Monday, October 30, 2006

The State We're In and What to Do Next

Exposing the misery that results from school (bullying children, bullying teachers, bullying system) seems to me to be a thoroughly good thing. It is simply not acceptable that we force tormented children back every day to the place of their torture. Really it is shameful. How on earth do school authorities pretend otherwise since at the last count of which I am aware, some 60% of such children ended up with significant long-term emotional problems. This cannot be viewed as a successful strategy, surely!

Worryingly, Home Education lists are full of stories of the DfES and Local Authorities planning to monitor home education much more rigorously and issuing apparently completely unwarranted School Attendance Orders as a immediate default strategy. As the database component of Every Child Matters starts to bite, fewer and fewer HEors will escape the heavy hand of the law.

The author Sue Townsend nailed it last night in the South Bank Show when she said that it is the combination of government incompetence and increased levels of state control that generates a background hum of anxiety and discontent in Blair's Britain. I think she is spot on. She could also have added that the government strategy to drag everyone into the interrogation room, to make everyone answerable to officialdom as a matter of course is to make suspects of us all for no good reason and distracts disastrously from dealing with the real problems.

Why, for example, do the ptb imagine they should have an automatic right to interfere with all of our children (via, for example, the children's database) when they can't even provide the necessary number of midwives, special care baby units and basic equipment and treatment for disabled children and their families who desperately need it?

Why build a huge expensive database when most children at risk are already known to authorities but there just aren't enough social workers to actually deal with the problems? Why not accept that the big problem of working in child welfare is that you can't tell which monitored parents will end up abusing their kids and since you can't bang em all up, you will always have this problem which again is quite distinctly not solved by a universal database?

Why do educrats think they will do a better job of education when "fifteen million adults would not scrape the lowest G grade in the maths at GCSE since they are "not properly numerate". Another five million "cannot read" despite being of working age"? Yet the apparently logical conclusion is that we must make absolutely sure that school be the educational first choice and that children be returned to there asap. Duh, but I guess you can't blame the ptb since they all went to school.

Why do the government want to interfere in the lives of families when their own record of acting in loco parentis is so shockingly bad?

None of it makes sense.

One way of tackling this idiocy, it seems to me, is to expose the terrible effects of some of these mistakes. At least partially to this end, Bev has set up a website: Cruel at School where she seeks stories of how children's lives were blighted by their experience of school. I'd say "SEND HER YOUR STORIES" and help expose the system for what it really is in order that genuine options, such as Home Education, remain available to children who suffer in such a way.

The litany of instances of bullycide is already shamefully long and we should not tolerate it. With women in the city filing for triple figure sums in instances of bullying through sexual harrassment, we find we don't tolerate it for adults, yet we expect our children to brace themselves and cope. What sort of double standard is that?

Send Bev your stories!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Too Mad to Think of a Title

For those of us who have insisted that the children's database is not only a serious infringement of the rights of free people, a fundamental destruction of the proper relationship between individuals and the state, but also an improper use of funds, this kind of news is enough to make you SICK.


"Eight out of ten parents of disabled children consider social services to be poor, according to a parliamentary enquiry published today.The cross-party study into services for disabled children found evidence of rising eligibility criteria and parents being turned away for short-term breaks by councils.Lack of funding was deemed the biggest barrier to improving services by 61 per cent of the 148 parents 74 per cent of the 108 professionals who gave evidence to the MPs."

Just when the eligibility criteria for initial services scrutiny is being significantly lowered, we hear that people who really do need help, just don't get it. What with the fund raising campaigns in support of disabled children that we see on Home Education lists, we would think this is probably about right.

(PS...Just in case anyone has forgotten, we think the database will also destroy trust between users of services and the services themselves, will conflict with confidentiality rules, will be open to abuse by hackers and people within services who can make a quick buck selling on information, as has happened already, and won't work properly for any number of different reasons - mistakes in data input, IT problems, confusion sorting out genuine problems from the trivial, etc.)


