Monday, August 31, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: points arising: Legal

Today I'm outlining what I see as the five main points arising from my critique of the Badman report [opens pdf] which are about the law. No doubt others will have worked out more, equally important points or might disagree with my choice. If so, I'd appreciate comments to that effect.

1. A key point that Danae raised is that according to Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, which sets out the

Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age,

education is compulsory, but its uptake is not:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education [my emphasis]

So technically speaking, according to that Act of Parliament, you can provide a suitable education and the child has the choice of whether or not to learn from it. Of course, it must be this way when you think about it, otherwise falling asleep at the back of a double Geography class in school would be illegal, as would failing any exams set by a school or other associated body. There's a good reason for it too: it's impossible to force a person to learn something. If you've ever tried it, you'll know it takes tremendous amounts of unethical coercion after which success is by no means guaranteed and there is a large amount of luck involved in the process. This was one of the arguments successfully used in the Summerhill tribunal of March 2000.

Translated into home education terms, the parent's educational provision for the child can be inspected for compliance with the Act, but the child's uptake of that provision can not: a position which is not compliant with the Badman recommendations for Local Authority officers to effectively test the child on its uptake of the previous year's provision.

Carlotta and others have pointed out that the ECM regime has been introduced since the Summerhill tribunal, which talks quite a lot about 'what pupils need to learn and achieve' (but weren't we asserting an exemption to this on the grounds that the 'pupil' label doesn't apply to our children?) although I see the golden nugget of a phrase that I found in one of the associated documents:

Parents are the best judges of their family’s needs

has now been removed. I've tried Googling it: it seems to be quite gone.

But a large proportion of the detail supporting the ECM 'Enjoy and Achieve' outcome is incompatible with elective home education and I still think the review should have done something to address this: either by recommending a change in the wording so that the relevant documents could be made to accommodate us, or by establishing for certain that we should be excempt. Instead, the review seemed to completely ignore the whole ECM edifice: a strange and curious stance for it to take.

Other key legal issues raised by the report are as follows:

2. It makes repeated mention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), in particular articles 12, 28 and 29 to support its call for the regulation of elective home education, before going on to talk about the autonomous learning method in terms of

a quality of education that lacks pace, rigour and direction.

And yet autonomous education lends itself especially well to the requirements of the UNCRC: moreso than more conventional methods, as I hope to have time to argue in a future post. However, that learning method is not conducive with the Badman recommendations for regulation, because the detailed planning ahead of autonomous learning provision is impossible.

3. Moving on to a more general point about the fundamental legality of the recommendations to regulate, Tom said in comments here:

Badman could learn a lesson from the US Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment provides that all rights not previously listed are retained by the people.

In other words, our rights are inherently ours; they aren't granted by the government. If this is true in America, it is true everywhere.

The Badman and Balls' report is trying to introduce a de facto licencing scheme for home education in England. So he is denying a fundamental truth about our right to educate according to our own beliefs.

I think this is an incredibly powerful position, containing as it does a simple but crucial truth.

4. A more specific and separate legal point arises from recommendation 23 of the report:

That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as

alcohol or drug abuse
incidents of domestic violence
previous offences against children

And in addition:

anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education

- the 'anything else..' rider being dangerously vague and therefore potentially opening the door to arbitrary and prejudiced decisions.

5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the report's text and recommendations ride roughshod over that most fundamental principle of English law: the presumption of innocence. Phrases such as:

How can local authorities know what they don’t know with no means of determining the number of children who are being electively home educated in their area, or the quality of what is provided, without rights of access to the child?

amongst many others, starkly demonstrate an alarming lack of trust in parents who are assumed throughout the report to be guilty until proven innocent.

To sum up, my points in this post are as follows:

1. Educational provision is compulsory; its uptake is not. So children can't be compulsorily tested on their uptake of the provision.

2. Autonomous education is especially compliant with the entire UNCRC but the report's recommendations are incompatible with autonomous education, thereby removing the option for parents to educate 'in conformity with their .. philosophical convictions'.

3. To quote Tom, "Our rights are inherently ours; they aren't granted by the government." But the proposed de facto licencing scheme for home education in England would strip us of some of those inherent rights.

