the people who are/were in that group from online discussions and IRL (in a couple of cases), I am perfectly happy to believe that compromise was not anyone's intention.

I think we could debate endlessly about what 'secret' means, and that would be pretty pointless.

I also think this whole thing has been/is being examined in minute detail partly because of previous disagreements between EO and other orgs/individuals, which aren't necessarily about the facts of what has happened in this case. (But that history can't be just swept under the carpet, either.)

But I am puzzled by your statement that you 'don't recognise what other people see'. We are looking from the outside, and can only see that we weren't invited to join a group which then exhorted everyone to sign up (before having sight of the wording) to coordinate signatures on a petition to Parliament.

From where you are standing, I don't doubt that it looked different, but that's hardly surprising, is it?

3:58 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Dani, sorry for the blase statement, I mean I don't recognise what other people see because I've tried (what seems like) pretty unsuccessfully along with others to answer the same questions. I understand with hindsight that things could/ should probably have been handled differently but all I can keep reiterating is that it didn't happen like you describe, just with over enthusiasm and passion for what we all thought was the right way to help put a stop to the nonsense.

5:20 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Not doubting you Denise but if this were true of all involved then the offer to open the group up to all would have been accepted instead of the group being ridiculously renamed, but still invite only.

5:23 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Michelle, Nottingham said...

Hi Gill, you've said Clause 25 in your article. Isn't it Clause 26? Just writing a letter to my MP and don't want to get it wrong, some of them aren't very bright! LOL.

5:34 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

You are right, Michelle. Thanks, I'll change it.

5:40 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Marie, not sure how you can say that is not doubting me, saying that if what I said was true then the group would be opened up, if we have nothing to hide and all that, not that I doubt you but I don't believe opening up the group would be the end of it after the personal battering I've had over this.

5:43 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Michelle, Nottingham said...

No problem Gill, very well written BTW : )

5:47 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Denise I'm sorry to hear you've had a personal battering, and I really appreciate you being open with us here.

Michelle, ta very much :)

5:52 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

So are you speaking for all members of the group then Denise? And are you only prepared to act if everyone promises never to mention it again? No it would not solve the problem of having named and unnamed home educators who we have to be careful about, But it might be a start.

Gill if you want this conversation to stop on your blog just say.

6:04 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Denise, I, too, appreciate you being open. I would regret it if people wouldn't feel free to make choices about with whom to engage and in what way, for fear of being battered.
Not counting my group of personal friends, I've never been in any political, home ed, or other such group without there being at least one person I would never choose to be personal friends with because of huge differences of views and/or opinions.
Which doesn't mean I don't every now and then crave to be amongst people with whom I have no difference or argument at all, especially at moments that I'm tired of this continuous 'learning of life' ;).

It's all about trust, isn't it? And while there are people in that group (sorry, not sure about its current name ;))whom I would certainly not trust to represent me, as long as the group is not trying to do that, I have no reason whatsoever not to trust you, your intelligence or your common sense. I've only met you once irl, but I trust and hope - but couldn't possibly demand - that you will not attempt to speak on behalf of anybody but your own behalf.
I recognize that you admit that the PP action wasn't done in a very elegant way, and I trust and hope that from that 'lesson', you are one of the people that will make sure that similar things aren't going to happen again.

BTW, I guess you're speaking on your own behalf, and not as a representative of Da Group. As I'm speaking as an individual person here, and not as a representative of any group I am a member of. :)

6:25 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

No Marie, I can't say I speak for anyone else, only for myself. I'm not sure what you mean by being prepared to act if noone mentions it again? Are you are suggesting I name people who as far as I can ascertain have all stated on one list or another that they were part of this group? I'm also sorry my attempt at humour with the group name offended you too.

6:38 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Mieke, as I've just said to Marie, I can only ever represent my own views, which are probably in general pretty similar to a lot of people here commenting on this post, and I am also not naive enough to think they will always have parallel lines. I will endeavour to make sure your trust is not misguided.

