Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Consent, What Consent?

Three Degrees of Freedom has an excellent post on the government's partial approach to the concept of taking the consent of it's citizens seriously.

I would only say that I think her point extends to plenty of other related areas too. For example, I somehow doubt that this government will be overly exercised over the issue of seeking consent to invade childrens' privacy in the home.

Monday, April 27, 2009

LOTD

is a reply to the TES article: "Home Education Review sparks battle over lack of regulation."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mr Badman and Prof. Heppell on New Learning Systems.

From the Guardian:

"The typical instructional mode of teaching has its place but does not necessarily equip pupils with the skills they need to thrive throughout their education and work careers," explains Graham Badman".

Too right. Now, let's see just how personalised, personalised education really can be, shall we? Could it go all the way and become an autonomous one? The benefits of that are that the learner is properly motivated and engaged, works with open-ended objectives and can ask for feed-back as and when they are ready to hear it.

UPDATE: Prof Heppel's been thinking along similar lines, it seems, this time in the Telegraph: (HT: Jax).

"According to Prof Heppell, getting children interested is always the key to success in the classroom. 'It doesn't matter what the idea is, it's the active engagement of the children that's the secret,' he says. 'When children are engaged with the process of learning, their attitude changes; being a good learner is becoming cool, rather than being the child most likely to fall off the chair or the most disruptive in the class.' "

We absolutely agree. The active engagement of the children IS the secret, but there are several points within this that it is important to recognise:

Firstly, the adult may have a clear picture about what he thinks the child ought to learn, but he would be wise to acknowledge that he might be wrong: the learner may have other more important priorities and the adult would be far better off facilitating these, whilst also, should the moment arise, presenting good reasons for his priorities.

Secondly, the adult must realise that whilst he may present the child with seemingly perfect learning opportunities, he cannot open up the learner's mind and pour the knowledge in...not yet at least.

Whilst these points both apply, the adult is therefore better off, if he genuinely cares about learner engagment, realising that he should offer learning opportunities tentatively, and that it may be simpler just to follow the learner's lead. He may well only need to present options should the learner ask for it.

Another important qualification: the learner must also be engaged with any assessment process that ensues. Assessment won't work either if the child is doesn't engage with it.

Another essential part of successful learning involves a child feeling safe to make mistakes. It is very, very difficult to feel safe in a situation where you know you are being graded and marked down if you don't get things right. The problem with the IT option in schools and with some distance learning programmes is that it would allow for the institution of a technological panoptican where the learner's every move is registered and assessed. His confidence to play around with ideas, to learn from his own mistakes is highly likely to be markedly reduced.

Yet HE children demontrate that they can manage the feedback and self-assessment process extremely well without any enforced assessment. Because they are motivated to learn, they are motivated to improve and are therefore motivated to spot their own mistakes and get better at stuff. They know when they are ready for criticism or need some help and will ask for it if necessary. In this scenario, the assessment process springs naturally from the initial engagement and doesn't have to be forced upon them.

What We're Up Against

My hope is that Mr Badman, who actually struck me as someone who might not lightly dismiss the genuine concerns of the citizenry in favour of doing something ineffective in order to satiate the governments desire to be seen to do something, will work through the options as outlined below and draw the same conclusions as to the most viable approach:

"So what could the review team propose? We suggest that they look closely at the current law and accept that it represents a reasonable solution to the problems we face; that the wisdom resulting from the evolution of the relevant law over time be not lost in a fit of hysteria over what should be seen to be done; that LAs learn to work more adroitly with current law and that they be appropriately trained to understand that home education is not the same as school education and that whilst it cannot be judged by the same criteria, that in a huge majority of cases, it works, and works outstandingly well.*"

But we mustn't be fooled. We really are up against it, I think. Gill has been researching the members of the review panel here, and so far it does seem as if nitty-gritty knowledge of at least certain types of home education, particularly autonomous HE, is somewhat sketchy. I do hope that the review team will follow Mr Badman's example and try to find out more about it, particularly if they feel that they don't have the expertise they require.

But even if they do, I reckon we are up against it. The conclusion above* may be the sensible one and the arguments sound, but the pressure on the review team isn't just coming from LAs who cannot see that they have sufficient powers already, and that by asking for even more powers, they will be held all the more responsible when they fail to use them.

Whilst plenty of junior staff at the DCSF seemed more than ready to admit that the school system is a dinosaur and that the model of home education had much to be said for it, ministers at the top appeared to be far less well briefed. We had Ed Balls, MP, telling us that he wouldn't home educate his children because he would worry about their socialisation. Ed, just in case this message still hasn't reached you, THIS ISN'T A PROBLEM. In fact, most HEks are SO much better socialised in every sense of the word than schooled kids, this criticism is frankly laughable.