4. The element in recommendation 23, "anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education" (and other similar phrases) is dangerously vague and therefore potentially opens the door to arbitrary and prejudiced decisions.

5. Much of the report rides roughshod over the presumption of innocence.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: points arising: Safeguarding

We went to this last Wednesday - they're happening all around the country. Such fun, I can definitely recommend it.

Today I'm summarising the main points arising from my critique of the Badman report [opens pdf] which are about safeguarding:

Possibly the main problem is that the report contains no mention of the harm caused to children and families by false positives and the inspection process, apart from very briefly in the SEN section, which then goes on to recommend a more stringent inspection process! As Allie said in comments here: "If people try to impose the rules of a vast, rigid system in their own (or worse still) other people's lives, then damage is done. People find themselves caught up - struggling, bending rules and hoping not get caught, or enforcing them and watching the ensuing suffering."

To bring in a system of regulation for home education on the basis of safeguarding would be a disproportionate response anyway, taken in context with what's known about the Statistical incidence of child abuse in home educating families (less than 50% the normal rate). As Jo said in comments here: "Home educators to my knowledge are not aware of any cases where existing powers, properly used,were insufficient."

The NSPCC admitted that there is no statistical evidence of abuse in home education, and NASWE in the report said:

EHE is not in itself a safeguarding issue..

The recommendations put more trust in Local Authority officers - strangers to the child - than in the child's own parents, but all of these officers aren't necessarily trustworthy. As Elaine said in a comment here: " 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."

Point 11.2 of the report includes the following:

I have sought to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child, and offer, through registration and other recommendations, some assurance on the greater safety of a number of children.

And yet, as many others have pointed out, an hour spent in the company of a child once a year provides absolutely no assurance of that child's overall level of safety.

The last key 'safeguarding' point arising from the report, in my opinion, is in recommendation 24:

That the DCSF make such change as is necessary to the legislative framework to enable local authorities to refuse registration on safeguarding grounds. In addition local authorities should have the right to revoke registration should safeguarding concerns become apparent.

- because if a family is not deemed to be safe enough to home educate during the day time, then the child can't be left in its care at all. The point therefore defies logic.

Those are the points I've highlighted as being particularly problematic regarding safeguarding. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: points arising: Language

I've been through the twelve parts of my critique of the Badman report [opens pdf] with a highlighting pen now, and it seems that the main points arising from it can be separated into five distinct categories:

  • Language issues, in which sentences are carefully crafted to partially obscure their full meaning, or selective quoting is employed, or certain key or trigger words are used to convey a message not explicitly stated;

  • Safeguarding and child protection issues;

  • Legal issues;

  • Logical issues - or otherwise! By which I mean those points that are contradictory or just not logically coherent; and

  • Financial issues.

In today's post I'm focusing on the main points arising in the category of 'Language':

1.4 I have taken account of the views of local authorities who are strongly of the opinion that the current guidelines are unworkable in that they are contradictory and confer responsibility without power.

(Carefully not mentioning the views of local authorities who are not of that opinion, thereby giving the appearance that they don't exist.)

1.5 However, there has to be a balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child.

- and several other similar phrases, such as:

11.2 I have sought to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child..

- but nothing about the parental duty set out in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. This is reinforced so frequently throughout the report that I think it must be deliberately contrived to set up the erroneous implication that there is some conflict between children's and parents' rights.

From Recommendation 1:

■ Registration should be renewed annually.

But the proposal is not actually for registration, but for a system of licensing. There must be a reason why it's not given its proper name and this can only be to do with presentation.

Recommendation 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.

- convoluted, illogical phraseology ('required to allow') straining to conceal its real meaning ('compelled to coerce') behind a mask of artificial geniality. The reason for this can only be that the author knows the true meaning is publicly unpalatable and I'm therefore delighted that home educators have been exposing it for what it is.

8.4 I understand the argument but do not accept it in its entirety in that attendance at school brings other eyes to bear, and does provide opportunity for the child to disclose to a trusted adult.

This is a cunningly slipped-in suggestion that the only trusted adults are to be found in schools. There are quite a few other similar semi-subliminal messages contained in the report.

