Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mr Badman, Professor Heppell, bullying, Notschool and Becta

It seems I am to be accused of bullying(!) Professor Heppell now every time I mention him, so I won't be doing so again. I'll just point you at this thread on Carlotta's blog and let you make your own minds up. Being accused of bullying, especially in this situation (us being reviewed by them, not vice versa) is an interesting experience, to say the least! And as they say, you should try everything once.

Hopefully I'm still allowed to talk about Graham Badman and Becta, because I gather that's where he's going to work, or has started already. And I'd like to quote the following remark he made in a conversation at the Bromsgrove meeting as recorded on the Facebook group, in the hope that he won't also feel bullied by me so doing (but I think we are entitled to question the connections and business interests of those who are reviewing us):

He would have offered [her a] computer that talked when she was seven.

Hold on: I'd better put that in the proper context:

Hettie talked of her very severe dyslexia, not being able to read even her own name aged nearly nine when she left school. Talked about how any compulsion to read or spell before she was ready would have terrified her-ditto any home education inspector coming in to make judgements would have really upset her, she was so frightened after her experiences in school, to be judged again. And she also pointed out that anyone coming to assess the suitability of her education would have been highly unlikely to agree it was suitable when she still couldn't read at 12. She said she finally 'got' reading aged 13. as though someone had thrown a switch.

Now she reads well-he asked what she was reading now and she told him that her first ever novel was Oscar Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Grey as her home ed friend had recommended it as something she would enjoy. I said before that she had only practised with a Tarot card book and some magazines.

She also said she had concerns because she is sure a LA would insist she needed specialist help and she is concerned that if her parents had turned that down would they have been seen to have been failing her? She said she would find that very worrying and very distressing as we had been failing in our responsibility to provide a suitable and efficient education, when she was in school-and that is why we removed her to home educate.

She said it would be good if support could be offered to home educators as it may be welcomed by some, perhaps especially those who children have SEN, but it must never be imposed as that would be a disaster for some-including her!

Badman said he would have offered computer that talked when she was seven. Hettie said she would not have been ready at that age and to have had it imposed would have left her hating using computers as well as putting her off reading completely.

She also told him that MSN (instant messaging) fantastic aid for reading and spelling-because it was fine for her to have a go, talking to her friends and if she misspelled something folks would assume she was using text speak or had mistyped it. [Julie Bunker's words (thank you Julie) - my emphasis]

That's actually very similar to Tom's story: deregistered at ten with severe dyslexia, unable to write his own name, self-confidence on the floor. With the help of a friend who was qualified to teach dyslexic people, we tried various tactics to help him but nothing worked and his frustration seemed to make matters worse. A few months later, I started listening to my own instincts and to the advice of other home educators, and allowed him to deschool, after which we haven't looked back and Tom now feels to be practically free of his earlier, crippling symptoms.

But in the first year we were visited by an LA inspector, who gave Tom some text and demanded that he read it. Tom struggled and to my mounting horror the inspector proceeded to humiliate him, until I eventually interceded and asked if he knew how dyslexic Tom was: he didn't! He hadn't even read our file before coming to the house! This is a major reason why many of us are not in favour of LA monitoring, because experiences like that can only compound the damage that many of our children have suffered at school.

I digress - but only slightly.

In many of the newspapers I've picked up in the past few months, this advertisement has appeared on a half-page spread:

Becta ad

So I followed the link, which took me to here and clicking the about link takes us to a page that says, amongst other things:

Next Generation Learning is a government campaign initiated by Becta to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning and education. It is our ambition to utilise the benefits of technology to create a more exciting, rewarding and successful experience for learners of all ages and abilities, enabling them to achieve their potential. Only one in five schools and colleges are currently using technology to its full potential. Help us change that – get involved with Next Generation Learning.

We are living in a technological age. These days young people are likely to be more at home with technology than most adults. Whether they are sending a text message, surfing the web or using an interactive whiteboard in school, the daily use of technology is second nature to many children by the time they reach secondary school. This is great news! Evidence shows that when technology is used well in education it can offer enormous opportunities for your child.

So far, so much with which I'd agree.

Next I clicked on 'Partners' to find myself being urged to "Get involved with [and help promote] the Next Generation Learning campaign today!" What campaign? There's a 'get involved' button, but that just leads to this page:

Becta get involved

which consists of a form to enable one to "Sign up to be kept up to date with the Next Generation Learning campaign," but I still don't know exactly what the campaign is for. If Becta is a government department, or an org sponsored by government or whatever, which wants computers put in every school and as many homes as still need and will have them, then why doesn't the government just do it, without bothering with a campaign? It's obviously more complicated than that, but I can't think how.

