Saturday, January 31, 2009

Our own review

Tech has posted a vote about this on the Facebook group's discussion board. I'm definitely in favour, as I think it's crucial that we have something strong with which to counter the inevitable negative headlines that will accompany the publication of Mr Badman's report.

I couldn't help suggesting a few questions myself - some of them a little bit tongue-in-cheek, admittedly, but some not. For a more serious list, you might want to read Augustin's suggestions in the comments here.

My suggested questions were:

1. Are extra welfare checks needed for home educated families, over and above the existing welfare system already in place? Please give reasons for your answer.

2. Are there any reliable statistics to prove that home educated children are especially vulnerable to abuse? If yes, please cite them. If no, please speculate about the possible reasons why people might want to insinuate that there are.

3. How would mandatory welfare and education checks carried out by your local authority or Ofsted affect your child's wellbeing and love of learning? Please give reasons for your answer.

4. How many proven cases of abuse by home educators should it take to justify an unwarranted, compulsory monitoring regime for the rest of us? Does your answer change if any of those cases involved families who were *already* being checked and monitored?

5. Please tell us how you think full-time school attendance might affect your child's health, wellbeing and love of learning?

6. How small is the cupboard that you keep your child locked in? If there is no cupboard, please describe the extent of your child's social activities and explain how this compares to that of an average schoolchild in a 15-minute spell in the playground?

Though admittedly, I haven't thought them through - I just typed those six out very quickly in a response to the thread. The first things that came into my head. But, really, is the last one any more ridiculous than Mr Badman's..

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Two replies spring to mind, again, off-the-cuff:

Firstly: I don't really mind the domestic servitude. I mean, yes, I'm a bit tired when my head hits the pillow at night, but that's what I signed up for when I opted for parenthood, isn't it? As for the forced marriage.. that was bad, but I eventually managed to get a divorce. (Sorry, I'm feeling mischievous this morning and not intending to demean anyone's plight, but really! Such a list of questions is surely designed to bring out the worst in us!)

Secondly (and slightly more seriously): What should government do to ensure that people don't express such concerns? It could refuse to pay attention, on the grounds that school attendance is obviously no protection. Furthermore, I know several people who were severely abused in their home as children, all of whom attended school on a full-time basis throughout, and none of whose abuse was ever noticed by the 'experts'. This is backed up by the Eunice Spry case, whose foster children were 'seen' and questioned regularly by various professionals, to no avail whatsoever.

Monitoring doesn't protect against abuse. School attendance doesn't protect against abuse. Shall we look at what might do?

Well, anyone who spends all their time with their children will know that the easiest way to encourage 'naughtiness' is to be strict, to have no trust, to frequently suspect wrongdoing and to set up a pattern of oppositional behaviour. On the other hand, if a child is happy, taken seriously and trusted, that child will 'behave well'. (I don't even like terms such as 'naughty' and 'good', because they externally set the patterns for behaviour and therefore obstruct the necessary personal development that's required for people to make their own moral judgements. Obedience doesn't lead to good moral judgements, in my opinion. The freedom to choose does.)

So, taking this on board, what's the best way to discourage child abuse? Trust. And the best way to encourage it? Suspicion.

If people (in general, not home educators) didn't feel harrassed, harangued and generally stressed out by life, they might not be tempted to kick the cat/ abuse their children. Not that everyone who feels stressed out automatically starts abusing either animals or children - in fact, most don't - but if they did, then surely an investigation into the reasons why abuse takes place and then seeking to cure that in society, would be a better use of time and resources?

And this business of educational neglect constituting child abuse, we saw it coming years ago, and of course it depends entirely on your definition of 'educational neglect'. If you think it means not forcing your child to take on a series of facts as laid out in the National Curriculum, then yes, some of us will be guilty. But if you think (as I do) that it means suffocating a child's natural curiosity by deciding in advance what should be learned, regardless of the child's own opinion, then most of us will not.

Hmmm.. who will?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Business and industry

The fact that this article is in the business and industry section of the Times says it all, in my opinion, and so I won't be saying anything else about it.

Well, OK then, perhaps I will ;-)

Eunice Spry's home education provision was regularly monitored. The children in that case were repeatedly, officially 'seen' and it still didn't prevent her foster children from being abused. (Where were the children's own families, incidentally? Why aren't they ever mentioned in connection with the case?)

According to the NSPCC's Childline's Casenotes [opens pdf], "bullying was the biggest single reason for children and young people calling ChildLine in 2007/08". Not abuse from parents or even foster parents - bullying! Which normally takes place in schools, doesn't it? (Thanks to Elaine for that link.)

I've recently seen (on the Facebook group's discussion board, perhaps, though I can't find the exact post now,) some evidence that the best prevention of child abuse is attachment parenting. (Can anyone provide the link for me?) Attcahment parenting groups often feed into home education groups: it seems to be the natural process, so I'd say - and the statistics (or lack of them, as admitted by the NSPCC) back this up - that child abuse is much less likely in home educating families than it is in any others.

Tim Browne's conflation of education and welfare issues in ths Times article is typically confusing. On the one hand, he wants to prevent a repeat of the Eunice Spry case, even though regular monitoring of the kind he is calling for, by his own Local Authority, didn't prevent it before, so it's difficult to see how it could again. And on the other hand, he wants "sufficient clarity on what a suitable education is in the eyes of the law," because: "The current definition is questionable at best," and "vague. All it allows us to do is to intervene if it appears that a parent is not providing a suitable education."

Mr Browne et al. will not be happy until anything other than the checked and sanctioned provision of a school-type education is classed as child abuse and persecuted accordingly, regardless of real 'outcomes' regarding a child's 'wellbeing', let alone anything related to actual learning.

In my opinion, the deliberate over-riding of a child's natural curiosity is detrimental to learning, and therefore should be classed as abusive, if anything education-related is. That goes on in schools from day one, of course, and will in homes too if we're all to be required to jump through Local Authority checking and vetting hoops. And then, what sort of a society will we have? An obedient one. A treacherous one. An extremely frustrated, sick one I think. Is that good for business and industry? Yes, I think it probably is.

But are business and industry the only things that should matter to us, with regard to childhood and learning? Of course not - yet increasingly, officially, they are. "It's theft of children from families. The state wants to control what childhood is.", said Mike Fortune-Wood on YouTube. I think he's dead right.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

When schools fail

A good friend of mine, from further oop North than we are, has been telling me about this story for days now, ever since it all started in Carlisle:

Carlisle School

I kept saying I'd blog about it, but the review got in the way, as it has regarding so many other matters.

Last Friday, she told me: "Anyway, this fourteen year old Carlisle student started what was meant as a peaceful protest on Bebo. He felt the standard of education and the attitude of both teachers and students of the newly formed Carlisle Central Academy was not as it should be, so he raised his concerns on Bebo. As soon as teachers found out he was doing this they locked him up in a classroom and threatened to expel him. Things apparently got so out of hand that the local MP got involved and the next day the Schools Minister Jim Knight came for an emergency visit. Today the school was closed, after a march of students, which - unfortunately but not surprisingly - got slightly out of hand. A lot of parents have kept their (younger) children at home, because they fear for their safety. And also because they are shocked by what's come out about how this school deals with freedom of speech." - and referred me to local news stories about it here and here.