Worse, this most basic of misperceptions is reiterated at the top by none other than the Minister who is sometimes named as being in charge of Home Education, ie: Sarah McCarthy-Fry.

from the Portsmouth News:

"Mrs McCarthy-Fry also believes the relative lack of social contact by being taught at home can also be an issue.

'The limited socialising that can be available to home educated children is something that would worry me but that's the parents right.

'Education is about preparing children for their life in the world. Going to school and mixing with other children does that.'"

Mrs McCarthy-Fry, we live in one of the most rural parts of England, and yet we are swamped with options for socialising our kids. For starters, there are usually at least three HE meetings a week somewhere in our vicinity where we can mix with up to over a 100 others of all ages. We organise these meetings ourselves, involving the children in this process. In the course of this, we learn about taking responsibility for ourselves, about how to work in big co-operative groups, about how to resolve differences, about how to engage everyone. We have to adapt, learn and seek solutions.

Because our children are there because they want to be there, not because they are forced to be, they do not have to learn the lesson that they shouldn't bully from someone who is bullying them, (as so many school children have to do). They do not have to learn about the benefits of a democracy whilst living in an autocracy, (as school children also have to do). They do not have to be preached to about the benefits of equal opportunity, whilst being constantly marked and graded and differentiated from their peers. They do not have to suffer 11 years minimum of being told pretty precisely what to do and then to have to adjust to living in a world which requires initiative and self-motivation to get by.

Instead, they can see for themselves the benefits of co-operation and mutuality, of democracy, of being inspired by what you do, and the value of pursuing your interests as a means of developing your skills.

It does work, believe me. I have now seen enough of it to know that we don't make inflated claims for ourselves in our blogs. HE children, particularly autonomously educated ones, do have something special to offer by way of an example. Do not snuff us out!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Home Education Review in the TES

From the TES:

"Social workers are calling on local authorities to increase the monitoring of home-educated children as a government review into the safety and welfare of the controversial practice gets underway."

OK, school advocates, clear your minds just for the moment.

Which out of the following two options would you say should be deemed controversial, A or B?

==========

1A. You train someone to live in a democracy by making them live in an autocracy.

1B. You help someone understand the merits of living in a democracy by taking their views on board, by engaging in discussion, by allowing for the evolution of ideas.

==========

2A. You tell someone that bullying is not acceptable but nonetheless bully them on a regular basis.

2B. You offer someone the theory that bullying is a suboptimal way to preceed, you set an example by not bullying, and you explain why bullying is inefficient...because it inhibits creativit and rationality.

===========

3A. You preach the benefits of co-operation whilst encouraging everyone to compete.

3B. You explain the benefits of co-operation whilst demonstrating it yourself.

===========

4A. You preach the benefits of self-motivation and initiative whilst telling people precisely what to do.

4B. You make the space to allow for self-motivation and initiative to flourish.

===========

5A. You preach the benefits of free speech and thought, whilst telling people pretty precisely what to think.

5B. You create the space which permits of free speech and thought.

===========

6A. You like the idea that people be able to pursue their interests whilst telling them to stop pursuing them and go on to another subject.

6B. You make a space so that people can pursue their interests.

===========

7A. You acknowledge that a person may learn in vastly different ways, and yet you set a very strict body of work that they should learn.

7B. You acknowledge that a person may learn in vastly different ways and you cater for this.

===========

8A. You think it a good idea that people learn to relate to others of all ages and yet you segregate them by age.

8B. You let people mingle as they will and let them make their own way in this regard.

===========

9A. You encourage the idea of equality of people whilst grading and marking and differentiating between them.

9B. You acknowledge that people are different and have different interests and you create a world where each to his own.

===========

10A. Sometimes you acknowledge that failure is an important part of learning, and yet you penalise it when it happens.

10B. You create a space where failure is deemed an important part of learning.

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

OK, so these are just a few of the issues, but on the basis of just these few examples, which out of the above would you say SHOULD be controversial?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Home Education Review - Possible Outcomes

Speculation continues to abound in the HE community as to what Mr Badman will recommend as a result of the HE review.

Home educators have put the case against government monitoring of education very strongly: they have explained (yet again) that state monitoring of HEors will abolish the principle that parents should remain responsible for the nature of the education of the children of this country, and would turn parents into mere puppets - only responsible for delivering a state-determined education.

Perhaps this problem for the government is one of the reasons why the Tasmanian model may appear a tempting option for them: by handing over the responsibility to monitor home educators to other home educators, it could appear to solve the problem of the government taking on responsibility for the education of all children. But is this really the case? By instigating any inspection of standards of education, implicitly the government is still insisting on setting the form and content of education. The imposition of a layer between HEors and the government will not obscure this fact.