So they're into ICT, and they think it's a great learning tool. Good: so do I. Though you can call me a hippy (or a bully.. whatever..! ) but I don't love it at the expense of other things, like fresh air, freedom and spontaneity. And I think it's very important that we hear Hettie's voice when she said:

she would not have been ready at that age and to have had it imposed would have left her hating using computers as well as putting her off reading completely.

As parents, most of us have learned the hard way that to impose anything on our children doesn't usually lead to good outcomes for them. Each child is different and they all come to things in their own time, including computers. It so happens that my children have all enjoyed using them from an early age but not every child does, or even should. ICT is not the answer to every educational problem. (Though admittedly as far as I can tell, Becta doesn't seem to be saying it is.)

And many families, particularly the Steiner advocates(?) don't want ICT equipment in their house, or involved with their children's learning. I think these families' freedom of choice in this matter is protected under Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the EU Human Rights Convention, which:

provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.

But what still mystifies me is why Graham Badman, (who is reportedly good friends with his panel member Professor Heppell) is conducting this review, which - as we all remember so well - is supposedly all about protecting our children from parental abuse. These men are obviously very keen on the use of ICT in learning, and are both involved with organisations which exist partly to further this purpose, so what's the agenda? I suppose we don't have much choice but to wait with bated breath and see what the review recommends in June. (If the recommendations are actually published in June.)

Meanwhile, there are some things we can be doing. The petition closes tomorrow, if anyone still hasn't signed it, and I understand that there are some complaints going to the information commissioner about DCSF's failure to respond to FOI requests within the set time. This is also a great read, if you want a quick summary of what's been happening. I especially like the last paragraph:

It is undoubtedly an exciting and challenging time for home educators across the UK as they are face up to threats from Government and allied ‘rent seekers’ on an increasingly regular basis. While cats may be difficult to herd, they will still come out fighting when cornered; and the biggest cats of all, the lions, live in ‘prides’ and will savage interlopers who threaten their young. As a home educator once remarked: “Home educators make difficult and dangerous prey”. The UK Government and its NSPCC henchmen would do well to heed that warning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Gill,

Another superb blog posting. Thanks. I feel a bit cast adrift at the minute since I was thrown off the autonomous list (for what I still don't know) and I have removed myself from ahed because of issues at home, and stress from all this reviewing/consulting business. Mr. Badman may see it as a job, and Mr. Heppell may see it as a crusade to get children using ICT, but this is my family life that is suffering. This is me and my children who are counting the cost of almost constant harassment. This is my life. Or I thought it was.


5:16 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

((((Diane)))) thanks for your comment. I think we're probably all feeling vulnerable at the moment and yes, it is very stressful. It's the unknown element, isn't it? "We're planning something, but we're not going to tell you what." It's causing all kinds of problems.

I think I might take a couple of days out for a rest with the children too. Am still bemused at being called a bully! Still, we've had 'child abusors' so I suppose it's par for the course.

Hope you're feeling better very soon Diane xx

5:24 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

WTF?? Who called you a bully and where?? Bloody rich isn't it when we're on the receiving end of other people's designs on us and our children!!

5:44 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Stephen Heppell, Tech, here.

5:50 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

Just realised when I re read the post. I think I'd better move away from the keyboard and have a stiff drink.

6:02 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL yep, I'm feeling the same (And teetotal!)

6:05 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Ruth said...

How dare he call you a bully for asking questions that are not getting answered to anyone's satisfaction:( They are the bullies.

"As parents, most of us have learned the hard way that to impose anything on our children doesn't usually lead to good outcomes for them."

Oh yes. As regards IT learning my family would not like it at all. They have refused all online learning from Whizz maths to Education City and see the internet as a tool to find out about things they are already learning, like a book or a d.v.d Using it exclusively would hamper their learning significantly and I am not doing it:)(I seem to be saying that a lot lately lol)

6:23 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

I just wrote reams and deleted it I think I will say the same here as I am going to say on the DaretoKnow blog.

The baby P inquiry was launched after the trial and conviction of those responsible for his death as launching it before a verdict was reached would have led to allegations of predudicing the outcome.

The home education review (inquiry) was launched after parents who had removed a child from school to home educate were charged in relation to the subsequent death of the child.

Time to call Houston ?

7:08 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Ruth. He just did it again, and has robbed me, IMO, of the right to reply because everything I say now will be viewed through that 'bully' prism. So be it. I'll take that on the chin - he's entitled to his opinion.

It just feels so bad to be accused of such a thing, though at least he doesn't seem to be feeling all that victimised, I'm pleased to see! That's politics, I suppose.