6:58 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Denise the group was so far from harmless that I am speechless that anyone apart from those fully aware of the harm it has done could have even considered such a name. It almost feels like a slap in the face!

Only a few names are known but no I am not asking you to name people though I would dearly love to know all who were involved, I am asking for the group to be opened up even if it would not put a total end to the controversy as it would be a first step.

I too hope that we can trust you not to be part of something that takes our choices away again without warning us.

7:05 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Marie, I can't and wouldn't advocate the opening of the group, I don't believe that is the answer, there are so many closed discussions around including ones talking about hacking into Yahoo groups, hidden parts of forums, private conversations.

7:20 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Denise I just cannot understand why you cannot understand the difference!

7:39 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

Marie, I'm sorry you can't see why I don't feel it's different. I have admitted that perhaps it could have been handled differently but I don't personally concede that the group made decisions on behalf of other home educators.
I personally don't think the OFSTED letter is the right way to go, while I feel the sentiment behind it is correct, I worry that the types of home educators that will now not go to the OFSTED meetings are probably the ones I would want there. I would have much rather have seen people being advised on what to say and what not to say, but I accept that those people who have put their names to it believe they have done the right thing.

8:01 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

I really must stop commenting here but just wanted to say, that the letter to Ofsted is advice or even a plea but it is something which we can make our own minds up about. It is not going to Ofsted on all our behalfs whereas the petition is going to parliament in a mass movement and some of us are unable to partake because sight of it was withheld form us by a small and exclusive group.

8:13 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger denisemccallum said...

You could make your own mind up about whether to sign the petition, the petition is also widely available for you to make that choice, if you haven't seen it I could send you a copy, you were also even able to organise something yourself. It is certainly not being presented on behalf of 'all' home educators, in the same way that nothing ever done can be done on behalf of 'all' home educators. The petition was never witheld.

8:29 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

To work as a small unit to develop an idea which is then placed in the public domain to be picked at/ developed further/adopted/rejected/debated and debased is a pretty widespread practice .
To work as a small unit and to develop an idea which is then presented to MP's/lords who (whatever argument is put to the contrary) see the group as representative before the idea is placed into the public domain is WRONG it is not normal practice
Would warburton's innovation team take an idea to asda before doing a feasibility study within the company ?

11:05 pm, November 29, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

Anyone who is still in that fluffy, harmless group, after all the hurt and division it has caused, should really be eyed with caution IMO. It is a joke that they remain there trying to justify it. It has been the most divisive action ever. If our ship goes down it won't be because of the people who angry about it, it will be because of the people who took it upon themselves to speak for others when they had no right to do so and who are STILL defending such an action. I am walking away in disgust.

1:03 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

and are there 2 firebirds? Because the one on BRAG is telling us to all take our concerns elsewhere.

1:13 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

Denise, the petition was not available to be seen until people signed up to co-ordinate it. And once it had been launched it was impossible for another one to be launched alongside without it looking like we were being divisive . And people not wishing to be divisive would not do such a thing because they want to WIN this battle. So we were put in a very difficult position by this action. You say you will not compromise, but you have. You have compromised my rights by pushing your agenda. A complete non-compromise would be to uphold everyones rights. By signing a petition that puts forward actions that others cannot agree to, you are compromising their rights.

1:39 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Cathy Koetsier said...

I was amused and entertained by your blog post - thanks. Of course you are talking about serious topics though. You clearly describe two perspectives on HE action - compromise and defiance. It reminds me of growing up in South Africa, when as a teenager the police once came to give us a safety talks about rape. Amongst a lot of useful advice, I have never forgotten them saying that if you are attacked, give the attacker what he wants, because then he might not kill you. And I remember feeling that killing would be preferable! It is a tough choice though -to give in, compromise and live, or resist and maybe lose and die. This is the key issue we are facing with EHE, and I suppose we have to try to respect the position of others, even when it seems rubbish to us. In the RSA context a number of us had a heated exchange afterwards, because it seemed that if everyone gave in quietly to would be rapists, then this would encourage rape. Whereas if everyone resisted and died doing so, we would all be dead but the rapist would not have gotten what he wanted - which would discourage rape in the end. Of course, at the end of the day, each individual woman has to decide for themselves at what price their lives should be bought.
The status of EHE is the same. Each family has to decide at what price their right to choose home education should be bought. For myself, my right to HE is not for sale.

