Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vulnerable Children Don't Want to be Databased

ARCH has the story.

Carnival of HomeSchooling

to be found here. I found the introduction particularly relevant as I have myself quite recently become very aware of just how extensive, how meaningful and how hugely enabling all those home educating connections really are - and that to include people we have never even met!

In which last regard, thanks to the good folk at The Scratching Post who might just have saved us the trouble of making our own electro-magnet.

The Whole History

..leading up to the proposed consultation on possible changes to the statutory framework for home education can be found here. Thanks EO.

What About Wales?

Given that Education is devolved in Wales and the Welsh Assembly therefore have the last call over this, how much of what is going on in England will affect the situation for Welsh Home Educators? Welsh Home Educators are gearing up. They too are getting ready for action. They just want to know how ready they should be, so the good people at EO are trying to find out from the DfES, but it rather looks as if the DfES aren't too sure either.

For example, with regard to the Education and Inspection Act 2006, which contains, amongst other gems, Section 4 - Children Missing from Education, the DfES have said: "so far as exercisable in relation to Wales, is to be taken to have been transferred to the Assembly by an Order in Council under section 22 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (c. 38)."

Welsh groups are eager to know more. (Thanks EO.)

Schoolhouse Press Release

From Scotland:

SCHOOLHOUSE SLAMS COUNCIL IGNORANCE OF THE LAW ON HOME EDUCATION

The national home education support organisation Schoolhouse has reacted angrily to comments made by Highland councillors who have inferred a direct link between home-based educators and 'dysfunctional families'. In the wake of representations from its members and the wider home education community, Schoolhouse is now considering making a formal complaint to the
Standards Commission, the body which investigates alleged breaches of the code of conduct for elected members.

Schoolhouse spokesperson, Alison Preuss, said:

"Schoolhouse invites Highland councillors to withdraw the comments they have made about home-based education being a cause for concern and would remind them of their duty to respect and uphold the law at all times. According to Scottish Executive guidance (1), home-based education is a key aspect of parental choice and parents do not require the local authority's permission to educate their children outside the school system. The only consent that parents in Scotland currently require is for the withdrawal of their child from a state school, and this may not be unreasonably withheld by the council.

"Highland councillors have evidently expressed grave concern at the number of children in the area who are being home educated, describing it as 'scary'. But it should come as no surprise that parents are bypassing a school system which is no longer fit for purpose and is widely held to be failing countless youngsters.

"Highland councillors also seem to believe that parents need a reason to remove their children from the school system when, legally, the provision of education is a parental function. Schools are there to serve families and should of course be subject to a rigorous inspection regime so that parents can have confidence in those to whom they entrust their children's education.

"Our own grave concern is that some elected members are misrepresenting the legal position, deliberately or otherwise, and inferring that parents are generally not to be trusted with their own children's education. In reality councils already have adequate powers to intervene if they have evidence that suggests a failure on the part of parents, and claiming that the law is
about to be changed to suit their Big Brother agenda is disingenuous. We are now considering whether to make a formal complaint to the Standards Commission about a possible breach of the councillors' code of conduct as it is unacceptable for elected members to seek to mislead the
public in this way.

"Home educating families in Highland have been asked to speak to the media about their experiences, but none we have contacted is prepared to do so in the light of such irresponsible comments by people who should know better. Research evidence is stacking up that home educated children are more socially adept than their schooled peers and that they consistently
outperform them in standard academic tests. The bad news about home-based education is very hard to find, and a deliberate smear campaign against law abiding home-based educators will not be tolerated."

Schoolhouse met with representatives from the Scottish Executive last week to discuss aspects of the statutory guidance on home education which is currently being reviewed. There are no plans to amend the primary legislation in which "education by other means" is enshrined as an equal choice to state schooling. (2)

ENDS

For further information please contact media@schoolhouse.org.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS

(1) See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/gcech.pdf (PDF)
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/gcech-00.asp (Online)
(2) Education (Scotland) Act 1980, s30

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Essential Reading (For Me Anyhow).

Oliver Kamm on Ken Livingstone, Multiculturalism of the Right and Left and the real meaning of Civil Society.

Reason to Be Cheerful

Rather than suffering the slings and arrows of what seems like ill-informed central government diktat, we see this sort of local initiative as the better way forward towards establishing satisfactory relationships between local authorities and home educators.

If second link still doesn't work (for reason I can't work out), try downloading file from here. Wait for first download to complete, then right click on the download button and choose "save target as". You should get there! - Thanks Dani.

One Very Big Reason to be Cross

If we thought we could sit back and relax for a bit, what with the consultation on "light touch changes to the monitoring of home educators" aka "an Examination of the Statutory Framework for Home Education" being delayed, I suspect we should think again. The reason? Well, some of us had, before yesterday, allowed ourselves to hope that the delay may have had at least something to do with the wide response from individual home educators detailing their objections to the possible proposals in the consultation, but it seems, (OK predictably, but nonetheless still SHAMEFULLY), that the DfES are not going to take such responses seriously.

This because we heard yesterday from Adrian Thompson of the DfES, that the DfES regard local authorities, Home Education Advisory Service, Education Otherwise and another organisation that isn't even a home ed org at all, ie: the Family Education Trust as the stakeholders in this affair. Nothing about the real stakeholders here at all, ie: home educating families.

Complaints about failure to observe Cabinet Office Guidelines on how to conduct consultations are being sent from at least one organisation. Might not hurt to write your own and cc it to the Cabinet Office, the DfES, their legal department, your MP, you name it.

Home Education: Appropriate to Ability and Aptitude

Home Education works for Tiffany.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Home Education in Dorset

Good one, June. Despite the fact that Trinity seems to be have mastered the art of time travel and you apparently talked about "home schooling" (lol yeah, highly likely!), you still managed to get the big points across brilliantly.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Links of the Week

*New Sisyphus on Hitchens and Steyn, and Hitchen's improved version of a ten-point plan.

*Norm on the Guardian's disgraceful treatment of the Jewish predicament.

*Little Green Footballs on BBC censorship and the importance of the blogosphere.

Why I'm an Unschooling Mom

..from Natural Living.

The first bit of the story is remarkably similar to my own progression from working-outside-the-home mum through to a working mum of an entirely different sort ie: someone who would be on hand to provide resources, answer questions and offer suggestions to my children, whilst they learnt according to their ability and aptitudes.

Last Call for Carnival of Unschooling Voices

Posts on the subject of deschooling for the February edition of the Carnival of Unschooling Voices to be there by February 1st. Quick...Ann?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

AHEd on the Radio

Barbara Stark of AHEd and family can be heard on BBC Nottingham here. Congrats again Barbara.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Leave Them Kids Alone

From ARCH

"As you know, we’ve been working hard on the use of children’s fingerprints in school. Increasing numbers of schools are installing systems that use fingerprints as identifiers in the
school library or canteen and also for registration purposes.

We are at last making some real progress, and there are indications that the Information Commissioner may even seek amendment to the Data Protection Act.

We must keep up the pressure now. Greg Mulholland MP has tabled an Early Day Motion 686 which you can see
here.

Please, please would you mind contacting your MP as soon as possible, asking him/her to sign this EDM. The more signatures it receives, the better the chance that we can get this worrying
practice stopped, or at least tightly regulated. You can email your MP easily through
this site.

It doesn’t matter if your child is not at school: it’s the whole principle of using biometrics for low-level purposes that is at stake here. If we simply let it carry on in schools, there is a
real risk that these systems could become routine in other situations – the local library? The leisure centre? "

Pippa and I have been working closely with Leave Those Kids Alone – see their
website for more information about the campaign."

= = = = = = =

This is what I wrote (via Write to Them):

I am writing to ask if you would consider signing the Early Day Motion recently tabled by Greg Mulholland at http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=32367&SESSION=885.

