Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Further on Notschool

After yesterday's rather hurried post on whether home educators could accept any form of support from the DCSF via the Local Authorities, I realised I still didn't have a very good handle on the work of one of the review panelists, namely that of Prof. Stephen Heppell or on his project Notschool.

After digging around a bit, the best I could come up with on Notschool was this movie, a video prospectus which gives some sort of picture of the way that Notschool works. There's also this short piece here where we learn that each "mentor" has six "researchers."

However, I'm still not clear as to the degree of control and compulsion involved. How self-directed are these learners in reality? If they wake up late of a morning, or decide they don't want to do any Notschool approved project that week, how does that go down?

These, I think, are the key questions. Autonomous home educators are properly autonomous. They decide when, where, what they learn and they themselves set about getting the help they need to do this. Adults are on hand to help out, offer suggestions, provide answers when asked, but the learning isn't covertly shoe-horned to fit pre-conceived outcomes by some third party.

I am still not clear how this would fit with Notschool.

With a view to finding a clearly non-coercive route forward, it might be interesting to find out more about Prof. Heppell's work with the BBC. See project - BBC learning layer for the www, approximately 3/4 of the way down this page. If the BBC or similar body could be funded to provide more by the way of exciting educational resources, free soft-ware, educational virtual realities, video lectures that could be cherry-picked as and when by the learner? Now there's a thought.

UPDATE: For further information on Notschool, please see Gill's comment below.

148 comments:

Firebird said...

I like the idea of giving money to the BBC to provide more educational resources. Cutting the price of BBC/OU DVDs and/or putting them up on iPlayer would work for us. We make a lot use of documentaries on DVD since dd can't read yet but there's some really great OU stuff like the "Rough Science" series that are just TOO expensive to consider buying.

Gill said...

When I was researching Prof Heppell's (the results of which had to be deleted, due to his reaction) I came across a page about NotSchool which talked about secretly tracking pupils' online movements - either within the NotSchool site or generally, I wasn't sure which - in order to assess their 'progress'. It made the argument that even just reading something online constituted some level of interaction which could be accredited with something, to gradually re-engage the learner.

Prof Heppell will no doubt swoop down and blast me from my keyboard for saying so (*looks up nervously*) but it all seemed unnecessarily devious and tricksy to me. No wonder so many young people become disengaged with the education industry, when their interactions with it aren't conducted in an honest way, I thought. And: they need freedom, not to be still tied to a curriculum on a computer screen at home, however loose an arrangement that may be. At what point do they find out that their activity was being secretly tracked? How will they feel when they do?

I really hope you're not thinking about any of this being good for EHEs, Carlotta? Just because it seems to be what's on offer doesn't mean we have to consider it. We're in a good position ATM while nobody is capitalising from us. And our children are genuinely free to learn.

Gill said...

Yes, spot the missing word..! ('work', somewhere near the beginning.)

Carlotta said...

Hi Gill,

Thanks for the heads up. So the Notschool tracking was definitely done without learner knowledge and consent? Wow, that's a complete no-no!

And no to the idea about me thinking Notschool a good idea for EHEors. My first impression (that it wasn't) has yet to be refuted! I just felt I should try to find out more about it.

Generally speaking am feeling that the whole thing is so slippery somehow, I don't trust it for a minute.

Gill said...

That was the distinct impression I got, though I can't seem to find the page in question again now.

They're all slippery, IMO. That is: the whole concept of making money out of education in this way is slippery, because it can only be paid by results so there has to be some kind of a testing/assessment system, which is the whole problem with school in the first place. (And all Graham Badman could say in reply to Ann's Schrödinger’s cat analogy was "I don't agree." !!! How does he know?! Also, he can't agree, can he? There's too much at stake for him and his friends IMO.)

I'm increasingly seeing us EHEing parents as defenders/protectors of our children's right to learn on their own terms, because that freedom is what's under attack.

Ruth said...

I know I sound like a broken record but I do not like the look of notschool at all. I think it *is* school and it will involve forcing the kids on the computer at 9 am for the start of the school day whether they want to learn what is the current online thing or not and IF we do not comply they will say our childrne are not receiving full time ed. I have a bad feeling about all options blogged aboutrecently.

mum6kids said...

I'm not sure what They want from us really. If they want us to agree to be registered (we already are because I pulled my older ones out of school) what is the point?Contactpoint effectively means all children not in school are flagged as NOT IN SCHOOL and therefore the suspicion and even assumption is MISSING education.
So They can send out little forms and threats to those families.
Then They have a thing about those of you who use an autonomous approach. So what will They do? Decide it isn't 'suitable'??
What will They decide about those of us using a semi-structured approach? Do kids HAVE to sit exams?
What exactly do They want?
The whole thing is so vague and wrapped up in this "Well how can we help you dears?" rubbish.

I don't think tracking online use matters at this piont; they have info on all our children where they want it already. So what ELSE do they want?
I think they want to decide what our children are taught and what they are not taught. And that is what all this computer based learning is about-control of information.
I'm fed up of the whole thing!
Sorry for the rant.
Thanks for all the info Carlotta.

Raquel said...

so how do they know it is the children doing the work and not the pet hamster or A.N Other member of the household?

Anonymous said...

Hello All

I work at Notschool and can of course give you details about the work done on the programme.

Notschool runs 365 days a week 24/7. There is no set curriculum and no 'lessons' as such. Young people on the programme develop projects based on their interests and future aspirations.

Notschool has always supported the education which is suitable for the child rather than 'one size fits all' and I am puzzled by some of the reactions on this page. We have had good and productive relationships with EHE groups and presented at some of their meetings in the past.

We, at Notschool, have supported parents who wish to remove their young people from school due to the restrictive behaviour of some schools and as an educational not for profit charity support parents forced out of school but who do not wish to home educate (not everyone has the wish or ability to do so). We do not take money from parents but work hard to find the funds which exist in the system for the education of the child.

We do track and monitor young people on the programme - with the full knowledge of the children themselves and their parents. Many of the young people we educate are on the 'at risk' registers, on witness protection orders or ISSPs. We take the safety of the child very seriously.

We also have a duty to educate the child but we do not 'log time' online but rather the progression of each young person on the programme. This is a bespoke, child centred approach.

Finally, we like to work with people - not in opposition to them. I would like to believe we all have the best interests of all children at heart

Carlotta said...

Thank you very much for your comments, Anon. It is very helpful to get a clearer idea of what Notschool does.

I hope you don't mind if I link to your comment in a new post, as I would be sorry if people were to miss it.

For me, at least some of the concerns I have result from the fact that Notschool looks so nearly right! The problem with being nearly right is that one might be tempted to use it but would still find that the essential features of the type of education we pursue would be lost.

For example, as autonomous educators, we do not demand to see obvious age-related or even stage-related progress, come to that. Our children often learn in fits and starts, not apparently progressing much - sometimes for years, often playing with false hypotheses, but then usually shooting through a stage.

Or they may appear to be fascinated by a certain subject and pursue it with a passion, only to abandon it without any apparent notice!

Their education often does not appear very broad but they often manage to use a particular area of interest to develop ideas in many other areas, or develop a deep skill in that one area.

It is nigh impossible to monitor for anything like school-related norms in this sort of scenario and yet more often than not, we do find that children are ready for college and go there with great enthusiasm.

I am not sure that Notschool could really cater for autonomous educators but would be very pleased to hear otherwise.

Alix said...

If Notschool is everything that Anon seems to claim, then it's pretty much exactly the same as autonomous education at home - no structured lessons, no curriculum. Why should anyone have to shell out the massive five and a half thousand pounds per student needed for the first year alone on Notschool for a model that is (apparently) just autonomous education in fancy packaging.

Especially when you consider that in most cases, it'll be the taxpayer coughing up this money - it seems so utterly pointless. What does Notschool offer that merits such an investment over autonomous learning?

One assumes that the offered product is some sort of helpful educational framework - but we're in the 21st century now; there are already hundreds of excellent educational frameworks on the internet, many of them freely accessible as it is.

Of course, one shouldn't condemn ideas like this outright - it's just so difficult to imagine an educational framework that could be more efficient than the current level of autodidactism available to autonomous learners, which has grown exponentially within the last ten years thanks to collaborative online projects - let alone so much more efficient as to merit £5,500 pounds of the taxpayer's earnings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your responses.

With regard to the cost - Notschool.net funds the internet connection for at least one year and a new computer for each child on the programme. 87% of young people on the programe come from homes without computers let alone an internet connection.

The young people keep the computer at the end of their time on the programme (why would we remove one of their vehicles of learning!).

The other costs include the online community, expert days which take place face to face, a mentor for each child, access to curriculum experts (these are not just teachers but people from the science museum, book illustrators, authors, web designers, animators, programmers etc etc) and up to 30 curriculum areas, entry for any qualification the child wishes to study for.

The very nature of the young people we take on the programme (traveller children, phobics, terminally and seriously ill young people, those excluded from school, Asperges etc) means that we have many who have very specific needs.

I can assure you there is no change from £5,500 -- and we work very hard to keep our costs that low!

With regard to learning -- this is not age or stage related but we do expect young people to progress but understand that the patterns of progression may vary depending on the child themselves. Some young people, as you rightly say will do extended projects for long periods of time, others will pick and choose lots and lots of projects, dipping in and out as they want. Every child is different; I agree with you that this is something schools have been slow to recognise.

I am not saying that Notschool has everything right. We have been working for 9 years and are still learning and changing but I think we have a model that works for 98% of the young people who come into the programme.

Anonymous said...

So Notschool is a cheaper option for the government than the existing choices for expelled children and children with other serious problems who can't remain in school. Since many are sent to £30K boarding schools, and others have private tutors. If the money Notschool is run with is the money that should be spent on the child by the government anyway, wouldn't this money only be available if the parents could prove schooling had failed or do the government dish it out more easily than that? Could a completely average family who simply prefer autonomous home education take advantage of this money to use Notschool if they didn't wish to take on the responsibility of educating their children themselves without their being any strings attached? I.e. without there being reports on their child in any form, such as putting the child on a register, or any form of government interference.

D

Gill said...

There are some things about NotSchool that I like. For children with parents who have no idea how to help them learn, it's probably a good thing. (But does it also sometimes stand in the way of those parents learning how to help?)

Nontheless, my unanswered questions are as follows:

1. What is Stephen Heppell doing on the advice panel of the elective home education review? Because NotSchool may have its place, but that place is not elective home education, in which parents are already doing an excellent job.

2. Why do some of us seem to be encouraging this seemingly predatory move of Stephen Heppell/ NotSchool into our lives, when we're managing perfectly well without it?

3. Is there not a logical link between questions 1 and 2?

Sorry, but I really am struggling to understand what's going on here.

Carlotta said...

In response to Gill's second question, I thought I perhaps ought to make it clear that I myself am absolutely not condoning the idea that Notschool should be applied to HEors.

My reason for enquiring about Notschool is that I would like to know what theories the review team have about education.

I think Notschool is a problem for HEors because superficially it appears to fit our model reasonably closely, and the Review team could therefore miss the fact that there are actually very, very significant differences, the most important of which, for me, is the idea that children should be monitored at all, let alone for educational progression, by anyone who they have not freely chosen to do that monitoring.

Gill said...

Oh good, because as I've just said over there, the involvement of both GB (linked to Becta) and SH (linked to Notschool) looks suspiciously "like a plan to get some sort of ICT-based (daily?) monitoring system into our lives".

Just call me paranoid ;-) (But queue nicely!)

Anonymous said...

1) I am NOT advocating Notschool for parents who want to EHE their children. Notschool is for parents who do not want to. In the past when parents have phoned us at Notschool we have sent them to EHE groups .. I really am wondering if that was wise!!!!

2) Not all EHE are the same or apply the similar theories of learning for their children. You are a sub-group within the EHE group.. maybe a large subgroup but still a subgroup. . Having had many years of contact and talking with Roland I am aware
of the differences in EHE groups.

3) Stephen Heppell is a Trustee of the charity which runs Notschool. Notschool was has brainchild but has developed in 9 years. He has always been an excellent trustee and an advocate for children whose parents have little voice.

4) I only came into this discussion because you were talking about Notschool. it appears the agenda in this discussion has changed so I now have nothing to contribute.

Thank you for your time to read my comments

Gill said...

Why are you wondering if it was wise to send parents to EHE groups?

Carlotta said...

Quoting Anon:

"1) I am NOT advocating Notschool for parents who want to EHE their children. Notschool is for parents who do not want to. In the past when parents have phoned us at Notschool we have sent them to EHE groups .. I really am wondering if that was wise!!!!"

I am not sure I understand this Anon. Could you explain your concerns here?

"2) Not all EHE are the same or apply the similar theories of learning for their children. You are a sub-group within the EHE group.. maybe a large subgroup but still a subgroup. . Having had many years of contact and talking with Roland I am aware of the differences in EHE groups."

You are quite right to draw attention to this distinction. I think the reason I speak of our kind of HE (ie: autonomous HE) as if we are the only kind is because I do believe that we are currently the only kind that is genuinely under threat from this review. I don't think that structured or coerced forms of education really have much to fear from the outcome of the review.

"3) Stephen Heppell is a Trustee of the charity which runs Notschool. Notschool was has brainchild but has developed in 9 years. He has always been an excellent trustee and an advocate for children whose parents have little voice."

That is wonderful to hear. Do you think he understands about autonomous education and the difficulties that coercive monitoring from the outside would create for that form of education?

"4) I only came into this discussion because you were talking about Notschool. it appears the agenda in this discussion has changed so I now have nothing to contribute."

I am so sorry you feel that way and do hope you will continue and help me to understand more about the thinking at Notschool.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

All - Pleased to see some useful dialogue about Notschool - which gainsays some of the wildly inaccurate and invented postings preceeding. Notschool does a great job with the children it is designed for; it is not a product or a company. The Notschool team are hugely busy, it was good that one of them could find time for such a useful contribution before leaving the forum.

Firebird - the BBC spent a lot of money on a suite of the most wonderful autonomous home learning resources, under the project title of BBC JAM. It included some remarkable material. Commercial pressure (an objection to the EU) from big "learning" firms and others and a cowardly BBC Trust combined to close the project and the £200m of completed learning resources for home learners never saw light of day. I wish that the home educators had made FAR more fuss about this. I tried to use the No10 website to build a petition but the petition was taken down (as not something the PM could influence- hah!). I'm still determined to save the JAM materials, so may be back to call on your support for this.

Gill - you said to call you paranoid, but bully would seem to fit better as you unceasingly name call, tagging me with everything from "devious and tricksy " to "slippery" and then finally have concocted a "seemingly predatory move". What move? You must have been a terrible playground gossip!

Just to recall: I didn't "swoop down" from my keyboard because you posted an opinion. I objected to your early posts because you had gone off to someone else's website altogether, found things there that you (and I!) disagreed with, and then maliciously and falsely attributed them to me.

Your tactic seems to be to invent an untruth, post it, then return and then comment as though it was now a fact. I don't imagine you will stop. This is what bullies do.

Carlotta - nice blog - enjoyed it.

S

Carlotta said...

Thank you for your contribution Prof Heppell. I am sorry if there has been some misunderstandings along the way. I suppose it has served a purpose in that it has made me realise what I myself am genuinely concerned to know!

I think my question is that I am really curious to know about how you yourself see autonomous education?

Am thinking that you have probably read the relevant texts such as Jan Fortune Woods "Without Boundaries", for example, but am wondering what you made of these?