WRT ICT we just need to remain as pro-choice as possible, don't we? It worries me that people who seem to be very ICT-centric are reviewing our education in case they're looking at reducing choices.

Oh, pity about the delete, Elaine! But thanks for that. As usual, you make a very good point.

7:23 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Elaine - not sure how calling Houston will help, but I am certainly asking for some constructive thoughts that might inform the home education review. That certainly would help. Read / join the evolving debate over on Carlotta's blog.

And just to clarify (again) for everyone here, I'm not on a crusade to harness everyone's children to some dreadful drill and kill computer based tests, far, far from it. That fiction started here.

7:25 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

So what are you on a crusade to do? Why are you on that panel?

7:28 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

If we'd had that explanation in the first place, about the structure of the whole panel I mean, not just your presence on it Mr Heppell, we wouldn't have to so worriedly speculate.

7:33 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Gill - I'm on the panel because I was asked.

Would you have preferred I left it to the Ofsted members etc? and walked away?

7:33 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

By the way Gill, I wish you'd stop calling me Mr Heppell. Stephen is fine and my preference, or if you wish to be formal Professor Heppell, but Mr Heppell was my dad, and is my son, not me.

7:38 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

No, I'd have preferred some elective home educators to have been asked. And to have been given some rationale about why everyone was asked. The feeling of having one's whole lifestyle and children's futures up for private, priviledged debate by a group of people who seem to know so very little about us, is horrible.

But anyway, why talk to me? I'm out of the discussion now, aren't I?

7:39 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Dani said...

I think it is quite likely that Stephen Heppell could be a valuable ally to home educators, and specifically to autonomous home educators, in all this.

It seems to me a great pity that conversations with him here have got off so disastrously on the wrong foot. I'm glad he is persevering with trying to maintain a dialogue, and I hope to be able to respond to his interesting comment on Dare to Know later tonight when I have more time to think.

I know you are feeling insulted, Gill, but I think Stephen is probably feeling the same way about some of the things you've said. I really hope that everyone can take a deep breath, apologise for any offence caused, and move on to find some common ground.

7:44 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL, now say sorry and play nicely! ;-)

I have apologised twice for offence caused, and undertaken to make sure I don't cause any more, inadvertantly or otherwise.

Professor Heppell repeatedly accuses me of misrepresenting him on purpose, which is not true, and has now called me a bully, which is not true.

His turn to apologise, IMO, but it's a free country.

7:46 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Well sod's law say's that eventually somebody will listen.

Tell us the fact's behind the widely publicised allegations made by, amongst others in gov/nspcc, the leader of the review team that Home Education could be a cover for many despicable forms of child abuse.
How can anybody expect a community that been publicly defiled by those who seek to judge it be expected to interact with their accusers?.
This review is flawed..fatally flawed.

7:50 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Elaine i think that is a very good point, and while I have never suspected Professor Heppel of devious intent, having been vaguely aware of his work I would like him to acknowledge how very reasonable a hostile reaction is considering the way we were undermined and vilified in the press releases introducing the review. I would like to ask you Stephen, do you know and understand the law re home education? And if you do have your read the 60 question questionnaire for LAs only? Do you think that the questions are appropriate in view of the law?

9:23 pm, April 02, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Maire - yup I understand the hostile reaction. I wouldn't still be in here if I didn't.

I do know and understand the law re home education and it is murky isn't it. For example case law describes an “efficient and suitable” education as one that “achieves that which it set out to achieve” (lol) and that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole" BUT with the huge qualifier that this is "as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.

Clearly that is a judgement call, so a question might be "how might we decide what does foreclose a child's options..." and indeed who does?

I won't comment on the LA questionnaire.

Gill - I'm not sure an apology that says "I didn't do it" is all that compelling, but I'll kiss and make up if you really have stopped the name calling. You don't look very fierce on your Facebook page...

12:03 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger R said...

The law isn't is stated like it is to stop the government walking all over the people. And it works! That is why power happy LA's get so frustrated.

If I was to leave a legacy in my lifetime, it would be freeing the people from compulsary education. That is monumental change which deserves a chance.

2:57 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger R said...

and just to add to this...if tomorrow education was not compulsory, do you think the children of this world would not learn? Would they all just stop, like statues and never progress? Would our children never pick up a magazine and wonder how to decode the words written in it? In order to not progress they would have to just not do all. The very idea of it is crazy. And yet we have laws that make education compulsary.In essence,we are making living and breathing compulsary!

My 2 year old uses her computer with ease even though she can't read. She will probably be dissecting it when she is 3, and maybe reading at 7..who knows? All i know is that she is happy and engaged with the things she does. She is not stagnating..she is alive!