There are also many explicit and implied references to 'support', in recommendations 1, 10, 12, 17, 18 and 20 as well as throughout the text, but nothing about the consequences to a family, parent or child who opts to decline such offers of 'support'. However, read in context the unspoken threat becomes apparent: permission to home educate will be denied. Such 'support' is actually therefore compulsory coercion and nothing resembling the "act of sustaining, advocacy, help, backing" or "encouragement" described in my dictionary's definition of the word.

With all of the above plus the liberal peppering of the report with such buzzwords as 'safeguarding', 'outcomes' (only certain varieties of these are acceptable), and 'targets' (set by governments, not families), amongst others, I think it's a strong defence to call the whole thing out, and for exactly what it is. Our language is being stolen from us, in this and the rest of the endless tsunami of reports, recommendations, guidances and regulations with which the people of England have been besieged in recent years. We need to claim it back.

In subsequent posts I'll briefly outline the main points of the other categories before moving onto the letter from Ed Balls.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Stress testing the Badman report: looking for weak points: Part 12

Part 12 of the Badman report [opens pdf] is the summary of recommendations. I'll get onto it in a minute. First I want to say a quick something about the debates on the TES and Independent websites. Two points I'd like to make:

First, why is university seen by Simon Webb, Graham Badman, etc. as the be all and end all? My son chose instead to run his own business and the country certainly needs more entrepreneurs. He didn't go to university, but his autonomous home education was still a success.

Secondly, so Simon Webb and someone on the TES comments called 'mum who cares' don't want to home educate autonomously - why should that prevent those of us who do, from so doing? Perhaps they so enjoy removing choices from their children that they want to extend their mandate to other parents by removing their choices too. 'Mum who cares' must live on a different planet to me anyway - she says "..if you say that you home educate a different way they [unschoolers] treat you in a manner which is totally appalling." Our weekly home ed meetings consist of both homeschooling and unschooling families. The children get on fine; the parents get on fine. Nobody tries to inflict their views on anyone else. I've been to meetings elsewhere and found the same situation and I can't understand why it would be any different. Other people's home education choices are none of my business, and mine are none of theirs. What we have in common is that we're all presumably doing what we see as our best for our children. This freedom is what's being threatened and it should be uniting, not dividing us.

On then, to the summary of recommendations:

Recommendation 1

That the DCSF establishes a compulsory national registration scheme, locally administered, for all children of statutory school age, who are, or become, electively home educated.

And with registration comes regulation, as we're about to see:

This scheme should be common to all local authorities.

There will be no escaping it.

Registration should be renewed annually.

There is no reason for this if registration is all that's required, but of course it's not.

Those who are registering for the first time should be visited by the appropriate local authority officer within one month of registration.

I think we need to tackle this thinking that home visits are useful, either for safeguarding or educational monitoring. Inspections of the home environment might give some idea as to whether the parents are capable of caring properly for a child, but this should have no bearing on their freedom to home educate, because if they're fit to parent then they're equally capable both in and out of school hours, and if they're deemed not fit then the child would, one assumes, be removed.

Beyond this, inspecting the home tells the local authority very little. An absence of books might raise alarm, but the family might be in the public library every other day. An absence of space to play might be seen as problematic, but the family might visit a park every day for hours, or play gyms, or friends' houses, and so on. And there is, as usual, no talk about the possible negative effects on the child of being officially inspected. We need to ascertain and set out very clearly how damaging this can be I think.

Local authorities should ensure that all home educated children and young people already known to them are registered on the new scheme within one month of its inception and visited over the following twelve months, following the commencement of any new legislation.

I have no comment to make about this.

Provision should be made to allow registration at a local school, children’s centre or other public building as determined by the local authority.

It doesn't matter where we have to register, does it? Might as well make it the police station.

When parents are thinking of deregistering their child/children from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should there be a change in circumstances, the child could be readmitted to the school. This period would also allow for the resolution of such difficulties that may have prompted the decision to remove the child from school.

Delayed deregistration - something home educators have been arguing against for a long time, because pressure can be brought to bear on a family to change their decision against their better judgement.