I share his concerns about the growing practice of the collection and storing of biometric details of children in schools where information such as photographs and fingerprints are stored on unregulated data collection systems and potentially insecure school computer networks where they could potentially be misused.

I also understand that collecting such data from children under 12 without parental consent directly contravenes the Data Protection Act.

I would ask you to call on the Government to conduct a full and open consultation with stake holders, including parents and children, on this issue as part of the review of guidance to be undertaken by the DfES.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In the Case of a Flu Pandemic

We are told, of course, that it will happen and plans have been drawn up in order that the nation should survive it. I have to say that it seemed from the documents here that the state will be remarkably reluctant to close schools, for even if advised to do so by the medics, and the DfES passes on this advice to the schools, the DfES intends to leave it up to the board of governors to actually decide when to shut the gates.

Yeah right: in this situation, I really want my children to be left in the hands of someone with, in all probability, almost no medical expertise whatsoever, but who may well be rather concerned to please the higher-ups, who in turn will be rather concerned, given that they seem to think the following:

"If schools close, is there a duty to provide alternative education?

Local authorities have a duty to provide education for children of compulsory school age who are out of school. Schools would remain open to staff, who could set and mark work, but getting it to and from pupils is an issue that will have to be addressed. We are looking into whether and how DfES can advise or assist local authorities, and will provide more guidance later this year. "

Hmm. Well of course, one way out of this dilemma for them, (which could presumably land them in court for failing to provide most of the schooling population with an appropriate education) would be to say that the parent is responsible for provision of education under these circumstances, and that therefore the child is effectively home educated.

Yeah, that would seem to solve the problem, though maybe not, if they decide to go ahead and make themselves liable for monitoring all home educators, for you can be damn sure that given that home educators already resent LA officers on their doorsteps, they won't be in much of a mind to let anyone in, come the year of a flu epidemic.

Campaign Workshops

From Fiona N, who amongst many others is doing stirling campaign work on the DfES's "light touch changes to monitoring of Home Educators", we hear that:

"Annette Taberner (chair of Sheffield HE Network) and I, Fiona Nicholson, are running a pilot workshop in Sheffield on Sunday 28th January 2007, from 11-3 at Heeley Institute S2 3DT.

Phil Hicks the Chair of the Education Otherwise Government Policy Group will also be there, along with an experienced local journalist who has worked for government media departments in Leeds and who will be explaining how to work with the media and get them on your side. There will also be a social worker explaining the impact of Every Child Matters agenda at local level. This social worker is a local home educating parent.

Creche facilities available.

FORWARD NOTICE:

There will be other EO regional workshops along similar lines in the Tyne and Wear area and in the vicinity of Bromley in Kent.

All three workshops will have at least one member of the EO Government Policy Group to present a brief (ish ) overview of the situation and to answer questions from the floor.

Also:

To volunteer or communicate your views to the EO Government Policy Group please use the email governmentpolicy@education-otherwise.org"

Not Knowing What They Don't Know

There are times when I am quite astonished at the level of sophistication of the conversation Dd (4) and I have together. Yesterday, for example, on a car journey back from seeing friends, we discussed the pros and cons of white lying, which we defined as lying with good intention. She saw the pros and provided all the cons, in other words she had the subject completely. I would have been quite pleased with myself had I had such a conversation with a teen or even an adult.

Five minutes later Ds and I were talking about an older friend of his who we hadn't seen for a few months.

"He has changed so much", Ds remarked.

"Yes, he isn't a boy, anymore." I added.

Dd, from the back seat "Wha? He's a girl?"

You see, the thing is, even though I know her so well, I still don't know what she doesn't know, but at least she isn't now going round thinking Jaspar's a girl. How many more of these sorts of mistakes go by unnoticed in a school classroom, I wonder.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

More Ruth Kelly Letters

...from home educators. This time in the Northern Echo and The Western Daily Press.

Education Otherwise Briefing Paper for Home Educators

From the EO Government Policy Group a superb Briefing Paper for home educators.

If you wish to make any comments, please mail governmentpolicy@education-otherwise.org

NFER Research Gets a Fail

If you want to be impressed with the depths of inadequacy of the research underpinning the delayed prospective consultation on "light touch changes to the monitoring of Home Education" you could do worse than to go here and consider, for example, Question 8.

"What factors get in the way of accessing support?
(Please select a factor from each dropdown box, starting with the biggest factor)


-- biggest factor -- Poor communications, Lack of clarity of roles, Negative attitudes, Lack of resources, Lack of understanding, Other (please specify)
-- 2nd biggest factor -- Poor communications, Lack of clarity of roles, Negative attitudes, Lack of resources, Lack of understanding, Other (please specify)
-- 3rd biggest factor -- Poor communications, Lack of clarity of roles, Negative attitudes, Lack of resources, Lack of understanding, Other (please specify)
-- 4th biggest factor -- Poor communications, Lack of clarity of roles, Negative attitudes, Lack of resources, Lack of understanding, Other (please specify)
-- 5th biggest factor -- Poor communications, Lack of clarity of roles, Negative attitudes, Lack of resources, Lack of understanding, Other (please specify)".


A charitable way of looking at the question is that the people at the NFER simply don't know what they are talking about. They have no real idea of the issues facing HEors, for if they did, they would know that most HEors don't have any problem accessing huge amounts of support from the HE network and that they don't expect any help from anywhere else, least of all an LA.

A less charitable way of looking at the question is to see it as a trap, for if we were to answer the question as if we have problems accessing support from local authorities, (as if we imagined we were going to get any in the first place - ha! ), then presumably a researcher could interpret this as meaning that HEors have problems accessing any sort of support at all.

So I left question 8 blank and told them what I thought of the ambiguity in question 8 in their final comments box.

But really, whether it be incompetence or deliberate deviousness, research such as this should not be allowed to inform public bodies or to influence their actions, for it does not access the truth of matter.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Consultation Delayed

It isn't our imagination then: we hear today from the DfES that the proposed consulation on "light touch changes to the monitoring of home educators" has been slightly delayed due to input from stakeholders.

So keep up the work, the real stakeholders in this situation: the more letters to the DfES the better. Fire bullet points below at will.

Regulatory Impact Assessment

We imagine the DfES must be undertaking something like a Regulatory Impact Assessment. It might be worth their while to take the points here and here into account.

When Will Educrats Learn?

From the TES, a story of how a teacher, someone fully invested in the schooling system, had to grow in knowledge and understanding when her own child started to suffer from fear of school. Whilst this teacher had been faced with children who had behaved in similar ways before, it was only when her own child became depressed that she began to see that forcing a child back into school is likely to be pointless, profoundly damaging and far from the best possible alternative. Let us hope that other teachers and educrats can learn from her story of revelation before yet more children are forced to suffer.

The second page of the story below:

"When School is too Scary (cont).

The child psychologist said my son didn't have mental health issues, which was a huge relief - but that meant his absence had to be seen as truancy.

The ESW service agreed he wasn't misbehaving, but genuinely frightened.

However, the absence of medical evidence meant legal action. Tension rose still further at home as I wondered how on earth we could cope with court as well as a distraught 12-year-old weeping on the window sill.

This carried on through Year 7 and into Year 8. We continued to request meetings. I spoke to the head of the ESW service and the local authority education officer, who sent us back to the GP. He referred my son to the mental health team again, only to be told they wouldn't see him because they'd already assessed him as outside their remit.

The one bright spot was my son's eagerness to learn. Once we stopped mentioning school, he'd happily spend days reading and working through textbooks and worksheets. His school sent some work but I knew providing what amounted to distance learning just wasn't possible for a mainstream school in the long term.

Something had to change. We'd had all the help that was on offer but it hadn't worked. We all agreed there was nothing more that anyone could do. I desperately wanted my son back - my funny, clever, sardonic son who had been replaced by this self-loathing, miserable young man.