Duncan Moran has beaten me to the blog post, by making the point that, under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
to his age, ability and aptitude, and
to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

- and therefore parents continuing to send their children to that school and failing to make other arrangements are in breach of it, and should face prosecution.

I wouldn't go that far myself, preferring not to wish bad things on people, but it's a fair point: some home educating parents have faced prosecution - and indeed, been prosecuted - under Section 7. I've never heard of it happening to the parent of a schoolchild, however bad the school, which is blatant prejudice, when you think about it.

What I want to know is: is the Richard Rose Central Academy in Carlisle a complete one-off? Or are other schools around the country suffering from the same kinds of problems, which are being kept quiet? This piece of Norweigan research tells us that home education is increasing on a global scale and it looks into some of the reasons why, posing the question: "Is the school institution as it has developed up until today at the end of its historical role?" Our weekly home education meetings are certainly busier now than they've ever been. We've had a sudden influx of at least a dozen new home educating families: mostly people who have attachment-parented their children from birth, have looked at the school system and decided against it, or decided against it without even looking.

The government released a new document yesterday: Ending Child Poverty: Making It Happen, in which it cheerfully told us: "The Government believes that every parent who could work, should do so." Did you spot the subliminal message? Parenting is not valid work.

But they're rolling out a programme anyway, over the next few years, starting with legislation this year, to enable them to prise their way into our personal lives even more, and ensure that we're all sufficiently aspirational, out of the house all day and keeping well away from our other family members, especially children. if you claim Child Tax Credits, you're a victim subject of this programme. You could possibly get around it by setting up a home-based family business whilst home educating, though: that's our plan here. Suffice to say: the home education review and likely ensuing inquiry, leading to legislation, is just a piece of the jigsaw.

I've kept wondering when the money will run out for these Orwellian schemes. Aren't we suffering from a global financial meltdown? Surely that will stop the merciless steamroller in its tracks, before normal healthy family life is well and truly flattened? But no: the economic crisis should be treated as "the difficult birth-pangs of a new global order", with new rules introduced on trade, Gordon Brown said on Monday.

"The difficult birth-pangs of a new global order" ... I couldn't decide whether the financial problems were deliberately engineered or not, but I think I can see where it's going now. Working to the usual problem-reaction-solution format, the eventual 'answer' to the 'problem' of global financial meltdown is going to be one world government, isn't it? Like the EU, but ten times worse.

The timing is crucial though, don't you think? Because I think people are starting to wake up, en masse, to what's really happening.

Hats off to that fourteen year old student in Carlisle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What kind of person have they chosen to conduct this *independent review* then?

Graham Badman

Graham Badman CBE MA has more than 40 years of experience in education, including being a teacher, Headteacher, inspector and chief education officer.

Graham began his career in education as a Secondary Science Teacher later becoming Head of a Science Department. From 1971-1985 he worked first as Deputy Headteacher and then as Headteacher in Cornwall.

In 1985 he joined Oxfordshire LEA as a Schools' Adviser where he remained before taking up the post of Chief Adviser to Avon County Council in 1988. He became Director of Education in 1991 and in 1994 he took over responsibility for the reorganisation of local government in Avon, following the retirement of the Chief Executive.

In May 1996 he re-joined Oxfordshire LEA, this time as Chief Education Officer. In July 1997 he was appointed as a Specialist Adviser to the Education and Employment Parliamentary Select Committee.

Graham became Strategic Director for KCC Education and Libraries on 1 January 2002. He became Managing Director, Children, Families and Education Directorate with effect from 1 April 2006, with additional responsibilities for child health services from September 2007.

- Kent County Council

So, no experience of home education whatsoever. With that kind of a résumé, how is he not going to 'review' our situation through school-oriented eyes?

For the review to have been truly independent, we'd surely have had some say in this appointment.

Is there anything to stop us carrying out our own *independent review*? At least we'd have something with which to counter his report.

"We would therefore recommend that DCSF review the legislation pertaining to children educated at home.."

In the NSPCC's response to the previous 'Children Missing Education' consultation, Mr Vijay "We.. the inf.. We don’t have the evidence there statistically, no." Patel said: "We would therefore recommend that DCSF review the legislation pertaining to children educated at home in order to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards for the protection of children."

I'm wondering: which legislation is likely to be reviewed, and in what way?

My guess would be section 436A of the Education and Inspections Act 2006:

Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education

A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.
In exercising their functions under this section a local education authority must have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.
In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.”

"The existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is unbalanced," says Mr Patel in his response, but I'm not seeing that. Which legislation and guidance does he mean? The latest Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities don't seem particularly unbalanced with section 436A to me.

As far as I know, the crucial legislation relating to elective home education is still Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act:

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

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
to his age, ability and aptitude, and
to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

And this seems unlikely to be changed, because if it was then governments, LAs and probably even named individual officials having professional contact with families will become liable for any failures in provision.

So we're back to definition of "..efficient full-time education suitable.." - which is old ground, for us.

What legal standing does CME currently have? Well, here's 'the programme'..

Children and young people have told us that five outcomes are key to well-being in childhood and later life – being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; and achieving economic well-being..

I wonder which 'children and young people' told them that?

Oh and I like this one:

1.2 Every child matters and Every child matters: next steps2 recognised that the realisation of this
ambition for improved outcomes required radical change in the whole system of children’s
services, including:
  • listening to children, young people and their families when assessing and planning service
    provision, as well as in face-to-face delivery.

And look: this is how it's supposed to work:

National Framework for local change

See who's in the middle there, right on the bullseye? That's us, I think. You don't feel.. targeted or anything, do you? Well, this page on Axcis (whose business is education recruitment) says you're not to:

According to the ASCL, parents should not view the move as "an attack" on their right to educate their own children but just a move to ensure that all children are getting the best education.

Oh phew, that's alright then. Silly of us to be so worried.

Onto the Children Act 2004. I've just had a quick read through this and it's all about Children's Commissioners, Local Safeguarding Children Boards, "Children and Young People's Plans" etc. Does any of this relate to us? Could it? I don't see the dreaded five outcomes in there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

One observation

The following was written by Adele. I'm posting it here, with her permission, to help to widen the debate about the (IMO crucial) point she raises:

The imaginary target group problem

As I see it, our biggest problem with this review is going to be that any defense of ourselves will be automatically moot on the grounds that it's not *us* they're concerned about anyway.

So we can show them how great HE is, how normal HE families are, how caring and dedicated HE parents are etc And we can tell them how discriminated against we feel.

And it won't matter.

Because their counter argument will amount to "We have no truck with home educators. It's people who *pretend to be* home educators we are concerned with".

It's near genius; the people they claim to be concerned about can't defend themselves because they don't actually exist and, even if they did exist, they'd have no defense, as they'd have to be guilty in order to fit under the heading of the people they claim to be concerned about. And because they can say that *we* are *not* the people they claim to be concerned about, *our* defenses won't mean

We prove our innocence, they counter that they have always accepted it, and it's the not the innocent they're concerned with; the people they are concerned with are the guilty. Thus no defense is possible. By making it about people who use HE as a cover for all sorts of unpleasant things, they create a set up where HEers cannot defend
themselves as the fact that we're *really* HEers means we fall outside of this category.