3:09 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Stephen, if I misrepresented you (I was actually talking about Notschool on Carlotta's blog, but you seem to have chosen to take that completely personally) it was neither malicious nor deliberate. If you refuse to believe that, there's nothing else I can say.

I have already undertaken not to write about you or Notschool again, so you've achieved your objective and as you see, other home educators are doing an excellent job of answering your questions.

That's a kind thought about my photo. You don't look very cruel on yours.

5:05 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

well, thank you Gill.

here then are my kisses:
xxx - neither fierce nor cruel, but I confess a bit hurried - I live on a boat this time of the year and have a few jobs to do before work, which I am a bit late for.

the debate seems to be going well - and Raquel, of course I agree, largely. But in one country that I work in we have just added a comprehensive children's rights clause to the constitution. It helps.


8:42 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

The thing that has kept me awake most of the night in puzzlement is this: the crack mother.

You say that the school persuaded her to HE her child in order to get the child off their books. We are told, and the review and many of the LA responses to it, tells us that children are safer in school than at home because they are seen. Clearly this child was seen, clearly they school was aware of the issues in the child's life, so the school had a duty to protect that child. It seems to me that, once again, home education is being held up as the problem, when infact it is, once again, the professionals not carrying out their duty as they should. How can it be reasonable to take apart something that works very well, when LAs follow the law (I know how it can be, I live in a county with a *good* authority) because of the failures of professionals?

9:08 am, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this example of the crack mother has been raised before and really concerned me then too along with the examples of parents deregging to avoid imprisonment for truancy. I do not want to sound callous about these families but who can show that forcing them to stay within the school system will provide them with an education especially one that fulfills the suitability etc criteria.
Anyway here at length is what i wrote in response at the time.

a child has been seriously and persistently truanting for a long enough time for parent to warrant prosecution and yet the school and LA have no idea of parents background despite obviously having reason to attempt to communicate with said parents. if no communication forthcoming surely that would be grounds for welfare concerns and would probably lead to doorstepping. So if parent deregged child there would be reasons for welfare concerns and systems to do it.
Or a child who persistently truants is obviously not safeguarded by the school system as her situation has never been discovered by the school where she is no more protected from the possible consequences of her home situation than if she were home ed.
The only way schools can safeguard children is by detection of abuse that leads to appropriate action. she is not safe just by the act of being at school as she still has to be at home for evenings weekends and holidays.
We are consistently being told of the protective function of attending school - it is hard to believe that such a situation could happen if that was the case. If such a situation could occur she would be equally vulnerable whether she was on school roll or ehe as being on school roll obviously would not pick up her case.
I know I am not getting this across very well its just that these kind of extreme examples seem like red herrings to me and if they did occur would be about failings of school/social services/ LAs rather than ehe and I am not happy to have my right to family life intruded on because of the possibility of such failings by other services.
In less extreme circumstances what is the evidence that a child, who is deregistered to avoid the criminilisation of a parent (who is unable to get a child to attend a school where they are obviously not engaged in any kind of education) will have worse outcomes than if their parent is sent to jail and they still continue to truant. Even if the parent is not active in providing an education it does not follow that the outcomes for the child will be worse. I am not advocating this but again if my freedoms are to be reduced I would need there to be evidence that this would be more harmful to the child.
THere are issues but they are to do with schools being able to engage children and if they can come up with innovative new ways to do this then great but that is not part of what is being reviewed and I am not prepared to have my freedoms reduced because they can't manage to do that
Maybe there should be a review of the policy of imprisoning parents as it has had no apparent effect on truancy rates and seems to be pushing people in the direction of HE who wouldn't otherwise choose it. However if they do choose HE I would need to know that the outcomes would be worse than staying on school roll and not just that a better outcome was compliance before I saw it as a reason to change our existing system and legislation."
If a child was withdrawn to go prostituting with her mother how was the situation found out about if existing ehe procedures don't work. Was this an escalation of something that hhad been happening in school but not found out about. It would be quite possible to do the same with a schooled child. Perhaps it was discovered precisely because she was home educated as a girl out and about with her mother during school hours is more conspicuous than at other times. If it had bn goig on during the time at school the how could school be considered more protective than ehe as it was obviously discovered.
These are very emotive cases but the danger is that that reduces the likelihood of people looking at the situations more deeply and rigorously.
sorry it got so long.

10:21 am, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

We are experiencing a bleed from state education into Home Education of children who may need support to ensure their wellbeing.
How do we address that need.

Ask schools who have a pupil deregister who they feel may need support to notify the local authority so that a package can be put together specific to the childs needs.