National guidance should be issued on the requirements of registration and be made available online and at appropriate public buildings. Such guidance must include a clear statement of the statutory basis of elective home education and the rights and responsibilities of parents.

What about parental duties? I don't think parents have any rights any more, do we?

At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.

This is the part with which autonomous education is probably incompatible. If we cherish the child's unique natural intrinsic path to learning, we can't possibly predict any outcome for a year hence, and nor would most of us wish to. I couldn't even tell you any of my children's planned learning outcomes for the end of the day, although they may have their own plans - which are exactly that.

Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.

'The plan should be finalised' in this context makes it look like a joint undertaking with the officers, not the parents, deciding when it's finished to their satisfaction.

As well as written guidance, support should encompass advice from a range of advisers and organisations, including schools. Schools should regard this support as a part of their commitment to extended schooling.

This would mean that families could not avoid the school environment and ethos, even if they chose (and managed) to deregister from it. They will not be allowed to find their own way to learning.

Where a child is removed from a school roll to be home educated, the school must provide to the appropriate officer of the local authority a record of the child’s achievement to date and expected achievement, within 20 school days of the registration, together with any other school records.

"Expected achievement"? Another stick to beat us with. Our values might not be the same as the school's values. The child might be interested in learning about other things. He or she might need a deschooling phase. Schools and families have their own separate and distinct agenda which can't and shouldn't be forced to correlate.

Local authorities must ensure that there are mechanisms/systems in place to record and review registrations annually.

Someone defined this process as 'issuing licences' - a view with which I concur. If this can be made law, the logical next step is a licence to procreate.

Recommendation 2

That the DCSF review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a “suitable” and “efficient” education in the light of the Rose review of the primary curriculum, and other changes to curriculum assessment and definition throughout statutory school age. Such a review should take account of the five Every Child Matters outcomes determined by the 2004 Children Act, should not be overly prescriptive but be sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated curriculum that would allow children and young people educated at home to have sufficient information to enable them to expand their talents and make choices about likely careers. The outcome of this review should further inform guidance on registration. Home educators should be engaged in this process.

Here is the Rose review [opens pdf], which I've read and which looks absolutely fine - for schools. Home education has never been required to be broad and balanced and nor should it be. Broad and balanced is for the masses, when you're taking 11 million children and putting them through a pre-designed system of learning to turn them into human resources for a global economy. Home education takes just one or more much loved offspring and simply assists them to live and learn.

Recommendation 3

That all local authorities analyse the reasons why parents or carers chose elective home education and report those findings to the Children’s Trust Board, ensuring that this analysis contributes to the debate that determines the Children and Young People’s Plan.

The possible reasons for this intrigue me. Is it an admittance that the powers-that-be would prefer to have our children in the school system? If so, this is not a level playing field and any freedom we may currently have is only reluctantly tolerated until such time as it can be successfully rescinded.

Recommendation 4

That the local authority should establish a Consultative Forum for home educating parents to secure their views and representative opinion. Such a body could be constituted as a sub-group of the Children’s Trust with a role in supporting the development of the Children’s Trust, and the intentions of the local authority with regard to elective home education.

This seems completely pointless, in the light of the other recommendations. Without our annual licence to home educate we must take our children to school every day, on time, etc. yada yada. Oh, but we can discuss this in a forum. What's the point engaging in debate with a tyrant?

Recommendation 5

That the DCSF should bring forward proposals requiring all local authorities to report to the Children’s Trust Board making clear how it intends to monitor and support children and young people being educated at home, in accord with Recommendation 1.

The government makes the local authority comply; the local authority makes the parents comply; the parents make the children comply.. has anyone written a nursery rhyme about this yet?

Recommendation 6

That local authorities should where appropriate commission the monitoring and support of home education through the local Children’s Trust Board, thereby securing a multidisciplinary approach and the likely use of expertise from other agencies and organisations including the voluntary sector.

We're not only to be inspected and conditionally licenced, but we're to be 'helped' and 'supported' by all comers as well, whether we like it or not. I wonder what will remain of private family life for home educators at the end of all of this.