So it becomes impossible to address their concerns, except by arguing that they have no evidence to suggest the existence of the people they're worried about. And this has limited potential because just one or two cases are enough for them to claim *the possibility* that there *could be* more (and prop up the dubious conclusions they draw from this). And, even if we could prove there were *no* cases, they could then counter that they're just trying to ensure that it stays that way.

So... How do we fight this? I think making it clear that this is what they are doing, and that we know that this is what they are doing and can see the flaws in their arguments, is a good starting point. Not sure where to go from there.

Writing to my MP and wow, the formidable Facebook group!

I want to write to my MP about the review, especially as she has expressed her support for home education, but I'm not sure what to ask her to do.

We presumably want to know why the closing date for responses is so soon (but will get a standard non-reply to that); and what the evidence base is for the allegations made. Anything else? All comments appreciated.

I see there's a thread about this on the Facebook group. Loads of ideas there, plus a link to Carlotta's letter to her MP.

Most interesting is a reply from one of the MPs, which includes the following:

I have investigated your concerns and you are correct that usually a consultation would last for 12 weeks.

However this 4 week consultation launched on the 20th of January is not the full consultation, it is only to gauge different parties' ideas that will be considered for the Government's proposals to be outlines in a report on Home Education to be launched in May.

Once the report has been launched with the Government's proposals it will then go out to a full 12 week consultation which the different groups can have their say on the proposals.

I have been informed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families that the consultation will be made available online in the same way that the current short consultation has been.

Looks like we're in for a busy year, then! (And, wouldn't you think they'd just tell us that, up front, on here, without people having to go through their MPs to find it out?)

I must confess I'm not really Facebook-oriented - I'm better with RSS feeds and emails that nudge me! - so don't check in all that often, but now that I look, I'm amazed at the scope and depth of the group's discussion board. I suspect there's more information there than I've got time to read. Makes fascinating reading though: I will have to dip in more frequently.

If anyone has blogged their review response and would like it to be added to my sidebar list, please let me know.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


While we're all being kept busy with the home ed review, another consultation is quietly underway. This one comes from NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and its draft guidance includes the following points in bold, interspersed with my own comments in brackets:

"Healthcare professionals should consider neglect if a child’s state of clothing or footwear is consistently inappropriate, for example, for the weather or the child’s size."

(One of my children hangs onto clothes that are a bit too small for her and keeps wearing them if she’s especially fond of them. Similarly, she prefers to go out without coat. No longer an option, is it? Except in summer.)

“Healthcare professionals should consider neglect if parents or carers fail to administer essential prescribed medication for their child.”

( - even, presumably, where the parent has reasons for disagreeing with the prescription.)

“Healthcare professionals should consider neglect if parents or carers persistently fail to obtain treatment for their child’s dental caries.”

(Have mercury amalgam injected into their teeth, or else.)

“Healthcare professionals should consider neglect if parents or carers persistently fail to attend follow-up outpatient appointments for their children that are essential to the child’s health and well-being.”

(Parents must not think for themselves, under any circumstances. The professionals are always right, and parents must not challenge that.)

“Inappropriate or unexplained poor school attendance. Healthcare professionals should consider child maltreatment if they become aware of poor school attendance that has no justification on health, including mental health, grounds.”

( - Attend school always, or risk being taken into care.)

“Excessive clinginess…”

(One of my children is very shy, which I suspect is an inherited trait. But children are often clingy in the presence of strangers, aren't they?)

“Child fails to seek or accept appropriate comfort or affection from an appropriate person when significantly distressed”

(Some people just don't like being comforted, surely? I don't, particularly.)

"• anger or frustration expressed as, for example, temper tantrum in a school-aged child or frequently flying into a rage at the least provocation..
• distress expressed as, for example, inconsolable crying."

(One of my children has very loud displays of temper, and sometimes cries loudly and unconsolably when she wants to, for e.g., 'persuade' her brothers to play a board game with her, after they've said no.)

“Healthcare professionals should consider child maltreatment if a child or young person regularly and persistently shows or is reported to assume age-inappropriate responsibilities which interfere with normal developmental tasks such as attending school. For example:
• a child may adopt a care-taking role for parents or siblings
• a very young child may show excessive comforting behaviours when witnessing parental distress”

(What are ‘excessive comforting behaviours’? If I cry, my child can’t hug me? Not that I go around crying a lot, but I'd like to reserve the right to in the case of, for e.g., sudden bereavement or shock.)

“Healthcare professionals should consider child maltreatment if a child responds to a health examination/assessment in an unusual, unexpected and developmentally inappropriate way, for example extreme passivity, resistance or refusal.”

And the pièce de résistance:

“Healthcare professionals should consider neglect if a child is not being cared for by a person who is able to provide safe or adequate care, including ensuring regular school attendance at compulsory school age.”


What are they doing to us?!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

NSPCC and government: hand in glove?

Our government's department for children, schools and families repeatedly suggests that home educating parents need to be checked, vetted and monitored to ensure we are not abusing our children. (This is despite the only case of home educating abuse being cited - Eunice Spry - being regularly monitored and assessed by her local authority for years, though apparently none of her professional visitors noticed the blatant abuse of her foster children.) The call for this latest attack on home educating freedom apparently originates from the NSPCC, specifically its Child Protection Policy Advisor, Mr Vijay "We.. the inf.. We don’t have the evidence there statistically, no," Patel, but the NSPCC is so dependent on government funding now that it's difficult (but not impossible!) to work out which one of them is actually coming up with the ideas.

And yet two years ago the same department ran another consultation to decide whether the paid childcarers of children over the age of eight should be Ofsted-checked and monitored. This particular decision has to be seen in the light of the recently announced abolition of Income Support, which means that single parents, including home educating ones, will soon be obliged to earn money to pay their rent and bills, using whatever childcare arrangements they can access. This means that there will be some cases in which home educating parents have no choice but to leave their children with childminders who, due to that decision, will not be vetted, checked or monitored.

So by this logic, parents are to be seen as potential abusers, but random unregistered paid childcarers of children over eight, are not! How can we parents be deemed fit to select a non-abusing childcarer, all by ourselves (or have one foisted on us by DWP at risk of losing our income) and yet not to be left alone with our own children?

We understand that it's just easier for the powers that be if we all, without exception, obediently send our children to school, go out to work and pay our taxes, thereby doing away with those pesky family bonds and so on, and that it's probably a bit of a pain that this has to be acheived by creeping increments in the form of 'consultations' in case too many of us notice what's really going on, but would it take too much effort to at least make the whole thing hang together with some kind of logic?

The NSPCC, incidentally, didn't like the plan to allow those childcarers to go unregistered. "All children must be afforded the same level of protection and safeguards, regardless of their age, the time they spend in childcare and by whom the childcare is provided," it said. (Does this, then, include children in schools? Apparently not, because we don't see any Full Stop campaigns about that, do we?)

[Many thanks to Elaine for pointing out the above incongruities to me. And if she can lay her hands on the relevant figures from the NSPCC accounts that we also discussed, I'll add those in as well.]

Friday, January 23, 2009

Review links and quotes

I've added these links and quotes to my sidebar today for easy reference - right at the top, because I think that for the next few weeks, this issue has priority over just about everything else:

I'll be adding to it all the time, so please tell me if you know of, or come across any others to add to it.