Abuse the thousands of home educators who have given us no cause for concern by defiling them in the media and imposing a regime of monitoring on them that enforces our view that parents in England are not to entitled to their human right to raise their children free of state interference unless the state has reason to believe the needs of the child are not being met.

Human rights make it very clear that a family unit is just what the label says ..a unit, the state cannot impose restrictions on a family because of another families wrongdoing that would be as wrong as saying that families caring for elderly relatives should be subject to monitoring because there are records of the elderly being abused by their carers.

11:27 am, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Ali said...

I can't leave this one, even though I have akready been a bit ranty over on Carlotta's blog.

Stephen said:
"I do know and understand the law re home education and it is murky isn't it."

No, it isn't at all murky. Schools are only there at the behest of parents who delegate their responsibility, so schools should always be accountabe to parents on behalf of their children, not the other way round. Once the state assumes the responsibility, be prepared for litigation to skyrocket!

"case law describes an “efficient and suitable” education as one that “achieves that which it set out to achieve” (lol) and that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole"

Sounds pretty reasonable to me and the home ed children I know are all being so equipped without schooling, I believe.

"BUT with the huge qualifier that this is "as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”."

Let's be realistic here. Most children's options are foreclosed unless they are from affluent or privileged backgrounds. Once upon a time, going to university was a viable option for the children of ordinary families who met the entrance criteria, but that is no longer the case and university now represents an unaffordable option for most ordinary families, or results in a lifetime saddled with debt. I was the first in my family to go to university and my three have all gone, but at great cost as we have had to fund Rachman level rents in expensive places like St Andrews and Glasgow.

Medicine, vet science and architecture were all out of the question for mine, not because of lack of ability on their part but because they would have been unaffordable. Having three of them, these options would also have been precluded whether or not they had gone to school, so we most certainly fail the 'qualifier'.

However, I can say they are all cool about it and appreciate that there is more to life than money and rampant consumerism. It's a pity higher education has turned into such a slog, though, when people of my generation enjoyed the benefits without having to worry about bankrupting ourselves and our families.

12:12 pm, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

Following on from Ali's last point, I would also add that any approach to education that more adequately equips children to be become independent thinkers and doers who embrace lifelong learning is by defintion going to increase their future options, regardless of what their parents can afford/arrange for them during their years at home.

The overt content of educational provision is secondary to these values (but unfortunately what tends to be judged because it can be seen and measured).

Considering the practicalities of running a large institution, such as a school, against the practicalities of running a family, it seems to me pretty evident which environment is likely to provide children with the best likelihood of personalised education that fosters a genuine love of and respect for learning, in all its diverse forms.

Child welfare *is* a separate issue, and everyone above and on Carlotta's blog has addressed it in great detail and extremely eloquently.

Therefore it would seem to me that no change - or one-size-fits-all agreement - is required from the home educating community. However, increased trust from government and local authorities, as well as a better understanding of the roles and reponsibilities of individuals and state - would be more than welcome.

12:34 pm, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Stephen I agree with other posters that the law is not murky but it leaves some power in the hands of the parent and the LAs do not like this.

One of the reasons I have no wish for interference from LAs, apart from the way they knowingly fail schooled special needs children, is that most of them see nothing wrong with lying and breaking the law to get their way.

These are the sort of people I want to protect my children from.

And as the government has access to many illegal statements with regard to home ed law on LAs websites, it also by lack of action condones this dishonesty and illegality.

2:09 pm, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'd feel more comfortable about reviews/consultations if I didn't have the sneaking suspicion that people will be making money out of home educated children shortly by forcing home educated children to take on, for example, learning packages.

I think the law about education is quite clear. But perhaps home educators have had to study it more intently than other people who, often, take the easy road and delegate their responsibility to schools. Parents are responsible for providing an education to their children... At least the law doesn't demand that a child accepts that education or many schools would close immediately.

Personally,I am angry because the government doesn't seem to see the millions of times that schools fail children every day. The government doesn't want to acknowledge the horrendous problems caused by a restrictive and damaging system. Additionally, government seeks to shift blame for Social Services mistakes in a few abuse cases by making home educators the modern Jews. As everyone who studies knows, the Jews were merely scapegoats for problems in Germany as I believe home educators are now scapegoats for disasters happening in a system that home educators are neither responsible for nor, largely, involved in.


3:55 pm, April 03, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

I wonder are they just more comfortable ticking boxes than actually doing anything. Home ed does not have a box to tick in their eyes so they can concentrate on that and still not actually acheive in the areas they are failing in because they are busy ticking boxes.

Poorly put but I am sort of saying it is their comfort zone and that is why they are drawn to it.