Side Effects of Healthy School Meals

It seems my observation was correct, but apparently it isn't just the sweet shops that are benefiting from the drive to make school meals healthy. The chip shops are raking it in too.

Now what, Jamie?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Home Animation

Home Education can buy children the time to develop dedication and excellence. The animators of Wallace and Gromit offered this HEd 14 year old a job.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Myth of School Phobia

From the Forester newspaper, a story about a mum homeschooling her child as a result of school bullying.

All power to those parents who think creatively about how to prevent their children suffering needlessly, I say. However, I spoke to someone from the school today, who said that the way the school authorities see it, Tiah was school phobic. Hmm, we've heard that one it is totally unreasonable to be fearful of a situation where you are routinely bullied.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

School at Home in the UK

It looks as if we are catching up with the US on the home-schooling versus school-at-home debate, since children in Bedfordshire can now sign up to a scheme which means that they are registered at a school, may take exams for free, must log in at least weekly, (though technically daily), and yet are schooled at home.

Not that you could deduce this much from the Bedfordshire Home Education Website, where it all rather looks like HE as usual.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Howard Gardner's Problems with School

I don't think Howard Gardner's descriptions of different types of intelligence are very convincing, but I think he is right to question whether school is the right place for the development of various kinds of thinking. It IS hard, for example, to develop creative thought in an authoritarian environment where you are told exactly what to think most of the time.

It also seems strange that we raise our children in a completely undemocratic institution and then expect them to have the skills required to function responsibly in a democracy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blog the Day - The Home Education Way

I don't do this very often, but triggered by the blog the day in history, here is the story of what we got up to yesterday - (I found it an interesting exercise, if only because it demonstrated to me how much we get up to, even on a quiet day.)

- - - - - - - - - -

Today, thankfully, we have no formal commitments. Am relieved as we haven't had a proper day of rest for at least a week and we'd rather be around anyway since W is staying, which is always a great pleasure, not least because he has the endearing habit of asking penetrating questions at mealtimes - within earshot of the kids, and an even more endearing habit of appearing to listen intently to the answers. In fact, I am quite sure he does indeed listen because he then appears to take any ideas that come his way for a quick test run in a slightly less endearing, indeed rather more unnerving fashion.

Anyhow, last night, Dh and I felt on firm ground, since W asked about the history of ideas in Western art, and in collusion we managed to produce a brief summary of Gombrich's Story of Art. This morning at brunch, W asked about how to distinguish a scientific idea, something which should come easily to me after all that Popper and Kuhn. Of course I gave him the good Popperian answer about falsification. All the while I could see Ds (9) out of the corner of my eye, sitting at the head of the table, looking for all the world like Dr Seuss's rendition of the worm in "The Big Brag"...eyes sort of popping out of the top of his head. I couldn't work out whether he could understand what was being said and will have to try to check later. It made me realise that for all the theories about truth-seeking, (about the value of doing it, about the growth of knowledge through conjecture and refutation, about holding one's theories tentatively, about subjecting them to criticism, about acting on one's best available theories until a new and better one comes along), I hadn't actually talked to him about the distinguishing quality of scientific thought. This is a new idea for him.

Meanwhile Dd (4) is growing up in good critical rationalist tradition. I haven't tried to express anything other than the basics to her so far, but so much is implied in the way that one deals with life, that she comes out with CR theories through implicit acquisition of those ideas.

Anyhow back to basics: Dd and Ds spent some time making necklaces with the Hobbycraft beads. Ds then went back to his Lego Starwars city and filmed a further episode of the drama and then went on ebay searching for more Lego Starwars deals. Ebay is a great educational tool: Ds is perfectly happy to perform the necessary multiplications, additions and subtractions, (comparing ebay versus shop prices, for example), which he would simply refuse to do were it in a maths workbook. Dd made a birthday card for a friend, and did a bit of a workbook with logic puzzles. She then drew and wrote for quite a while until a home educated friend of hers popped round and they disappeared upstairs doing goodness knows what. Dd's friend is passionately in love with Ds, a fact that doesn't actually escape him, though you might think it did. All in all this means that Dd's friend is utterly gorgeous to him, and Ds responds politely and gently, which I think is fine, given the circumstances. Ds then wanted to write some captions for a Star Wars story board he'd drawn. I suspect he kept the written narrative to a minimum, however - the handwriting practice must have lasted all of 7 mins max!