The review questions (non-LA version)

For sidebar linking purposes I'm reposting the six review questions here. (The sixty review questions for Local Authorities are here.)

1. Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

2. Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Deadline for responses: Friday 20 February 2009.

AHEd Press Release


For immediate release, Wednesday 21nd January 2009

Parents Express Outrage and Disgust at Latest Government Attack on Families.

Home educating parents in England are expressing outrage and disgust as the government launches a vicious attack against them with yet another consultation affecting their family choices. [1]

National home education group Action for Home Education [2] today complained to the DCSF about the consultation which includes accusations that home educators are potential child abusers. “This is not the first time we have had to defend ourselves against wild, unsubstantiated accusations made in an attempt to excuse further interventions into our family lives. We are already regularly questioned about our arrangements and it appears that the government now intend to put us all on permanent enquiry”, said Barbara Stark who is a home educating parent and chair of AHEd.

This consultation, the latest in an endless round of similar vexacious exercises, is part of a review of home education. However, “we are being asked to defend ourselves against unwarranted charges of child abuse and/or neglect and invited to partake in the construction of our own oppression by answering a question asking what the government can do to ensure this abuse does not happen."

Parents are telling AHEd that they are extremely fed up with the repeated and sustained attacks on them while the state-as-parent continues to fail the country's children in breath-taking fashion. Many parents are home educating precisely because the authorities failed their children in school and are offended at the attempts of government to impose their much hyped desired outcomes on their children. "Children are entitled to have their own desired outcomes. We reject the right of the state to dictate or examine our desires" said Barbara. AHEd stands by the right of parents to enable their children to aim for their own outcomes in their own way.

Every week we hear that the many and sometimes tragic failures of authorities to educate and protect the children with whose provision they are entrusted are due to lack of resources - so why misappropriate funds to an area of research backed success in order to persecute this minority group, labelling them as potential abusers?

AHEd supporter Clare Murton said, "If government can produce proper evidence of risk factors in home education, we are more than willing to examine that evidence and respond accordingly. However, whilst all that is put forward is rumour, slander and libel aimed at distracting the focus from their own despicable failures, we refuse to give credence to their leading questions."

One home educating parent blogs [3] "Your child can be bullied at school until they're suicidal but dare to take them out and the government want to brand you a potential abuser. Your local authority can break the law, dragging their feet or flat out refusing to do anything about your child's Special Education Needs but when you finally decide you've had enough and take them out of school, you're a potential abuser. Stand up for your child when the state fails them and you need watching. Put your children before career and material possessions and there must be something wrong with you."

Monika Dutta, another home educator, has very personal reasons for challenging this gross inteference. She said about this consultation that it leaves her feeling moved to tears; "All I can think about is how family members were investigated by the government for not sending my mother to Hitler Youth meetings" - yes, New Labour's government remind some people of Hitler who, incidentally, banned home education because of his desire to control all thinking as early as possible.

Home educators do not know precisely what final solution the government has in mind for them but fear that, while expensive routine and abusive checking on the many thousands of home educators will be a red herring that will detract precious time and resources from genuine instances of need, members of our community will be required to tolerate increased state interventions aimed at controlling the choices of law abiding and loving families. Why else would government launch their third attempt at revising the law pertaining to education otherwise than at school in as many years, despite previous spectacular failures due to massive opposition and blatant legal inaccuracies.

This review is being seen as harassment and a threat by home educators who are tired of being ignored when it comes to their own views on what to do about home education, especially given the preference shown for the views of local authorities who routinely misunderstand education law and home education practice. Not only has the government ignored and tried to sideline us repeatedly, but now they try to silence and exclude us.

AHEd members are asking why only LA staff have been formally notified of this consultation? Home educators, the major stakeholders, discovered this consultation only through their own vigilance and networking while the time to respond to the consult has been cut to only one third of the usual minimum time allowed under cover of the excuse of urgent overriding public interest requiring prompt action. AHEd has made a formal complaint demanding to know what overriding public interest justifies this action.

To add insult to injury we find that while we may all answer this 6 question consultation on what to do about home education, local authorities are being sent an additional questionnaire encouraging ultra vires practices and soliciting their detailed views about home education, containing 60 questions.

Notes for Editors:

For information, contacts etc: (xxx)





Yours sincerely,

Barbara Stark
(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd Action for Home Education Group. Action for Home Education Group wiki

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mike Fortune-Wood speaks about the latest UK attack on Home-Education

Stroking snakes, fraternising with ferrets..

No, I'm not just talking about the government's latest nonsense (though it might come in for a mention..) but, first of all, our home ed group outing yesterday to the new local animal sanctuary.

The yellow snake is a python, and the children all got to stroke it and to ask its handler endless questions, which he was more than happy to endlessly answer!

Before the animal sanctuary, we had our weekly home ed meeting, and some of us were chatting about the home education review. Everyone I spoke to about it feels deeply offended and insulted by the line the government is taking, that because we home educate, we could be child abusers.

We already face prejudice from some of the general public thinking we’re a bit weird for not putting our children into school, and now vast numbers will be wondering whether we’re also perhaps abusing our children in some way.

It’s absolutely outrageous. To requote the AHEd statistics, which can’t be requoted often enough IMO,

Ahed anomoly figures

Those figures constitute cold hard fact, and yet regarding the supposed case to quote Vijay Patel, the NSPCC’s Child Protection Policy Advisor: “We don’t have the evidence there statistically, no.”

There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that home educators might be child abusers.

The only case Mr Patel could cite was that of Eunice Spry, who in the long period of her foster children’s abuse, was checked, monitored, visited and known by several local authority departments.

There is, therefore, no excuse for the implementation of statutory monitoring of home education.

If anyone needs motivating to help counter this attack, I recommend joining the Facebook Group. We get a daily call to action by email. They're scarily well-organised!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Transcript of Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show section on Home Education, 20th January 2009

I was asked by The Facebook group to transcribe yesterday's piece on Home Education on the Jeremy Vine Show. I'm posting it there and here:

Transcript begins one hour and six minutes into the two-hour programme:

JEREMY VINE: Next we look at the controls on parents who teach their children at home. The answer is there are not many at all. And that seems to matter to one minister who has angered parents’ groups, suggesting that home teaching, in some cases, could be hiding abuse. If you school your children at home, we’d love your response to that.


JEREMY VINE: Parents who home educate their children and have never sent them to school don’t even have to tell the authorities that they’re doing so. I wonder if you knew that. As a result there are no official figures for home educated children, but government estimates it could be around 20,000 or more. Launching a review of home education in England, the children’s minister Baroness Morgan has spoken of her concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need. She added that in some extreme cases, home education could even be used as a cover for abuse. But parents who school their children at home aren’t at all happy about the review or indeed, the minister’s comments. Let’s speak to Vijay Patel, who’s the NSPCC’s Child Protection Policy Advisor, and Annette Taberner from Education Otherwise, which is a home education charity. So, Vijay Patel, first of all, just tell us what controls are in place if Mum or Dad or both say we want to educate our child at home.