So we took school out of the equation to concentrate on learning. I'd been working in schools for the best part of a decade so the freedom allowed by home education seemed shocking at first. No set subjects. No national curriculum. The only thing we had to prove was that we were providing a full-time and appropriate education.

We are lucky that we've been able to take this route and that it has provided a solution for us. A child who is keen to learn and an adult who has the time to facilitate it are the only essentials and we are fortunate enough to have both.

We've had to make sacrifices to do it, but family life is back on an even keel now and I have my son back. That's the most important thing. "


Monday, January 22, 2007

Not Directly About Home Education Legislation!

I haven't linked to him in a while, but that isn't to say that I don't continue to give thanks for Norm, this time on the matter of John Gray and his view of the Enlightenment. And just to note: my best theory is that my feelings of gratitude aren't a matter of faith either.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Autonomous Education Rocks!

Gill describes the way in which autonomous education works for children who have not got on with the schooling system.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Valuable Lessons from Scotland

Here's Alison Preuss from Schoolhouse in HEM Magazine.

Bullet Point Arguments

...against the suggestion that the monitoring of Home Educators should be increased.

What we should be saying to LAs and the DfES:

(DfES address for letters: Elaine.HASTE@dfes.gsi.gov.uk
or: Elective Home Education Department, DfES, Mowden Hall, Darlington DL3 9BG.)

*There are perfectly adequate procedures already in place to allow Local Authorities pick up on families who are not educating their children to their age, ability and aptitude. It is currently the case that LAs are able to make enquiries of home educating families in order to ascertain that on balance of probabilities an education is taking place. In the situation that it would appear to a reasonable person that it is not, the LA already have a right to pursue the situation further. Such a balance is finely wrought and should not be tampered with lightly, for it allows for the protection of children who are being educationally neglected, and yet it also allows for families, who are doing very well and acting perfectly within the law, to be left alone. This situation may not be as easy as the Local Authority would like, but they will find, see below, that insisting on a duty to monitor all home educating families will actually make their working lives a lot harder.


*It will be very difficult to monitor us because huge numbers of Home Educating families don't want to be monitored. They will resist intrusion into their lives and homes when they know they are doing nothing wrong, and that your presence will be disruptive for the education of their children, so you will be making yourselves very vulnerable to increased workload, being unable to carry out the work and significantly increased costs.

*If you create a duty to monitor us, you will be held liable when you don't do it.

*Parents will go for you when you try to impose state standards. Many home educated children have been already woefully failed by the state and even the private schooling system. Many HE parents, have learned the hard way that age is not a reliable way to determine aptitude or achievement. These kinds of parents will not be pressed to conform to state standards just to please the LA official when it is not in the best educational interests of their child. If they are pressed to do this, they will sue you for forcing them to provide an education that is not appropriate to the ability and aptitude of their child.

*If we are to be monitored, we will demand funding in order that we may meet with your demands.

*The home educating families who are failing their children are the insignificant statistical outliers. These families are (it seems to us) almost all already known to LAs and are already receiving the kind of "support" you would be offering after you create a duty to monitor all HEors.

* Far from missing out on the very few families who are failing, it is already the case that the HE community is acutely aware that LAs interfere with families who would otherwise be functioning very well. It is frequently the case that LAs think that an HE family is having a problem when they simply aren't. Increasing the degree to which all families are subjected to state scrutiny will doubtless increase the numbers of false positives, will generate an huge amount of expense and unnecessary work, and will probably prevent the accused families from getting on with educating their children as best they can. When the LA are responsible for causing, rather than finding a problem, the family will hold the state to account. This kind of case will also doubtless cause increased dissatisfaction with your services amongst HEing communities, and we will be communicating our dissatisfactions far and wide, to include the media and our MPs.

*It is an abiding problem of either state or a more patrician form of educational provision that those who make such provision are almost exclusively those who have succeeded within the educational system that they propose. All those who failed radically are not given a voice as to how their needs could best be met. This strikes us as a terrible tragedy, for the one-size-fits-all provision that is consequently offered fails to be meet such children's needs and does not allow them to realise their potential. Many home educators have experienced how both state and private schooling fails to meet the educational needs of their children and most of these will have devised better strategies to cope with their children's needs. Children who left school anxious, self-harming and depressed have flourished in the less stressful environment of home- based education and have gone on to live happy and productive lives. It is, in fact, the home educating community who are the experts in educating children with needs such as these
.

Being the experts in this field, home educators are also best placed to offer criticism and support to the few home educators who are struggling. The DfES does not need to create further duties for LAs which will undermine the positive elements of civil society and the growth of personal responsibility which are modeled in the Home Education community. Further, the DfES must be aware that in intruding upon the lives of children who are not happy to be dealing with judgmental strangers is likely to be very counter-productive for their education, and all to no observable benefit in terms of educational outcomes.

*The methodology used by the two reports which have been used to justify the DFES's current consultation proposal - namely the NFER (link not working at present) and Ivatts, is highly questionable. The sample sizes in the first study are tiny, and the people consulted in both studies were either only those who were prepared to give the answers the studies sought, or whose responses were not represented in the reports. In addition, the previous DfES consultation in 2005, upon which the present proposed consultation is based, was very biased in favour of LA reports and did not weigh evidence from home educators fairly.

*The currently proposed consultation on "light touch changes to monitoring" of Home Educators appears to us to be flawed and does not conform to the Cabinet Office's Code of Practice with regard to how consultations should be conducted. It seems, for example, that home educators are being consulted at a very late stage in the proceedings, that decisions have already been made as to what action will be taken and that these have been based upon a very biased set of assumptions and presentations from LAs and flawed studies, see above. Home Educators are, afterall, the key stakeholders in this matter, and yet we feel that it is LAs who are being treated as such. Overall, we feel we have been put in the position of having to assert our right to respond to the wrong questions set by the wrong people, based on assumptions that are often erroneous, ill-informed and discriminatory. We therefore do not feel that this consultation meets the Audit Commission's definition, of "a process of dialogue that leads to a decision..... an ongoing exchange of views and information, rather than a one-off event." We also feel that many key stakeholders, such as Travellers, as well as those home educators not accessing email and internet-based information, will not be able to be represented in the consultation process.

*It is the case that many HE communities have invested considerable energy building satisfactory relationships with Local Authority personnel, working with them to achieve a satisfactory balance with due respect for the privacy of families who are doing nothing other than educating their children appropriately and who are acting within the law. If compulsory universal monitoring is introduced, we will be back in the trenches once again.

*Occasional home visits are highly unlikely to pick up accurate evidence of abuse. Instead Social Services departments must continue to rely upon the old method of informal community reporting. This does work. Being unknown to SS dep'ts is not usually the problem for abused children, by far the greater problem for social services departments being to know what to do about suspected cases of abuse. The state must abandon the idea that it can police every family for abuse. The only way this could be done would be to fix cc cameras in all the rooms in everyone's houses and out in the garden as well. Checking huge numbers of HEors for the few who may be being abusive (we contend that these are very, very few) will be a waste of public money and is very likely to lead to a number of false positives, which will get heard about through the HE grapevine and which will act to your discredit. Why enlarge the size of the haystack, since this will only make the needle harder to find?

*What about the right to family privacy as enshrined in European Human Rights Law, Article 8? The child, with no duties being asked of him, will surely have a right to family privacy. If a child doesn't want to meet with the LA, are you going to ask the parents to force that child to do so? What level of force are you going to ask a parent to apply? What about the commitment to listen to and respect the wishes of children, as enshrined in the Every Child Matters agenda and in Article 12 of UNCRC? If a child doesn't want to meet with state officials, will it be in the spirit of the ECM to force the child to meet with them? It is sadly the case that many children suffer terribly in schools. The stress they experience is all too frequently neglected. Many home educating parents are not prepared to stand by and see the physical and mental health of their children suffer. These kinds of parents will not be happy to see their children suffer once again with LA monitoring and an imposition of a school-at-home education.