The problem I perceive is that properly autonomous educators are often viewed as complete nut cases! Indeed, coming from a highly coerced educational background myself, I resisted the idea that autonomous education could possibly work with every possible criticism that I could come up with. I resisted the idea that children would learn and thrive with only the offer of tentative theories from supportive adults. I resisted the idea that coercion didn't have a role in education. I resisted the idea that coercion involves being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind.

It was only after a good 6 months of having my theories on knowledge growth picked apart by epistemologist philosophers that I had to concede that my theories weren't as good as theirs.

My own experience has taught me that I cannot easily expect others to understand autonomous education. I am therefore rather desperate to know that at least someone on the review panel does!

I would be grateful if at some stage, you could tell me how you or other panel members see autonomous education?

Gill said...

Professor Heppell, you are on the elective home education review's advice panel, not me (an elective home educator). This gives you the position of power, not me. I am not therefore in a position to bully you. (And this is the first time in my life I've ever been accused of bullying anyone.)

If my treatment of you has seemed aggressive then I apologise, as I freely did before, but I am feeling defensive and under attack from this review process, of which you are an active participant, and I - along with many other home educators - are reacting accordingly.

Nice tactic though, to label me a bully. It's one way of silencing dissent. Now that you've done that I can't take any further part in discussions with or about you and nor do I particularly want to anyway. I've said my piece.

I'd just like it to be noted one more time that I've yet to hear the reason why you're on that panel and what your professional interest in EHEd children is, despite having posed the question many times, it's always been ignored and I think it always will be, so I won't bother asking it again.

It's a shame we didn't come across one another in different circumstances, because we would have had a lot of common ground. But in this situation? Well, imagine if I and my friends had been appointed to a panel reporting my recommendations to govt about what you do? I think you'd mind that very much, though no doubt - if you're still speaking to me - you'll tell me I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Prof Heppell you can be more forgiving of the mistakes in 'style' of debate given that the initial aggression or bullying act, as you like, was not from anyone in the HE community? It is hard to have a subsequently calm debate after an aggressive start, although of course it is the only option.

I have a clear impression, given your support of autonomous home learning resources, that you fully support autonomous learning.

My question, which was not clearly asked earlier (time restrictions!) is:

Would Notschool be available, say, for single parents who are forced to work but wish their child to have the benefits of an autonomous styled education? And, if this is the case, would the control for the education remain with the parents and would they retain privacy and choice for all elements of their education or would they have abandoned this responsibility by being part of Notschool? Apologies if this has already been answered and for the fact that this is a little off topic.

D

Anonymous said...

"We do track and monitor young people on the programme - with the full knowledge of the children themselves and their parents."

It's very kind of Anonymous of Notschool to take time out to participate in the discussion. However I wonder why Notschool does track and monitor young people on the programme. I would be grateful if Anonymous of Notschool would explain this.

As the mother of autonomous children, I can say that tracking and monitoring is totally against the spirit of autonomous education. The only exception is if the child him or herself ever wishes to take tests, of course. Otherwise, as a concerned home educating parent, it is fairly easy for me to ascertain whether or not my children understand a concept. They ask me for clarification or they get a certain puzzled look in their eyes.
You don't need to track and monitor people if you trust them. But, unfortunately, this society seems to trust no one: not parents and definitely not young people.

Diane

Anonymous said...

Proffessor Heppel...

Maybe sir, you should consider your position on this panel, as you don't appear to be emotionally secure enough to play an objective part.

You seem to forget that the forces driving the review panel you are sitting on decided it would be a wise tactic to associate the idea of home education with child abuse.

After that, accusations of bullying against the respondants to that unsubstantiated insinutation are, to be frank, just pitiful.

I wonder how you would respond if you organisation was tenuously linked to child abuse by an outside third party with no knowledge of how it operates?

Would you be perfectly happy about it? I doubt it.

Grow a set Proffessor. You are sitting on a panel who's masters have used the ultimate smear against parents and educators alike. You want to talk about bullying? Look in a mirror.

Carlotta said...

Hi folks,

Sorry not to have intervened sooner, but was rather busy. Meant to say that as a general rule, I do make a plea to people not to use ad hominems in comments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

as they do tend to distract from substantive argument.

Many thanks.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Carlotta, thanks for the conversation - I'll ignore the rants and am grateful for your thoughtful post/s. You asked if I'd read relevant texts such as Jan Fortune Woods and where I was with autonomy:

I do, self evidently I hope, embrace learner autonomy at every level. Beyond Notschool, some of the past work I'm most fond of included building a work based bespoke degree course where what you do full time is also what you study full time. We had everyone from Mums to the chap who bought the toys for Macdonalds. They all followed unique individual pathways and supported each other hugely without attending any learning institution. That work is now morphing into the Mumology (mumology.net) work mentioned elsewhere. Autonomous education isn't just for children! But is can be wonderful for them too of course.

Yes, I've read Jan Fortune-Wood - but not yet read "Bound to be Free" - and find lots of common ground, including her Taking Children Seriously perspective too. Even within schools I'm pushing hard for, and getting to see everywhere, the learners' voices properly heard - taken seriously - and I have to say that although I rail against the dreadful factory schools, some of "my" newly designed schools are now full of negotiated pathways and seduction rather than coercion... A lot of this is about detail - "just like home" furniture and toilets, mixed age collegiate, project based, open ended work, "home bases", so that Jan's concepts like "autonomy" and "intrinsic motivation" all have an effective place in a school setting too.

I do believe that in the last century formal learning had a lot to learn from EHE, but in this century perhaps they have a lot to learn from each other and I worry about how this dialogue might be improved. Have a click though some of the videos in my annual "be very afraid" event at BAFTA where children showcase their ICT learning projects, for example. The examples below embody the "helping people to help each other" approach that builds mutuality and collegiality and shows the beginning of a better learning experience. Taking some from each year, try:
http://www.heppell.net/bva/bva2/capelleferneschool.htm
http://www.heppell.net/bva/bva3/essexict.htm
http://www.heppell.net/bva/bva3/greycourt.htm
http://www.heppell.net/bva/bva4/lamptonschool.htm
http://www.heppell.net/bva/bva5/kings_road.htm

the degrees of autonomy exhibited reveal great progress on from where schools were in the last century. All this by the way a million miles from the mandated on-screen testing others have feared elsewhere in these blogs. It would be really good to have a tech-savvy EHE family or child along to this event next October.

But not all schools though, sadly, exhibit this level of humane progress. Research and experience confirms that many schools remain brutal places, with bullying a primary concern (one reason why I am so intolerant of Gill's e-bullying and name calling). Too many lonely children, terrified to use the toilets, are damaged and coasting their way to the afternoon bell, daily. You only get one chance at being a child. It doesn't have to be like that of course - I'm building schools with micro-communities of 125, with no "cells and bells" and with open ended project based, playful activity. In another project we are trying to build a model of a communmity building its own literacy from within - in a traveller community of some 1,000 families - very exciting and of course necessarily completely outside the established education system. I have family working in Birmingham, so know that Jan F-W did a lot with community groups there, beyond families. I'm chair of governors of a school of only five students in Surrey. Human scale works.

Like Jan F-W I too think parents have an important obligation to be there for their children in every sense but am painfully aware that not all parents are as caring as the vocal EHE folk, nor are they in any position to be. When dad is absent and Mum is in a crack coma and you are a caring 14 year old that the school has frightened into electing for HE to get you "off their books" you face a wider set of possible futures, not all good. That doesn't make someone a bad Mum, just a less fortunate one. When Mum is a working prostitute and elects to home educate so she can take you around as an "extra" you have even less options. And that IS a bad Mum (both real examples). We need to care about all these children too. Suggestions welcome - I'm interested in what they did in Tasmania for example.

Obviously the national change from education services to chilren's services signals a government move to look at the rights of children AND parents, rather than to simply imagine that by focussing only on parents children would all be respected automatically. Obviously the "testing to within an inch of collapse" model has been proven to be hopeless and damaging in schools and I'm implacably opposed to it there, let alone in familes. And inspection does not have my confidence. But, a constructive dialogue about what might happen, for all EHE children not just the fortunate ones, would be very welcome here. I probably shouldn't be part of the conversation, but will be watching.

Stephen

(all a bit wobbly - sorry I'm on a fast train from Cardiff)

Elaine said...

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

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

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

Time to call Houston ?

Sam said...

"But not all schools though, sadly, exhibit this level of humane progress. Research and experience confirms that many schools remain brutal places, with bullying a primary concern (one reason why I am so intolerant of Gill's e-bullying and name calling)"

Gill, like the rest of us home educators , has been called a potential child abuser by the government of our country.

Myself new to the blogging/facebook community have only ever found Gill to be friendly, fair and inclusive to all.
"Too many lonely children, terrified to use the toilets, are damaged and coasting their way to the afternoon bell, daily. You only get one chance at being a child."
Exactly why we choose to home educate one of our children, he's HAPPY at home.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Sam - I agree absolutely and fully understand why you chose to home educate. Please join this debate though - ideas are needed.

Also, I'm pleased to hear your feedback on Gill, my experiences have been painfully different so far, but you suggest some hope at least.

Sam said...

"Gill, like the rest of us home educators , has been called a potential child abuser by the government of our country."

Meant to say, also, that 'that is what I call bullying'. Got sidelined by daughter nagging me to get off laptop so she can MSN.

cosmic seed said...

Yopu raelly aren't doing yourself any favours with continuing to keep bringing Gill up in this way. You've made your point,albeit one many of us don't agree with, so unless you wish to be cast in the role of bully yourself, I would suggest that you quit with the snipes at a well respected member of our community.

Sam said...

Please join this debate though - ideas are needed.

Stephen, if you really want ideas about autonomous elective home education, I suggest you apologise to Gill and talk to her . She has alot more knowledge and experience of the subject than I.
If you mean ideas in respect of the review, then I suggest you stick to the facts.
The 'evidence' of abuse....which nobody seems to have.
And the law pertaining to EHE which is efficient and sufficient.

Carlotta said...

Hi Folks,

So sorry to come back to this and thanks to those folks who have paused, rechecked and if necessary reworded their mails.

I am now going to call a halt to everything that is directed at individuals as I really don't think it is the most relevant point we have to deal with here.

It would be a shame to have to remove comments on this basis, as almost all the posts usually also contain some useful points too.

However, from now on, please, please, please could you refrain from talking about individuals, as I will remove your post if you do...whatever side of the debate you may fall on.

Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just a small comment -- the projects I have run (not in education but mental health) have been under attack and 'subject to review', evaluation and report by the powers that be because they did not 'fit the accepted model' so I do know a little how you are feeling.

My advice .. but feel free to ignore it (seems from this discussion you will anyway) .. is not to wish the 'reviewers' away (they aren't going anywhere), wish for a change of folks on the board (they are not going to change) and demonise them (not likely to achieve anything although it might make you feel better) but try and find anyone on the review panel who will at least meet you some way.

As an outsider to this debate it it seems you might have a person on the review panel who, although not the person you would have chosen. might be able to move the debate your way a little.

Of course how you approach a review that is already set up is your choice but the review will happen regardless of your protests and how you feel.

Carlotta said...

"I do, self evidently I hope, embrace learner autonomy at every level."

I, for one, am extremely pleased to hear that this is the case, and also to see examples of your work (thanks for the links...am off to check them out more fully any second now) and to hear that you have found lots of common ground with the work of Jan FW.

With regard to this last and on the matter of the same epistemology, there is an excellent article from the TCS website about the damage that assessment does to the autonmous process:

http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/node/71

Bother - am finding that it needs quoting almost in it's entirety:

"Under pressure, they (HEors)may slide into a ‘homeschooling’ mentality that distorts and damages their children's education.

For instance, they may keep diaries of educational activities or portfolios of their children's work. This may sound innocuous, but in making themselves continually aware of their children's education as education, parents are likely to convey this to the children who are then likely to start thinking about their ‘education’ at the expense of their own interests. Education then becomes performance. Children's creativity is diverted into the problem of how to be seen to be meeting the external standards implicit in the curriculum and to produce ‘evidence’ of ‘progress’, instead of solving problems that arise naturally out of their own personalities and experiences.

The more important the parents consider this ‘evidence’ to be, the more likely they are to exert subtle pressure on their children to perform. For many children, this will be enough to change the focus of their endeavours from genuine learning to performance. One educationalist recently objected, when I made this point: “But children like to see the progress they have made. If parents don't keep their work, they won't be able to see how far they have come.” Yes. Children in school may indeed “like to see the progress they have made”, but that is likely to be no more than a sad reflection of the focus upon performance that is the raison d'être of their whole ‘education’.

The carrot of ‘good progress’ is, by logical necessity, backed by the stick of ‘poor progress.’ Being motivated by either is equally harmful. Children's work should remain their own private property, not to be seen by anyone unless they want to show it. If they do want to show it, are they excited about having solved a problem they were working on? Are they seeking criticism and help solving a problem? Or is the purpose to get affection and attention from their parents? In that case, the parents are manipulating their children by the implicit threat of withholding that affection or attention."

End of quote.

This to me presents the problem with the idea that autonomously educated children can be routinely monitored without their consent. It will destroy autonomous education. I do hope Prof. Heppell can present an understanding of this point at panel level as I am not sure that it is widely understood at the current time.

"It would be really good to have a tech-savvy EHE family or child along to this event next October."

I think that would be a superb idea. Just how tech-savvy would the whole family have to be? (gulping as can think of lots of very tech-savvy HEks but not that many very tech-savvy grown-up HEors...though there are some, I suppose.)

"Too many lonely children, terrified to use the toilets, are damaged and coasting their way to the afternoon bell, daily."

I am so pleased to read this refreshingly honest appraisal of what we know goes on in schools. I admit we don't know huge swathes of children who go to our local secondary, (we do know huge swathes of HEors instead, I'd like to point out) but every single one we do know has either had their head smashed against a toilet mirror, their fingers smashed in a loo door, been pushed down a whole flight of stairs, been kicked in the back, been involved in a massive free-for-all punch up, or has been randomly smacked in the face so that blood poured copiously all over their uniform. And this from a school that has an excellent Ofsted report on the subject of pastoral care and pupil behaviour. Just beggar's belief really.

"I'm building schools with micro-communities of 125, with no "cells and bells" and with open ended project based, playful activity."

This sounds incredibly positive and I do hope it thrives. Am also hoping that parents can become involved somehow too. I think that once the average parent can become properly reinvested in the education process, that there is real hope for this type of project. I also understand that parents become more involved once they see that their child is succeeding. I would hope that a measure of success could perhaps shift from getting a good grade to seeing that their child is genuinely motivated to learn...that this would be an inspiration for a disengaged parent to come in and assist, for repeated studies have shown that children do best educationally when their parents are involved.

"Like Jan F-W I too think parents have an important obligation to be there for their children in every sense but am painfully aware that not all parents are as caring as the vocal EHE folk, nor are they in any position to be. When dad is absent and Mum is in a crack coma and you are a caring 14 year old that the school has frightened into electing for HE to get you "off their books" you face a wider set of possible futures, not all good. That doesn't make someone a bad Mum, just a less fortunate one. When Mum is a working prostitute and elects to home educate so she can take you around as an "extra" you have even less options. And that IS a bad Mum (both real examples). We need to care about all these children too. Suggestions welcome -"

Yes, I do perceive this to be a problem. I think one way to go with this is to make sure that schools don't think they have failed when they ask such a family to HE. Apparently quite often they hide the fact that such a family have dereged perhaps at their suggestion, because they feel guilty at asking them to leave for base motives such as wanting to improve their absenteeism figures or their exam results. But if HE could be seen as a positive step, along with a recognition that something constructive could be done, they might tell LAs that the mum is a crack cocaine addict and can something be done to support this child, perhaps with a project like Notschool?