I don't see how they can charge us for anything though Diane, they already have our taxes or have I misunderstood you.

4:41 pm, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous Barbara Stark said...

Diane said, "I think I'd feel more comfortable about reviews/consultations if I didn't have the sneaking suspicion that people will be making money out of home educated children,"

Hi Diane,

that isn't the stated intention of the review is it? - However, compulsary education is certainly a multi billion pound industry full of stakeholders who must be consulted it seems.

The review panel, the extensively consulted local authority officials, et al. - what I want to know about them is, what stake do they have in me and my child? How big a stake? What's in it for them? Why don't they leave us alone?

Everybody gets to pay their mortgage off the backs of what is put into the minds of children.

Something is not right.

6:46 pm, April 03, 2009  
Anonymous suzyg said...

I can't agree, either, that EHE law is murky. On the contrary, in my view, primary legislation has been very well thought-through. When the 1944 Education Act was drafted, the UK was almost bankrupt and facing possible invasion by fascist and/or communist totalitarian regimes, both of which used state education as a propaganda tool to train up children in the way the regime saw fit. The 1944 Act minimised the risk of this happening in the UK, by centering education around the child's needs, placing responsibility clearly with parents (to maintain diversity of provision and democratic principle), and by giving local authorities the task of providing services to the local community to whom they were accountable.

Application of EHE legislation requires the exercise of judgement, and is not immune from error, but is nonetheless very important in that it safeguards the balance of power between government agencies and individuals, including children. I have serious concerns about the consequences of local communities becoming accountable in any way to local authorities.

I recognise that LAs' failure to safeguard children at risk is a serious issue, but report after report has provided detailed accounts of procedures not being followed properly, and anyone who has worked in the public sector will recognise the signs of an understaffed and overstretched service.

No evidence has yet been produced, to my knowledge, of any home educated child, not already known to the authorities, being abused since the legislation was introduced 65 years ago. I am not suggesting that no EHE parent has ever abused their child, just that EHE is not, by a long stretch, the area of greatest risk.

In short, I feel that current legislation is perfectly fit for its purpose, that the concerns over safeguarding EHE children are disproportionate, and that if there are concerns about the quality of home education, they would be best addressed by improving the educational resources available to the community (including LAs and schools), rather than by 'monitoring' by bodies that often do not have a very good track record themselves in terms of educational provision.

8:49 pm, April 03, 2009  
Blogger OrganisedPauper said...

The review is a bloody big stick and we're being asked to explain in detail how we'd like to be beaten with it.

I will not debase myself, or my family, by trying to negotiate with what is a done deal.

I will not negotiate away another home educator's freedom in return for 'perceived' better treatment.

I am prepared to fight, up to and including civil disobedience, should it be necessary.

I am not alone.

Elaine G-H

11:04 am, April 04, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

You are not alone Elaine.

11:16 am, April 04, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

Well said Elaine !!

11:40 am, April 04, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Something has been bugging me for a few days now and I cannot let it go. If only because I want a clean conscience. And because I want to walk the talk.
One of the things I've said in my letter to Baroness Morgan is that I would do anything within my power to stand up against abuse.
Now, I have a growing feeling that I am witnessing at least the onset of abuse and although I feel very uncomfortable watching, I am still limiting my response to trying to override my instincts and instead reason and rationalise. But hurt and damage is being caused. Trauma's are being formed. There is definitely an unequal situation, wherein one party - at least potentially - has power over another. The less powerful party is not entirely defenceless, but knows that in the end the other party has access to ultimate power.
If the situation I'm describing would be between an adult and a child, the authorities would (want to) be involved, the child would be in a protective programme and the adult would be up in court.
But in this case I'm not sure who to turn to for justice, because the more powerful party is representing the authorities and the less powerful party is represented by adults. In the end, though, children will be the victim of this abuse in the making.

Professor Heppell, I am a very visual thinker, and the image of you offering kisses to Gill - after first saying "Would you rather I'd left it to the Ofsted members" - was a final straw for me. It turns my stomach, to be honest.
I am all for engaging in dialogue, for exchanging view points, for open and non-violent communication. But the only fair way to conduct that is if both parties set out to respect each other and take each other one hundred percent seriously.
Please take a step back, Professor Heppell, and look at this situation. Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side a teacher who knows his grading is going to determine the future of his student, and on the other side the student, who is being asked to hand in his free spirit in exchange for a good mark.
Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side an employer who know his employee is depending on him for the income that supports his family, and on the other side the employee who is being asked to smother his free speech in exchange for an income.
Look at it as if it concerned a situation with on one side a (grand)parent who knows the child can't live and can't go anywhere without them, and on the other side the child who knows that if he doesn't do what the adult wants him to do, there will be no food, no home, no love.