As it is, we doubt that many HEors would be prepared to take on this role. EO and HEAS have reportedly said they won't do it. However, there are perhaps some rent-seekers out there in the HE community, probably those who themselves are quite happy to deliver a government-style education, who might offer themselves up for the job, but in the act of so doing, they would reveal their consent to operate within a government system, and parental rights to determine the form and content of education would clearly be compromised.

So what other options might the review team be considering as a means of making sure the state has a right to intrude upon every HEing family, whether or not there is any reason to be concerned?

Some HEors believe that it is possible that a Bedford-style scheme (website interestingly currently unavailable), may be rolled out nationally, perhaps along the lines of a Notschool model. It has often proved difficult to get a clear picture of what the Bedford scheme entails, and we wonder if this an accident. We do know that those within the scheme receive funding from the local authority, that they are required to register with some sort of frequency, and that exams are part of the picture, but whilst some HEors have reported that the scheme is capable of accommodating autonomous educators, others have said that this is completely impossible. It does seem as if the scheme's requirements of HEors have mutated from their original ones. For example, the latest we've heard is that learners are required to report in daily via the internet and to account for their time for at least half of the working day.

Home educators worry about the roll-out of such a scheme since he who pays the piper will inevitably call the tune. Mutations from benign to much more highly structured and strictly controlled systems are highly likely to happen and HEors are likely to end up being compelled to do school at home. It would wreck havoc on the HE community, with some being tempted into the scheme, thereby destroying support systems and probably friendships, whilst those who remain outside the scheme would all the more readily be picked off by the LAs.

Despite all this, it seems to me though to be an unlikely outcome. There is the huge expense of such a proposal. It would presumably mean that PCs would have to be provided for all HEors, for example, plus access to exams and exam centres. Then there is the likelihood that with the recession, and higher rates of unemployment resulting in more parents being at home, if people were to see that there was a school-type option outside of school that is fully funded, there may well be a huge exodus from schools. HEors would certainly do their best to put it about that such schemes exist. Those on the Bedfordshire scheme have managed to keep it low-profile, only known about locally and to those who are already home educating, but if such schemes were rolled out nationally, it would be far harder for those managing them to prevent word from getting out.

So if the education route looks like a non-starter for government, we reckon that they must be looking at the welfare option as a means of getting access to our children. Putting aside questions as to whether the same person who was responsible for setting up the Every Child Matters system should be the one reporting upon it when it fails, it looks as if we have to look to the Laming Report on the Baby P case to see if there are any possible implications for us. Recommendations for action can be found from page 83. Plenty of them are so vague as to make it impossible to determine their implications for us, and nowhere is it stated explicitly that universal safe-and-well checks must be instigated for home educators, which is a good thing as this would be a crazy outcome, for both practical and constitutional reasons.

Practical objections include the problem of insufficient and insufficiently experienced manpower. From the Times Online, we hear how Laming has acknowledged the current stresses upon social work departments:

"He strongly criticised social services departments, which he said suffered from “low staff morale, poor supervision, high caseloads, under-resourcing and inadequate training”.

Children were being put at risk because of councils’ obsession with targets on deadlines and processes, rather than focusing on the risks.

Social workers needed far more rigorous training in child protection, he said. A social worker could complete a degree without ever coming into contact with a child and inherit an entire caseload on the first day in the job.

That contributed to high turnover of staff as they struggled with the pressures of dealing with dysfunctional families and left the profession in droves. In some parts of the country, half of the social workers had less than two years’ experience, he said."

Given this current state of affairs, how would universal monitoring of a group largely made up of well-functioning families actually help? This would look to run foul of Laming's injunction that councils shouldn't focus on targets and processes, but rather upon those at risk, and it would, of course, place already over-burdened social workers under increased strain.

Other practical objections include the problem of whether such visits would reliably turn up abuse. After all, Baby P's abusers managed to disguise appalling abuse, even from a paediatrician. What hope for an inexperienced LA person unearthing abuse with a once a year visit? Lord Laming himself is naively blase on this point. In his evidence to the Children, Schools and Families Committee he stated:

"I think that when any of the key services go into a home, they can immediately assess whether this home is a child-centred environment, whether it feels good for the child, whether it even smells good, and what the interaction is between the child and the adults in the child's life. I think it is on that basis that you begin to form a picture as to whether or not the child is having to adapt to the needs of the adults, because it has no choice, or whether the adults -however inadequate they may sometimes be -are actually trying to address the needs of the child. I think that sometimes the services travel too optimistically -they hope for the best-and sometimes I think that they get diverted. Their attention gets diverted on to the adult agenda and they forget that it is actually the child that is their client; it is the child that is their responsibility. I really think that we need to hold on to the fact these services should be judged primarily in some respects-I wanted to say "solely", but certainly primarily-on how well they actually look after children."

