Thursday, February 25, 2010

The thing is, Mr Badman...

I've got the 'flu ATM and I think it must have weakened my resolve, because I wasn't going to be provoked by any more of this kind of nonsense from people of his ilk, but Graham Badman has been talking to the BBC about home education, in the context of the death of Khyra Ishaq, and this is a snatch of what he said. (A snatch is enough: I'm not seeking out any more of it):

There are a tiny minority of people who use the home education system as a mask for sometimes horrific abuse of their children.

This 'tiny minority' being the total sum of one, we assume, according to his ill-briefed and almost (if it were a laughing matter, which it is not) comical, clumsily attempted obfuscation of the statistic to the Commons Select Committee recently. This one.

It's very convenient for Mr Badman and the DCSF to try to blame Khyra's death on her 'home education status', therefore her lack of daily supervision by school staff, but in fact if the law had been properly adhered to by the local authority in question, as home educators have been tirelessly been requesting it be for years now, her mother's attempts to deregister her from school wouldn't have been recognised. She informed the local authority in writing, instead of the school's headteacher. A minor detail perhaps, but I think it underlines the reasons for our pedanticism in such respects: a clear-thinking, well-researched deregistration from school would have followed the correct legal procedure and this didn't - which, instead of leading to Khyra's case being passed around and not properly addressed, should have rung at least some small alarm bells, somewhere.

But that's not the point I want to make, through my fluey bleariness. It's the bewildering Badmanesque confusion between education and welfare that jars in the mind so discordantly. The point is this:

If Kyhra's death could have been prevented by the relevant authorities having regular sight of her, giving rise to these calls for us to be regulated - why do the resulting proposals require us to jump through so many educational hoops for the state as well?

It doesn't make sense at all, and this gives the lie to the purported motivation behind our persecution. As any home educated child could tell, it just doesn't add up. I'm not asking for regular welfare checks (on the basis of one single case, incorrectly processed by the LA?) but the problem is that the goal posts move all the time. Khyra was abused, obviously, reprehensively, due to the mental illness or evil or whatever of her parents - a terrible tragedy which would, in a sane world, have been prevented by the actions of a healthy neighbourhood, never mind the education system which bizarrely seeks to replace it.

But aside from deliberate starvation, exposure to the elements, physical beatings and other obvious manifestations of it, what exactly does constitute *child abuse* nowadays? That's quite a question. 'Inappropriate' clothing? 'Inadequate' discipline? Distress at seeing one's parents upset by officials? All of these and many more made it into the consultation about the NICE guidelines for identifying child abuse, about which I blogged last year. I daren't read the resulting document: I don't think I can face it.

To some local authority home education inspectors, failure to force one's child to learn its nine times table by the age of seven will, no doubt, constitute 'abuse', even if said child is quite happy, healthy, well cared-for and learning at what he and his parents think is the optimal level for his age, aptitude and ability. In the crazy Kafkaesque world created by Graham Badman, it no longer matters what the family thinks. All education must be dictated by the state.

It's dressed up as a process of negotiation and registration, but in reality it will amount to nothing more than permission to home educate being requested by the parents and then either granted or denied by the local authority. Denial can be on the most spurious grounds. "Oh, but of course there's an appeals procedure..." Yes. Do you know how those work at the Benefits Agency? Someone who works there told me that the procedure is as follows: the harshest decision possible is routinely made, and if the claimant fails to appeal, it's assumed they didn't really need the money.

Nothing is what it seems. What we're presented with is not the truth. (This is The Truth in relation to Schedule 1 of the CSF bill and the DCSF's excuses for it.)

We need:

  • the present law to be properly and strictly adhered to;
  • local authorities to understand their existing powers and make proper use of them instead of bleating for more when they don't; and
  • for the state to otherwise back off from normal family life in all its manifestations instead of using the extremely rare death of children from parental abuse as an excuse for yet another power-grab.

I'd also like to see the real reasons for this kind of abuse properly examined. Because it doesn't happen due to the failure of officials to prevent it, it really doesn't. It happens because some people in positions of power over children are just sick. And if we really want to understand what's going wrong, we need to find out why. That's going to be an uncomfortable process for us all, and it's not one that will lead to a firming up of the present national/global power structures and the further weakening of families and organic local communities (are they not all quite demolished yet?) so I'm not holding my breath for it to happen, but I'd love to see and perhaps take part in a parallel dialogue in this sort of area.

I'm not reading Twitter or Facebook or other blogs or lists posts at the moment (except for the fascinating thread alluded to somewhere above, which you might have spotted) but I think many of them will have covered this and made the same points. My next job here will probably be to extend and update the sidebar: we're a bit short of links to the best, most informative blogs but I've been busy and am now ill. (Is it 'abusive' to be ill in the presence of one's child? Hey, there's one they haven't thought of... have they? Hmm, that's not a safe assumption to make, I suppose.)