I'm sure you don't want to be part of any of these situations, Professor Heppell. So please take a step back and consider what your position as member of the reviewing panel is in relation to our position as the party being reviewed for something we are falsely accused of.
Gill doesn't need your kisses - Gill deserves your support, your understanding and not in the last place: your apology.

11:54 am, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have written a rather long response on Carlotta's huge thread.

There's a couple of other things;
I disagree the law is murky. It doesn't allow LAs or others to come into the homes of families for no good reason. That is clear.

A "suitable education" will be different for each child. Even within my own family each child has set different goals and are different ages with different abililities. The law assumes people are reasonable. I can't see why LA personell can't be reasonable.

The question remains about those on the review team. WHY were they asked? WHY did they say yes? WHERE are the rest of them? (We've seen Mr Badman and Prof Heppell has been to this blog but where's everyone else?)
WHY is no one with any home ed background at all on the review team?

12:50 pm, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Elaine is not alone. People are quietly listening and waiting. We know what we must do if our backs are pushed to the wall re our children's rights and freedoms following this review run by self interested parties. They have decided that they have their stake in our children. They appear to want their piece. We will have to stand in the way.

1:16 pm, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maire and Barbara,

Thanks for responding to my post. I think the best we can hope for is that LAs want to tick boxes, but, being the sceptical cat that I am, I think we will be forced to accept the national curriculum (I refuse to give it capital letters). I also suspect that, because the government has said it will not fund the parental choice (rather an odd 'choice' since many of us came into Home Education in sheer self-defence when our children were bullied) of Home Education, we will be offered something like Professor Heppell's Notschool and the money will be asked of us, as the education providers.

That is what I meant.


4:45 pm, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gill I've done a blog entry trying to pull some threads and links together. If there is anything you think-or anyone else thinks-should be added let me know.

7:47 pm, April 04, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

The review team and it's masters would do well to remember human rights, particularly these articles:

12 No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

16(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 26 (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 30 Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

7:50 pm, April 04, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Stephen Heppel

"I do know and understand the law re home education and it is murky isn't it. For example case law describes an “efficient and suitable” education as one that “achieves that which it set out to achieve” (lol)"

This is delightfully ambiguous term, it does not constrain the chosen education of the individual, it saves us from a tightly directed education provided by the state.

Does "lol" indicate that you do not respect the current law on education? Not a criticism here, there are some laws I don't respect, it's a question.

and that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole"

BUT with the huge qualifier that this is "as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.

Stephen if had real faith in the evolution of humans and understanding that what we do naturally is learn, as long as we are not inhibited by coercion, you would see that all that can "foreclose a childs options" are poor care, coercion and teh compulsion in educaiton that inhibits natural learning.

Clearly that is a judgement call,
Indeed and who should make that judgement??? Or is it a judgemetn call only to those who do not understand that education is the business of the individual unless they choose to ask for the support if the state?

Should there be a ridgid definitiaon of what education is. isn't it an individual thing, not something to be prescribed by the state.

The state provides education for those who wish to accept it or feel they cannot provide their own, but their provision must not be compulsory, any more than state provided health care or dentistry or whatever should be. We must have choice in what is done to us.

"So a question might be "how might we decide what does foreclose a child's options..."

The child surely?

Frankly school was shutting down my childs' choices, they have opened up since he began HE, so if you wish to open this can of worms you should do so with a public discussion on what education might be.



11:53 am, April 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But in one country that I work in we have just added a comprehensive children's rights clause to the constitution. It helps."

I wish our country was ready for that, but to date the notion of children's rights seem to be used as a way to allow the State to interfere in children's lives without informed consent. Or to talk about a right to have education imposed on them, silly, when what children want to do is learn that we want to force it on them.

In general it is parents who have the best interests of children in mind and it is parents who protect them.

Move too quickly on this and we could miss the point and reduce children's freedom.

I simply don't believe we live in a culture where children are taken seriously enough for implementation of children's rights to be effective. If we did we would not be constantly erroding their freedom as we do now.

I do think that the issue of children's rights is an important topic for discussion. I would not wish to give up our parental rights to HE 'till I was conviced that the law protected children's freedoms. I can't see that many people have even the silghtest concept of wath children's freedom means. I don't see it changing as long as the DCSF thinks children are better off in schools and Mr Balls thinks the Secretary of State should decide what books children read.