Dd's friend departed after tea as we thought we might go kickboxing, but it finally stopped raining, and we chose to stay in the garden instead. The usual games - I had to time them both round a new obstacle course, count chin ups, cartwheels, etc. Dd runs like the wind and I feel Ds could too, but he dips too much as he runs. I am not sure whether he is just loose limbed, or trying to cope with getting taller, but I just long to yell at him to hold his body together a bit more...but what do I know! He now beats me over 100m by a whole second!!!! This is a disastrous development. I couldn't beat my mother until she was in her 50s. Oh well. We then played frisbee until Dd collapsed T shirt up, tummy down, on a previously undetectable nettle in the grass. It was tiny, but stung her all over her belly. Ds ran about making her a poultice of dock leaf, ice and washing up liquid, (a treatment he and friends had apparently arrived at on one of the camping hols over the summer.) Ds was so kind and Dd so grateful - they were both so gorgeous to each other and I am grateful for doing this exercise, as it makes me realise that they are often like this but that I tend not to notice it!

We then had to get in the bath immediately as all of us were covered in mud. It was one of those moments when you are glad that LA officials have clocked off for the day, since had they turned up, amongst other things, they would have found Dd naked, with the remains of a dock leaf poultice plastered all over her belly, and mud squished all over her face. As it was, a family...mum and 2 sons turned up while we in the bath...but they are perfectly used to our unconventional timing. Friend talked about the horses - she wants them to stay with us ad infinitum, which is great, though it turns out that one of them has a suspected sarcoid...Bother. Children played a chase game and PS2.

Dh and W then went off for the evening to the footie. Have missed two invites this evening, (one to the football, the other to the philosophy group), but in what will almost certainly be seen as being overprotective by some, I have responded to Dd's request not to go out tonight. I am not quite sure why she suddenly needs me more, having not done so for some time, but I am sure that trying to force her not to feel this way will not help and am perfectly happy to stay home, not least because it may be good that I miss the philosophy group this time round, since bf and I are so relentlessly Popperian that the rest of the group are probably getting irritated with us by now!

The children danced and ragged until about 22.00 hours when Dd collapsed suddenly, and Ds settled down to watch...guess what...Star Wars. (Thank goodness Dh is also an aficionado, since to me it makes absolutely no sense at all.) Dh and W reappeared at about midnight. All is well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More on Failing Schools

Last week, it was 500 failing secondary schools; now the ptb in the Commons Public Accounts Committee are saying that 1,557 schools are doing badly "despite £837m spent on raising achievement." That apparently translates into nearly one million children who attend poorly performing schools.

"Committee chairman, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, said: "To waste so much human potential in this way is a tragedy. "

Yup, but with some of our local private schools now charging £25,000 per annum, and even then not necessarily suiting one's child, the only answer seems to be to home educate if you possibly can.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday School

It's Saturday school, but certainly not as I knew it. In my day, Saturday resembled weekdays with yet more compulsory lessons in the usual subjects, delivered by uninspired, authoritarian spinsters, followed all afternoon by matches against other schools for anyone silly enough to have shown any aptitude.

The Gateway Academy project, however, looks pretty much like many Home Education gatherings, with the provision of a wide range of facilities and the free choices that children can make in using them, the only difference being that teachers act in loco parentis.

It could therefore be argued that assistant headteacher Rachel Ward attributes much of the improvement in GCSE results at the school to an HE model!


Home Education...Can the Beeb Help?

Well, I did put in a plug for Home Education to Mark Thompson, DG of the Beeb. We both agreed that the future lies in personalised learning, and that the BBC could be hugely helpful in this regard.