*Is it that the DfES propose to ignore Article 2 of the First Protocol of the ECHR which states that "In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions"?

*Home educators neither want nor need your support. Instead their communities offer a prime example of successful civil society. We take responsibility for ourselves. We help each other in innumerable ways, we offer criticism of each other, we police ourselves, we help each other grow. Far from hassling such a community, thereby impeding our growth and independence, the state should step back and breathe a huge sigh of relief, for here is a perfect example of they way in which society should be going. Our children are offered personalised learning, which if you didn't interfere with it, would not cost the taxpayer a thing. They are finding and developing their interests and aptitudes, without wasting huge swathes of time learning stuff that will never be of use to them again. They socialize with people of all ages. They live and learn in the real wide world beyond the school gates.


Friday, January 19, 2007

On the Wider Significance of Proposed Changes to Home Education Law

(Have reposted this piece from a few days ago with a few alterations, as the old version doesn't appear to be taking corrections. Hope it makes the thought experiment about "statementing" a bit clearer.)

I admit this blog has got even more narrowly focused over these past few months - almost nothing but obsessing about possible future legislative changes to home education in England. But the thing is - any passing reader who isn't HEing, some of the proposed changes to home education law will have major ramifications and implications for the whole of education law in this country.

In the likely case that you didn't know, passing non-HE reader, the state is proposing to up the degree to which home educators are monitored. In order to do this the DfES will undoubtedly have to decide upon and impose a widely applicable set of standards for education, thereby in effect dictating the content of it. The state will therefore be responsible for both the form and the content of the education that all parents must provide to their children.

So how will this affect parents with children in schools? What it will mean is that whilst parents will still be responsible for the "provision" of education, eg: in the act of delegating the responsibility to a school, they will no longer responsible for freely deciding upon the "form and content" of education, since these will have been decided by the state.

What this, in turn, will mean is that if a child in school is failed by the form and content of an education, the parent will be able sue the state for compelling him to provide an inappropriate education.

It seems possible, and I want to run it by some sort of thought experiment, that the DfES may try to avoid the problem of being held responsible for oftentimes inappropriate form and content of education, by creating the following situation and using the following argument: "Well this standard only applies to children without special educational needs. You can get out of jail if you decide to get your child statemented, in our new special way. In other words, you pay for an assessment, and the ed psych will give you a special curriculum to follow....and let's face it, this could exempt most of the schooling population, because most children could be defined as having an SEN if you try hard enough!" But actually going down this new special SEN route doesn't provide the "get of jail free" card that the DfES might suggest since even in the situation that the state does not then prescribe a new curriculum, it will still be deciding the form of education for our children, in that they are deciding that we MUST statement our children if we don't want to apply their educational standards. Yep, they will still be dictating the form of education and they will be doing this in a way that may well be deeply deleterious to many children.

By which I mean that psychiatrists know full well the dangers of applying a label to anyone, in that the label often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. eg: if you tell a child they can't sit still because they have ADHD, what is the point of them trying to do it? They have a perfect excuse not to. Or to take another example, many HE children don't learn to read until they are eight, nine or even older. They are rarely diagnosed dyslexic, and because they are not sitting in a classroom full of children doing other things, they usually catch up within a year of starting to read. No need to apply a label, thereby making it far less likely that the child will ever get there. Just let him learn when he is ready...NO problem. He will be fit to live in the 21st century, but will have got there in his own time and with no negative consequences to himself or anyone else.

Forcing parents to do this new kind of statement their children in order that they do not have to deliver the state-determined education will undoubtedly be deeply abusive for some families. In this regard, the state will again be responsible and probably will be held responsible for the damage it is doing to children in effectively insisting that they must be statemented in this way.

Further on the implications for all families on changes to HE law: forcing HE families to be subject to scrutiny by local authorities when it is not clear that they have done anything wrong, establishes a precedent for all families about the degree to which the state is allowed to invade their privacy. Most HE families will have done nothing to arouse the suspicion of the state and LAs will have no reason whatsoever to believe that these families are not providing an education that is suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of their children. In the situation that there is a reasonable suspicion to think that an appropriate education is not being provided, the LA already have the power to make inquiries of that family. There is no need to change the law here for in insisting that LAs have a right to monitor the education that all HE families provide, the state is in effect over-writing the principle of the right to family privacy, as is enshrined in Article 8, of the ECHR.

It is also the case that many HE children simply do NOT want to see local authority representatives. They don't want a stranger in their homes deciding upon their whole way of life. Not surprising really; you can be sympathetic. For a start, these strangers will know next to nothing about the real educational needs of each child and yet for because an educrat has a clipboard and is supposed to be in the know, they are allowed to make huge decisions about the way a child lives. If, on the other hand, the state is to be as good as it's word and consult children, (as it claims it will in the Every Child Matters agenda, and as ARCH says, "gee thanks!"), they will find that most often they are neither wanted nor needed in the lives of children. If then the state decides to over-ride the wishes of HE children, how are parents everywhere supposed to take the state seriously when it professes to consult with children and take their views seriously?

HE parents also ask "In the case that my child doesn't want to meet with an educrat, how much force am I required to apply?". If the state insists we must produce our children for their inspection, and if this means we must physically and psychologically torment them, how are parents everywhere really to take the supposed spirit behind the government's Every Child Matters agenda seriously?

All in all, home education needs to remain free of the diktats of the state in order that the principle of parental responsibility for the provision of education remains untainted. It needs to remain free because a one-size prescription for education will not fit all. It needs to remain free of the state so that the principle of listening to what children want can be maintained and so that privacy of innocent families can be respected.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Worst Case Scenarios

Ok, brace ourselves. Let's think about it. Is it possible that the DfES could somehow manage to introduce a neat balance of legislation and guidance which would give them a right to monitor education and progress (without a duty to do so, since that would make them liable when they don't monitor and they wouldn't want that); which would give them the right (though not the duty, for the same reasons, to see the child); which would give them the right to dictate standards and outcomes of education, without becoming responisible for form and content, and without effectively abrogating parental responsibility and then appropriating responsibility upon themselves to provide an education that is suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child?

OK, sock it to me. How could they write this stuff? It would be very helpful to know, not so that we give them any ideas, you understand. Just to show the DfES that they cannot defy reality and get away with it.

We will do our utmost to reveal the implications of any of the above attempts. We will go to newspapers. We will blog on general education blogs. We will use the judiciary if we have to.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Action for Home Education in the News

in Mansfield Today.

Congrats, Barbara.

On the Significance of Home Education Law for All Families

I admit this blog has got even more narrowly focused over these past few months - almost nothing but obsessing about possible future legislative changes to home education in England and Wales. But the thing is - any passing reader who isn't HEing, some of the proposed changes to home education law will have major ramifications and implications for the whole of education law in these countries.

In the likely case that you didn't know, passing non-HE reader, the state is proposing to up the degree to which home educators are monitored. In order to do this the DfES will undoubtedly have to decide upon and impose a widely applicable set of standards for education, thereby in effect dictating the content of it. The state will therefore be responsible for both the form and the content of the education that all parents must provide to their children.

So how will this affect parents with children in schools? What it will mean is that whilst parents will still be responsible for the "provision" of education, eg: in the act of delegating the responsibility to a school, they will no longer responsible for freely deciding upon the "form and content" of education, since these will have been decided by the state.

What this, in turn, will mean is that if a child in school is failed by the form and content of an education, the parent will be able sue the state for compelling him to provide an inappropriate education.