This would mean that genuinely vulnerable children will come to the attention of the authorities, and autonomous educators will not have to forfeit their educational method of choice as they would if they were monitored in the course of trying to seek out children in real need.

Thank you very much for your time, Prof...and wishing you a safe journey.

Firebird said...

@ Stephen - I missed the BBC JAM story (dd is only 5) and it's not clear from what I've found online now if it was anything we'd have used BUT the reason for pulling the plug was utterly spineless.

My daughter is pretty tech savvy with her own iMac, digital camera and iPod BUT she can take them or leave them, they're just options and most days go unused. We gave Education City a try and to be honest I wasn't massively impressed and once the novelty wore off (thankfully during the free trial) neither was dd.

Notschool sounds like a good option for some people, but as always the concern I have is the way that this government goes from optional via coercion to compulsion.

Right now in the news we have Ed Balls working to gain the power to dictate the basic content of every public exam in England. This is not an administration at home to any sort of freedom in education.

I worry about compulsory monitoring in any form and even more about the idea of approval. With approval comes the power to refuse permission, to destroy and as Frank Herbert said "He who can destroy a thing, can control a thing."

I know I'm not alone in looking at this Review and seeing a power grab. There are individuals within the establishment who really, honestly cannot abide the thought of any child being beyond their reach, I've met one working for our LA. It was a shock to be honest, she really believes that it's her job, her sacred duty even, to judge and approve the education of every single child in the county and she's furious that the law doesn't agree with her!

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea, Carlotta! I think that would be a wonderful solution that would meet the needs of all without offending the sensibilities of any or indeed abandoning any children to hopelessness.

Although my personal concern for not seriously needy families who can't HE but would like to would not be resolved, this would be a great answer u for many.

D
(At least I hope I have understood all - a baby does make concentration rather erratic and brief!)

Ali said...

I am so glad I live in Scotland where home educators haven't (yet) been accused of being child abusers by their government. Indeed the SNP government asked for evidence, listened to reasoned argument, accepted 'independent' research findings from the SCC (now Consumer Focus Scotland) and published statutory guidance (not guidelines) designed to curb the ultra vires activities of LAs after a spate of complaints from Schoolhouse and home educating families. Prof Heppell and co would do well to talk to those who conducted the review in Scotland, which did not cause such outrage - probably because it was announced as a 'review of the guidance' and not accompanied by inflammatory accusations of child abuse.

Incidentally, I personally know of Notschool.net from a (successful) pilot they did years ago in Glasgow with disaffected young people. Jean Johnson approached Schoolhouse for info as the council had asserted that such a scheme would be 'illegal' in Scotland - not true! I am also aware, as a former trustee of CPE (now called PEN), that Notschool.net is well known to Roland Meighan and the other trustees, one of whom is heavily involved with BECTA.

We are expecting an influx of asylum seekers north of the border as a result of this review, which can never be seen as independent after Delyth Morgan's irresponsible comments and Vijay Patel's unforgivable linking of EHE to the Climbie case (we know him too as he used to work in Dundee and then for the former Scottish Executive - it's incestuous up here!)

As Mike Russell always says, "Scotland is not full up", so you are all welcome here whenever you like.

elaine said...

Bullying? Home educators aren't the ones holding the stick.

Firebird said...

@ Carlotta - {waves} HEing nerd here :)

@ Ali - if it turns out bad I'll be pestering you for advice on the best place to move to, although I'm not totally ruling out France ;)

Carlotta said...

Hi D,

Thanks for your comment. I do think it is worth thinking about the point you raised, which I believe got rather lost somehow.

So any suggestions on the sort of situation that D raised would be gratefully received: "How would a family who wanted to HE but who couldn't for whatever reason, be helped to do something approaching HE rather than school? Could a project similar to Notschool work for such families, for example?

Renegade Parent said...

Hello Stephen,

*Most* EHE children are fortunate in terms of their education and 24hr welfare - moreso than the majority of their schooled peers.

Your examples of crack using parents and child prostitutes are compelling, but not, I believe, representative of the vast majority of EHE families, however loosely one chooses to define them.

In such cases sufficient legislation already exists to safeguard the children at risk - whether or not it is universally understood or used efficiently or effectively, I am unsure.

What I am sure of is that increased intervention for EHE families above and beyond existing arrangements under the guise of child welfare is misleading. Educational provision is clearly a prominent concern.

Any further scrutiny (of welfare or ed) will harm most if not all EHE parents and children as well as their individual paths of learning. It will also unnecessarily increase the burden on overstretched children's services, thus taking resource away from people who really need it. A lot of actual pain for little if no real gain!

I suspect that a more helpful consultation might examine the impact of ever-expanding state intervention into our lives and those of our children. In these circumstances, your input on autonomy would be equally as valuable, but EHE families would feel far more happy to voluntarily engage in constructive dialogue.

Lisa

Carlotta said...

Firebird...Lol,

"@ Carlotta - {waves} HEing nerd here :)"

Fabulous. Am going to allow that intra hominem (if there is such a thing) on grounds of being eminently satisfying and v. useful.

Hoping we can offer your services, should the opportunity emerge!

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Carlotta - I'm really pleased to see (with the odd exception) a constructive debate here in no small part thanks to your balanced and thoughtful postings - and thanks everyone for contributions so far.

You mention by way of a suggestion that: "This would mean that genuinely vulnerable children will come to the attention of the authorities, and autonomous educators will not have to forfeit their educational method of choice as they would if they were monitored in the course of trying to seek out children in real need".

But I think the parent/s of those vulnerable children more than share your mistrust of authority and monitoring / inspection, so offering them up as sacrificial lambs (!) won't help (and I care about them a lot too).

Lisa - thanks for your thoughts on "the impact of ever-expanding state intervention into our lives and those of our children". I worry about the extent to which our children have been demonised and then tested to within an inch of their patience, but we are where we are and I don't think anyone will change the remit of the group. I do hope that EHE families will still feel able to voluntarily engage in constructive dialogue. The example I give are not, I very much hope, typical, but they are real and we need to be concerned to help them too. They also only get one chance at being a child.

All - So more ideas please - a generic solution for the many textures of HE is a big ask, but that is what we are being asked for, so all thoughts still welcome....

Train journey was fine thanks - just finished last meeting of the day - I have a project in China that needed attention till late too.

Stephen

Ali said...

Carlotta - we might have to start a HE home finding agency judging by the number of folk who are looking to move notb.

Prof Heppell - citing examples of parents whose children are patently 'at risk' is not an EHE issue, it is a child protection issue. There are adequate mechanisms in place to deal with cases where children are known to be vulnerable.

The sad fact is that many CP cases go unallocated as social workers are working to capacity and are inadequately trained and supported in their role (a UK wide problem). All the serious case reviews and inquiries have reported broadly similar failings: professionals did not use existing powers appropriately. Doncaster has just been slammed in the media again, and other councils have recently been named and shamed, but with the recruitment and retention crisis in the SW profession, there are bound to be other avoidable tragedies.

Meanwhile, EHE takes a veritable pasting (at great expense to the taxpayer and based on malicious rumour mongering by LAs) 'just in case'.

I wonder why it is that Scottish HE children are not thought to be such a high risk group? Could it simply be a politically motivated attack on families in England?

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Ali - you suggest that: "citing examples of parents whose children are patently 'at risk' is not an EHE issue, it is a child protection issue. There are adequate mechanisms in place to deal with cases where children are known to be vulnerable. "

and i wish that was true Ali, but it patently isn't.

Child protection is not coping, despite many hard working and caring souls. And it seems easy to say "one solution for children at risk" and another for EHErs, but who makes that judgement about which is which? EHEers? Inspectors? LA folk? Health visitors? who?

Carlotta said...

Thanks Ali. Was about to post similar re legislation and welfare problems.

I do believe that where a parent does clearly fail in duty to child, then there may be no other option (currently) than that agencies such as the state step in, and that legislation is sufficient to support this, and that more social workers is the real issue here.

Not that I am advocating that these children be submitted to coercive monitoring for ed outcomes either, of course. Just that their welfare issues be recognised and that the help they need be given.

I have heard that one of the concerns is that schools fail to tell LAs of serious concerns when they ask a family to de-reg because of their problems with the school. If HE was seen as a positive option for such families then presumably this barrier to proportionate information sharing (unlike the rest of the information sharing that is going on utterly uselessly) would be removed.

Allie said...

I believe that ignorance surrounding home education within children's services is damaging to the well-being of home-educated children. Home educators have, time and time again, been treated with suspicion and prejudice when they attempt to use such services. I know of people who have tried to get help from CAHMS only to be told that the *obvious* problem was that they home-educated and school was the only answer. I know of someone visited by a social worker (after a malicious referral to social services) who was informed that her education provision for her child had to be changed as it was "child-lead" (sic) and not "teacher-lead" (sic). People who know nothing of home education (indeed, often nothing about education at all!) populate many children's services of all types. Even those who are not hostile are usually clueless.

If the govt is serious about protecting the well-being of home-educated children then the first thing they should do is inform local authorities to TRAIN THEIR STAFF properly. Then, encourage those properly trained staff to remember to include home educating families when planning their service provision and publicity. I believe that many situations which end up as tragedies could have been averted if people had been able to access help when they were looking for it. This would, I believe, be a far more effective way of working than instituting a mass system of monitoring in the hope of finding a few abusive situations.

Carlotta said...

Am thinking that ime, most families who are at serious risk have already been referred to the relevant services. Indeed many HE families are referred for no good reason at all, and usually just because they HE.

This is the way I see the demographic.

A few EHE families who have done it from the beginning do find themselves not coping one way or another. This is a tiny, tiny minority, may I point out, but I have seen it happen.

These kinds of families do get discovered and referred one way or another. Often they have tried to hook up with other HEors and get reported that way. Other times, concerned relatives or neighbours report them.

Then there are the HEors who leave school. Presumably the school does actually know something about these children, otherwise it would seriously give the lie to the idea that school is a useful abuse detection mechanism? So if there were serious concerns on the part of the school, it might be as well to encourage them to report them. Schools are being encouraged to make this sort of call every working day, so this wouldn't be asking anything more of them, as far as I can see.

Then we have ContactPoint...all that cross referral and flagging. So this is meant to pick up on yet more cases for concern.

And of course, one has to think about the fine tradition of proportionality, of valuing the principles of freedom and privacy and weighing them against the risks to children. I would say that as the law stands, it has got it about right just now and must not be tinkered with lightly.

To give the authorities any more power of our lives (since HE represents the only remaining tradition which demonstrates that parents are indeed responsible for the education of the child) is to finally do away with familial autonomy and to render the state the pater familias, and also of course, ultimately responsible when things go wrong...as they still will...sadly, as it is impossible to eliminate all risk, whatever the ECM tries to imply.

Mieke said...

Hi Carlotta, I'm sorry I didn't catch on to this thread earlier! Thank you for creating platform to this kind of discussion, it is interesting and educational ;). And I wish we had lots more like this. Wouldn't it be a nice contemporary idea for the (rest of the) reviewing panel to engage in similar online discussions? Of course it would be even better if you were the facilitator / moderator...

Ali said...

I disagree with you, Stephen. The statutory powers *are* in existence, but they are not being used, either because all but the most dire referrals (e.g. smashing babies off walls) go unallocated within the teams (not enough well trained experienced CP social workers to fill vacancies) or they are allocated to inexperienced unsupported workers whose main 'target' appears to be to save money (looked after children are expensive to maintain for LAs).

In the old days, only highly trained, highly experienced workers took on the CP cases, but now newly qualified staff have unworkable case load dumped on them the minute they are appointed until they crack under the strain. It is a hellish job (I used to pound the street of Peckham once, in an area where most children were 'known' to Social Services and every other agency, and where young Damilola Taylor lost his life)and one which has now become so devalued, demoralising and downright dangerous that you 'just can't get the staff'.

The solution, however, is not to victimise a minority group in which the incidence of child abuse is statistically no more prevalent than in the population at large, but to achieve 100% staffing levels within children's services *and* insist that staff in schools, health services and LAs are fully trained and conversant with the statutory interventions which already exist, whereby ultimately, the state may become parent of last resort.

Members of the public have for too long been tacitly encouraged to abdicate reponsibility for raising concerns about vulnerable children. Most prefer to leave it to the 'professionals', but even where they do report concerns, they are frequently not acted upon (due to above mentioned issues). The answer is surely to invest in people, not rely on databases, surveillance and tick box monitoring.

I could tell you about the 13yo girl I once worked with who was raped at school (and her mum didn't leave work to come with her to the med exam or to court when she had to face her attacker), or the teacher who refused to attend court when a father was being prosecuted for assaulting his truant daughter (she deserved the two black eyes, the teacher said at the time). There are some bad parents and bad professionals out there, we all know that, but we already have the means to deal with the problem without resorting to the persecution of home educators and leaving children open to taunts that they have 'paedo parents' as has been reported within the HE community in recent weeks.

Anonymous said...

Hello again

I said I wouldn't be back to talk about Notschool but on checking your discussion I note the concern regarding tracking and monitoring the young people on the prgramme.

I do understand people's concern about this but do remember;

1. the sort of young people Notschool deals with, many of whom are at risk. Monitoring them ensures they remain alive and well (and this is not dramatic -- it is real)

2. Notschool is putting computers in houses of young people so it needs to be 100% certain that a community of young people is safe and secure. As has been pointed out not every parents/sibling is upright and honest (I wish that they were) so we need to ensure only the young people and vetted adults have access to other young people on the programme

3. A lot of the tracking and monitoring system is about ensuring adults are not missing warning signs when young people are at risk rather than 'big brother'.

Notschool gets request to place young people on the programme all the time but because it is a charity tries to ensure only young people who are right for the programme come onto it. We do direct people to other groups if the young person does not fit our criteria but we hope those groups will be open minded enough to give advice to parents to ensure they pass them on if what is offered is not appropriate.

Many parents find they are forced to HE by schools who want rid of their children because they cause too much trouble, eat up valuable resources etc. Parents are then threatened with 'remove your child or you will be taken to court". Not helpful for either parent or child.

Carlotta said...

Thank you Mieke. Please do contribute, even if you feel you have come to it late in the day. All suggestions as to how to solve the problems posed here, gratefully received!

Mind you, I think both Ali and Allie have just done a great job of this.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

All - I'm finding this helpful.

I must say, for such a radical bunch there are a lot of moments that read more like a Telegraph letters page: Training should be better, recruitment should run at 100%, local authorities should spell better, young staff are neither trained nor experienced enough, ... And a sense that problems need to be resolved, but not-in-my-back-yard.

Well in a world where trillions are being spent on a doomed banking system money will be even tighter and none of these things will happen.

So, rather than waiting for things-to-change let me ask you to think a bit more pro-actively. There is considerable ignorance about EHE, but then there is ignorance too about what children do in classroom (which was why I put my Be Very Afraid event on annually for policy makers).

So the two fundamental questions remain:
• How do you diminish that ignorance? and
• where there are problems with elected home educators how might the appropriate services be alerted?

What might YOUR action be to move these two things forward?

There are debates now running on Gill's comment field under her "Mr Badman" posting, in the Facebook community and here under Carlotta's Notschool posting (and that you again Carlotta for this useful thread). That requires a lot of looking around. This is hard to fit in with the day job (today I'm joining up learners on small islands around the world, from Cayman Isles to Canvey).

