Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Leave Us Alone - It's Not Just About the Money

From a conversation with an ex LA bod who used to be responsible for organising the distribution of the budget of a relatively wealthy LA, we hear of the sort of problems they have with funding just one SEN child. People at this LA breathe a huge sigh of relief when just one SEN child moves out of area as this takes such a huge financial burden off them and when they have to fund a new SEN case, they have to take the money from other parts of their budget, which just goes to show why they are so reluctant to diagnose new SENs.

If this is the case, it is hard to imagine how LAs could possibly chase up on all of us home educators, what with each home visit costing hundreds of pounds (was it approx £400 per visit, I seem to recall?).

Couple that with subsequent requirements that we could quite reasonably make of LAs. For example, we could insist that since they are going to start insisting that we must do this and that, we in turn are going to start asking for more and more statements so that we don't have to fit their standards, and so that our children's needs can be met.

We could also quite reasonably ask that since we pay our taxes which go to educating children according to state requirements, and since you are now requiring us to educate our children along these lines too, we have no reason not to ask for a budget to cover our children's education.

Plus, if DfES standards mean (which they will), that we have to be doing this or that, so say, if they say that all children must be reading by the time they are 8, and need to be diagnosed dyslexic if they aren't, we will start out on the path of coming to get them/sue them for damaging the education of our children, since a diagnosis of difficulty when there need be one can be terribly damaging and a self-fulfilling prophesy, as many psychiatrists will tell you.
There are now way too many home educated children out there who didn't start to read before this sort of age, but who read at adult level about a year later, who were never diagnosed with anything for this not to be a serious argument, whereas there are thousands of school children who fall behind in the first couple of years, get diagnosed, diagnose themselves or generally see themselves as so inadequate, who fall further and further behind in class and then spend a lifetime struggling with literacy issues entirely unnecessarily. This should be the national scandal and a classic example of the way the state fails and even abuses children. The louder we can make this sort of point the better, so that the school system and the state at last become properly answerable for the abuses they perpetuate.

And on another point and just in case this message was missed in previous posts on this subject, the message to LAs should be that they must continue to rely on the community for reporting of child abuse, since any other way - such as a universal screen - will be grossly impractical, hugely expensive, a waste of funds, highly unlikely to turn up evidence of abuse without risking making numerous false positives, as well as being a disproportionate intrusion into family life.

All in all, my guess is that it really will all boil down to the money situation and that the problems with funding will protect us from significant intrusion, but I think we should be making the moral, epistemological and other practical arguments along the way as well, since they are the principal reasons why leaving home educators alone is properly justifiable.

What is more, we need to be making these arguments loudly: we need HEors everywhere to be standing up for the freedom to continue to HE as we do, because the last thing we want is for the DfES to think that they can sneak the principle of universal monitoring past us, without anyone really noticing, and then let the LAs implement as and when they can, doubtless not as universal monitoring, but just so that they can have a right to invade our privacy whenever they feel like it. We need to make it clear that we will not be a pushover as a community and what is more that also LAs will be held responsible for meeting their duties and that they will be sued if they don't.

The other reason why we must keep shouting about the moral and epistemological reasons for home educating is that it does keep us sane. It stops us introjecting the values of the LA and of the schooling type system. This could be seen as constituting useful criticism, but the fact is that policing ourselves in this way is usually not constructive because it just makes us more stressed out and nervous. We start constantly pushing our children to conform to school standards which may well not actually suit their abilities and aptitudes. We need to hold fast and firm to good theories of knowledge acquisition and how best to treat children well in order that we do not do the LA's job of destroying our children's education.

(Thanks to Fiona N for raising these last two points.)


Anonymous said...

"For example, we could insist that since they are going to start insisting that we must do this and that, we in turn are going to start asking for more and more statements so that we don't have to fit their standards, and so that our children's needs can be met."

You're not suggesting this seriously, are you?

I think I missed your arguments on this one.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused on this too. I don't think that you can get statemented or get any government paid psychological tests f(assuming you would want to!) and so on for your child unless you are in the school system.


Carlotta said...

Hi first anon,

Well my thinking here was "if this consultation goes very, very badly, and the DfES start to insist that we stick to precise standards, and that our children will be issued with an SAO if we don't...what other choice will we have other than jail or a fine?

Whilst I think it often very much less of a good thing to have a label such as dyslexia or dysgraphia or whatever, it may be better to have this than to go back to school, for example, so if these were our only options, then we might have to take the former one.

However, I am by far from recommending this as a course of action. I am simply saying that we tell the authorities that some of us will be resorting to this course of action if they make us do school at home, and given that the cost of statementing is pretty disastrous for LA budgets, I don't suppose they will be pleased with this news....

which takes us to the point of anon 2.

From the UK HE support group for children with SEN it says that "If parents have chosen to de-register or have never registered the child (elective Home Education), then the LEA is under no duty to arrange provision at home. The LEA could ‘reasonably’, make provision, if it so chooses, but they *very* rarely do and, in fact, many seem to have written policies which state categorically that they will not make provision at home in such circumstances. " so it suggests to me that statementing at home may not be precluded at home, merely that local guidance tries to preclude it, but I would argue that in the situation that we are required to do school at home, then school conditions should apply in every regard, and local guidance in this sort of situation could be subject to review, with all the expenses that this too would entail.

Anonymous said...

Slightly clearer head now perhaps...so another try! But, I still don't get the statementing part as they don't and won't (asking probably won't make a jot of difference) statement chldren who are either at home or in private education. They won't fund anything like that at all.

We would not have this label OR go back to school, we would have to have this label AND go back to school.

Whilst morally it might seem evident that they *should* fund such suggestions, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that this will happen or that they will agree that there is any moral cause for the sort of equality of educational obligations you suggest
they should experience!

Jail looks far more likely, sadly!

Anyway, am constantly still a bit rushed and tired at the mo, so have probably missed something again!


Carlotta said...

Hi D,

Yep, as things stand I think you are probably right, though I think that HEors are getting very wised up on the various ways of making representations, so I certainly think that we should announce that this will be the sort of consequence of which we are thinking during the consultation process, should the situation go very much against us.

Secondly, I think that if it does go this sort of a way, then depending on whether standards are legislated for or whether they appear in guidance only, we could do things like challenge the Sec of State through something like judicial review process...or some such measure.

Of course, we would much rather that it didn't come to this, merely that we would like to point out to legislators some of the possible consequences should they choose to go this way.

Anonymous said...

You have a lot of faith in the legal system! I must say that I don't...but, you are right, to be optimistic.


Carlotta said...

I have at least a little bit of faith that the judiciary believes that it should act as a check and balance on legislative side of things, so if legislators ask us to do school at home, then we should be able to demand the same rights as those who school in school. This much should be at least possible to put as an argument...and it is more the threat that we will do it that I hope will be effective, rather than the certainty of any outcome.