It seems possible, and I want to run it by some sort of thought experiment, that the DfES may try to avoid the problem of being held responsible for oftentimes inappropriate form and content of education, by creating the following situation and using the following argument: "Well this standard only applies to children without special educational needs. You can get out of jail if you decide to get your child statemented, in our new special way. In other words, you pay for an assessment, and the ed psych will give you a special curriculum to follow....and let's face it, this could exempt most of the schooling population, because most children could be defined as having an SEN if you try hard enough!" But actually going down this new special SEN route doesn't provide the "get of jail free" card that the DfES might suggest since even in the situation that the state does not then prescribe a new curriculum, it will still be deciding the form of education for our children, in that they are deciding that we MUST statement our children if we don't want to apply their educational standards. Yep, they will still be dictating the form of education and they will be doing this in a way that may well be deeply deleterious to many children.

By which I mean that psychiatrists know full well the dangers of applying a label to anyone, in that the label often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. eg: if you tell a child they can't sit still because they have ADHD, what is the point of them trying to do it? They have a perfect excuse not to. Or to take another example, many HE children don't learn to read until they are eight, nine or even older. They are rarely diagnosed dyslexic, and because they are not sitting in a classroom full of children doing other things, they usually catch up within a year of starting to read. No need to apply a label, thereby making it far less likely that the child will ever get there. Just let him learn when he is ready...NO problem. He will be fit to live in the 21st century, but will have got there in his own time and with no negative consequences to himself or anyone else.

Forcing parents to do this new kind of statement their children in order that they do not have to deliver the state-determined education will undoubtedly be deeply abusive for some families. In this regard, the state will again be responsible and probably will be held responsible for the damage it is doing to children in effectively insisting that they must be statemented in this way.

Further on the implications for all families on changes to HE law: forcing HE families to be subject to scrutiny by local authorities when it is not clear that they have done anything wrong, establishes a precedent for all families about the degree to which the state is allowed to invade their privacy. Most HE families will have done nothing to arouse the suspicion of the state and LAs will have no reason whatsoever to believe that these families are not providing an education that is suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of their children. In the situation that there is a reasonable suspicion to think that an appropriate education is not being provided, the LA already have the power to make inquiries of that family. There is no need to change the law here for in insisting that LAs have a right to monitor the education that all HE families provide, the state is in effect over-writing the principle of the right to family privacy, as is enshrined in Article 8, of the ECHR.

It is also the case that many HE children simply do NOT want to see local authority representatives. They don't want a stranger in their homes deciding upon their whole way of life. Not surprising really; you can be sympathetic. For a start, these strangers will know next to nothing about the real educational needs of each child and yet for because an educrat has a clipboard and is supposed to be in the know, they are allowed to make huge decisions about the way a child lives. If, on the other hand, the state is to be as good as it's word and consult children, (as it claims it will in the Every Child Matters agenda, and as ARCH says, "gee thanks!"), they will find that most often they are neither wanted nor needed in the lives of children. If then the state decides to over-ride the wishes of HE children, how are parents everywhere supposed to take the state seriously when it professes to consult with children and take their views seriously?

HE parents also ask "In the case that my child doesn't want to meet with an educrat, how much force am I required to apply?". If the state insists we must produce our children for their inspection, and if this means we must physically and psychologically torment them, how are parents everywhere really to take the supposed spirit behind the government's Every Child Matters agenda seriously?

All in all, home education needs to remain free of the diktats of the state in order that the principle of parental responsibility for the provision of education remains untainted. It needs to remain free because a one-size prescription for education will not fit all. It needs to remain free of the state so that the principle of listening to what children want can be maintained and so that privacy of innocent families can be respected.

"The Homeschoolers Twelve Days of Christmas"

(Actually we need 14 coz other people take their time! )

On the first day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can you homeschool legally?"

On the second day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the third day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fourth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fifth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the sixth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the seventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the eighth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the ninth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "They'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the tenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you
homeschool legally?"

On the eleventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the twelfth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can they go to college, I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you
give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the thirteenth day of homeschool I thoughtfully replied, "They can go to college, yes you can do this, they can have graduation, we can do a prom, we do it cuz we like it, they are missing nothing, we'll homeschool forever, WE ARE NOT STRANGE. We give them P.E., and can take test if they want to, they are socialized, AND WE HOMESCHOOL LEGALLY!"

On the fourteenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How can I get started, why didn't you tell me, where do I buy cirriculum, when is the next conference, WILL PEOPLE THINK WE'RE STRANGE?, I think we can do this, if you will help us, we'll join a sports team,
and we'll homeschool legally.


Thanks: DL, but please don't go to Boston!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Why the State Shouldn't DARE to Prescribe the Content of Education

...quite simply, because a one-size will not fit all children.

From Ann's Blog:

"Anyway on arriving home, Lucy went straight to her laptop and signed into MSN to chat to her friends all over the country - again something I doubted at times that she would ever manage without me! She caught up with another home ed friend ‘Melissa’ last week who she hasn’t been in contact with since Peak camp ‘05, just before this particular friends family moved abroad. Melissa was flabbergasted that this was actually Lucy typing on MSN. Her comment was “Your writing and spelling are so much better - you couldn’t have done this when I saw you last - I wouldn’t have been able to understand you!” but of course, like most 14 year olds Lucy wants to be able to converse with her friends and this has been a huge motivation for her - and a jolly fun way of practising too! "

The tools to get on MSN, someone there just to shout out spellings when needed but not to get in the way otherwise, will the state prescribe this in their curriculums? Not likely, I would say, yet this is the way that Lucy, and hundreds of other HE children who have been failed by the state system, have learnt how to express their thoughts clearly in writing.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Charles Moore on Ruth Kelly

Charles Moore in the Spectator this week:

"Obviously Ruth Kelly is a 'hypocrite', but the hypocrites in her party are more admirable than the consistent ones. At least the former show some human feeling. There must be Labour ministers who know that their children would be better off in a private school, can afford to send them there, and still don't, because of their careers and their opinions. That really is disgusting. it will be interesting to see whether young Leo Blair finds his way into a private school once his father leaves office.

"Miss Kelly pleads her son's special needs. In this area, Labour is truly hoist with its own petard. It has been the slave to a doctrine - the classrom equivalent of 'care in the community' for the mentally ill - which says that all children benefit from being among normal children, and so it has closed special needs schools. The truth is that some children with special needs - most notably those with autism - are positively damaged by going to ordinary schools. And in all schools it is hard to find time, energy and teachers to deal with special and normal needs at once. Miss Kelly seems to have found this out the hard way, and acted against her government's policy and in fovour of her son.

This process ought to give Labour politicians pause. What Ruth Kelly is doing is what every parent would hope to be able to do - thinking about her child's special needs (and there is a sense in which every child's needs are special) and choosing what is best for him.

How many more generations have to be wasted before it is accepted by all parties that this choice should be a source of pride, not shame?

Good one Charles! As you rightly observe, the right and duty of the parent/guardian to provide an education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child is something for which we should fight. We therefore expect the Spectator to be behind the Home Educating community who do take the individual educational needs of their children seriously, since the right to home educate their children as parents see fit, enshrines the notion of parental responsibility and tailored education.

Rugby - The Home Ed Way



They played this time for about 90 mins without stopping, except for quick discussions: all ages, both sexes, with the players who know what they are doing gradually refining the game, so that we have proper line-outs, off-side rules, knock-on rules and no handling in the ruck, etc.