So, mostly I'll try to post here to keep it manageable from my perspective...!

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

by the way, i do agree with so much that is said here - tick box monitoring has no hope of solving any of this

Carlotta said...

"I must say, for such a radical bunch there are a lot of moments that read more like a Telegraph letters page: Training should be better, recruitment should run at 100%,... "

Lol, well like the HE friend of ours who breastfed all hers till they wanted to stop themselves, (ie: a long time) and then went and got herself a great boob job, a lot of us are very happy to take good ideas from anywhere!

The question of NIMBYism is relevant, I guess, except that it is actually a matter of NITMFRism, not in my front roomism, and not in the most intimate corners of our lives: for many of us, HE is not in any way separate from the most intimate nooks and crannies of our private lives, and yet we may be expected to display this to people who have repeatedly demonstrated that they have no understanding of it, who have the power to completely control us in every tiny detail and override every significant point of principle that these families hold dear, and damage that which is highly efficacious when it is not clear to us that this is proportionate in any way.

I will certainly think on your other points about how we educate and inform the public.

Lots of HEors do approach their LAs with a view to helping them understand more about HE and the law, but this often is a very frustrating and time-consuming experience with variable outcomes, because sadly we often appear to lack the muscle to make this stick, and LA personnel turnover is very high and you then just have to start all over again when you notice that the LA policy on the website has been altered. There have, however, been very positive outcomes in some places such as Milton Keynes.

We also talk all the time in the street and network through the internet, blog etc but this too is a slow process. Some of us have been putting our heads together and have come up with some nice PR related ideas for the future, which may be pursued, but all the while we feel, ho hum, do we have to do this as well? Isn't it up to those who enact the law to know how to do it? It shouldn't have to be us who take on this added burden when we decide to HE.

Dani said...

Hi,

Thanks, Carlotta, for enabling this constructive conversation. I hope Stephen is still reading here.

One thing that has been troubling me is the idea that monitoring and tracking is a solution (indeed the only solution on offer) to the problem of children being in bad situations and not getting the help they need. Behind it is a sense that it is important to make sure nobody 'slips through the net'. The trouble with this idea of a net is that it seems to have morphed from a safety net, which is there to catch you in case you fall, to something more like a butterfly net, which stops you from going in whichever direction you choose.

I accept that people do sometimes need help, and that sometimes (when the situation is very bad) this will be in the form of very intrusive interventions in their lives. But I think it's a mistake to try and examine everyone's lives to try and identify the ones who need help.

I like Allie's way of looking at it better (not surprisingly!) - how can the help be offered most effectively so that people who need it are most likely to take up the offer?

So I don't really think setting up a system of monitoring and approval (a la THEAC, or something worse) would actually be a solution to problems of the type Stephen has raised.

In the first case Stephen mentioned, where the child had been pressured to deregister by school, it seems to me that this behaviour by schools needs to be discouraged. By that I don't mean that schools should be told never to mention HE to parents. We have plenty of examples from within the HE community of parents spending fruitless months trying to resolve their children's problems at school because nobody had told them it was legal to HE. I think it would be good if the review recommended changes to the factors which pressure schools into dropping some children from their books - league tables and SATS, and the unbearable regime of assessment imposed on schools.

In cases like the second example, what needs to be provided are services that child can access. I agree that this is not an easy problem, and that it needs serious thought. I don't think requiring all home educators to seek approval is a specific enough solution for that particular problem. I have to go to work now, but may well come back to this later.

cosmic seed said...

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

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

Allie said...

Stephen asks:

"• where there are problems with elected home educators how might the appropriate services be alerted?"

I must point him again to the fact that the "appropriate services" are rife with prejudice and ignorance. Home educators know this and it makes people vary wary, not just of seeking help for themselves, but of advising other home educators to contact them - or indeed of contacting those services directly to report concerns about anyone else. That is not to say that people within the home ed community don't ever report comcerns for a child. They do. And, of course, concerns about EHE children are just as likely to be reported by extended family or neighbours as concerns about a schooled child.

Stephen says we need pro-active change. OK, so pro-active change. I don't know if you're aware but many home educators have given, and continue to give, hours of their time to this problem. I have been involved with an initiative here in Brighton that has been going on for years, attempting to work with the local authority as they 'review' and 're-draft' a policy on EHE. This has been like walking through glue. At one point we thought we were working towards a 'home ed day' where local home educators could explain and showcase what we do - for LA staff from all areas - and all for free. of course. But the only person at the LA with any enthusiasm for the idea left and we were back to walking through glue. After about three and a half years of effort we are still in the same place - people treated in wildly varying ways by our LA, no policy or practice guidance for their staff. Forgive me if I have ended up sounding like the Telegraph but one gets weary. My family has eaten into family time, used annual leave from our jobs and sat in endless meetings - all in an attempt to improve understanding and work pro-actively in the interests of our community.

Have you got any ideas what might 'work', Stephen?

Carlotta said...

Thank you for all that Dani and very struck by the net imagery.

Dani said...

I took so long writing my comment that it crossed with three others!

Two quick things I forgot to say:

1. I think there are a lot of parallels between the way the HE community is viewed now and attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community about 20 years ago. At that time I was very involved in campaigning against Section 28 and the vilification it encouraged. Moving on from our campaign to change the law, we pushed for services to be provided equally to LGBT people, and for acceptance and understanding of the reasons why people from that community were reluctant to use services (such as GPs, policing) because of very realistic fears of homophobia. Where I live, now, LGBT people are actively encouraged to become foster parents, and are represented and acknowledged in all areas of the local council's work. I'm not saying things are perfect now for LGBT people, but there has been a massive shift.

The key message that seems to have finally got through in that case is that being different is not necessarily wrong, or suspect. That's all we want in relation to HE.

2. This is not properly thought througn and I would welcome more discussion on it. If someone is using their child for prostitution, there are going to be people who know about it - the clients, and quite likely other prostitutes. So one element of enabling that child to get help to escape that situation would be to offer a way for those people to report it anonymously or without fear of being arrested themselves. I think that *might* be more effective than sending round a home education adviser, who could easily miss the problem altogether, as the parent would of course not admit it.

Carlotta said...

...and thanks to Allie too for your story re liasing with Brighton LA. It has at times been agonising to watch albeit from a distance as you would appear to be making some progress and then all of a sudden be back to square one.

And I realise you are by far from the only ones. There are similar stories round our way too.

Anonymous said...

HE ers have been left to solve a social welfare failure because they have been wrongly scape goated by exhausted, hassled teachers in schools.


The trouble with the government's 'big brother' attitude as a whole in education in particular is that lots of good things are being demolished - not the least the desire of exhausted, overly assessed and under pressure professionals (teachers, social workers etc) to respond creatively to indivduals. However, whilst removing this excessive monitoring might help some cases, the serious ones would still need assistance. As Carlotta and others point out, if the social welfare system could manage their job effectively the laws in existence would do the job.

In order for the social services to manage their work load more effectively so that schools aren't shifting responsibility and seriously needy children aren't lost in HE, money could could be removed from the excessive school monitoring and put into social services.

D

Anonymous said...

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

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

Ali said...

Me again, and sorry for the long ones.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything Allie has posted. Walking through glue gets a tad tiresome after 15 years of doing it, and we all do it on a voluntary basis in an effort to improve things but it is generally doomed, as is 'training', when it is policy change that is required.

Schoolhouse hosted an event in Scotland last September at which JT Gatto was the keynote speaker and which attracted a wide range of participants from the HE community, LAs, third sector, business and a handful of sympathetic politicians. The most positive feedback came, somewhat surprisingly, from the business community who completely 'got' what was being said about the current schooling system and the benefits of educational autonomy, while most of the LA personnel were very uncomfortable with the debate. One left after two hours, chucking his badge at my son on the way out and purple with fury. That is what we are up against - dinosaurs with a vested interest in the system which is designed to perpetuate itself, not educate children. On the positive side, the LAs and vol org reps who survived the Gatto message were queuing up for the workshop on autonomous education (led by a home educator/teacher) and it was clear that most hadn't a clue about what it was or how it could possibly work.

The treatment of HE families varies between LAs and individual officers, but what is most predictable (and worrying) is the disproportionately poor treatment of those at the lower end of the social pecking order: the old 'you're OK, but what about those horrid parents who don't have their children's best interests at heart?' chestnut. It is amost always applied to those in social housing, families on benefits, single parents, those without a university education, those with disabled children or who have disabilities themselves and gypsy travellers (who face the most appalling discrimination in and out of school). I have been around long to enough to have heard this from countless LA officers (the classic line from one was 'we only allow intelligent people to teach their own children') but this attitude can also be found within sections of the HE community. There have been cases of child abuse within home ed circles (there, I've said it!) but it is no more likely than in any other community subset and individual cases should not be used as justification to incite hatred against the law abiding majority, including those who don't present as 'middle class'.

Families are reluctant to engage with 'services' as they expect to be treated badly. The situation can only worsen as flags of concern are raised here, there and everywhere about those who do not fit the conventional mould and reject the outcome based model that is a threat to everyone's freedom (most just haven't joined the dots yet).

What is most striking about the HE movement across the UK (and it has become one) is the proliferation of support networks that have arisen, both on and offline, which are very effective in delivering what a box ticker might call peer support and mentoring. We don't appreciate being called 'service resistant' when we have all the 'services' we need from trusted fellow educators and usually find professionals a 'barrier to progress'. Much like in the small business community, where independent entrepreneurs often eschew govt agency 'support' in favour of networking with peers, both fledging and established home educators find support and information within trusted HE networks.

As you say, Stephen, the reality is that there is no money available to fund real support for struggling families, but beating them with a great big stick and demonising them for having been failed by the system and society itself can never be an effective solution and will only serve to encourage further disaffection, resentment and anger. It will almost certainly lead to non co-operation by HErs on a large scale which will eat up budgets like never before. Of course, there is no money for LAs to step in as corporate parents either, so we are effectively stuck with the status quo, contrary to Graham Badman's alleged assertion that it cannot remain.

Learn to trust families (unless there is evidence not to do so); use existing legislation in cases where intervention is needed and risk of significant harm has been identified by properly trained professionals; in short, leave people alone to get on with the important job of caring for and educating their children with informal back up from fellow home educators.

Anonymous said...

"Ali - you suggest that: "citing examples of parents whose children are patently 'at risk' is not an EHE issue, it is a child protection issue. There are adequate mechanisms in place to deal with cases where children are known to be vulnerable. "

and i wish that was true Ali, but it patently isn't.

Child protection is not coping, despite many hard working and caring souls"

This is the problem;the systems are in place but they are not working or being made to work.services are not coping.
So why is this not where the changes are needed.
Why are school staff not made accountable when they push a family into ehe and then don't inform the LAs about the families onngoing problems or when they don't even inform the LAs that a family have deregged and continue to receive their funding. How would it help overstretched services to effectively place every HE child on an at risk register.
At present no child in this country is considered at risk unless there are concerns bout their individual circumstances. No family is routinely checked to make sure they are not harming their child based solely on a legitimate and valid choice they make about how they live their life.
How can it be possible to say home ed is a legal valid and recognised form of education but if you choose it your chld will automatically be considered at risk of being at risk?
Why make changes to home ed legislation and reduce our rights and liberties because other services are failing.
Especially when there is no evidence that children are actually more at risk of abuse or even that detection is lower.
Jo

Anonymous said...

Just to add i forgot to put quotations around the comments at the top of my last post which were taken from professor Heppell's post
Jo

Anonymous said...

@anonomous of notschool

"I note the concern regarding tracking and monitoring the young people on the prgramme."

Thanks, I must say I agree that children at risk should be protected. But that must not interfere with autonomy in learning imo.

"I do understand people's concern about this but do remember;

1. the sort of young people Notschool deals with, many of whom are at risk. Monitoring them ensures they remain alive and well (and this is not dramatic -- it is real)"

OK so if these are children "at risk" it's a whole different ball game. In that case I'm sure you can get their informed consent to provide this monitoring purely for their safety, why not also provide phones alarms etc, linking them to adults who can help them if needed.

It sounds something like the buzzer and emergency phone system our 93 year old great grandma had, very useful, she kept her autonomy but had a safety net if any problem occurred. But not all our kids need or want this service, the consent and appropriate use of the system is the crucial issue.

Where there is evidence of abuse or other concerns then the rules change. There is no point restricing the freedom of all of us or even of those children who need this support/safety net. Surely it can be done in a way that enables privacy and autonomy?

We've been HEing for 18 months, we did try school. AE is a magical way to learn, I'm so glad that that I got my head round it, it's not been easy (getting my head round it I mean). To begin with I read a book on unschooling and thought ooh that sounds nice but I'm sure we can do it around school. Well for a child to have coercion in one aspect of life and not the rest makes no sense whatsoever so we had to drop school. That was the best decsion we ever made. Autonomous Education is so precious to us that we have happily moved to a smaller house and reduced our workload and income so that we can enable our family to live this way.

It's interesting that you folks are providing for and funding the education of children that LAs are not able to support and yet they want to interfere in the education we provide for our children. They clearly do have more urgent needs to attend to.

Interesting discussion thanks for engaging

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

"And it seems easy to say "one solution for children at risk" and another for EHErs, but who makes that judgement about which is which? EHEers? Inspectors? LA folk? Health visitors? who?"
This confuses me;isn't the system for children at risk different than for any other children not just EHE children.
School may add a layer of possible detection but it is very, very far from ctefficient.Far more children must fall through the net at school than the entire ehe population. If it is important to have systems that don't let even some of the most difficult cases fall through the net then there needs to be home visits and checks for all children and not just ehe children otherwise the logic doesn't hold up for me.
children at school don't solely have their abuse detected by schools but from other sources too. In fact schools receive much criticism in the review of serious case reviews done by ofsted 2007-2008 where in may of the most serious cases schools had failed to notice or act on concerns.
I think it would be seen as out of balance in the risks versus liberties and rights to monitor all children at home and their would be uproar.It would be also be economically unviable.
The best way to protect children must be to improve service for those who are found to be being abused or for whom there is intelligence that suggest they may be being abused.
There may be little value in making the haystack bigger and increasing the number of false positives that services have to handle and families have to live with the consequences of mud sticking. The really difficult cases would probably still fall through the net as they would be able to manipulate staff and the system. ad services would be even more overstretched dealing with all the false positives that children who really need sevices might not get them
Lastly
What is they system for children before they reach school age?
Why is my 3 yr old daughter apparently not in need of checks but my 6 year old son is?
Jo
Sorry for hogging this discussion this morning.

Anonymous said...

@ Stephen Heppell

WRT being Radical Telegraph Readers. Indeed many of us are!!

I guess what people are saying to the Government, the review and the LAs is "It's so bad out there why are you trying to clean up our flower filled back yard. It's not so much NIMBY but SYOBYF, sort your own back yard first. Feel free to have peak over the fence in a polite way and copy our flowerbed designs but please don't tell us how to rearrange the deck chairs.

regards

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

suggestions
LAs ask if there have been any welfare concerns/ social services involvement when a child is deregistered then follow them up if there are.
Schools are asked to give parents information about ehe and other options before problems become entrenched.
LAs are made accountable for their dealings with home edders. There literature should be correct and non-biased along with their verbal information. People should be recruited specifically to that job who understand and value home education in all its guises.
There should be feedback channels which are promoted.
Staff who understand ehe will feel more able to know when further information is needed: at present I think that staff feel that because autonomous education is valid then they can't challenge anyone who appears not to be doing anything formal. However someone who understood autonomous education would see a difference say in an educational philosophy that really seemed to understand AE and one that appeared to be just printed off. Further information could be asked for under the current system but it would be great if that was done in the spirit of trynig to see if that was just down to someones way with words.
Just like a good interviewer might try to help someone show them their best but if they were really unable to do so then might wonder if they were really going to be able to do their job. Whereas a bad interviewer tries to catch people out and show where they are wrong and might lose out on employing some great people because of it.
La staff only have to answer the question is there any reason to believe this child might not be getting a suitable education.
The mother is a crack addict and the father is absent there was persistent truancy with no involvement or interest from the parents. yes ok there is reason to believe the child may not be getting a suitable education - investigate further. No need to change current structures.
Jo

Barbara Stark said...