I then explained that HEors find completing the coursework component of public exams problematic and often expensive, and if he could see his way to thinking about this issue, we would be very grateful. Naturally enough, he was then interested to know about numbers. I admitted that we don't know at present, but that HE appears to be a growth industry.

He also told me that BBC Jam is now fully operational, as of last week, so am off to check it out.

Lord Adonis on the Fourfold Foundation

From Andrew Adonis
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools

Lord Judd
House of Lords

13 October 2006

Since Committee stage I have given a great deal of consideration to your amendment to introduce a simple statutory 'right to education' at the outset of the Education and Inspections Bill.

Let me say that I was strongly attracted to this idea in principle. I understand the potential declaratory value of such a statement; and since there is nothing more central to the society we wish to create than excellent education for every young person, it seemed to me a right and valuable thing to do. However, my officials and lawyers have persuaded Alan Johnson and myself that the declaratory value would be outweighed by the legal uncertainty that such an apparently simple change would involve, and that it might perversely have the effect of jeopardising or qualifying the well-established rights to education which are now very well embedded in case law. They are also concerned at the potential effect such an amendment might have in extending rights to minority forms of schooling which do not conform to the legal framework required to safeguard the national curriculum, fair access and community.

Let me set out the arguments - and case law - in the way that it has been presented to me. As I have already mentioned, the right to education is guaranteed by Article 2 of the First Protocol to the ECHR and, for children, by Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right to education provided by the ECHR is already part of national law by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998, which sets out in detail the procedure for making a claim that a right has been infringed and also sets out the remedies available for a breach. To legislate along the same lines in education legislation would undermine the regime set out in the Human Rights Act 1998, as it would not be clear which should prevail. Moreover, a free standing right with provision neither for the procedure for claiming a breach nor for remedies would not be as effective as the Human Rights Act 1998 right.

I have previously mentioned the "fourfold foundation" and how such foundation fulfils right to education.

The first element is the duty of parents under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 to cause their children to receive efficient and suitable full time education either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

The second element is the Secretary of State's duty under Section 10 of the Education Act 1996 to promote the education of the people of England and Wales;

The third is that LEAs are required by section 13 of that Act to secure that efficient education is available to meet the needs of the population of the area;

and The fourth is the maintained schools themselves: each such school is under direction of its governing body who must conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement at their school.

I am advised that this is more effective in securing the right than would be a free-standing right to education in English law. Not only is it flexible enough to allow for various different arrangements for education (for example, education provided by LEAs, by the independent or at home, but it also places clear and positive duties on the various parties (parents, local education authorities, Secretary of State and governing bodies) which are much more easily enforceable.

The effectiveness of the fourfold foundation was set out by Lord Bingham in the Ali case (Ali v Lord Grey School [2006] UKHL 14) when he said:

"This fourfold foundation has endured over long period because it has, I think, certain inherent strengths.

First, it recognises that the party with the keenest personal interest in securing the best available education for child ordinarily is, or ought to be, the parent of the child. Depending on age, maturity and family background, the child mayor not share that interest. But the parent has statutory duty.

Secondly, the regime recognises that for any child attending school it is that school through which the education provided by the state is in practice delivered. The relationship between school and pupil is close and hence the restrictions on its interruption or termination. It is resembling, but for the want of consideration, contractual relationship.

But, thirdly, the safety net or longstop to ensure that the education is not neglected of those who for any reason (whether "illness, exclusion from school or otherwise") are not being educated at school in the ordinary way. It is plainly intended that every child of compulsory school age should receive appropriate education in one way if not another, and that responsibility rests in the last resort with the LEA.

In a sense, therefore, the fourfold foundation goes beyond what a free-standing right to an education would provide, as it takes into account the different and complementary roles of parents, local authorities, the Secretary of State and governing bodies in the education of children.

As well as being less effective than the current provisions (and potentially weakening them), legislating for a right to education for children in England and Wales could also have other undesirable implications.