VIJAY PATEL: At the moment, as the law stands, if your child is under five, and you don’t send them to school, you don’t have to tell anybody. If you send your child to school, and then choose to withdraw them, then you have to tell the Local Authority. That’s confusing. And so, basically after that, a Local Authority can ask to see how is the child’s education but it’s up to the parents to decide if they’re going to engage with them. And most do, but it’s really up to the parents to decide how, what they do and when.

JEREMY VINE: So if you decide you’re going to home school your child from the age of four, you won’t appear on a list anywhere and you might not get a visit?

VIJAY PATEL: That’s quite possible.

JEREMY VINE: And… therefore the council and the state does not know what you are doing?

VIJAY PATEL: Yep. And that’s one of our concerns. We are not against home education at all and we would support parents’ rights to decide what’s in the interests of children, but we do want children to be safe and we know in a very small minority, children are abused by their parents in the home.

JEREMY VINE: Annette Taberner, can you give us your comment on that?

ANNETTE TABERNER: Yes, I’m delighted to have an opportunity to speak to Mr Patel and I’d really like the NSPCC to talk to barrister Ian Dowty, who we work with on a regular basis and who is a leading expert in his field. I think that I’d like to address a comment that the NSPCC made yesterday in the press release where they cited..

JEREMY VINE: Could you address what he’s just said? That what I asked you to do. Yes.

ANNETTE TABERNER: Yes, I’m just about to. They cited the London Safeguarding Board’s evidence and work and this is one of the difficulties we have, because we’ve actually asked for the evidence base upon which statements were made, which link home education to abuse, and insufficient support and so on, and the London Safeguarding Board have been unable to provide that. And the same has happened over forced marriages and the evidence given to the Select Committee. So I’m afraid, people who have never taken the trouble to talk to home educators, or home educating families, or the organisations that represent them, or the barristers that we work with, have a really very partial view of home education and I’d love to invite them to talk to us because we’ve been asking government for two years for meetings at ministerial level. I have personally asked Ed Balls three times in the last two years to meet with us to discuss the positives and the negatives. There are reasons why people might not engage with their local authority. I haven’t ever engaged with my local authority. I don’t…

JEREMY VINE: You haven’t? Can I ask you a question?

ANNETTE TABERNER: No, I haven’t. Well, let me.. I haven’t engaged with them on an individual basis, but I meet with them regularly as a representative of our local group.

JEREMY VINE: OK. Now, tell us then why, Annette, you’ve decided not to engage with them.

ANNETTE TABERNER: Because at the time that I began to home educate my children, the people who came to make inspections were unaware of the law, asked questions that were completely irrelevant, like: were we following the National Curriculum, which we are not obliged to follow..

JEREMY VINE: It’s not a bad question though, is it?

ANNETTE TABERNER: Well, if I – if somebody came to mend my gas boiler, I would expect them to know about gas. I would expect them to know about the law, I would expect them to know about regulation. The problem we have is that throughout the country home educating families suffer the injustice of having people interfere in their provision who bring no benefits and do considerable harm.

JEREMY VINE: OK. Hold it there, let’s go back to Vijay for a second. She’s making a fair point, Vijay, if you can’t back up anything you’re saying with figures.

VIJAY PATEL: Well, they’re hard to come by and I can’t talk about the London Safeguarding Board, but I will say there’s a.. there is one case which was in the media two years ago: the case of Eunice Spry, but more important..

JEREMY VINE: Well, one case is… I’m sorry, if I..

ANNETTE TABERNER: I’m happy to talk about Eunice Spry actually, because Eunice Spry did cooperate with her local authority..

JEREMY VINE: Can I.. sorry.. Annette, I just don’t want to go into an individual case, if that’s OK.


JEREMY VINE: Vijay, have you got any statistical base at all?

VIJAY PATEL: We.. the inf.. We don’t have the evidence there statistically, no.

JEREMY VINE: So why are you, why is anyone else worried about child abuse in homes where children are home educated?

VIJAY PATEL: We are not against home education. Now we need to be clear about that. We have.. it’s really that... Parents should decide what’s in the interests of children. What we do want is that… It’s important children are safe. And we know in some cases, some people are very skilled at hiding behind law and guidance and saying: I shall just keep my children at home so nobody knows what is happening.

JEREMY VINE: And Annette, I guess when you sent off the Local Authority with a flea in their ear, they go back and they say: well, she won’t let us in!

ANNETTE TABERNER: Well actually I talk to them, as I say, on a collective basis, which I think is a much better way of making progress. If they speak to us as organisations, if they respect the law, if they respect our rights in law, they might actually find that we can work together. We’ve done that with some Local Authorities and we’ve had some very productive talks with them.

JEREMY VINE: But isn’t it ok, Annette, if you’re home educating your child, or somebody else is, for someone from the council, or Ofsted to pop in and have a look? And even if they don’t know as much about the law as you do, they just need to make sure that everything’s alright?

ANNETTE TABERNER: Well the law says that I’m responsible for the education of my children and in actual fact, that same law applies to people who send their children to school. I get absolutely no assistance and help whatsoever with the task that I’m undertaking and I – can I just challenge another assumption behind all of this, which is that, you know, people seem to think that children in schools are safe and that our children are at risk. Well, I have to tell you, we have considerable numbers of children in home education who had horrendous times in school. School isn’t a safe place for all children, and we do have evidence of that.

JEREMY VINE: OK, thank you both…

VIJAY PATEL: I’d accept that. We do know just that it’s hard for some kids.

ANNETTE TABERNER: It’d be nice for you to know also that the NSPCC have worked with Education Otherwise on our safeguarding policy and that we have an independent person who members of our community can liaise with, and I don’t know if Mr Patel is aware of that.

JEREMY VINE: Thank you both Annette Taberner from the charity Education Otherwise and Vijay Patel from the NSPCC. We’re asking whether ministers are right to worry about what goes on behind that closed front door when a parent educates their child.

[Traffic news and music]

JEREMY VINE: And it’s home education, twenty past one, we’re talking about home education.. ministers worrying there’s no enough inspection.. there’s not enough insight into what’s going on and that even in some rare cases there could be child abuse going on when a parent decides to educate their children or child at home. David and his mother Helen are in Leamington Spa. Who’s on the phone, both of you, or just one of you?

HELEN: We’re sharing the phone.

JEREMY VINE: Very good! And Helen, are you educating David?

HELEN: Yes, I am.

JEREMY VINE: And David, how old are you?

DAVID: I’m thirteen.

JEREMY VINE: And have you always been schooled at home?

DAVID: Yes I’ve always been at home.

JEREMY VINE: Have you done exams and whatnot?

DAVID: I’ve taken four GCSEs: two iGCSEs which are the international ones, and two ordinary GCSEs, but apart from that I haven’t taken any other exams.

JEREMY VINE. Is he.. is that quite early to be doing them Helen?

HELEN: Er, yes. Somebody told David that because he was at home, he would never get GCSEs, so at aged twelve he turned round and said to me: I’m taking them next summer, Mum. “But you can’t! You’re twelve,” and I’d never contemplated taking exams with him at home, but because the desire was there last year, he set to and passed four GCSEs last month.

JEREMY VINE: Terrific. Now, what made you decide to do all this at home?