Another late to the debate contributor here:

Prof Heppel says. "my" newly designed schools are now full of negotiated pathways and seduction rather than coercion..." "...so that Jan's concepts like "autonomy" and "intrinsic motivation" all have an effective place in a school setting too."

This appears to say that negotiation and seduction are in some way similar to autonomy and intrinsic motivation; in a school setting which involves, as we all know, compulsory attendance.

In my experience negotiation and seducation are not tolerant of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Negotiation and seduction do not respect the self direction of individuals but seek to influence it for other purposes. It can easily be a form of coercion.

Also, "the degrees of autonomy exhibited reveal great progress."

Is it possible to have a degree of autonomy? I think it would be if it is also possible, for example, to be in some degree, pregnant. I have heard it said that a person was a "little bit" pregnant, which I thought was to misunderstand the nature of pregnancy.

The professor says, "I'm building schools with micro-communities of 125, with no "cells and bells" and with open ended project based, playful activity."

In my view, any improvement for children caught in the compulsory education system is to be praised, but I am thinking that attendance is actually compulsory and how can autonomy be equated with this sort of coercion, especially given all the negotiation and seduction going on?

Finally, "by the way, i do agree with so much that is said here - tick box monitoring has no hope of solving any of this."

Solving what? From our point of view the problem is that local authorities do not understand current law and do not follow it.

Of course we all feel bullied. The review has been launched to see if home education is being used as a cover for child abuse and to investigate the ultra vires practises of local authorities to see how to refine their function carrying out duties they do not have.

Mieke said...

"Thank you Mieke. Please do contribute, even if you feel you have come to it late in the day"

Thanks, Carlotta! I do feel free to contribute, but I am enjoying reading how other people are expressing thoughts and feelings similar to mine in a much more eloquent way!
I have nothing to add but compliments to all the valuable points that are being made about autonomous education.
Professor Heppell, I applaud any attempt made to save children from the heartless and inadequate system that school often is, but I hope you see from all the above that our children do not need saving!

shena.deuchars said...

I am also coming late to the debate - and most of it is great. This is specifically for Stephen Heppell. AFAICS, home educators are angry because the following process is constantly repeated:

1. Government announces a review or consultation affecting EHE but which treats LAs and other bodies as the major 'stakeholders'.

2. EHErs object because the questions do not compute and EHErs were not properly informed as 'stakeholders'.

3. No-one responds to the objections.

4. EHErs respond to the review or consultation.

5. A report is produced that treats the EHE contributions with varying degrees of disdain.

This process is repeated regularly in the apparent hope that eventually we will either give the answers government are looking for or give up and let the LA view hold sway. This is very unproductive and EHEers are angry because there is no real dialogue - we are constantly "being done to" without our consent.

The debate here is good but a personal blog makes it very difficult to have a sensible discussion. Could not you (or Graham Badman) set up a forum where we could have a genuine exchange of views that could then inform opinions?

Ali said...

Shena commented:
"The debate here is good but a personal blog makes it very difficult to have a sensible discussion. Could not you (or Graham Badman) set up a forum where we could have a genuine exchange of views that could then inform opinions?"

Such 'engagement' is one of the aims of Home Education Forums, which already hosts a private 'ask the home educator' area for the use of professionals.

If Stephen wishes to proceed with this discourse in a dedicated forum setting, we would happily host it in our special projects area to facilitate the direct exchange of views.

shena.deuchars said...

Barbara Stark said...
>Prof Heppel says, "by the way, i do agree with so much that is said
>here - tick box monitoring has no hope of solving any of this."
>
>Solving what?

I would also like to echo this question. The more I think about it, the less I understand what this review is about. According to the review's terms of reference (ToR), it "will investigate:
- The barriers to ... safeguarding home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated children;
- The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for [various bad things];
- Whether local authorities are providing ... support to home educating families to ensure they ... provide a suitable full time education to their children;
- Whether ... monitoring the standard of home education [is] needed ... in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes."

So is it concerned with education or welfare? As we know, the questions were not about home education but were about "ensuring all children achieve the ECM outcomes". The legitimacy of applying ECM to individual children has been more than adequately challenged elsewhere, so I will not repeat it here.

Stephen Heppell has asked us to produce constructive solutions. I cannot do that when I have not been told what the problem is. Stephen, if you can state the problem, I'll happily address it. The ToR above imply problems:
- EHE children cannot be safeguarded Where is the evidence?
- EHE may be used as a cover for abuse Where is the evidence?
- LAs may not be supporting families in EHE We can say this is true. But we think that our definition of "support" differs from that of government.
- EHE needs monitoring What would be the purpose of the monitoring?

Prof. Stephen Heppell said:
>There is considerable ignorance about EHE, but then there is
>ignorance too about what children do in classroom ... So the two
>fundamental questions remain:
>• How do you diminish that ignorance? and
>• where there are problems with elected home educators how might the
> appropriate services be alerted?

EHErs do work on diminishing the ignorance - but we do it on an individual basis. We have no budget or time. We are usually home educating our children, working to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, etc. If the government seriously wanted to ensure people were informed, etc. the department that puts school between children and families would have an EHE section, properly funded (in proportion to the number of children) that would provide information, funding from taxes, etc. It would not treat home educators (and encourage LAs to treat EHEers) as a problem to be exterminated.

Jack said...

Yet another late-comer, to this discussion.

Now, I've filled in the review questions, you can read my response here:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/topic.php?uid=45453211491&topic=7620&ref=mf

But I still don't see why it's so necessary. As Prof. Heppell said:
"[I]n a world where trillions are being spent on a doomed banking system money will be even tighter..."
Which leads me to ask, as money is so tight at present, why is the Government wasting it on conducting this review? It is hardly worthy of so much attention, regardless of whether it's a cover for abuse. If they suddenly have a major problem with abused kids, then they should be reviewing that. If, however, they have a real problem with home-ed then they should be reviewing us on education, not welfare.

As for Prof. Heppell's questions:
"So the two fundamental questions remain:
• How do you diminish that ignorance? and
• where there are problems with elected home educators how might the appropriate services be alerted?"
Where do I start? At the part where it isn't our responsiblity to address these issues, we're not getting paid for it after all. However, that is likely to get my blood up for no good reason, so I'll just answer them.

"How do you diminish that ignorance?" Well, by asking our Local Authorities to have appropriate literature at the disposal of parents and by telling people. This is difficult, especially when the letters LAs send to parents who have just deregistered are unhelpful and, in some cases, agressive.

"where there are problems with elected home educators how might the appropriate services be alerted?" What do you define as 'problems with elect[ive] home educators'? If you mean welfare issues, there are systems already in place for reporting concerns. If, however, you mean education issues, then what would cause concern?
Not following a curriculum? Well, I'm nearly 17 and had never done any structured study before I started doing OU courses at rising 14, I now have the equivalent of three A-Levels.
Not having any written work to show off? Well, is that a valid test for dyslexic young people? Also, if the young person prefers doing art or music, are those to be judged as unworthwhile?

Sorry, I always seem to end up answering a question with a ream of my own. In short, I don't see what else we can do to diminish ignorance than what we already do and I don't know what problems you believe exist that aren't already covered by current procedures.

Katherine
(EHEed since birth, 17 years ago)

Firebird said...

"• How do you diminish that ignorance?"

Getting the local press to write positive reports on HE, taking part in community events as part of a HE group, being happy to talk to anyone about HE at any time, having a web site for the local HE group, using community facilities like the library for organised activities.

Locally I think we've made a lot of progress, to the extent that I got a call the other week from a lady who was looking at HE for her daughter and had been given my phone number by the local gym (which I'm not even a member of).

We're also working on our LA but really Allie's "walking through glue" metaphor is spot on. They are SUCH hard work and they ought to be leaping at the chance to build a constructive relationship with the local HE community.

"• where there are problems with elected home educators how might the appropriate services be alerted?"

You are trying to create a false division here. In cases of abuse EHE children are no less likely to be reported than schooled children by all the same people with the one exception of school teachers, whose role is massively over stated.

You said "a generic solution for the many textures of HE is a big ask, but that is what we are being asked for"

I'd like to reiterate Shena's question.

What exactly is the problem meant to be? What is it about EHE that NEEDS a 'solution'? From where I'm sitting there IS no problem, we're doing just fine thank you.

these boots said...

I agree wholeheartedly that Child Protection agencies "aren't coping". They aren't coping with the families they already know to be at risk. They aren't coping with safeguarding the children in their own care. What on earth makes anyone think that they can be trusted to cope with becoming involved in unnecessary monitoring of EHE families?

The current status quo *is* sufficient for child protection issues. If a child seems to be at risk the LA have ways and means of intervening and checking out the situation. And yet, and yet ... they are not coping. Agencies who are 'not coping' make hasty and irrational decisions. They guard their backs, and don't always act in the best interests of the people they are supposed to protect. They fall back on 'tick box' measures that simply aren't appropriate as far as EHE goes.

If child protection laws aren't sufficient, then that should be looked at separately. It is not a matter that is, or should be, connected with EHE. If the government seriously think that what goes on in family homes should be monitored as a matter of routine, then let them consult on that idea within the general public. One minority group have been singled out for extra attention. It's inexcusable.

Many of the questions asked 'informally' by members of the review panel seem to be about monitoring educational provision, not about monitoring child safety. But this review was, apparently, set up on child protection grounds. Educational provision is a whole other ball game and the original January consultation was not focused on that, so I certainly do not feel that I have been enabled to have input into the shape the review now seems to be taking.

Yes, some of us are feeling a little defensive just now. That has been forced upon us by this potential infringement of our rights and privacy. We are defending our rights that are supposedly enshrined in law. We are defending our rights to not allow that law to be changed at the whim of people who we feel are - at best - ill equipped to have an informed opinion on our way of life. It seems to be *our* qualifications, *our* intentions, *our* motives that are receiving this uncalled for and unwelcome spotlight - the panel should not be surprised if we turn the spotlight around to examine them more closely, too. If the validity of their profession or chosen career were suddenly in the firing line would they not be bemused, angry and defensive? Would they really, honestly, not fight back?

Stephen, I am not ignorant of what goes on in classrooms. I have an M.A in art and education. I have worked - and continue to work - extensively in schools, all over the country. I see some good examples of good teaching and good learning. Unfortunately I see far more examples of mediocre teaching and learning, missed learning opportunities, and disaffected young people ground down by the constant disrespect directed at them from their teachers. I have been involved on several occasions with programmes looking at the national curriculum, and have been a part of some really exciting projects in schools. However, these are most certainly not the norm, and I would not be happy to send my children to even the cream of the schools I've worked in. My own children exhibit a sheer love of learning, and an excitement and interest in life that I have only ever seen in other home educated children before. I have worked with a lot of schooled children, all over the country, doing projects which they generally find exciting and stimulating. Part of my work often includes asking young people what they think about their learning, and the overwhelming impression is that any spark of interest soon gets suffocated by the school culture. I want something better for my children. Of course I also, like most people taking part in this discussion (as far as I can make out) want something better for *all* children, but I think that will take such a huge shift in current thinking and culture that it is well nigh impossible ... so I concern myself only with my own children at the moment.

To the person who compares their experience of having their projects with young people monitored and evaluated ... I think they are missing the point. Do you think all parents should accept monitoring and evaluation of their chosen parenting methods? Because that is exactly what we are talking about here. Someone, on another blog, a while ago mentioned that Ofsted exists to report back to parents on the schools they send their kids to. Are you really suggesting that parents need external assessment and performance charts to let us know how we are doing?

We did not ask for this interference. It is unwarranted and, imo unacceptable. Therefore, I am not prepared to try to communicate with the review panel on monitoring educational provision. That is not what this review was supposed to be about. Child protection is another matter, and I have responded with my thoughts on that in the original consultation questions.

In my opinion it is abhorrent to suggest that 'rants' on this subject will be ignored. We are being personally attacked, and are quite within our rights to rant and rave about it as much as we like. Ignoring us is arrogant in the extreme.

Rant over, for now. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to thank everyone for such a wonderful, thought-provoking debate.

You've given me a lot of interesting ideas, and put my own ideas in such an interesting way.

If I were judging home education, I would look at the response to Carlotta's excellent blog and think what a brilliant, incredible group of people home educators are.
Then, I would think how lucky their children are too.

Diane

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting post about ehe legislation on Gill's blog.At the moment its th lst post and its by suzyg
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=37623200&postID=5229647944676883823

Anonymous said...

(An aside re: suitability of blog for this debate) Sheena said:
"The debate here is good but a personal blog makes it very difficult to have a sensible discussion. Could not you (or Graham Badman) set up a forum where we could have a genuine exchange of views that could then inform opinions?"

Whilst I agree with nearly everything Sheena says, I would like to point out that a 'personal blog' (and don't forget blogs are accessible for all so are never in reality personal and private as such) is a perfectly reasonable place for democratic, civilised debate. It doesn't matter where it takes place as long as it is taking place and as long as the participants feel that it constitutes a safe forum for the exchange of their ideas. Of course, it could be replicated or linked to in places people might search for more obviously.

Good ideas remain good ideas where ever and from whom so ever they originate.
(And it would appear that a sensible debate - one doesn't have to watch/read much politics before realising this! - is hard to come by in any forum! :))
d

Maire said...

Just read these postings. I have a question for Prof Heppell. What difference (if any) does he see between persoanlised education and autonomous education.

The Government have announced that they want personalised education in schools. It's not entirely clear what this means, but it fits with their wider agenda on modernisation and choice in public services. Applied to schools, it's possible to see that ICT could have a role to play (along with the associated monitoring). But personalised education (however defined) is not the same as AE. It would seem important not to confuse the two; or for the review to be used as a backdoor way of introducing 'personalised' education in the home.

Bruce (partner of Maire)

Jemmo said...

Another late comer. Wow! Nice to see this happening!

Stephen said:
"Training should be better, recruitment should run at 100%, local authorities should spell better, young staff are neither trained nor experienced enough, ...

"Well in a world where trillions are being spent on a doomed banking system money will be even tighter and none of these things will happen."


Stephen, I can't agree with your view that none of these things will happen. Remember that you are here talking about the basic things to enable effective child welfare services in this country.

The public are crying out for better trained, funded and staffed children's services. The Media has pushed this point of view to a huge degree, and have done for years. The Laming Report has stressed and re-stressed the need for this. Ed Balls has said (in one of his few moments of rationality) that all Laming's recommendations will be implemented.

I accept that money is ever tighter, but I really can't see how a government that now fails to improve children's services in precisely this way can possibly hope to survive in the current climate. Baby P, Climbié et al are all seen to have happened due to the failings of professionals.

So the point I'd like to make is, given that children's services must improve in their protection of children, and the implementation and evolution of current practice to provide this protection must likewise improve, what the heck is the point of the continuation of the welfare aspect of this review?