Recommendation 7

The DCSF should bring forward proposals to change the current regulatory and statutory basis to ensure that in monitoring the efficiency and suitability of elective home education:

That designated local authority officers should:

– have the right of access to the home;
– have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer.

In so doing, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well.

This flies in the face of the presumption of innocence, is likely to terrify some children and be deeply unsettling for others.

That a requirement is placed upon local authorities to secure the monitoring of the effectiveness of elective home education as determined in Recommendation 1.

I can't really see a difference between this recommendation and the first one.

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.

I've already said a lot about this, specifically that the educational provision is what is supposedly being judged, not the child's uptake of it, and that it will be immensely stressful for many children.

Recommendation 8

That reasonable warning of intended visit and invitation to exhibit should be given to home educators, parents and carers, not less than two weeks in advance. A written report of each visit must be filed within 21 days and copied to the home educating parent and child. A suitable process for factual correction and challenge to the content must be in place and made known to all parties.

Two weeks' notice is better than being doorstepped, and sight of the report by the family will be an improvement on, for example, my own local authority's previous practice. But the whole concept of an 'intended visit and invitation to exhibit' is unnecessarily damaging, invasive and abhorrent.

Recommendation 9

That all local authority officers and others engaged in the monitoring and support of elective home education must be suitably trained. This training must include awareness of safeguarding issues and a full understanding of the essential difference, variation and diversity in home education practice, as compared to schools. Wherever possible and appropriate, representatives of the home educating community should be involved in the development and/or provision of such training. It is recommended that all officers be trained in the use of the Common Assessment Framework.

Apart from the reference to the Common Assessment Framework [opens Word.doc], I have no objection to this recommendation, though I doubt it will be implemented.

Recommendation 10

That all local authorities should offer a menu of support to home educating families in accord with the requirements placed upon them by the power of wellbeing, extended schools and community engagement and other legislation. To that end local authorities must provide support for home educating children and young people to find appropriate examination centres and provide entries free to all home educated candidates who have demonstrated sufficiently their preparedness through routine monitoring, for all DCSF funded qualifications.

If this really is just an offer of support then I have no objections. If declining the offer is to be viewed with suspicion, then I do, because all support should be entirely optional with no strings attached in order to not prejudice a family's educational choices.

Recommendation 11

That in addition to Recommendation 10 above, local authorities should, in collaboration with schools and colleges:

Extend and make available the opportunities of flexi-schooling.
Extend access to school libraries, sports facilities, school visits, specialist facilities and key stage assessment.
Provide access to specialist music tuition on the same cost basis.
Provide access to work experience.
Provide access to post 14 vocational opportunities.
Signpost to third sector support where they have specialist experience and knowledge, for example, provision for bullied children.

I'd say the same thing as I said about Recommendation 10 in respect of all of these points.

Recommendation 12

BECTA considers the needs of the home educating community in the national roll out of the home access initiative
That local authorities consider what support and access to ICT facilities could be given to home educating children and young people through the existing school networks and the use of school based materials
That the QCA should consider the use of ICT in the testing and exam process with regard to its impact on home educated children and young

First, what exactly is the home access initiative? We need to know, if it's to be foisted upon us. A quick search comes up with this page, which talks about:

  • Improving learning and achievement
  • Motivating and engaging children
  • Encouraging independence and creativity
  • Connecting learning at school and at home, and
  • Helping parents and carers get more involved

- in which the school component has nothing to do with us, and we're already managing all of the others without any government 'help', thank you. I think we need to be looking for the catch here, and that it might have something to do with this [opens pdf].

Recommendation 13

That local authority provision in regard to elective home education is brought into the scope of Ofsted’s assessment of children’s services within the Comprehensive Area Assessment through information included in the National Indicator Set (Recommendation 25), the annual LSCB report (Recommendation 21) and any other relevant information available to inspectors.

The government has power over local authorities, the local authorities have power over the parents and they want the parents to use power over their children, as in Recommendation 5. This is part of the enforcing mechanism.

Recommendation 14

That the DCSF require all local authorities to make an annual return to the Children’s Trust Board regarding the number of electively home educated children and young people and the number of School Attendance Orders and Education Supervision Orders as defined in the 1996 Education Act, issued to home educated children and young people.