HELEN: Partly, we went to.. he was going to go to school like other children and I went to the new parents’ evening and a lot of what I was being told frightened me and I went to the class teacher, seeking some reassurance before he started. And I said: Look, he can read. What are you going to do with him in a class of forty other young people, some who have perhaps come from backgrounds without many books? And her answer was: We have plenty of school library books, he can sit and read those until the rest catch up. And that set off alarm bells in my head. Education is not about waiting for others to catch up. It’s about your own learning. So we were going to keep him out until he was five, and then we found out that home education was a legal option and we stayed at home.

JEREMY VINE: Which is.. a lot of work for you, Helen?

HELEN: It is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding and.. I have three children at home, all learning at home.. because they’re interested learners and they take responsibility for their learning right from very very young. It’s not a lot of work: I’m more of a facilitator of finding out answers than a teacher.

JEREMY VINE: David, do you enjoy it?

DAVID: Yeah, I love home education.

JEREMY VINE: What about.. the thing that people always say, David, is that you miss out on the playground, that you miss out on all the argy bargy of having friends and falling out with them and making up with them again.

DAVID: No, there are over 300 children we know of in Warwickshire alone who I socialise with once a month.

JEREMY VINE: How do you get together with them?

DAVID: There are home education groups which are organised by Education Otherwise or individuals.

JEREMY VINE: So you have a once a month get together?

DAVID: Once a month plus meeting with friends.

JEREMY VINE: OK. Is that.. Helen, is that working well?

HELEN: Sorry, I didn’t hear that. What was going on? I didn’t hear that question.

JEREMY VINE: Only the one phone! Does that work well? Does that give David some.. a bit of the social exposure that a child of thirteen needs?

HELEN: Oh yes and because there are lots of Education Otherwise groups but also he’s a member of the local St John’s Ambulance, he helps out at the National Trust, we belong to a church, he belongs to a youth club, when he was younger he was in Cubs.. He’s been to kayaking classes, he’s been to karate.. There are all sorts of different activities and events that help him socialise. And also, because he’s at home, he can have friends over all day and all night if he wants and socialise in a more in-depth way than sitting in a classroom with forty people the same age.

JEREMY VINE: Thank you very much Helen and thanks David. Good luck to you both. Impressive! GCSEs at thirteen years old. Is there a loophole here? Let’s talk to John, who’s an education welfare officer in Newcastle. Good afternoon.

JOHN: Good afternoon.

JEREMY VINE: Now, do you worry there is a loophole in this system?

JOHN: Yes, I do worry there is a loophole. It does work very well for some people who school is not appropriate for, but in actual fact, according to the law, someone can home-tutor a number of children which don’t necessarily have to be their own children. People that do that are CRB checked and they are vetted at the beginning, but once the whole thing gets going, there is very little external supervision, so in the light of that we have to say that it is potentially open to abuse.

JEREMY VINE: Now, when you say someone can tutor a bunch of people, do you mean that if you’ve got four or five houses in a street where the parents don’t like the local school, they can get together and almost create their own school and one of them can do geography, once can do maths, and you can do it like that?

JOHN: Yes, or even.. or even, one person do the whole thing.

JEREMY VINE: And is the limit on the number of pupils before Ofsted can…?

JOHN: I believe the limit is five people, but that does depend on the number of hours that the children are being taught for.

JEREMY VINE: How interesting, so you could conceivably say: All the kids in my street, come round to my house and I’ll do the schooling.

JOHN: Yep, yep. Or a certain number of children that aren’t getting on well at any particular school, or schools. Yes, the same. Come round to my house and I’ll tutor you.

JEREMY VINE: And you’re er.. for obvious reasons, a little bit worried if there’s no inspection regime there.

JOHN: Well, there is, as I said, there is an inspection regime at the beginning, but it’s very little once the whole thing is moving on. So, you know, in a worst case scenario, you could imagine someone actually grooming children in that sort of set-up. And God forbid, but in these days in which we live, it’s a possibility.

JEREMY VINE: John thank you very much. Fascinating subject, this. Lucinda Morris in Saltash in Cornwall says: I’m a single parent and Lucinda teaches her fourteen year-old daughter at home. She says the regulations in Cornwall are great. “I’ve had support, get checked up on once or twice a year, my daughter wasn’t happy at primary school. She’s dyslexic. She’s perfectly happy now. I’ve had so much prejudice being a single parent and home schooling my daughter, but it works for me.” So if you’re listening in class, Lucinda and your daughter.. Playing this record for you in Cornwall… Break from lessons now! Dance around the kitchen!


JEREMY VINE: We are hearing from lots of home schoolers on Radio 2 this afternoon. Joan in Sale near Manchester says: “My grandson went to school for a year, was very unhappy at school. He’s a very bright boy. He was being held back because reading books were not being changed when he’d finished them. My daughter took him out of the school. He’s thriving now, he’s reading and writing beautifully, he’s got vast general knowledge, there are regular LEA checks.. It’s not the same for mixing with other kids, but he does go swimming and he goes to gym club and church and youth club. I know of home schooled children who have gone on to get university degrees so, although I don’t know what’s ahead, I’m not too worried.” Well, someone who wants to comment is Michelle, who’s on the line now and you think there’s a bit of arrogance here, Michelle?

MICHELLE: Yes hi Jeremy, I do actually. I think the point that I made in my email was that you have to train, in affect, to drive a car, you’ve got to pass a test. You wouldn’t be allowed to just set up your own operating theatre and operate on someone without having qualified, and I just think.. I think there’s a sort of arrogance in these people that they think that they’re qualified to actually do the job that a teacher has trained for for seven years, with their own children.

JEREMY VINE: Isn’t a parent a teacher anyway?

MICHELLE: Well of course, but not in terms of getting exam results and stuff like that and I also think there’s a lot of things that children learn at school that you can’t just teach on a one-to-one or even a one-to-two basis. Things like forming relationships with other children, getting along with people that you don’t necessarily like. There’s all the sort of, you know, classroom banter, there’s playground interaction.. and also I think interpersonal skills that you can’t get, you know, if you’re just teaching your own child.

JEREMY VINE: Sure. Let me just bring Merry Raymond in Peterborough because you feel strongly about this, Merry. You are home schooling?

MERRY: I absolutely am. I have four daughters, yes.

JEREMY VINE: And Michelle was just saying that there was a bit of arrogance there.

MERRY: Perhaps, if you think there’s some arrogance involved in taking home a baby in the first place, but I know my daughters very well. I’ve brought up my children and the oldest is now ten or eleven.. nearly eleven.. she is, in fact, choosing to go to school in September. But she has always chosen everything. She’s out seven days a week, she has a fantastic and varied life. She has so many friends and has overcome some amazing things that I do not believe she would have been able to have overcome in school. We are not..

JEREMY VINE: But parents aren’t trained teachers, that was Michelle’s point.

MERRY: We’re not trained teachers, no, but we do know these children and at best – at worst – we usually have four, five or six of varying abilities in our house, whereas a teacher has perhaps thirty, and maybe just one teaching assistant. I know exactly what my children need and are doing all the time. I can adapt on a daily basis to what they need and I can be there for them, they don’t have to wait to be helped. And we work incredibly hard. It is such a big deal. It’s not sending your child to school at nine o’clock in the morning and not worrying too much until they come home at four. It’s 24/7 and it’s absolutely about being with our child.