This isn't a matter of NIMBYism, but of government actually enabling child welfare professionals to do their jobs effectively.

None of which has anything to do with an EHE parent's educational provision for their children, BTW.

It is the conflation of education and welfare which is the enormously offensive and prejudicial aspect of this review. We say, the press say, Laming says, everyone says that child protection professionals fail to protect children on a massive scale. Again: this is the issue which has to be fixed. Anything else is a side-show (and some might say a smoke screen).

Once the protection system itself is shown to be working properly to the benefit of children, then it may be time to see if there are children that could be helped by it whom it is currently missing. Even then I suspect the best way to do this would not be by focusing on minority groups. Forced marriage happens within certain religious groups. Should all children in these religious groups be inspected to assure their welfare? The problem with such tight focus is that it is innately prejudicial, whomever the focus is upon.

shena.deuchars said...

Someone said:
I would like to point out that a 'personal blog' ... is a
perfectly reasonable place for democratic, civilised debate.


I'm not objecting to this discussion. I was thinking more that if the review panel is actually prepared to discuss issues (as Stephen Heppell is doing here) rather than simply collect views and write a report, then a forum would allow multiple threads and would make it easier to reach conclusions. Blog comments are necessarily linear and do not make it easy to respond to specific points.

mum6kids said...

Hi I am late to this too.
I think Shena's idea of a forum is a good one.

I too disagree that things can't or wont change in child protection, and I don't believe more money is the answer. Common sense and treating people with respect are free.
Having worked in pychiatry for over 16 years a big chunk of that time in CAMHS I believe that it is the way managers work and how some professionals are simply not professsional that needs to change.
Getting rid of a lot of the management structure would actually save money.
My dh works in CAMHS (and has done for over 20 years). Despite staff objections they are being forced to work in schools thus massively compramising confidentiality. How this helps ensure a quality service is beyond me.
I am personally very concerned about the push to have all children's services based in schools. This looks more like control than care.

My psychi years included a short time with Rape Crisis and later I worked with young people in FE who had been dropped from the school system. Some had left school as young as 7 and NEVER been picked up by ss for truancy until they were 14, 15 or so. This is NOTHING to do with EHE but again services letting families down badly.
In all my years I never met a home ed child or family.
My husband has ONE EHE family-the child is being seen by CAMHS because of the trauma caused by the dreadful bullying she had at school (which the school would not deal with).

I disagree that families who EHE and are functioning well should be interferred with and 'monitored' because of other families who are not functioning well. I don't see how this helps families who need help and it DOES damage families who don't.

I am also very concerned that a forced curriculum is coming our way. The Government has made it clear it doesn't like Independant schools or faith based schools and wants an end to anything not part of the politcal objectives.

Ideas: The review could recommend that LAs learn the Law. It's good law with a history to it.
LAs and other groups need to be reminded that families who are not doing anything wrong protected by law from interference.

As so many professionals (for some reason) are hostile to home ed maybe they should be willing to allow a home ed person to talk to them. I would willingly visit my husbands team or any CAMHS team to talk about EHE.
I admit I have such a low low opinion of ss it wouldn't be a good idea for me to go there.

The review team could publish a LARGE apology for the damage done over the false allagations of child abuse. That really does need to be done.

Each member of the review team should be willing and available to meet home ed families and be willing to clearly answer questions.

WHY were these people chosen? WHY is no one with a home ed background on the panel?

Why is there this view that if a child isn't in school no one ever sees them? That is such a bizarre view. Where did it come from?

The dreadful way this has all been handled means less trust between families and any service they may want to use.
I am glad to say that even now my husband is not being asked to add to his full caseload families who neither want nor need to be seen. But how much longer before he is faced with that?

Sorry to say, the more I look at this review the more pointless it seems. But I bet it's costing a lot.

elaine said...

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

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

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

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

I am not alone.

Anonymous said...

"a generic solution for the many textures of HE is a big ask, but that is what we are being asked for,"
Again in light of the terms of reference this does not appear to be what is being asked.
I would hope that you might challenge why that is seen as a given.
Why does ehe need a solution; it provides it own many and varied solutions.
Why look for a generic solution when it is a generic solution that fails so may families who choose school. Teachers, headteachers and families all find themselves constrained by a governmental generic solution at great cost to children.
Why try and force one on our children, when there is no real reason to, just because people who are only used to the governments generic system cannot understand anything different.
The law is there for a reason so that parents can choose not to follow a generic solution from the government of the day.
Jo

Anonymous said...

The solution to getting an education has time and again been shown to be directly related to parental involvement and commitment whatever the educational model.
As educational provision is more centrally determined even teachers are less involved and parents even more so.
Home education by its very being provides this and would i believe be the main factor in not closing down childrens' options for the future.
That is why I don't think state monitoring is helpful or neccessary - because the success of ehe is about relationships and not educational models and content.
The superficial evidence gathered by monitoring would be meaningless.
I think the focus needs to move to how to engage parents of school children in their childrens' education. When a child persistantly truants or refuses school it will be quite easy to see if a parent is interested in their child's education. If they are interested and they de-reg their child- fine. If they have had no interest and dereg as it becomes obvious they may- be prosecuted then there are grounds to think an education may not be provided and thus follow up is reasonable.
Jo

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid (and sorry) to say that I agree with Elaine. I think all this is a done deal.

I find it sickening that the cost of the 'review,' to lead no doubt to another hugely expensive consultation, could probably have supported at least four of our families for five years. What a waste of what is essentially our money.

Diane

mum6kids said...

Elaine says it all really.
So here I am.
I will continue to home ed my children as we as a family see fit. I guess I must brace for when the Govt and the LAs try and stop me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you could say we will become educational conscientious objectors.

Anonymous said...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anonymous said...

By declaring ehe a risk factor for abuse (and insisting on sight of our children) some more children who are being abused may or may not be found and may or may not be helped.
But at the same time you could be creating circumstances that lead to more abuse.As families are stigmatised as possible abusers this can lead to bullying of children and also for them to perhaps not even trust their own parents to look after them. "why do my parents have to be checked to make sure they look after me when my friends' parents don't"
Families could become isolated as they are shunned in their communities and lack of support could lead to problems in a family who otherwise might have coped.
Similarly as already happens in mental health services, the stigma and anxiety might lead families to not seek out the help they need and could tip a family from coping into not coping and abuse taking place.
Parents who might consider ehe for their child who is being bulllied at school might decide against it because of the stigma leading to continued abuse of a child who might otherwise have had their abuse halted.
Home welfare visits for ehe families may possibly find some abused children but that in itself doesn't mean they will get the help thy need -however it does look proactive and would probably be good PR.
what wouldn't be seen is the damage and abuse that would follow such a move.
In fact those families who became unable to cope due to these changes might come to light further down the line and be used to show that such a system was definitely needed;without anyone stopping to wonder if their situation would have been different without the stigmatising of home edders as child abusers.
And all of this when home education is not a proven risk factor for abuse.
Jo

Anonymous said...

There are many themes that run through child abuse cases - ehe is not one of them.
Abuse quite often happens with a change in family dynamics such as the mother having a new partner. This has been shown many times to be a common theme. There is no requirement for a mother to register and inform welfare services about every change in her relationships, and rightly so because, even though it is a strong theme, in only a minute number of situations where a mother is with a different partner to the biological father does abuse actually occur.
It would be unacceptable to stigmatise all single mothers with a new partner as potentially colluding with that partner to abuse her children and to subject them to regular welfare visits.
ehe has not emerged as a theme although the 2 difficult and serious recent cases where children were home educated did fit some of those strong themes. And in both cases it seems concerns had been raised before they even deregistered their children - so they were not hidden and unknown and there were reasons to follow them up on a welfare basis so no further powers in relation to ehe were needed in the only cases we have seen.
The nspcc has access to huge amounts of information about abuse of children through childline and all their child protection work and yet have admitted they have no evidence to support this concern.
Jo

Carlotta said...

Some excellent arguments there, Jo and loads of others. Am meaning to collate somehow, but it is a monumental task and am worried that I won't be able to do it immediately, or for next week come to that.

Carlotta said...

Wanted to thank Mum of 6 too as confidentiality in psychiatry is one of my beefs right now.

A friend of mine who does need help after a combination of life events that would have completely destroyed a lesser person cannot talk freely with the psychie as everything is written down and appears to be sent every which way. The effectiveness of the time spent with the psych. is hugely reduced. What really is the point?

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

All

Well, thank you for these wise and helpful contributions. As Diane said I could "look at the response to Carlotta's excellent blog and think what a brilliant, incredible group of people home educators are." There is much here to respond to (and Dani, yes I did keep reading - every word - I particularly liked your saftey net morphing into a butterfly net analogy) and I'll try to pick fragments on no particular order:

I do think as education leaps ahead, both in school and in the home, there is a lot for the two to learn from each other. A dialogue should / could diminish the ignorance - and polinate good ideas in both. I'm not sure that LAs are the route for this. I know plenty of you have tried (see Allie, and indeed Ali's comments)

I also think, as you all do, that the abuse issue is a red herring. I've seen nothing to suggest that abuse in schooled families is any less, or more, that abuse in EHE familes as a percentage. So perhaps we could put that aside, with the understandable anger it attracted? I've certainly made no such accusation myself. As you know, policy is often triggered by anecdotal trivia - but then hopefully shaped by more informed judgements.

Several of you have commented on the example/s of a parent who, faced with a threat to prosecute for poor attendance (one parent jailed every three days at present) elect for HE. I think perhaps that your responses show either too much hope that systems will nevertheless cope, or regard it as nothing to do with you. Of course some parents in that situation go on to be excellent home edders, as we have heard elsewhere, but the fundamental problem perhaps is that if HE is chosen for that reason and no learning is in place at all, while next door a vibrant EHE family do what so many of you do so well, then how does a streched children's service, with few resources, know which door to focus its attention on, without an intrusive entry, or the offensive discrimination that Ali narrates so well and I have seen first hand often enough? Bear in mind that the schools often DON'T pass on details because they are just pleased to have the poor attender off their book. In Tasmania peer support references the familes - have you considered that here?

I think Graham Badman is right, that the status quo won't remain. I don't think we can change that by wishing. What is still possible yet is to shape the alternative. This debate helps that.

Elizabeth's thoughtful posting (and others elsewhere - is that the same Elizabeth?) wonders if autonomy can be preserved - and hopefully, yes, would be my view, but there are degrees of autonomy (although another EHE blog debating this suggests that autonomy is, like virginity, an absolute state. I don't think it is). At the heart of all this is a huge lack of data. Noone knows he figures and that doesn't help at all.

Finally, in watching and contibuting to EHE forums in various paces I do seem to have attracted great swathes of real hostility - accused of being unprofessional, creepy, abusive, manipulative, etc etc, which I suppose I can understand, although it is painful to watch these viral misrepresentations. However, I think the quality of debate here, and in a few other places, shows that it has been worth it. I think I will persevere. Hopefully some of you are still speaking to me.

Stephen

Anonymous said...

SH said... "I also think, as you all do, that the abuse issue is a red herring. I've seen nothing to suggest that abuse in schooled families is any less, or more, that abuse in EHE familes as a percentage. So perhaps we could put that aside"

Err, no, it shall not be put aside! That is why we are undergoing this ridiculous review. And now you have also admitted that there *is no evidence*. This review should be scrapped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L

Anonymous said...

"Bear in mind that the schools often DON'T pass on details because they are just pleased to have the poor attender off their book."
Then this is what should be examined and changed.These services are accountable to us as Taxpayers - I really don't see the justification to change the fundamental relationship between state and parents and families based on this.
At every stage there are already powers and procedures in place that are practical and useable and at every stage the excuse is that state employees will not take the necessary actions or act within the law so we must give up some of our legal rights which are there to protect us and our children from state intrusion.
Where there are problems at school home education should be seen as one of the options available to parents and support offered if that is the route taken.
That support should involve information about the diverse possibilities of home education and information about local and national networks.
The laws around family privacy were not written lightly and I do not believe any of the reasons given to date are sufficient to warrant changing them.
Jo

cosmic seed said...

Hear hear L and Jo.

I have a friend who under went almost a year of social service investigation following a malicious referral from her daughter's paediatrician. Social services were quite happy that their was no case to answer, but this *professional* went above their heads and the investigation moved up a notch.

Having been cleared, no apology was forth coming.

The child was referred to a different paed who was, at first, understanding of the child's (with aspergers) reticence at medical appointments. However, the new paed is now becoming irritated and when the parent tried to explain that the loss of trust in medical professionals as a result of their treatment has done damage that will take time and patience to undo, the paed was of the opinion that this was water under the bridge and that they should both put it aside.

Your comment, Professor, smacks of this same attitude. Have you ever been acused of child abuse? Do you understand the deep damage such an unfounded accusation does to a parent? Do you appreciate the scale of terror that parents who are under going a social services investigation experience? I don't think you do, because if you did you would not suggest that we should put the accusations *aside*.

Maire said...

Reply to comment from Stephen Heppel

"I do think as education leaps ahead, both in school and in the home, there is a lot for the two to learn from each other."

What on earth can home educators learn from schools? Nothing they want to know about I think.

"So perhaps we could put that aside, with the understandable anger it attracted?"

No way, it is the reason given for the review so if we can put this aside we can also put the review aside.

"Bear in mind that the schools often DON'T pass on details because they are just pleased to have the poor attender off their book."

Schools are legaly required to pass these details on if they do not they are breaking the law and this is a case for monitoring schools not home educators.

Many parents are already paying for the carelessness and irresponsibility of schools in the damage done to their children school and the time it takes to repair it. Now you want to make this our responsibility?


"I think Graham Badman is right, that the status quo won't remain."


Why?

This question has been asked of you many times, why won't you answer?

"but there are degrees of autonomy (although another EHE blog debating this suggests that autonomy is, like virginity, an absolute state."

There may be degrees of autonomy in notschool but there are NO degrees of autonomy in autonomous education.


"I do seem to have attracted great swathes of real hostility - accused of being unprofessional, creepy, abusive, manipulative"

Stephen, It was unprofessional to call a home ed blogger struggling to come to terms with what this review could possibly mean to her children a bully. And then from your protected and powerful position to offer her virtual kisses. You may deny this but we all know it is true.

And from what i see you are being very manipulative in the way you answer comments, the ones you don't like like the one above you ignore.


Answer all the questions asked without discrimination even if it is just to say you don't know and maybe you will begin to seem a little less creepy.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

cosmic seed - I DO understand the anger about the abuse example that the press propagated. But that was not my example, not my press and not my fault.

The damage done by heavy handed agencies is a constant problem faced at the Inclusion Trust with the thousands of often vulnerable and sometimes damaged children we have supported there. Sometimes this is overworked but good folk, sometimes overloaded casebooks, sometimes other things. I wish I could wave a wand and make it not so, but I can't.

And Maire - I don't think anything I say will defuse your anger towards me. Even my not-very-effective apologies to Gill and invitation to her to continue to contribute seems to anger you. I'm sorry for that too.

I wasn't aware of being asked "Why?" in relation to the status quo change "many times" - it is hard to follow so many threads on so many blogs. But I think this has been covered well enough by others. Personally, I don't know why, in detail. I am just offering the opinion that it will change and hoping you can be engaged in guiding that change constructively.

S

Maire said...

"And Maire - I don't think anything I say will defuse your anger towards me"


Stephen I am not angry with you, these are my responses to your comments.

I know that you are not responsible for the review or the slurs of abuse cast upon us but there is no way we can put that aside without a public apology and retraction of the accusation.