Meanwhile, I've been keeping an eye on the worryingly fast progress of the bill through parliament, but feeling somewhat reassured by Graham Stuart's repeated assertions that the home education element will definitely not survive the wash-up. I was chatting to a primary school teacher about it yesterday, a lady who deregistered her child from school only a few weeks ago. She was outraged when she heard about the bill's contents and straight away said: "But that's just like school! And I deregistered him to avoid all that bureaucracy - so that I could just concentrate my time on giving him the education he actually needs!"

There, she summed up the position perfectly - without even needing to stop and think about it.


Blogger Elaine said...

Thankyou Gill common sense and a clear head (albeit flu ridden) I wish I had some of what you have (barring the flu) I was getting slowly (ok rapidly) befuddles by all the reports but I have now read yours and can only say Thank You

12:26 am, February 26, 2010  
Blogger Jax said...

sorry to hear you've been ill, hope you're feeling better soon.

Did you know you can fail a parenting assessment for breastfeeding on demand? I don't know that it classes as abuse though, maybe insufficient routine is neglect?

12:42 am, February 26, 2010  
Blogger Gill said...

Elaine, I'm glad it helped you. Writing it was good medicine for me, as it turns out. I feel a bit better now!

Jax, thanks for the good wishes. I hope you're all well there. No I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me. Our country/culture is going through a very bad phase, politically, isn't it? I wonder what the end result will be. Someone was telling me the other day about the USSR policy for people (even mothers of young babies) who refused to go out to work full time. ("There were creches and free daycare - what was to complain about?") They were given so many chances and then forcibly sent to a labour camp, with their child/ren removed from them.

It seems shocking that states can perpetrate this kind of abject cruelty against their people, but they can. In the UK's case I'm thinking that, as well as tightening political control, it's an economical thing. Extra public borrowing and spending is needed to keep the money-go-round working, and that needs to hang on finding more and more reasons to have more and more officials intruding in more and more families' lives. Plus, if we're all arguing with each other on a local level - officials and people, I mean, it stops us from thinking so much about what's happening in Westminster and Brussels - and from having the time and energy to try to do anything about it. They're in a precarious position down there now that we're all linked up so well, and I think whoever's driving these policies might be well aware of it.

I'm still 'flu-ranting, obviously ;-)

Anyway, I think neglect is officially classed as abuse nowadays, isn't it?

7:46 am, February 26, 2010  
Blogger Allie said...

Hi, Gill. I agree with you here.

"I'd also like to see the real reasons for this kind of abuse properly examined. Because it doesn't happen due to the failure of officials to prevent it, it really doesn't. It happens because some people in positions of power over children are just sick. And if we really want to understand what's going wrong, we need to find out why."

None of us can really understand what went on in this one case. But there look like toxic ingredients in the mix - not least the hideous childhood abuse of one of the adults in the home. That alone has made me wonder what support the surviving children will get? One the whole, I'd rather the state spent our money on providing whatever long-term therapy and support might be needed by those children than implementing money wasting monitoring schemes on thousands of children who are fine.

11:56 am, February 26, 2010  
Blogger Gill said...

Allie, I've just spent some time reading this: the judgment from the care order case in respect of the other children. It makes harrowing reading, doesn't it? I assume from your comment that you've read it too.

In the context of home ed, it seems that the professionals didn't understand the law at all and the school staff were perfectly justified in their wish to keep the children on their roll. The instruction to remove them from it was made by 'Mr H', even though they hadn't been properly deregistered.

I can't even begin to imagine what level of checks anyone would think would be enough to prevent something like this from happening again, though, and I drew some consolation from the fact that it hadn't been seen before, so probably won't be again. Let's hope. And if the children had been interviewed, would they have dared to tell the truth? I suppose we can't ever know.

This family's legacy to the rest of us is likely to come in the form of increased interference in all of our lives though, I'm guessing.

11:32 pm, February 26, 2010  
Blogger Grit said...

please get better quickly from the blueyflueybug and continue posting!

9:33 pm, February 27, 2010  
Blogger Gill said...

Dear Grit, I seem to have subconsciously passed the baton on, but I will try!

8:48 am, March 01, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For home educators, students and researchers: I have put one of the most comprehensive link lists for hundreds of thousands of statistical sources and indicators (economics, demographics, health etc.) on my blog: Statistics Reference List. And what I find most fascinating is how data can be visualised nowadays with the graphical computing power of modern PCs, as in many of the dozens of examples in these Data Visualisation References. If you miss anything that I might be able to find for you or if you yourself want to share a resource, please leave a comment.

5:40 pm, March 05, 2010  
Blogger dawn said...

I don't know what to say , I'm not surprised he can tar us like that . . . . may it all return to haunt him.
I'm sure we're all thoroughly fed up of being judged.

Hope you feel better soon.

9:58 pm, July 25, 2010  

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