The Courts, if tested, will assume that Parliament did not legislate in vain and that a new, positive right to education is meant to be a change in the law. They may, therefore, seek to import something more into the law than is currently provided. This has a number of ramifications.

First, the ECHR "right to education" (Article 2 Protocol 1 ECHR), as given effect in national law by virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998, is currently phrased negatively ("no one shall be denied the right to education"). The fact that the right is phrased negatively has influenced the way in which the Courts have construed the right. It has been held that the negative formulation does not require that Member States establish at their expense, or subsidise, education of a particular type or at any particular level, but rather implies for those under the jurisdiction of a Member State the right to "avail themselves of the means of instruction existing at a given time. Its primary objective has, therefore, been held to be to guarantee a right of equal access to the existing educational facilities. A positive right, along the lines of that envisaged by the amendment which you tabled at Committee Stage, would I am advised be likely to be construed differently by the Courts. It might be interpreted as imposing an obligation on local authorities to ensure that children could receive education of a particular type or standard which the authorities were unable to provide (or which they considered undesirable to provide). Taking, for example, the Belgian Linguistics case itself, the Court held that the right to education, as phrased negatively, did not give rise to a right to be taught in the language of the child's (or their parent's) choice, nor was there a right of access to a particular school of choice.

Logically, therefore, a positive right might be held to require the State to make provision for teaching in, or schools for, languages other than English. Furthermore, a provision along the lines suggested in your amendment would not make clear whether the right was being conferred on the parent or the child. Conceivably, conflicts could arise where the parent wanted to educate the child at home, or at an independent school and the child had a legally enforceable right to be educated at a maintained school. In the light of these issues, I have also considered whether we could legislate in the Bill to provide that no person/child of school age can be denied the right to education. However since this is already provided by the Human Rights Act 1998 ("no person shall be denied the right. .. ") to do so would, in effect, be replicating a provision of primary legislation in another provision of primary legislation, which would normally require a repeal of the earlier legislation.

You will appreciate the undesirability of seeking to amend the Human Rights Act and the rights which it gives effect to: indeed, it could not be amended without the agreement of the European member states. If both rights remained in place, not only would there be questions as to which right should prevail (the wider Human Rights Act right or the narrower education law right), but there would be a disparity between the regimes for claims and remedies, as mentioned above.

You rightly pointed out in Committee that Scotland have legislated for a statutory right in favour of every child to have a school education. As far as we know, this right has not actually been invoked yet: no one has relied on section 1 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000 ("the Act"), so it has not yet been tested by the Courts. In other words, it has not been relied upon by parents or children wishing to advance their rights. As regards the risks of changing the meaning of the existing right to education highlighted above, the Scottish Executive took the view that the declaratory benefits were worth the risk of legal challenge this is not a view that, on serious reflection we share.

Brown and Cameron on Education

Here's a Telegraph piece on Gordon Brown's call for radical changes in schooling in order to give boys a chance to catch up. Let's see, would it be of help us?

"Among the possible solutions were more activity-based learning for boys, more access to computers, more sport, more community service - and tighter discipline."

No, the simple answer. The last suggestion tends to cause Ds to shut down completely. I vividly remember responding in similar fashion myself. I felt that if my thinking could not be taken seriously, and could not be acted upon, then there was little point in me doing it at all. A reasonable response to coercion and misery, I would say, and so the problem of mass education continues.

Meanwhile, David Cameron in his conference speech demanded "a massive investment in personalised learning". We very much doubt that this will turns out to be anything other than political cant, but should the Tories get in, we home educators can always gently remind the educrats on our doorstep that we are only doing exactly what our leader tells us to.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unintended Consquences - Corner Shop Boom

The most noticeable consequence of the healthy school food campaign round our way, is that come 15.30 hours, the local shops, petrol stations and their forecourts are PACKED with school kids, spending as much money as they possibly can on handfuls of sweets. Don't try and nip down for a pint of milk for a good hour round that time, unless you fancy standing in a disorderly queue that has the whiff of aid package desperation about it. (Incidentally, shop keepers do normally allow adults through the queue, though this seems a tad unethical to me and when I am feeling righteous, I won't do it.)