When you say that it does come across as trivialising the matter which is easy for someone not directly involved to do. This might be far from the case but we only have the printed word to go on, we are not privileged to be part of the actual conversation.

we as a group contain many who are more aware than most of how much abuse goes on in schools as many of us have been brave enough to listen to our children and do something about it.

Sadly for me I wasted my energy during the education of three of my children trying to make the school abide by it's duty to provide them with a suitable education.

"Even my not-very-effective apologies to Gill and invitation to her to continue to contribute seems to anger you. I'm sorry for that too."

I see there has been a sort of apology to Gill on her blog today, I am glad of it but it was rather hard won.

I am glad this debate is going on though whether it will make any difference if the status quo has to change I don't know.

Could it change to LA's being forced to abide by the law?

cosmic seed said...

The only way the status quo should be changed is for *professionals* from social workers, teachers and health care professionals to the LA EHE *advisors* to be properly trained with regard home education, and for each and every local authority to act within the law. No more post code lottery, uniform respect and lawful treatment of home educators across the country. Schools need to be made to act within the law, and if they fail to they need to be prosecuted. That is the only decent way in which the status quo may be changed.

Mieke said...

Well said, Cosmic Seed.
That's all it boils down to, professor Heppell. Simple, really.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I don't know why, in detail. I am just offering the opinion that it will change and hoping you can be engaged in guiding that change constructively."
Stephen -this almost makes me cry in dismay and disappointment.It sounds like you have come to the review in the belief that it is about finding a new solution for ehe and not about rigorously examining whether that is what is needed.
I hope as a member of the panel that you have read the terms of reference and if so can you see anything in there that says the scope of the review is about finding a new way to deal with ehe?
I am really surprised that you are not questioning or challenging on what basis it has now been decided that the status quo must change and just seem to be going along with that in asking us for ideas for the change when you haven't even questioned why that change is deemed necessary.
The terms of reference state
"The review of home education will investigate:

The barriers to local authorities and other public agencies in carrying out their responsibilities for safeguarding home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated children;

The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude and advise on measures to prevent this;

Whether local authorities are providing the right type, level and balance of support to home educating families to ensure they are undertaking their duties to provide a suitable full time education to their children;

Whether any changes to the current regime for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes."
When home educators are so strongly opposed to monitoring and compulsory visits surely it is your position to rigorously question if the review has any sound and strong justification to try and bring in such changes not blindly go along with the idea that it must change.
Or have you been given brief that is different to the terms of reference that are available to us.
Jo

Jeremy said...

  But that was not my example, not my press and not my fault.

The claims of abuse were announced in a DCSF press release, and you are part of the panel of the associated DCSF review. By willingly taking up a position on the panel you are lending both the review and the claims of abuse on which it is founded all the legitimacy of your reputation.

You consider the "abuse issue" a red herring. Since the "abuse issue" is the entire point of the review, it seems that it would be more honourable for you to use your influence to attempt to stop the review, or at least to dissociate yourself from it, rather than to take it as an opportunity to advance some unrelated agenda.

Anonymous said...

As a review panel it is surely your duty not to just do what it appears the government wants but to question and examine all that comes before you.All the panel would do well to look at the terms of reference and take them apart in the first instance.Maybe that would give you a small insight into what home educators deal with daily.
eg in the 1st and 4th point the LAs only have a legal duty to PROMOTE the five outcomes for the children in their area not to ensure them for each individual child. If LAs were to legally take on the duty of ensuring the five outcomes for each individual child they would certainly be sure to fail just on the experience of many school children alone and that would open them up to litigation.
In point 3 it is not the LAs duty to ensure that we fulfill our duties to provide a suitable education for our children. That is our duty - it is our legal responsibility to provide an education for our children. LAs should be accountable to parents and taxpayers for the education they provide where parents have chosen state education as their way of fulfilling their duties. However, that does not make us accountable to them for the way we fulfill our duties if we do not ask the state to do it for us. It is our legal responsibility and the state only have the duty to act when they have reason to believe we may not be providing an education.If they have the duty to ensure that we do our duty then they ultimately have the responsibility not us.
The police do not have a duty to ensure that I am not taking part in criminal activity but they do have a duty to act if they suspect that I am. otherwise they just have to assume I am law abiding.
Point 4 is blatant ignorance of ehe law or outright condoning of utra vires practice.There is no current regime of monitoring the standard of home education nor is their any legal basis to allow one. The only regimes of monitoring are the ultra vires behaviours of LAs. Why is there no system of monitoring the standard of ehe? Because it is our responsibility and gives us protection against having to be answerable to and constrained by whatever whims and preferences the current government has about education.
At best these terms of reference are poorly worded and show that lack of understanding of ehe is rife; at worst the law is understood and the ultra vires practiceS condoned purely by the phrasing of these terms and many of the questions in the actual review.
If the panel is truly independent they need to look at these issues from the start in order to know where to go next.
Jo

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Maire -I'm glad the debate is going on too.

Jeremy - the abuse issue is NOT the whole point of the review, as the terms of reference confirm. I've said elsewhere that a particular concern of mine - because my work brings me and colleagues into contact with really significant large numbers of them - is the "elected for home ed rather than be prosecuted" groups. Some of these (to reiterate what I have said elsewhere) end up as excellent EHEers, but sadly many simply do not - not for want of care for their children, just want of opportunity - for example they are doing two or three jobs and have huge problems to overcome so are not time rich - or they are themselves ill (and perhaps their children missed substantial amounts of school as carers). These are the ones I come across. They are not reported by schools, and don't have to be, often they move to another LA and are lost from the (sadly not national) records.

Many schools also feed back informally concerns about young marriages - I don't want to get into a cultural debate here, but electing for home ed is a strategy for some there too. This OBVIOUSLY doesn't mean all home edders are forcing marriages, or avoiding prosecution, far from it I hope, but focussing on these very many children for a moment i hope you'll agree that they need support and help. How do we find them, help them/ identify them/ progress them? Certainly, I've been caring about children for too long to ignore them. Human rights protects them as children too. How do we help as a nation?? Current policy isn't working and hasn't been able to be made to work.

At least we do seem to be making progress on the reducing ignorance front - several excellent suggestions. Thank you.

A question: do any / many of you watch Teachers TV? I helped set that up, and am impressed by the diversity of material - from how they make Maths so engaging in Hungary to debates about personalisation and differentiation. heaps of ideas on making learning engaging or tackling really complex conceptual science issues etc. I do know that some 400,000+ children watch in most school holidays (amazingly) I just wondered if any of you do - http://www.teachers.tv - all 3,500+ programmes are on-line), and also, have Teachers' TV ever featured home ed, autonomous learning, or similar as a programme for teachers to learn from? I don't think so, yet.

Anonymous said...

Dismantle Public Education

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swl8frWSNEQ&feature=related

L

Anonymous said...

Coercion vs Freedom

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej5L3aJMlPA

L

Maire said...

Stephen, excuse me if I am being dense, but if you know about these chidren then there must have been some method of identifying them.

Why then do we need to change the status quo re home ed.

If their parents are suspected of not providing an education then the LA can legaly get involved and issue a School attendance order. The fact that school is not satifactory for these kids will not be solved by shackling home educators with restraints.

Making home in any way more like school will be disasterous for those children for whom it is a refuge from school.

cosmic seed said...

Professor, on Gill's blog you said:

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

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

Anonymous said...

"Many schools also feed back informally concerns about young marriages - I don't want to get into a cultural debate here, but electing for home ed is a strategy for some there too"
Do you have any concrete proof of actual cases where children are withdrawn to officially ehe and not just withdrawn.
If schools have concerns why are they only informally reported and not investigated. Surely there is a duty to report such concerns to the appropriate people - or are schools not safeguarding effectively? Perhaps they are too worried abut being accused of racism to do their duty properly?
You say schools don't report their concerns about families who dereg to avoid prosecution and they don't have too.Surely this is again not fulfilling their safeguarding duties and maybe is something that should be changed. aye LAs should ask some specific questions of schools when they et the dereg info about a child.
Eg have there been any issues around truany? Did the parents have any apparent interest n getting their child to attend school or concerns that they were not getting an education.Being angry with the way schools handle things can in itself be an interest in the childs education so school/ family relationships don't have to have bee good to say parents were interested.
This would be a far more reasonable hage than compulsory state intrusion on all home ed families within their homes.
School staff usually would have the necessary background info when truancy has got that far- this purely needs an information sharing system.
Maybe having to share this info would make them think twice about suggestng ehe where the childs background is such that parents do not care about their childs education. These are extreme cases and you would asssume that such lack of care and poor home situation would also have some welfare involvement that would continue even after dereg.However if schools are not involving the appropriate services as well as not giving LAs important information about a child.
Asstem of compulsory reistratio would not solve the families moving around problem would it? they just wouldn't register.
Jo

Anonymous said...

Sorry for all the typos - my keyboard is terrible! The lst bit should read
A system of compulsory registration would not solve the families moving around problem would it? they just wouldn't register.
Jo

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

cosmic seed - because experience from the US is that when HE reaches a size where it is big enough to be a market, the sales folk move in aggressively - personally, I am implacably opposed to these wretched "drill and kill" packages.

And I think the numbers moving in to HE here have got us to that point, sadly. Again, that is why the BBC JAM work was such a loss.

Currently those commercial interests are trying to get the BBC's Bite Size GCSE revision site (which i know some of you use) banned for spoiling their commercial opportunities. So, it's started.

cosmic seed said...

That doesn't explain how it can be forced on us though. Surely the only way that can happen is if government decrees we must all follow a curriculum or follow a learning package? And of course that would be a very foolhardy plan on their part.

Renegade Parent said...

Stephen,
I am not sure how you think that the existence of salespeople, however unscruplous, marketing however aggressively, would "force" home educated children or their families to take on such learning packages.

As I am sure you are aware, forcing anything onto people, particularly when the welfare and education of their children is at stake, does not work particularly well. Over the past week or so the EHE families you have come into contact with on this blog have clearly demonstrated their strength and ability to articulate their preferences, despite their difficulties in actually being heard, understood or acknowledged.

There are many providers of free, quality educational resources for every kind of learner out there, as you know. The most likely way in which EHE families would actually be forced to take on any kind of learning package is if the requirement for such a package was forced on them by, say, the government.

Lisa

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Lisa you suggest that "The most likely way in which EHE families would actually be forced to take on any kind of learning package is if the requirement for such a package was forced on them by, say, the government".

rest assured - that nightmare scenario simply won't happen.

I was alluding to the forcefulness of the salesfolk - I've seen what happened in he US. Poor grammar on my part, sorry. I do have the day job to do too!

Allie said...

Stephen, when you say:
"but focussing on these very many children for a moment i hope you'll agree that they need support and help"
I can hear your concern. The thing is, as many have said here and in other places, powers exist for local authorities to both ask questions and take action should they be unconvinced by the answers they receive. If they are not doing that then why is this review into home education and not the proper functioning of local authority children's services?

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Allie - Hmm. Do I take it that you would then be happy for the LA folk to come into your home "to both ask questions and take action should they be unconvinced by the answers they receive". Gosh, this would be a substantial change.

Presumably not, but if not, as I keep asking, how do they know which homes to ask these questions of? And what questions do you think would be best? Systems don't have much of a record at elucidating the truth from those who would hide it, as I have reflected elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Systems don't have much of a record at elucidating the truth from those who would hide it, as I have reflected elsewhere."
Which is why there has to be a balance between the possible benefits of such a system and its intrusiveness on the private lives of families.
You have accused us of allowing difficult cases to be sacrificial lambs and yet it seems home educators are the sacrificial lambs of both failing childrens services and the inability to get LAs to work within the law.
Jo

Raquel said...

Stephen, what you decide has to be proportional. The law protects the innocent. That is how it should be. It is a law that has been respected for many decades. It hasn't all of a sudden become useless!
We don't want a nation where all teachers have their homes searched in case they are paedophiles...that is absusing the many thousands of innocent teachers. I hope you would agree with that. Likewise, we don't need to change the home ed. laws just because some people are taking advantage of them. We have other laws to deal with them.
The LA's are so corrupt it is outrageous. A mass brainwashing has gone on in our society. You see it when a parent at the school gate trembles because they have to face the head teacher and ask for a day off for their child. And when the head teacher says "yes", they fall about in heaps of gratitude! (yep been there done that!)
This is maybe why we seem like a feisty bunch, but we have seen through the charade. We know the laws of the land and we wish to uphold them. When you realise you have been conned all your life (*school is compulsary..if you don't send your child you will go to jail!*) and then see the reality, you aren't going to lie down and have it all taken away.

Step back a few paces and see this in context. Parents evading truancy laws should not mould the future of home education. Home education works well when LA's behave. They are public servants..they should work within the law! If they don't...sack them!

Allie said...

I didn't say anything about LA folk coming into anyone's home. I didn't say anything about anyone being happy about it. But if they ask me (politely, in writing) for information then I give it. The judge in the Donaldson case advised that it would be "wise to do so" and so I do.

I completely agree with you that systems aren't good at getting the truth from people who want to hide it. For that reason, among others, I believe that genuinely supportive family services are the way to go. Offer help to adults and children through appropriately funded and well-run services. Train staff in anti-oppressive practice and encourage them to recognise their limitations. Questioning, judging and offering advice, when it has not been asked for, is not support. Take action to secure a child's safety if necessary but don't build systems around hunting out people. The damage done far outweighs the few children you may help.

You seem to be identifying very different scenarios here - people trying to hide, people doing their best but overwhelmed by circumstances, people actively involving their children in criminal activity. No, one, generic solution will work to sort out such diverse problems.

It should also be recognised by the review team that home educators frequently offer each other the most extensive and astonishing support. I think that, whatever our failings, there are models of excellent, genuinely open, peer to peer support that go on in the HE world. If our LA does nothing else constructive I am always glad when their staff give people the address of the local HE email list.

Dani said...

Stephen, you said, in your first post this evening, that "the abuse issue is a red herring" and also that

"I think Graham Badman is right, that the status quo won't remain. I don't think we can change that by wishing. What is still possible yet is to shape the alternative. This debate helps that."

People then asked you why the status quo won't remain, and you said

"Personally, I don't know why, in detail. I am just offering the opinion that it will change and hoping you can be engaged in guiding that change constructively."

All this is very mysterious. If the abuse issue is a red herring, then what could the compelling and urgent reason for change possibly be?

It can't be that home educators are facing unwarranted intrusion by self appointed 'inspectors', harassment by ignorant truancy patrols and distressing referrals to social services for no good reason. Those things have been happening for a long time, and nobody in government has been bothered about them before.

In other words, whatever the apparently inevitable change turns out to be, it is not coming in response to *our* concerns. I think we could be forgiven for supposing that we will have very little influence on the outcome, whatever we do.

I don't know if you have come across the piece I sent to the review team the other day. My theory is that the review is prompted by the government's desire to have everything tidied up and under control.

Could you ask Graham Badman why he is so convinced that change is inevitable and let us know?

Anonymous said...

@ Stephen Heppel

"Lisa you suggest that "The most likely way in which EHE families would actually be forced to take on any kind of learning package is if the requirement for such a package was forced on them by, say, the government".

rest assured - that nightmare scenario simply won't happen."

Stephen, that is exactly what happens to most children!!! If you can't see that that is what we reject you have not got the message about autonomous education.

So your reassurance, even if you had the power to guarantee it, cuts no ice. The state schools have a compulsory monopoly on the implementation of "learning packages". Only parents who can afford private ed or have the ability, resources and guts to make the life choices that support HE and in my vire antonomous HE can provide their children with real choice in education.