12:05 pm, April 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth-agree 100%.
Part of the 'rights' problem-a huge part I believe-is the lack of a philosophy of the person. (I blogged about this recently). If Govts decide they don't like the concept of the 'person' with inherent rights, responsibilities and freedoms then they start to see us as 'citizens', 'individuals' or even as groups with uses and goals to achieve-but not rights, responsibilities and freedoms.
Anyone who is not fully autonomous; children, many of us disabled people, many elderly etc. are not 'person'ish enough and so rights can be (mis)interrpreted to enforce controls.
Let us tread with care on rights.

5:27 pm, April 05, 2009  
Blogger Maire said...

Hope you had a good weekend Gill. Been thinking about this and I think you shouldn't shut up you should shout out. If calling you a bully was just an impulsive overreaction from someone used to fighting his corner then it is worth ignoring. If anyone is trying to silence your very able voice and deprive us of your input then I would want you to fight it on every level.

9:55 am, April 06, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...


Can I just say thanks for the really useful contributions here - and Gill I would still like to hear your voice in this - I in no way wanted, or intended, to silence you. Sorry if it felt like that.

And I absolutely agree that there is a real risk of snake oil salesmen trying to make money out of home educated children shortly by forcing home educated children to take on, for example, learning packages. That is why I was so upset by the loss of the BBC's JAM initiative - this is JUST what we need public service for...

9:35 am, April 07, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

What makes you think that we will shortly have learning packages forced on our children?

9:09 pm, April 07, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Stephen, thank you for the apology. I appreciate it, and also the invitation to continue the debate with you. But apart from echoing Cosmic's question above, I don't particularly have anything to contribute that's not already being very well said by all the other home educators and with the 'bully' comment still unretracted I'm very wary of joining in.

My other pressing query, I suppose, is why you think the status quo has to be changed. I know you said on Carlotta's blog that you didn't know the details, but that makes it sound as if you do have some idea?

10:21 pm, April 07, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Actually, forget my query here: someone else already said it better on Carlotta's blog. Gotta love home educators!

5:16 am, April 08, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asking the question is one thing Gill .Getting any form of response is quite another. Lets hope all these comments are giving him plenty of food for thought even if responses are not forthcoming. I am not convinced but hey lets keep on keeping on.
Like you say it is important to think we did our utmost.

12:24 pm, April 08, 2009  
Blogger Prof Stephen Heppell said...

So, Carlotta, Gill, Jem, others

Thanks for allowing me to wander around your blogs, facebook spaces etc - and thanks to the many useful contributors who have engaged constructively in debate in these spaces. I'm exiting now and won't be back. I won't comment directly on the last group of thoughtful and reflective postings in answer to my asking some specific questions, but I'll take away the transcripts and read them with care and reflection over Easter.

My primary concern remains with those who find themselves rather accidentally in EHE - specifically the subset of those who are not able - for so many reasons - to make the journey many of you have made into becoming excellent educators. No blame, they need our care, help and reflection. As Allie said somewhere "No, one, generic solution will work to sort out such diverse problems" so it is a complex task that Graham's group face. I think we all know that and they are caring folk.

I continue to think that a dialogue between all sectors of education will never be wasted and am pleased that a good many of you share that view too. Everyone has so much to learn from each other.

I've been busy today learning from my (inspirational) Ph.D students and go home tomorrow for Easter. From there I go to Hong Kong - I wrote their policy guidance on inclusion and look forward to seeing their progress; they too face some tough challenges. We all live in the path of rapid changes, worldwide.

No doubt for some of you I will remain the devil incarnate for engaging you in this conversation at all, but to most can I say thanks again, farewell and may I wish you ALL a good Easter.


7:55 pm, April 08, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming to this late - but a 'computer that talks' is indeed what we offered to one of our child at 7-8 years of age, when they were still 'struggling' with reading. They resisted it utterly, and we (finally) woke up and realised that they were (are) severly dyslexic.

What did the child actually want as its 'learning tool'? Well they wanted the same things that served them well before their parents paniced a bit (lol) - for their parents to talk the words and the ideas and the information for them; both verbatim from the written word, and discursive around the ideas within (and giving, sometimes, several viewpoints on that information or ideas). And it worked, and continues to work to this day. Like the other child in your example, aged 12/13 a switch went and they 'got' reading. And now they read a lot. What they read varies - there has been a smattering of 'classic' literature (shakespeare, 19th C stuff as listed in the dratted NC, bits of the bible, and other things) but there has also been a huge awakening to the new classics of literature - the graphic novels, the 20thC childrens books, the emerging 21stC childrens literature, travel guides (a lonely planet a week at one point). Said child is not a fast reader - but they are keen, and thus I am confident that speed will come, in time.

1:33 am, April 09, 2009  

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