To gauge the success of the programme.

Recommendation 15

That the DCSF take such action as necessary to prevent schools or local authorities advising parents to consider home education to prevent permanent exclusion or using such a mechanism to deal with educational or behavioural issues.

A child might hate school and therefore behave badly. The parent might be quite willing and able to home educate, if only they knew about it. It's noticeable that this report says nothing about telling them, except this recommendation which says the opposite.

Recommendation 16

That the DCSF bring forward proposals to give local authorities power of direction with regard to school places for children and young people returning to school from home education above planned admission limits in circumstances where it is quite clear that the needs of the child or young person could not be met without this direction.

They are obviously expecting this to be the case in significant numbers of cases.

Recommendation 17

That the Ofsted review of SEN provision give due consideration to home educated children with special educational needs and make specific reference to the support of those children.

Again, if the support is optional, with no strings attached, then it might be useful for some.

Recommendation 18

That the DCSF should reinforce in guidance to local authorities the requirement to exercise their statutory duty to assure themselves that education is suitable and meets the child’s special educational needs. They should regard the move to home education as a trigger to conduct a review and satisfy themselves that the potentially changed complexity of education provided at home, still constitutes a suitable education. The statement should then be revised accordingly to set out that the parent has made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996. In the wake of the Ofsted review, changes to the SEN framework and legislation may be required.

I see from my first look at it that this recommendation came from the report's section on SEN. But my son Tom's dyslexia was best helped in the end by leaving it alone, and luckily we were given the space by the local authority in which to do so. I think the very worst thing for a family just after deregistration from school would be an immediate deluge of input from officials. I'm aware of the argument that often new home educators come to the mailing lists for advice, having "withdrawn their children from school and then had no idea how to go about things", but my experience and that of many families I've observed, is that working out for ourselves how to get through the apparent chaos and confusion is an important part of the deschooling process - something else that doesn't seem to warrant a mention in this report.

Recommendation 19

That the statutory review of statements of SEN in accord with Recommendation 18 above be considered as fulfilling the function of mandatory annual review of elective home education recommended previously.

It's a pity that this needs saying.

Recommendation 20

When a child or young person without a statement of special educational needs has been in receipt of School Action Plus support, local authorities and other agencies should give due consideration to whether that support should continue once the child is educated at home – irrespective of whether or not such consideration requires a new commissioning of service.

This involves regular reviews and monitoring as well as learning assistance. No scope or chance, therefore, for a family to work out their own unique way of educating their unique child.

Recommendation 21

That the Children’s Trust Board ensures that the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) reports to them on an annual basis with regard to the safeguarding provision and actions taken in relation to home educated children. This report shall also be sent to the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit. Such information should be categorised thereby avoiding current speculation with regard to the prevalence of child protection concerns amongst home educated children which may well be exaggerated. This information should contribute to and be contained within the National Annual Report.

This is ok, but I hope it will be confined to serious cases of abuse and neglect rather than some of the negligible, lifestyle police definitions contained in the NICE guidance. Otherwise we might as well just all give up our children for adoption at birth and have done with it.

Recommendation 22

That those responsible for monitoring and supporting home education, or commissioned so to do, are suitably qualified and experienced to discharge their duties and responsibilities set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children to refer to social care services children who they believe to be in need of services or where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

I'd say the same thing about this as I've just said about the previous recommendation. I think we need to watch this so-called Child Protection programme very carefully for signs of social engineering because, while I'm happy for children who really need it to be protected by the state if there is absolutely nobody else to do the job, wearing last year's dress or crying in the presence of strangers etc does not constitute severe neglect or abuse and shouldn't be treated as if it might do.

Recommendation 23

That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as

alcohol or drug abuse
incidents of domestic violence
previous offences against children

And in addition:

anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education

This requirement should be considered in the Government’s revision of Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance.

Another recommendation that looks reasonable on the face of it, but could so easily be misused by prejudiced local authority officers. It seems to me like too much power over families to give to strangers who don't know them properly.

Recommendation 24

That the DCSF make such change as is necessary to the legislative framework to enable local authorities to refuse registration on safeguarding grounds. In addition local authorities should have the right to revoke registration should safeguarding concerns become apparent.