Despite the age gaps and range of skill, no-one is hurt over and beyond a few bruises, and all of them LOVE it. No-one has to play if they don't want to, and actually quite a lot of them are frighteningly good. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 12, 2007

David Willetts on The Children's Database

Here's the Tory Shadow Education Secretary and MP for Havant making sense on the matter of the Information Sharing Index:

"That's why the first thing we've got to do is to support parents. It's very tough being a parent in Britain today. The last thing they need is an endless flow of new laws and new regulations telling them how they should raise their own children. Why on earth is the Government introducing a national computer register for every child in the country? We're going to have barcoded babies. We don't need it. That money should be better spent targeted on the families that really need the help. "

And for another reason why the Government should really think through the matter of the ISI, go to ARCH Blog's post How Libellous is Your Database?

Who is Responsible?

From Lord Adonis, (the Schools Minister), we hear that:

"The state does not currently prescribe what form of education parents should provide, whilst all maintained and independent school provision is prescribed in legislation and subject to inspection. This anomaly is at odds with Every Child Matters reforms, supported by the Children Act 2004, which set out the Government's aim to improve educational outcomes for all children, regardless of where they are educated, and to narrow the gap between those who are doing well and those who are not."

Ok, so here goes! Let us go down that potentially rocky road which deals with the issue of who is responsible for what, shall we, Lord Adonis?

I would argue that in the act of determining what kind of education can take place, and in the act of delegating the responsibility to provide such an education to our children, the state would ultimately be entirely responsible for the education of our children. How could it be otherwise? If something goes horribly wrong with the education of a child when they are being educated as the state prescribes and delegates, then who is ultimately responsible for this failure?

The answer seems clear. It is the state who must answer the case.

So Lord Adonis, if you make us, we will do exactly what you say. We will make our children follow your educational prescriptions, but it will fail a significant proportion of them (just as it does in schools). Indeed, I can very confidently predict that it will fail at least one of my children SO badly that I will come after you to prove that it is your responsibility that his education has not worked for him. You may try to screw us on the basis of provision, but when we are forced to do your bidding, it seems almost impossible to see how you won't escape culpability when we screw you for responsibility for an unsuitable form and content of education.

That is not an empty threat. We will do it if we have to.

Youth on Youth Crime.

Wonder where all this mugging is taking place? I even question one in five bit and suspect that the figure of unreported pinching of property is far higher.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tidy Those Shelves

Posted by Picasa

By way of marking the fact that I think we are busted, (the LA know about us), this is me!

Contacting Traveller Education Support Services

Thanks to Tech's prompting, I have found this Directory of Traveller Education Services and am about to rattle off a few mails to those around my area to see whether I can get some more feedback on the Ivatts Report.

The sort of letter I will be sending:

Dear ........

I wonder if you can help me.

I am a home educating parent working with a home education charity which has been set up to look at government initiatives, work practices and legislation as it relates to home education.

You are probably well aware of the recent Ivatts report about Elective Home Education, particularly as it relates to Traveller and Gypsy/Roma families.

>http://www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RW77.pdf

I would be interested to hear your feelings on any number of the issues described within this report, but particularly:

Is it the case that many Traveller/Gypsy/Roma families are indeed claiming to Home Educate when they are not in fact doing so?

Is it the case that a policy of including many Traveller families in the school system has been a success? How are Traveller children doing in schools?

What happens to children who have been excluded for school or have SENs?

What do travellers think would be the most useful strategy for them in terms of improving the education of their children?

Is it the case that Traveller Support Workers or other such support services have been prevented from working with school age children, perhaps on the basis that they may seduce children away from school or for some other reason?

Would the recommendations in the Ivatts Report, ie that:

"a) a standardised national system of registration be implemented by each local education authority in terms of assessment criteria; monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events,

b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the assessment process

d) (sic) a clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced.

e) all children be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen initally and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution

f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in relation to expectations of educational progress.

g)that a timetable be established and defined in relation to the procedures incumbent on local authorities pursuant to assessment judgements of the provision being unsuitable.

h) parents and secondary aged children have the right of appeal at any decision by the appropriate authorities in regard to an application and continuance of elected home education."

be well received by the travelling community?

Thank you in advance for any help you can give me with answers to these questions.


= = = = = = = =

If anyone else has a mo, it would be great if you could ask the TES in your area for their feedback on the Ivatts Report. Do use/adapt letter above though telephone often seems to work better.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In Answer to Ivatts

Comments upon "Research and Advice Commissioned by the DfES on the situation regarding the current policy provision and practice in EHE for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children, by Arthur Ivatts."

Before we go any further, I must admit my knowledge base is extremely limited. More research on this needs to be done, but I would say that it certainly needs to be done before any consultation on Home Education is undertaken. I say this because the conversations I have had with Travellers and with a Traveller Support Worker (TSW) have led me to believe that the Ivatts report is misleading in a number of very significant ways on the matter of the current situation with regard to the education of Gyspy/Roma and Traveller (GRT) children. The report does not match GRTs' perceptions of the situation and far from solving a problem of educational neglect in the UK, (other than by forcing more Travellers to emigrate), will exacerbate the difficulties of educating (GRT) children according to their age, ability and aptitude.

Highlighted below are some of the significant areas of contention which appear to warrant further research, coupled with some suggestions as to how better to solve the problem of educational neglect.

From the Executive Summary of the Ivatts Report.

Page 3.

"1.1. The Traveller Education Services (TESs) have reported on the seemingly marked increase year-on-year of the number of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller families opting for EHE. This has been expressed as a development causing concern given that it is suggested that EHE is being used merely as a device to avoid school attendance without legal penalty. This concern has also been related to the fact that a minority of the parents are judged to be ill-equipped to organize or deliver an education suited to their children's ages, aptitudes and abilities and any special needs they may have. "

The Traveller Support Worker (TSW) to whom I spoke explained that the main contentions above were not a good representation of the situation in her area.

The demographics in her area and in others she knows well are very different from the one drawn by Ivatts in this first paragraph. For example, she only knows of one family who expressly home educate in her area and far from failing their children, they are doing very well. Other Traveller families whose children are not in school are those whose children have been excluded from it. They were not using Home Education as an excuse to avoid school, but rather had been compelled to leave school. These children, who were not classed as being home educated, were often attending Special Pick-Up units, usually on a once-a-week basis. She reports that these units were well-received, though short-funded. So instead of this huge growth in the number of travellers claiming to home educated, what we are actually seeing is a growth in the number of children who have been excluded from and failed by the school system.

The other big and significant demographic trend in traveling communities, which Ivatts fails to mention, is that large numbers of Travellers with children have actually left the country in recent years. This has happened for at least four distinct reasons:

1. That planning permission has become ever increasingly difficult to achieve for Travellers.
2. That people from the Eastern Bloc who have come over here have taken the jobs that Travellers would traditionally have done.
3.That jobs and places to stay are easier to find in, for example, Eastern Bloc countries, so many travellers have actually emigrated there.
4. Most pertinently for our argument, that TESWs have been discouraged from working with children of school age because these services were accused of seducing children away from school. In the area of my informant, this has not resulted in any families claiming to HE when they are not in fact doing so. What it has resulted in is more emigration of Traveller families, since schools, (despite the promises of Ivatts and various other educationalists to improve the school environment) remain far from suitable places for managing an education of traveller children for a number of different reasons.

All these reasons have resulted in travellers leaving the UK. A policy to police home educators even further will doubtless only increase the pressure upon such families to emigrate. Whilst the government may feel that this effectively solves a problem, we cannot help but think that if this is a deliberate policy, it is one that should be made explicitly so, for far from being a policy of inclusion, the government is effecting a policy of excluding some it's citizens.

To summarise here, the TSW I spoke to said that there was no marked increase in the number of people claiming (falsely or otherwise) to home educate, but that the reverse was true: that of the increasingly small number of GRT children who remain in this country, more than ever before had been forced back into the schooling system under threat of fines, and because the Traveller Educational Support Services had been severely curtailed. (See following paragraph); that the children who remain outside the school system are those who have been excluded from it and that this happens because the schools, despite the promises of Ivatts and other educationalists, are not good environments for Traveller children, for a number of reasons, including the high prevalence of bullying and the fear of cultural erosion.