"my work brings me and colleagues into contact with really significant large numbers of them - is the "elected for home ed rather than be prosecuted" groups."

Well then stop prosecuting them and improve the access these families have to felxible creative education. If schools were good children would want to be there. If given freedom to learn children will learn, so provide opportunity for learning, stop forcing it and just see what a difference that makes.

The problem is that education is compulsory and that school education is inflexible, forced and ofen poor both in the educaiton its self and in the emotional support and care provided for children.

It's all very well getting on your hight horse saying these children aren't getting an education if they are not at school. Clearly school had not been working for them. We need to be more creative about how we care for children and allow people to think out of the box in their parenting not force them to follow the guidance of the state.

Currently we are all told how to bring up our children (use day care, use schools, take the advice of experts with 9 months training ...) HE families have rejected that advice and we are pretty cheesed off to find that those who give that bad advice insist and insist that they know better and must check and monitor our parenting.

I hope you have learned enough in the conversations here and in reflection on the children you have contact with to see that EHE is not what should be reviewed. It is the education system that is failing the children you describe and parents who expect it to succeed also fail them as they leave the responsibility to the state, a state that prefers them not to take that responsibility (unless things go wrong when they will blame them of course).

Well our children want us to keep the responsibility to bring them up, our son was not happy when we relinquised some of that to the school, it did not allow him or us the freedom to make the best choices for his learning or his happiness. Now both children are happy with our choices they are good monitors of our parenting and they are the only monitors we need.

elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I think the comment Jeremy made about abuse and safeguarding being the reasons for the review are actually fair.The review was launched with a blaze of publicity that it was to investigate if home educated children were more at risk of abuse and if safeguarding procedures were adequate.
Then the terms of reference and review questions made it clear that this did indeed seem like a red herring and that it was a peg to hang the hat of another review on. You see all this has been reviewed extensively before and this would indeed look like harassment if there was not a new angle to look at it from.So it appears that accusing us of being potential abusers gave them a way back in and maybe the panel will give them the answers they want this time.
If the abuse was seriously an issue they could have used far more efficient ways of getting that information than a non compulsory questionnaire that only a third of LAs filled in.They could have done Freedom of Information requests for abuse statistics.
I am not given to paranoid thinking but it is hard to see that without the abuse card they would have had a reason to undertake the review.
So yes the terms of reference are abut more than possible abuse,but the reason stated for needing yet another review was the abuse issue.
Jo

shena.deuchars said...

I agree about the headline abuse issue being an irrelevant way into the review (and govt would not need to FoI stats - they just ask for them as LAs are subordinate to govt).

However, the review is also not about education. To repeat, the review's terms of reference (ToR) say it "will investigate:
- The barriers to ... safeguarding home educated children and advise on improvements to ensure that the five Every Child Matters outcomes are being met for home educated children;
- The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for [various bad things];
- Whether local authorities are providing ... support to home educating families to ensure they ... provide a suitable full time education to their children;
- Whether ... monitoring the standard of home education [is] needed ... in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes."

Let's distil these into simple categories:
- Item 1 is about welfare/abuse.
- Item 2 is about welfare/abuse.
- Item 3 is about whether LAs are doing a job with which they are not tasked ('support' of EHE families to ensure they are not breaking s7).
- Item 4 is about monitoring the standard of home education.

However much of a 'red herring' abuse is, 50% of this review is about it. As both Stephen Heppell and Graham Badman have agreed that there is no evidence for abuse in EHE families being greater than in the general population, I look forward to seeing a review report that unequivocally says that to govt.

So, what about education? Item 3 is internally inconsistent. You cannot 'support' someone to 'ensure' something. The use of 'ensure' implies a policing function and it is generally accepted that enforcement and support are very difficult to provide through the same mechanism.

I am very unclear as to whether Item 4 is supposed to mean monitoring the process or the outcome. By definition, an 'outcome' can only be measured at the end of a process. With something as complex as the education of any individual, where would you measure it? EHE has many stories that attest to the resulting adult path not being able to be predicted by the child at 7, 11, 14, etc. I would suggest that a more appropriate review would track down adults who were home educated and find out what they are doing now. If more than the general population are a drain on society, unable to support themselves, then the govt can come back and investigate the methods we use.

Anonymous said...

@ Jo

"I am not given to paranoid thinking but it is hard to see that without the abuse card they would have had a reason to undertake the review."

Nothing paranoid about that there have been so many recent reviews of HE the abuse card is necessary to attempt to justify this one.

I wonder though if it is just a lazy plan, with no malicious intent but a dangerous lack of value for our freedom either.

So there is the issue that SH raises of people HEing to avoid prosecution and children out of school because LAs cannot meet their needs and teachers refuse to teach in ways that suit these children so schools won't have them These are the issues the relate in a vague way to EHE. EHE is easy to review and so it will seem like the issue is dealt with. It won't, it will simply spread the coercion that causes the problem from schools into our homes!!

The issues seem to be the difficutly in educating some children in the conventional system and that these questions are not being dealt with head on.

The review that needs to happen is the education of children with special needs of children with emotional difficulties, this would be one great big can of worms though.

I wonder if our freedom to HE in the best way to suit our children without interference from those who know nothing about HE is being risked a a lazy way of plastering over the cracks in the education of these children.

And if there is no great justification for a review into hE itself then why not add the abuse argument in to ensure this lazy response to a deep problem is allowed to follow through?

This is not NIMBYism on my behalf, I care deeply about such children. The education of my own children is my primary responsibility (and one I have the power to carry out effectively). I see no reason for our freedom to be invaded in order for these children to have help, and I believe they should have that help!!. In fact wider use of HE could be a valid escape route for those children. I see few others.

HE also has the benefit of building family relationships and attachment, reaffirming parental responsibility and deepening emotional ties, surely it's a possible cure for all sorts of learning and behavioural issues.

And they dare risk this for fear of dealing with the deeper questions?

I don't believe they are "out to get us" (I may be wrong) I just think they are prepared to sacrifice HE to bandaid a huge ugly sore in the education system.

regards

Elizabeth
with an aching head

Maire said...

And in sacrificing HE they will just be adding more problems to the mix and removing a solution for the involuntary HEers that do it well.

Anonymous said...

@ Elizabeth
"These are the issues the relate in a vague way to EHE. EHE is easy to review and so it will seem like the issue is dealt with. It won't, it will simply spread the coercion that causes the problem from schools into our homes!!

The issues seem to be the difficutly in educating some children in the conventional system and that these questions are not being dealt with head on.

The review that needs to happen is the education of children with special needs of children with emotional difficulties, this would be one great big can of worms though.

I wonder if our freedom to HE in the best way to suit our children without interference from those who know nothing about HE is being risked a a lazy way of plastering over the cracks in the education of these children."

I think this is spot on and actually I wonder what the plan would be once the families are identified and their ehe provision deemed inadequate? A school attendance order issued and not complied with and then prosecution of the parent?
How has the child's situation improved?
Their would still need to be a way forward for these children - if one is found this could be used before families resorted to ehe.
Some families will be interested and concerned about their child's education and I believe that home education should be discussed much earlier. Once these problems are entrenched it is a much longer process even in ehe for a child to recover an interest in learning.
However these are issues to do with the school system and how it handles such situations.
I have now got a vivid image of these children trying to escape school and sticking plasters being placed over their every available exit.Horrible.
But the answer does not lie in changes to ehe law.
How would that help the many more children in similar situations whose parents don't choose to ehe. It is just purely a sticking plaster over one symptom.
Jo

shena.deuchars said...

Stephen Heppell said:
>A question: do any / many of you watch Teachers TV? ... and also,
>have Teachers' TV ever featured home ed, autonomous learning, or
>similar as a programme for teachers to learn from?

They ran We Don't Go To School (http://www.teachers.tv/video/22401) in October 07. It was very good, very positive without a lot of the usual stereotypes.

I have watched a (very) few programmes on Teachers' TV and occasionally look at the listings. However, most of it is irrelevant to home education. My experience of autonomous education is that I did not need "heaps of ideas on making learning engaging" because learning is always engaging to the person who wants to learn. You only need to work on making it engaging if you are going to impose a topic on someone who does not want to know about it.

Maire said...

""because learning is always engaging to the person who wants to learn. You only need to work on making it engaging if you are going to impose a topic on someone who does not want to know about it."

Exactly!

I find many people who have not experienced it think that children who are not forced to learn do nothing useful.

We who have actually tried it know better and are the real experts who should be being consulted in this review.

shena.deuchars said...

I am still interested in Stephen Heppell stating in clear terms the problem to which he is asking us to suggest a solution.

He says:
>my work brings me and colleagues into contact with really
>significant large numbers of them - is the "elected for home ed
>rather than be prosecuted" groups. ... [They] are not time rich -
>or they are themselves ill (and perhaps their children missed
>substantial amounts of school as carers). ... They are not
>reported by schools, and don't have to be

I don't understand what you mean by saying that "they are not reported by schools, and don't have to be". Schools have a duty to report on all under-16s withdrawn from the school roll. It is then up to the LA to apply s437: does it appear that the child is not getting an education? If so, apply the SAO procedure. If not, leave the family to get on with it.

Can you quantify these "significant large numbers"?

If children are acting as carers, they are likely not to succeed at school and, as you say, to be missing substantial amounts of school. I agree with the people who have suggested that that means you need to change what is happening in school. These parents and children are not choosing EHE but they are making a rational decision to avoid prosecution. I would suggest that the school system needs a review to see why children play truant and how the system can change so that they want to be in school. It is a perfectly sensible, rational and intelligent decision not to attend an institution where you are told (implicitly or explicitly) that you are a failure.

As an EHE local contact, I have had people phone me looking for help with deciding whether or not to EHE severely dyslexic children. Starting year 10, one girl was told that she had to attend 10 GCSE classes but that she was not expected to pass any of them. After three months, the parents could see that the girl was depressed but the school would not agree to her taking fewer classes and she was failing and falling further behind in all of them. I asked what they would do after Y11 when she reached 16 with no GCSEs and the mother said that they would send her abroad to work... I do not see the point of making that girl spend two years in lessons and attempting work that she does not understand, thus eroding her self-esteem further. There are many more profitable things she could be doing that would teach her that she can be a useful and valued member of society.

I care about that girl and I am sure that her mother was failing her and failing in her s7 duty. I am not in a position to force the mother to provide a suitable education and, apparently, those who are do not care as long as the girl is corralled for 30 hours a week.

Stephen, why is that a problem to be laid at the door of home education? Why do I need to think of a solution to it? I also care about these children but I do not have the time or the money to do anything about it. I pay taxes and expect the government to use that money to provide the serivce that it claims to offer. I do not expect it to use the money to hound parents who are exercising parental responsibility. How would creating a monitoring system where I was asked to account annually for the progress made by my children have any effect on the children you mention here?

cosmic seed said...

Just to say, I have the distinct feeling we are being steered towards suggesting the removal of the right to de-reg on demand. If this is the case, I would suggest that a look at recent history to see just how far HEers will go to preserve this right for all parents.

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

So, Carlotta, Gill, Jem, others

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

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

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

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

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

S

Natalie said...

Just want to add, sorry, haven't ploughed through all the comments, but I was gutted that BBC Jam went. We'd only found it a few weeks before and if I remember there was some talk about it on the HE lists but we didn't have time to do anything to fight it. If anyone can replace that it'd be brilliant and I'd support it

Gill said...

Yes Cosmic, the words 'conflict of interest' spring to mind, sadly, which has been my point all along. I wish I'd have thought to put it so succinctly earlier though.

mum6kids said...

I've read this thread twice now. Loads of people asked really good questions and so far there are no answers.

Like others I see this as a done deal-and it wont be good for our children.

Maire said...

Hi Cosmic Seed, do you have any links for the history of resistance in the home education movement.

Firebird said...

Re Teachers TV. I've even gone so far as to sign up as an associate, but as Shena says the vast majority of the content is totally irrelevant because we don't need to make learning engaging.

"How do they know which homes to ask these questions of?"

PROFESSIONAL JUDGEMENT.

Dreadfully unfashionable idea I know, but they could look at the information they have and make a Professional Judgement. If they can't manage this they're in the wrong line of work!

If a child has been deregistered from school LA staff could start by calling the school and talking to the head and the child's form teacher to find out if they have any concerns. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that all schools these days have telephones as do LAs and their staff know how to use them.

Contacting any family WHERE THERE IS CAUSE FOR CONCERN to make further enquiries is perfectly allowable under current regulations. If the concerns are over welfare a SW takes on the case, if the concerns are educational an EWO does. Either way it is up to them to use their Professional Judgement.

If concerns have been raised by the school, or someone else, then you would imagine that the enquires would be more rigorous than in cases where they've been told that the school has no concerns and think the parents are going to provide a perfectly suitable education (this does happen).

It's not rocket science, but it requires LA staff to use their brains and accept responsibility for their decisions. Letting them play tick the box isn't going to catch the problem cases because they will be wasting so much time on the families where any idiot can see there is no problem. Annual monitoring is even more stupid, if a family is doing a bloody brilliant job this year why on earth would any reasonable person expect them to stop next year?

cosmic seed said...

Maire that's a good question and the simple answer is, before 2007, no I don't. The AHEd wiki has a lot of info on it from the time of it's inception covering the *light touch changes* debacle. I'm not sure if Clare's sterling work against the pupil reg regs - which threatened to removed the hard fought for right of de reg on demand - is chronicled anywhere. I am currently working on an HE timeline that will include it, and that will hopefully go on the Wiki before much longer.

Maire said...

Thanks Cosmic Seed, it would be very interesting just to sate my curiosity but it also might be a fund of ideas.

I wonder if any old timers know more?

Will post to the lists i think.

Gina xx said...

I'm reading this blog and comments with interest and am wondering what Professor Heppell would do with an Exclusive Brethren family? After all Notschool is reliant on technology and ICT and many Exclusive Brethren home educate. Would he consider not allowing children access to computers (and television for that matter) a child protection issue even if it totally disregards someone's religious beliefs?
I'm not talking from a personal point of view here, but about a family I know.
Saying that, until my children can read, write and use maths using their brains, they are banned from computer use in our household. After all, I never used one until I was 24 and I managed well enough.
What is this obsession with computers and ICT unless it is purely for monitoring.

Carlotta said...

Just got back from an HE camp and read all your comments. Thank you for all of them and thank you also for respecting the spirit of the debate and this quite without any policing whatsoever, please note!

I really do hope ever more fervently for a positive outcome from the review process. The camp made me even more acutely aware of how precious autonomous home education is.

These autonomous young people are extraordinary. I do believe they are now quite different from their schooled peers. They haven't been lied to in subtle and confusing ways. eg: they haven't been told not to bully whilst themselves being perenially bullied, they haven't been taught to believe in democracy whilst living in an autocracy, they haven't been told to believe in the value of free thought, whilst being told very precisely what to think, etc, and this sort of thing means that they are very clear on matters of ethics and epistemology.

They are kind, witty, generous, co-operative, responsible, discerning, shrewd and strong. Their example should be shining like a beacon as the way forward for education, rather than be facing the threat of extinction.

Anonymous said...

quote from Professor Heppell about Notschool. http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=388517 "As the project rolls out to LEAs, Jean Johnson (the project's global leader) and Jonny Dyer (the UK director with their team at Ultralab, impose a quite Stalinist adherance to these many precise details; history has shown that local variations fail, as the latest evaluation makes clear." Stalin, the home educator?