JEREMY VINE: OK. Thanks you very much, Michelle and Merry. Let’s go to Theo Skinner who’s fifteen, who has his mum on board, Vicky. Hi Theo.

THEO: Hi Jeremy, how are you?

JEREMY VINE: Yeah, good thank you. And you were bullied at school, I know. So you then went home to be taught.

THEO: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

JEREMY VINE: And has it been better since then?

THEO: It has, I mean, I was.. I left school in November 2005 and the reason I left school was because I was attending a school in Bournemouth and I was.. I mean, I’ve got red hair and I’ve been bullied my entire life, to be honest.


THEO: And I was going to school, and I went, after I’d been bullied severely, I went to the head and asked her to stop this because it was getting very much out of hand. And she did absolutely nothing about it and it continued, and it continued, and it’s been going on for ages, so I just quit school and I decided to become home educated.


THEO: And I’ve been home educated since then.

JEREMY VINE: So, Vicky, did he come to you and say: OK Mum, take over?

VICKY: Yes, he did.

JEREMY VINE: And you were willing to?

VICKY: Yes, yeah well we’d been to the school and nothing was happening and they denied that he was even being bullied so obviously they weren’t going to deal with it. And it got to the point where he went from being a really confident, happy child to being a complete nervous wreck and so I didn’t really have a choice in the end.

JEREMY VINE: And one of the things we haven’t really covered here is that you have to then get across all of these syllabuses and get up to quite a high standard yourself?

VICKY: Well, not really, I mean… When I took him out of school I had to – we went and got some workbooks and things – and I actually had to take him back a key stage because I discovered that there were big gaps in his education and he wasn’t actually able to do certain things with maths, in particular. So while the school had been saying “Oh yes, he’s doing really well, he’s at this level,” he actually wasn’t. So not only was he really unhappy, but he wasn’t learning at the level that they said that he was learning at.

JEREMY VINE: Right. We’ve had an email from Fiona Cottington in Kings Lynn, who says: “I think home schooling borders on abuse anyway. It deprives children of valuable social skills which they develop in a school environment and I don’t believe that they can receive that at home as thorough an education as they would in a school.

VICKY: Well that’s absolutely ridiculous. I have another son who has just turned eleven, and he’s also home educated and when he left school, he was nearly eight and unable to read. He was behind in all areas of the curriculum and he’d also developed almost like obsessive-compulsive disorder as a result of the stress of being in the classroom environment. He’s now well and happy. He’s also able to read, he’s quite a bookworm. My children are very social. Every day of the week I am taking them to this club and that club. They do Scouts, they’re both very musical, they go to church, they go to clubs, they go swimming. We also regularly meet up with other local home educators and we go on trips and…

JEREMY VINE: So it’s going well.

VICKY: .. have social things.. The problem we have is not lack of social opportunities. It’s actually finding the time to fit it all in because they have so many things that they do, you know, their life is very very busy.

JEREMY VINE: OK, thank you very much Vicky and Theo. Theo is fifteen. We’re talking about home schooling on Radio 2.


Transcript ends at one hour and thirty five minutes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The five outcomes

I've blogged about the Five Outcomes before, and am forced to come back to them again now, in the light of this latest government attack on home education, because they're featured in two of the six consultation questions:

2. Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

(The complete list of consultation questions can be found at the end of this post.)

Here are the five outcomes again then, interspersed with my comments in italics:

The Government's aim is for every child, Isn't it presumptuous of the government to have aims for our children? whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support which makes it sound like the children have a say in the matter, which they don't they need to:

  • Be healthy So my home-educated children can no longer do the old "How does it feel to eat nothing but chips for a week?" experiment. Or that other practical and most educational one loved by home educated teenagers: "Do I really need sunlight?" If they can't be free to experiment like this, because their aims are being decided for them by the government, how are they supposed to learn properly?

    And seriously, what about children who can't be healthy? Does this mean that sick children can't be home educated? Many Local Authority officers will interpret it in this way.

  • Stay safe So my home educated children can no longer choose to take risks? No more crazy sofa dives to test the angles of projection? If my child falls off the sofa during such an activity, will I no longer be allowed to home educate? Many Local Authority officers will interpret it in this way.

  • Enjoy and achieve Every home-educated child I know seems to enjoy its life, but how can this be proved? Just by asking them? What if they lie? Wheel out the lie-detectors? And what, precisely, are they supposed to achieve? According to Section 7 of the Education Act, which is the only legal requirement placed on parents regarding their children's education, "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." It doesn't say anything about achieving, does it?

    What this will probably mean, in practice, is that Local Authorities will want to test our children, to ensure they're learning on a par with the National Curriculum, which is precisely what some of us home educate to avoid! We don't want our children to be uniformly trained to jump through preset educational hoops. We want them to be free to learn at their own pace, according to their own interests, according to their age, ability and aptitude - not according to what an education officer, or the government, or anyone else thinks they should be learning.

    It will probably mean that we, like the poor beleaguered school teachers, will have to start teaching to the test. So, no more spending an extra hour in bed spontaneously learning about dinosaurs for my children, as two of them were this morning:

    There will no longer be time for that kind of thing. They'll have to be at the kitchen table, learning from key stage whatever books, whether they like it or not. And how are they supposed to *enjoy* that? OK, an intelligent, understanding education official might allow some leaway, but how much will depend entirely upon that person's prejudices about learning, 'achieving' and 'enjoying'. It's a recipe for disaster.

  • Make a positive contribution How on earth is this measured? Contribute to what, exactly? Are our children all going to be obliged to go and do charity work? If so, how does this fit in with making sure the above 'achievements' are met? Sigh. What do we have to do to make this go away?

  • Achieve economic well-being So the children of families living in relative poverty will have to go to school? And yet I've blogged exhaustively about how easy it is to home educate on a low income. Will home educating families be subjected to financial assessments before being allowed to continue with their educational provision?

Where did these five outcomes come from? I seem to remember reading that they originated in the Lisbon Treaty or some other EU mandate some years before the death of Victoria Climbié, which is given as the official reason for them. Either way, they have been imposed on us without debate, as far as I can tell.

I think most home educating families will be able to comply with, or otherwise get round, these five outcomes if they are being assessed by reasonable, open-minded officers, but sadly our collective experience is that such posts are not always filled by such people. And why should home educating families be subjected to such intrusions?

When children in schools are having to wear stab vests and be scanned at every verse end, when more than 360,000 children are injured in schools each year, when 450,000 children were bullied in school last year, when at least 16 children commit suicide each year as a result of school bullying, when an estimated 1 million children truant every year, when Treasury statistics show more than 1 in 6 children leave school each year unable to read, write or add up (thanks to AHEd for these stats) - why should home educators, whose children grow up healthier, happier, and more able than most, be the focus of such intense monitoring procedures?

My response to the last CME consultation included the following:

My own family was visited on this basis on several occasions over the years, and the visits were extremely disruptive to both family life and the children’s education. With hindsight, I wish I had supplied information of my provision by post or email from the start, but this option was not made available to me and I felt obliged to agree to the visits instead. I was pleased to see the 2007 guidance to local authorities seemed to strengthen the position of home educating families in this respect but am now dismayed to see that this draft guidance appears to undo that good work.