The obvious evidence of unintended consequences makes us think that Boris Johnson (Shadow Education Minister) was right to raise the issue of how the healthy school food campaign will play out, but we hope he sticks with his less paternalistic instincts on this matter, since unless parents collect and marshall children from the school gate, this kind of attitude clearly simply won't work.

What we hope to do is to help our children make responsible free choices for themselves. Providing a range of good choices, (and recognising that chocolate, for example, can have a part to play in a healthy diet), and then leaving it up to children themselves seems to me to be the best way to go, - but yet again, this is probably more easily managed with home education.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Etymology of Chav

Well, whaddya know! Hee hee...public school girls under suspicion, (and probably rightly so, unless Ms Tuck has radically changed the institution in recent years!)

The Encompass Trust

Out of the tragedy of the Bali bombings comes a wonderful idea -

"Encompass takes diverse groups of young people out of environments familiar to them and puts them in challenging new ones- environments where they need to work together to achieve shared objectives. As they do this, they learn to trust each other, and with this trust comes the confidence to talk about the issues at hand: stereotypes, identity, conflict.

"As the participants learn about each others cultures and beliefs, Encompass is there to support them develop a global alumni committed to the ideals of cultural understanding, tolerance and citizenship."

I wonder if Home Educators could lead the way in a project such as this?

Since the expansion of HE in the UK, it seems that it is becoming easier and easier for different interest groups to develop and become self-sufficient. There are, for example, quite distinct religious groups, such as the Christian or Muslim social meets and e-lists; there are other groups that evolve as a result of differing educational theory, structured versus unstructured, for example. Whilst it is wonderful that families can find such appropriate support, it may be that we need to be learning more about each other. Putting everyone into a situation where they would benefit from mutual support could be just the thing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Daisy Waugh on the Nanny State

I managed to work my way through a pile of Sunday papers in an hour of insomnia last night and found the following, by Daisy Waugh:

"Since this government seems to know so much better than we do about how to bring up our own children, you might think, when it comes to those children for whom it is solely responsible, that it could provide us with a shining example of how to do it right.

But no. While ministers jostle to keep our children longer at school, while the government prosecutes us for taking them away on foreign holidays during term time, while it legislates on whether or not we should smack them, constructs databases on how we are feeding them, weighs them and fingerprints them, advises Muslims to report on them, and finally tells us how to seat them in the back of the car, we discover that of all the parents in the land, the government is the least doting and the most incompetent.

A shocking report into the state of the care system revealed last week that half of all prisoners under 25 have been in care, that a third of all homeless people were brought up in care, and that a quarter of all girls in care have fallen pregnant before they leave.

There were no figures provided regarding their intake of vegetables, but no doubt that is pretty lamentable, too. "

Seems as if Daisy has got the drift.

Sunday Times link here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

One Parent Families...

now constituting 23% of all families. (There seems to be a typo in the article - should read two per cent of fathers now raising their children alone.)

12.6% of home educators in my address book are raising their kids alone.

The Science Bit

And just in case you have decided, on the basis of the last test, that you aren't going to make it as an artist or interior designer, here's a test purporting to assess scientific ability.

Lord Adonis

...on a child's right to an education.


We also enjoyed this colour matching exercise.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Test your reaction times here.

What did you get?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Failing Secondary Schools

It's either 50 underperforming secondary schools, or 500, depending on who you believe and what criteria matter to you. We know which figure we are inclined to take seriously, though we think it likely to be something of an underestimation, given that the figure of 500 was achieved solely by grading the schools on GCSE results.

Our local secondary school, which wouldn't even fit into the higher number of failing schools, and which managed a very satisfactory Ofsted report in 2004, is a hotbed of drug-taking and violence, with children regularly being head-butted, kicked downstairs, generally bullied and predictably then not doing nearly as well as they could have done.