1.9 (page 4)
"Twenty five (25%) of responding LAs do not have a written policy on EHE. While most LAs provide families with initial and post registration advice, only 2 gave practical help in the form of educational materials."

Whilst Home Educators everywhere have never expected any help from LAs, the implication in the above paragraph seems to be that there is some significant barrier to these families (here the GRT families) who are in dire need, accessing educational support from the state. This struck the TSW I spoke too as somewhat ironic. She has very good relations with Travelling families in her area. She is a traveller herself and understands their culture and their needs. She is well qualified herself and well placed to support the education of GRT children. However, she has been expressly told not to support children of school age, because she (and other TSWs) have been seen as seducing children away from the school system. Her funding to support school age children has been removed and she is now only permitted to work with pre-school children.

It appears to us in the Home Educating community that far from thinking creatively on the matter of how genuinely best to solve the problem of meeting the educational needs of GTR children, that the policy has been simply to force these children into school on promises which almost universally have not been realised, these promises being that schools will be made a more conducive place for learning for GRT children.

1.13 It should be noted that only 56% of responsible officers within the sample LAs had attended in-service training on EHE and that only 36% had attended any training/briefing on Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities. This research finding raises serious doubts about the quality of professional judgments being made by officers during initial and or monitoring/inspection visits to families from these backgrounds.

To which our contacts would say "I should say so" and not just from the traveling communities either. Home Educators everywhere find that LA officers are often completely unable to make anything like an informed judgment about educational provision. Firstly, they simply cannot hope to form such an opinion in a short visit. Secondly, children who opt to HE are a highly varied bunch. Children with educational anomalies are often the ones most dramatically failed by the school system and who therefore end up being home educated. An LA officer not only has to be an expert on the educational needs of a standard, white child of average ability. He will also need to be competent to make this judgment, in a short visit, on any number of different learning styles and abilities and on any number of different cultural backgrounds. Home Educators repeatedly find that LA reports which are written about them, are deeply inappropriate and insensitive to the real educational needs of their children.

Given this diversity, and given that unless the LAs propose to significantly intervene in the lives of HEors, (a process which in itself will be deeply damaging to many HE families), it is hard to see how the DfES can seriously believe that LA officers are best placed to make the call about educational provision. Rather than expensively train up people who will remain compromised by the need to respect family privacy, and to allow education to flourish without their intervention, would it not be better to properly fund workers who can really get stuck in with families who are struggling? Why widen the net to check up on all HEors most of whom would get by much better without LA intervention, and instead fund people like the TSW I spoke to who had superb relations with her clients and who could genuinely improve their educational provision?

For all these reasons, we suggest that the Recommendations, 6.10 on Page 23 where it states that

f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in relation to expectations of educational progress

should be reconsidered.

We also would like to make the more general point here that all of the requirements to share information is having a negative impact upon the relationship of workers such as TSWs with their clients. Once clients realise how far afield their personal details are being reported, they stop sharing usually THE most significant information, such as a drug addition, since they realise that they may be severely compromised by providing information such as this. This enforced secrecy obviously impairs their relationship between support/ health workers and their clients, an means that that is much more difficult for the former to offer appropriate services. Some TSWs actually choose to put their own jobs on the line by promising not to report such data and we can understand this. Far better, it seems to us, to have key workers in sensitive positions, maintaining an ethic of confidentiality and therefore being able to offer appropriate help, than to have a mass of informed professionals, all with different agendas, who are unlikely to be able to offer the most appropriate help.

By way of a conclusion, we think it necessary to realise that schools are still, despite the best efforts of many of them, failing to provide an education that is suitable to the age, ability and aptitudes of GRT children and are not necessarily the best answer to the problem of educational neglect. Schools fail GRT children because they find they are bullied there, that they develop methods of self-defence, such as physical violence, which then gets GRT children labelled aggressive and uncontrollable. These children are then excluded and with funding removed from TSWs and with limited funding given to Special Pick Up units, their educational needs may be further neglected, though the TSW mentioned that where a family does fail their children, it is often the case that the rest of the Traveller community will help out. In addition, school fails GRT who often have special educational needs and we must realise that the even author of the movement to get children with SENs in to schools has recently changed her mind about this policy, c.f Baroness Mary Warnock's recent recantation of her proposal to enforce a policy of "inclusion".

It behoves us, rather than to insist on heavy regulation of GRT HEors, which risks forcing them back into schools under threat of fines, where the children often become alienated, do not achieve a satisfactory education and which results in other negative outcomes, to think of more constructive and creative ways to solve the problem of educational neglect.

For Further criticisms of the Ivatts report, see Gill.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Press Release From Action for Home Education

MEDIA INFORMATION FROM ACTION FOR HOME EDUCATION (AHEd)
(For immediate release, Monday 8 January 2007 )

AHEd WELCOMES BLAIR'S SUPPORT FOR PARENTAL CHOICE IN EDUCATION

Newly formed home education action group AHEd has welcomed the Prime Minister's unequivocal backing of the decision by his Minister for Women and Equality, Ruth Kelly to send one of her children to a private school where she believes his special educational needs will best be met.

Commenting on the controversy, AHEd Chair Barbara Stark said:

"Action for Home Education applauds the Prime Minister's comments reaffirming all parents' absolute right to 'make choices about their children's education which are best suited to their children's needs irrespective of who their parents are or what job they do. As home educators, we agree with the Prime Minister on this. Indeed, we have been making this point for decades.

"In the light of such unequivocal support from the Prime Minister, we suggest and expect that the proposed consultation on monitoring of elective home education will be scrapped. The money saved should be spent getting all Local Authorities to act within the perfectly adequate laws that already exist and in making it known that home education is as valid an option as school for ALL parents and children, 'regardless of who they are or what job they do'."

ENDS

For further information contact Barbara Stark at enquireahed@googlemail.com

NOTES FOR EDITORS
[1] ".... the Prime Minister supported absolutely the right of parents to make choices about their children's education which are best suited to those children's needs, irrespective of who their
parents were and what job they did." Morning press briefing from 8 January 2007


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

(And below, a letter for MPs, DfES, anyone else you can think of).

Dear Sir/Madam

We read with interest today the Prime Minister's comments reaffirming all parents' absolute right to "make choices about their children's education which are best suited to their children's needs irrespective of who their parents are or what job they do". [1]

As home educators, we agree with the Prime Minister on this. Indeed, we have been making this point for decades.

In the light of such unequivocal support from the Prime Minister, we suggest and expect that the proposed consultation on monitoring of elective home education will be scrapped. The money saved should be spent getting all Local Authorities to act within the perfectly adequate laws that already exist and in making it known that home education is as valid an option as school for ALL parents and children, "regardless of who they are or what job they do".



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Source:

[1] "Secondly, the Prime Minister supported absolutely the right of parents to make choices about their children's education which are best suited to those children's needs, irrespective of who their parents were and what job they did."

Morning press briefing from 8 January 2007 at: http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page10699.asp

Cost of Micro-Management

From Pennsylvania - one of the most regulated states with the most data collected on homeschoolers, we hear that:

"the numbers tell the truth. ALL of the homeschoolers must hand in portfolios, logs, test results, and a third party (teacher) evaluation. The superintendent then determines if the education is "inappropriate" and starts "due process proceedings". ALL of this data from all of the 501 school districts go to the PA Dept of Ed. (This is mandatory and thorough data, not a sampling.)

"Consistently, the number of due process/ inappropriate educations, as determined by the public school superintendents is less than 0.1% (less than 1/10 of a percent). According to a study done by Penn State (Melnick, 2000), the school districts spend approximately $5 million to micromanage the homeschoolers. To put it in real terms, the educrats in PA spend approximately quarter million dollars to locate one inappropriately educated student."