My 19 year-old son says: “The home visits put me off learning because I found I was concentrating on trying to convince the officer about my education instead of just getting on with learning. Also, from a child’s perspective the concept of having your knowledge and progress audited in that way is stressful.”

For this reason I think it’s vital that local authorities’ first port of call in dealing with electively home educating families should be the 2007 guidance [opens pdf]. I now have two younger children educating at home, whose educational status is currently not known to the local authority and I have found that having the freedom to home educate without official inspection enables me to offer them educational provision that is significantly superior in quality. My provision for the older children was certainly ‘suitable’, but my provision for the younger two, because of the absence of local authority involvement is exemplary. I am concerned that this guidance will directly and negatively affect this situation because my local authority may now feel obliged to seek us out and ascertain the suitability or otherwise of our provision, thereby damaging it.

- and I definitely stand by this opinion and will be restating it at every opportunity. (At least mine will be a direct, unmisleading quote from the consulation responses, unlike Baroness Morgan's this week in The Times: "Most said that the guidance was 'confusing and open to misinterpretation'.") Unwarranted state intrusion into family life damages children's learning.

NB: Lotusbirther makes a great point: "This is from the government that won't even let home schooling/educating single (lone) parents access funds for Income Support on the grounds that they would then be financially supporting home education."

And Carlotta has the revised CME guidance (the result of the previous consultation) here.

And Pete Darby makes an excellent response here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Facebook: you are invited to join a group

DSCF press release: freedom to home educate under government attack *again*

Press release here:


The Government has published revised guidance on children missing education and launched a review of home education.

This will ensure that everything possible is being done to guarantee all children their right to a balanced education in a safe, healthy environment.

The guidance makes clear that local authorities have a duty to make arrangements to enable them to establish that every school-age child is receiving a suitable education, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of parents and local authorities to provide a suitable education for children.

A public consultation gathered a wide range of views – including many on home education. Some local authorities and children’s organisations expressed concerns about the current system’s ability to adequately support and monitor the education, safety and wellbeing of home educated children.
The review of home education will investigate the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It will look at safeguarding and how any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of children are dealt with. There are no plans to change parents’ well established rights to educate their children at home.

It will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for parents who home educate and of local authority systems for supporting children and families. It will also make recommendations for improvements, where necessary.

Delyth Morgan said:

“Making sure children are safe, well and receive a good education is our most serious responsibility. Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I’m sure, the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need. And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated.

“This review will look at whether the right systems are in place that allow local authorities and other agencies to ensure that any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of home educated children are addressed quickly and effectively. The review will of course talk to home educating families to ensure their views and experiences are heard.”

Head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, Diana Sutton, said:

“We welcome the Government’s decision to review the guidance on home education. We believe the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is outdated. We support the view set out by the London (LA) Children’s Safeguarding Leads network that the government should review the legislation to balance the parents’ rights to home educate their children, the local authorities’ duty to safeguard children and the child’s right to protection. We welcome the fact that this review will look at where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child and what systems are in place to deal with those concerns.”

A central part of the Government’s commitment for all children is that, no matter what their background or circumstances, they have the right to achieve the five ‘Every Child Matters outcomes’: Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; Achieve economic wellbeing.

The Elective Home Education Review will investigate:

• Whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children.

• Whether home educating parents are receiving the support and advice they want to ensure they provide a good, balanced education for their children.

• Consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude

The guidance on children missing education is the first step in clarifying expectations in respect of the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It also makes clear that parents’ right to home educate is not being altered and that suitable home education can take many forms.
Home education is just one area highlighted in the guidance, as it describes many circumstances which can lead to children missing education. The guidance describes how important it is for local authorities to tackle all problems around children missing education, in order to meet the vision set out in the Children’s Plan, particularly keeping all children safe from harm.
Graham Badman, former Director of Children’s Services at Kent County Council will lead the review, which is expected to conclude in May 2009.

Graham Badman said:

"I am delighted to have been asked to lead this important review. Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education. By the same token, local authorities are charged with ensuring that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes and abilities. By discussing all the issues with home educating families, local authorities and other key stakeholders I will investigate whether the current system adequately supports these rights and responsibilities and if not, I will make recommendations for improvements."

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. Revised guidance to Local Authorities on their duty to identify Children Not Receiving a Suitable Education, can be viewed here: Resources and practice - Every Child Matters.

2. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 placed a duty on all local authorities to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education.

3. Parents do not have to register a child as home educated, although they are encouraged to do so. They have to notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child to educate them at home and the school must then notify the local authority. The DCSF issued guidance on home education for local authorities in November 2007.

4. All parents are required by law to provide a suitable education for their child. Where this is not happening, local authorities can intervene and issue a school attendance order.

5. Where there are child protection concerns the local authority has a duty to investigate.

6. As parents are not required to register home educated children (unless they are leaving a school’s rolls) there are no official statistics on the numbers of home educated children. A study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in 2006 estimated around 20,000 children were known to local authorities. The figure may be substantially higher.

Contact Details
Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288,

Press Notice 2009/0013

The consultation page is here and questions apparently include the following:

1. Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

2. Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

- with a *four week* time limit for responses.

I'll be back to blog more about it soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No crunchin' here

The economic downturn could be about to hit schools and children's services, a government committee has warned. Education in the Kilner house continues as normal, on the other hand - mostly gratis!

A bit more Maths workbook has been done, and much playing with the abacus has ensued, with natural learning tumbling from that. "Look, I've made some rows of sixes here. Six sixes! I'm going to count them all.." etc. I never did get to the end of Lockhart, which I thought I'd read to the end before but it turned out I'd abandoned it halfway through that time too. Does he provide any solutions, in the end? I suppose he must, and I must read it eventually. It's here on my browser, but I'm procrastinating.

Lyddie has been quietly developing her reading too. I noticed last night that she had a Dr Seuss book in bed with her and was working through the words with her finger, whilst I read my book. I have to pretend not to notice when she's doing these things, or she stops and asks me to read to her instead.

A few days ago, she asked me what other countries looked like, so we did some google image searches and found some stunning landscape shots from different parts of the world. Then we got chatting about buildings, particularly major ones in the capital cities.

We compared, for example, the Pentagon with the Houses of Parliament and the Kremlin:

and wondered about the startling differences in style between the three.

Lyddie wants to learn something about the North and South Poles next, especially to google for images of them. She loves the process of keying something in and seeing what comes up.

We spent a lot of time relating all of these pictures to maps, starting with this page and looking at the different sections, according to her request. She's very keen to know the shape of certain countries, and what other counties they're near, and how a person might get there.

The teenagers are still quietly learning too: Zara and I were watching a flock of seagulls flying below the kitchen window the other day and she explained the science to me of how they each know where to fly, without crashing or going the wrong way. (I wonder if she'd like to read Jonathon Livingston Seagull?) She went on to explain how it works with swarms of insects and shoals of fish too. Apparently a fish has the equivalent of a line of ears all down its spine? Makes my back go tingly!

I love the fact that they're free to pursue that kind of knowledge for no other reason than curiosity and the pleasure of learning.

Our home ed meetings have started again and are a great success. Very busy! With lots of new families and children of all ages. We're very happy with the way they're going.

Oh and finally, some shared painting:

We can, I promise you, afford more than one piece of paper! But the pleasure of this was apparently in the cooperation.