The big question here is: Why should a family be deemed safe enough to have overnight care of a child, but not to home educate? Problems can happen in the evening just as easily as they can throughout the day. This recommendation, along with a few other documents recently published, makes explicit the envisaged role of school as safeguarder. This system won't be effective, because families have hidden abuse from schools for decades. The people who should be checking for abuse are the people whose professional training has taught them to do so: social workers.

Recommendation 25

That the DCSF, in its revision of the National Indicator Set indicated in its response to the recent Laming Review, should incorporate an appropriate target relating to the safeguarding of children in elective home education.

Targets = a tick box mentality = an automated, robot society. Home education has been blissfully free of targets up until now: it's one of the reasons why many of us do it. Was Mr Badman's aim to persuade as many of us as possible to just give up and use the schools instead? It seems so.

If we're mounting a defence against this, we could use some of the excellent anti-target culture arguments.

Recommendation 26

DCSF should explore the potential for Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) and other organisations, to identify and disseminate good practice regarding support for home education.

Until reading this report, I'd never heard of C4EO, so they can't be offering all that much support, unless they've recently been rebranded. I've just had a quick look at the website and it is a new quango by the looks of things, talking mostly about 'improving outcomes'. Would my son Tom's outcome (no qualifications; no debts; thriving business; healthy income) be acceptable to them, I wonder? I think terms like 'safeguarding', 'outcomes' and 'targets' are bandied around a bit too glibly sometimes, perhaps without people thinking about what exactly they mean. We need to reclaim our whole language, not just our freedom to home educate in peace.

Recommendation 27

It is recommended that the Children’s Workforce Development Council and the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit include the needs of this group of officers in their consideration of national training needs.

It's an intricate, locked-in mesh of bureaucracy, isn't it?

Recommendation 28

That the DCSF and the Local Government Association determine within three months how to provide to local authorities sufficient resources to secure the recommendations in this report.

I think we've already had Ed Balls' answer to this [opens pdf], at which I plan to take a detailed look in a future post.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I am still here, sort of. Here's an update to prove it.

Blimey, where to start? I've spent a few days mostly AFK, as we parents have to sometimes, and come back to find I've missed quite a lot. The main things, as far as I can tell, have been Simon Webb's spitefully demonic little flourishes in the Independent (the comments are the best part, especially M FW's near the bottom of page 3) and also in the TES, although fortunately his piece was expertly rebutted there by Jeremy Yallop. I've read quite a few of Simon Webb's posts to various HE lists, which also consisted mainly of attacks on the autonomous learning method, and various other elaborate but dogmatic justifications (to himself?) of his own decisions. My position is the same as many I've read on the issue: I wouldn't seek to restrict his family's choices, so why would he seek to restrict those of mine? I think he's been removed from all of the HE lists now.

In other [shocking] news, the DCSF has published a review into 'self-regulated learning' [opens pdf] - which looks something like autonomous to me. Oh, apparently:

Autonomy is an important dimension of self regulation. Students who own their goals – because they enjoy the activity or because it fits with their values - devote more time to their tasks, show greater concentration, process information more deeply, and show greater levels of persistence (Ryan and Deci, 2002). On the other hand, when individuals feel coerced to achieve a goal they do less well, scoring lower on a number of academic outcome measures (Lemos, 2002; Nolen, 2003).

- and so on, although it's still very much set in terms of 'teaching' and 'classrooms'.

I found this excerpt quite funny:

Studies of interventions designed to increase self-regulation..

! Um.. doesn't self-regulation require an absence of interventions? And can this government conceive of anything at all that doesn't involve some kind of an intervention? Evidently not.

Also, just in case you haven't been reading Carlotta recently (of course you have!) we now have a Home Educated Youth Council, with a very snazzy website. I am impressed.

Is that everything? I think that's just about everything. As for my plans here, well I've nearly finished the excruciating grind that is critiquing the Badman report [opens pdf]. For some reason it's got increasingly more difficult, which is perhaps why jobs like cleaning the kitchen floor have suddenly looked quite attractive. But I will get to the end of it one day, and then be free to move onto other things.