"No amount of control or regulation on the population will eliminate these outliers, hence also the consistency in the number in the last ten years. There is no valid reason to control the entire homeschool population, with regulations based on controlling these outliers. This is an undue burden for the general population of home educators. "

Mary Alice from PA continues (in the comments at the link):

"I suspect that homeschoolers are the same no matter where they live. Parents are parents, kids are kids and homeschooling is homeschooling."

The writer goes on to put questions to Mississippi educrats. I have replaced MI with the UK.

"Questions for the UK educrats: Is the UK going to spend all that money and waste it on statistical outliers? Does the education establishment understand the uselessness of this expense when their own system could benefit from the money? How much will the UK education folks be willing to pay for the illusion of control? On a side point, none of UK regulations have anything to do with the education of the child. It is simply paperwork for the homeschoolers AND the public schools which equates to time and money NOT education.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Research on Informal Learning

Have just come across this article on informal learning by Dr. Alan Thomas (thanks Fiona N). It's good to keep reminding myself why we are bothering to fight to protect this way of educating our children.

"In school, the curriculum determines the process of teaching and learning. It is structured logically in easily digestible steps in order to facilitate learning. Essentially, the job of the student is to follow a learning sequence that is predetermined. But when children learn informally, they seem to do the opposite and impose their own sequence on what they learn. Curriculum logic and child logic do not equate. Child logic is individual and determined by the complex and dynamic interplay between the child’s existing level of knowledge and incoming information, mediated by interest, motivation, curiosity or desire to take on a challenge.

"It’s as if each child has his or her own theory of learning. It is quite efficient because new knowledge and understanding are only assimilated when they extend existing knowledge. The converse equally contributes to the efficiency of informal learning – when new material is unlikely to dovetail into and extend knowledge or understanding it is discarded. This utterly contradicts conventional school learning in which students are expected to persevere when they do not comprehend, often acquiring no more than a superficial level of understanding, what has been called surface learning (Biggs, 1987). Informal learning therefore follows a kind of fuzzy and non-linear logic that is particular to each child. It has a parallel in the child’s acquisition of language, learned in a similar fashion and equally individualistic (Crystal, 1976). Perhaps informal learning is better suited to the innumerable connections and networks in the cerebral cortex. Whatever the case, it works, and without all the effort associated with formal learning as these two parents found."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Action for Home Education

Boy, are UK Home Educating community cross, on form and ready for action! Whilst I sit here listening to the unmitigated joy that is home education socialisation going on the background (unstinting creative games, play-writing, read-throughs, dress rehearsals, model making, animation work, cookery, caring for younger children, dance routines, Google trawls on various subjects and almost non-stop giggling), I have plenty of time to pass this on!

PRESS RELEASE

NEW HOME EDUCATION ACTION GROUP GOES AHEd

Action for Home Education (AHEd), an internet-based rights group for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, launches today in Derby with a pledge to act to protect the rights of parents and children who wish to enjoy home-based education without undue state interference, which they claim has reached an intolerable high and is set to worsen.

AHEd has arisen from a network of committed home educating parents whose experience spans more than 25 years and in response to the increasingly urgent calls from many different groups and individual home educators, for an action group to complement the work of current home education support groups.

AHEd is an affiliate of the Scottish home education association, Schoolhouse, [1] who support families in Scotland, and a member of the Centre for Personalised Education Trust, whose trustees include the highly respected academic researcher on home-based education, Dr Roland Meighan, and whose member organisations are all committed to supporting personalised education.

Commenting on the urgent need for an organisation to tackle the challenges facing home educating families, co-founder and chair of AHEd, Barbara Stark, who has home educated her own children since 1980, said:

"For years home educators have tolerated unfair treatment and ultra vires practices by Local Authorities whose understanding of home-based education is, with few exceptions, minimal or non existent. We are tired of being subjected to unreasonable suspicion and unfair scrutiny when we are doing the very best for our children. We believe there are moves afoot by government to restrict traditional freedoms to educate children outside the school system and we are determined to do our utmost to prevent this." [2]

According to New Labour mantra, every child matters, yet it blatantly attempts to prescribe the same diet of schooling to every child regardless of his or her individual needs and wishes.

AHEd asserts that EACH CHILD MATTERS, individually.

Each child matters individually to parents and it is parents who have the duty to make important educational decisions. But AHEd members are deeply concerned that current proposals by government threaten to remove parental responsibility and substitute the state as the arbiter of what is best for children - from what goes into lunch boxes to what is put into minds; from the portions of vegetables eaten per day to the content of every lesson at
every stage for every child. As an alliance of concerned home educating families who put our children's needs first, we intend to make our voice heard by government."

Home educating parent and co-founding member of AHEd, Mrs Tech Wood, added:

"We must not allow the dark side of the state to create this unreasonable intrusion into private and family lives. There is a real danger that we will lose our choices on the basis that government no longer trusts parents to act in the best interest of their children. The time has come for us to stand up and defend our rights. We know from experience that our children thrive on an education that is tailored to their individual needs. Current and future generations must be allowed to continue to benefit from real choice in education because despite government rhetoric - EACH child matters."

EACH CHILD MATTERS and in order to provide properly for their individual needs, the freedom to choose the how, where and what of our children's education is essential.

(1) For comment, contact the Schoolhouse Press Officer: Alison Preuss, at alison.preuss@schoolhouse.org.uk

(2) DfES are undertaking a review of local authority arrangements for home educators and have written to home educators saying that the state now wishes to prescribe the form of education that takes place in the home and impose compulsory home inspections upon families in order to question children in a new role as the decider and monitor of what all children should learn including those in private provisions and in their homes. DFEs have made it clear that they are considering changes in primary legislation to enable this. Current law makes parents responsible for the education of their children and does not support the level of surveillance and interference indicated by the department. The department has described these planned changes as 'light touch changes.'

Go here for varied comment from home educators related to this agenda.

Other Issues of concern to AHEd

· The Education and Inspections Act section 94 puts all children of compulsory education age who are present in public during school hours at risk of being stopped, questioned and removed to a designated place when they have committed no crime. Excluded children will be confined to house arrest. Home educators fear their children will be similarly abducted or removed, given
that current truancy procedures already involve them and cause them problems despite government promises to the contrary.

· Every Child Matters

· Children Missing Education

· Registration regulations




Importance of Educational Diversity

From Arch Blog, we hear testimony of the importance of diversity in education, this time with regard to the opportunities that Home Education can afford for Autistic Spectrum children.

"A few years ago, I was asked to edit a book for and about families home educating children with ASDs. Having done a previous project with families who, by and large, were happily home educating through choice, I was stunned to meet so many people who had been driven out of the education system by its complete failure to accommodate their children’s needs and that had, in some cases, reduced their children to depressed, bullied, suicidal wrecks. It should be said that nobody regretted their decision to home educate, and the children had all made a full recovery, but it’s nonetheless dreadful that anyone should feel forced into a corner like that."

We really will lose something so precious if we relinquish the freedom to tailor the education we provide to our children. This of course applies to every situation, whatever the learning needs of a child, though it is perhaps easier to demonstrate the difficulties in offering a standard curriculum to children who have vastly different needs, such as AS or traveller kids.

If we are to take this problem of appropriate educational provision seriously, we need to maintain the freedom to think creatively. Some children will never pass GCSE maths, but if we aren't blind to opportunity, this needn't matter. A persistent truant can go with no qualifications to a university interview and be offered a lectureship in ecology, having spent his time pottering about looking at bugs and plants on building sites. A traveller child can go to a mosaic workshop and end up making a very satisfactory living, with no other qualifications at all, doing up expat bathrooms on the Cote d'Azur.