10:33 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Even though I first considered it, I did not sign the petition and I withdrew my offer to coordinate it in my constituency. I do not feel I have to explain my decision to anybody who did sign or coordinate, really, although I am happy to discuss it.
I do not agree that because other people decided to sign, they automatically speak on my behalf. If I would believe that, I would more or less say I'm powerless and voiceless. And I most definitely am not.
If some MP's or other politicians say that this petition represents 'the home educating community' than they contradict the ones who say that we are diverse and not properly represented. And B&B consider anybody who speaks against them a 'vociferous minority' anyway.
This petition represents the people who sign it. No more and no less.

Maybe it's worth considering how we would act if, say, one of our children chose a friend we would never have chosen ourselves. Or if one of our children expresses the wish to go to school...
I personally can see how I would discuss the pro's and con's, and I might even say it would not be my personal choice. But I would never turn my back on them. I would not say that because of that choice they do not belong to my family anymore.
Or what if there is a complete difference of opinion and/or choice amongst siblings? How *do* we deal with that?
Where does autonomy begin and end for every one of us?

Of course it's not entirely the same, but - if anybody - my children are more a representative of me / my family, than other home educators.

I think that by even suggesting that others are representing us, speaking on our behalf by signing the petition, we are dis-empowering ourselves (if there is such a word). And there is absolutely no reason for that.

11:15 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Mieke, I have been thinking the very same thoughts about how we behave as a family when we disagree. And no we do not disown our children though in some cases partners separate when the disagreements become unworkable.

And I do not think those that sign the petition speak for me, but I do think that those who prevented the home ed community from coming to some agreement about the wording have taken one opportunity for my voice to be heard away from me.

There will of course be many other opportunities I hope, but I would like to feel that those involved in the small and far from harmless group understood what they had done. Then I would feel that it was unlikely that the same thing would happen again.

I am at the moment far from reassured as there seems to be a lot of denial and projection going on.

I am not letting this stop me from doing what I have been doing all along which is everything Bruce and I can think of to derail the whole review process.

11:36 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

"but I do think that those who prevented the home ed community from coming to some agreement about the wording have taken one opportunity for my voice to be heard away from me."

I absolutely agree with that, Maire, there is no denying that. From what Denise personally said, she isn't denying that either. And although I wouldn't mind if it was expressed more strongly, I'm not sure if would change either my feelings about it or the fact that it happened.

11:53 am, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

My understanding is that Denise is saying we went about it in a clumsy way but there is nothing actually wrong with what we have done. The fact that she renamed the group fluffyandharmless reinforces my opinion. I therefore remain unconfident about what this group plans for our future. I would be very happy to be contradicted but it would need to be a promise not to act on our behalf without consensus again.

1:06 pm, November 30, 2009  
Anonymous Louisa Herbs said...

I think it's disingenuous to say that calls for the process which led to the petition being foisted on us to be opened up are tantamount to saying "if you have nothing hide you have nothing to fear". That really isn't the point. So far everyone involved with the eo-aggp (now fluffy and harmless group) has argued that there was no deliberate intention for this process to be secret. No has ever claimed it should have been secret not has anyone attempted to make a case for it to be secret. So, if that's the case and it was purely an oversight on the part of the group due to the fact that they were busy and things happened so quickly, there is absolutely no reason why the accidental secrecy should not be corrected retrospectively. I have not been offered a single good argument why a process which, it is asserted was not intended to be secret, should now remain so now.

5:07 pm, November 30, 2009  

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