Teachers and teachers unions naturally go on the defensive:

"Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said Sir Cyril's comments were "unhelpful". He said: 'We know we have got a problem with what can be described as underachieving schools. It does not help to have something like this thrown in your face. Comments like this are very demoralising.' "

Well, SOOORRY - but children are being screwed by this system and whatever your vested interests, you shouldn't be in the business of protecting shoddy institutions and generally giving the impression that this doesn't matter too much. Children don't wait about for you to solve these problems. They grow up and carry with them the attendant difficulty of having spent a significant proportion of their youth in a hell-hole.

The family on the news who couldn't get into the secondary school of their choice, ended up home educating. OK, so HE should be the first choice imo, but we don't really care how people get here, since once here they may get bitten by the HE bug.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Children Missing From EDUCATION

Still on the topic of the terrible standard of journalism at the Beeb, here is yet another example of their persistent tendency to conflate school with education.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Was at work yesterday when I blithely announced to an inquirer that my children were home educated - an apparently fairly normal scenario, particularly given that the information was warmly apprehended by the intended recipient.

The reason why I think I shall remember this incident was that I had made this announcement within easy earshot of a member of the public, who stood only a few yards away with his back towards me. When he turned around, with a face that seemed like thunder, it was immediately apparent that this person was either Chris Woodhead or his doppelganger.

Hmmm - I think I may have lost some business, but perhaps off to try to find out exactly how tall Chris Woodhead is, since this person was at least six foot.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Database Workshop

Blogzilla has the details for a workshop on the Children's Information Sharing Index and the NHS Care Records Service to take place at UCL on November 1st.

Dh owes me some days, I think.

Video Games

The more imaginative the better, I'd say. The success of Big Brain Academy and Brain Training round here would suggest that there could be a massive market for more traditionally educational games.

(Not that we don't think that the problem solving involved in most platform games is not incredibly educational! And as for reaction times, I can't find the source but my guess is that it's all true that only 14% of the population could have passed the reaction time test for fighter pilots in the 1940s, when over 40% could nowadays.)

As to video games causing raised levels of aggression, I think if the phenomena does exist, it is only extremely temporary, being merely a product of being sped up and ready for action. It is anyway perfectly subject to will. The same symptoms can be generated in attempting to do any task that requires quick and close attention, such as IQ tests or quick maths problems. It is not confined to games and they should therefore not be demonised.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Believe What You Read from the BBC

My scepticism about on-line schooling in the last post becomes understandable in the light of this from the BBC. Most UK Home Educators who've been around a bit would not touch it with a barge-pole.

(And so much for the standard of journalism at the Beeb. This was a press release, pure and simple.)


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Spectator Letter

The letter in the Spectator this week doesn't, at first glance, look like an argument in favour of home education, but actually, it isn't far removed:

"From Amanda Craig

Sir: I was interested in Rod Liddle's article 'Who is right about home schooling?' (23 September) because I too have children at top private schools and have noticed large gaps in their general knowledge thanks to the detestable National Curriculm. However, the solution is quite simple and does not necessitate removing them from their friends.

Stick a map of the world and a map of Britain up where they have meals, and they will learn geography. Make a time-line with them, and they will learn history. Listen to Radio Three in the car if you do a school run, and they will learn more about classical music than in a hundred music lessons. Teach them, formally, how to draw. Watch famiiar DVDs in foreign langauages. Walk with them for a least half an hour every day and talk to them about anything under the sun, including politics. Above all, keep reading to them every night, until they can read Jane Austen. It will only take an hour out of each day at most, is a total pleasure and makes a huge difference to a child's knowledge and self-confidence.

I went to a progressive boarding school where, as an academic pupil, I learnt almost nothing worth knowing. However, I got into Cambridge because I had a mother who followed these principles. All half-decent parents home educate their children, in effect, until children learn to educate themselves. "

So the point of school? The provision of friends apparently, and we have that one sorted in the HE community.