What Laming fails to address, despite his own experience of social work, is that if you are to have such a high level of suspicion, you would be referring a huge wodge of society for further intervention by government. This is obviously impractical for the resourcing reasons stated above, but would also be hugely damaging to families everywhere as everyone becomes aware that they are the subject of suspicion and that children could be removed from them much more precipitously, as has been recently proposed both by the NSPCC and Barnardos.

There would also be the damage incurred as a result of false positives:

"The harm (of unnecessary referrals to social workers) to families can be direct and immediate such as family breakup, sick leave from work, alcoholism and substance abuse. There are also additional medical complications such as: depression, and anxiety, requiring medication and the extra loading of hard pressed doctors. Parents are placed in a high state of anxiety with a fear of their own child being removed, and constant fear of the house being attacked and invaded. A stressed state results lower immunity and increased sickness levels.

Hansard House of Commons 1-May-95 4:15pm

Mr Robert Hughes (Aberdeen North)

The social work department felt it necessary to lay charges against six different families, and to take all the children of those families into care immediately, at 7 o'clock in the morning. By the Tuesday of the following week, all the children had been returned home, but it took almost two years before the charges against the six families were finally dropped.

Those families were devastated. In some cases, marriages split up; in others, people were so demoralised that they became alcoholics. I understand that, even today, people in buses that travel through Aberdeen and pass a house belonging to one of the falsely--as it turns out--accused families say, "That's where those bloody child molesters live." A charge of child abuse can have serious repercussions.

We have seen there are 140,000 referrals a year where no further action is taken. So we can say that roughly 280,000 innocent parents per year will be devastated and in some cases marriages will split up, or they will turn to substance abuse. It seems questionable that 280,000 parents need to be damaged in order to take into care 10,500 cases. The harm is in summary:

Health problems: anti-depressants, reduced immunity, depression, anxiety

False accusations are kept on file despite all attempts to prove innocence

Mud can be thrown until some sticks

Permanent damage to reputation

Could affect future job applications"


There is also the constitutional implications of universal safe-and-well checks. The question must be asked as to whether it is a reasonable constitutional precedent that people be subjected to such a high level of intrusion when there is no reason to suspect a problem, for this would surely alter the relationship of person and state.

Throw in the fact that the Children Act 2004 led to the establishment of the role of the Children's Commissioner with the task of giving a voice to all children and young people, and that Section 53 of the same Act states that:

"Before determining what (if any) services to provide for a particular child in need in the exercise of functions conferred on them by this section, a local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare—

(a) ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings regarding the provision of those services; and

(b) give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes and feelings of the child as they have been able to ascertain.

and you get the feeling that the state would be contravening their own laws by insisting on universal monitoring of home educating children since every time HE children have been solicited for their views on this subject, a large majority say they would far prefer not to have to suffer the attentions of agents of the state.

So what could the review team propose?

We suggest that they look closely at the current law and accept that it represents a reasonable solution to the problems we face; that the wisdom resulting from the evolution of the relevant law over time be not lost in a fit of hysteria over what should be seen to be done; that LAs learn to work more adroitly with current law and that they be appropriately trained to understand that home education is not the same as school education and that whilst it cannot be judged by the same criteria, that in a huge majority of cases, it works, and works outstandingly well.

UPDATE: We hear there are no plans for a review of Home Education notb. Let's hope the review team in England could draw a few useful conclusions from this:

"Mr S asks whether a review into Home Education will be conducted in the near future. Following extensive consultation, the Scottish Government issued new Home Education Guidance in January 2008. The guidance sets out the rights and responsibilities for home educating parents and local authorities and we consider, sets out a framework where home educators and local authorities can establish positive relationships and mutual respect. This guidance has received very positive responses from both home educators and local authorities. We therefore, have no plans to carry out a further review on Home Education."

For your constituent's information, I have attached a link to our Home Education Guidance.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gotta Laugh

One of the few laughs that DS and I have been getting out of this review, (and believe me, DS's humour is happily dark as a rule: Me at supper: "I think Susan Boyle sings so well because of all the suffering she's experienced". DS: "Well that should mean you sound fantastic, but you don't"), has been trying to work out the maths that is evidenced in quite a few of the responses to the Home Education Review by the Local Authorities.

Take Lancashire's response by way of but one example:


Q13 Total Number of Home Educated Children (Registered with LA)
479

Q14 Total (Non-registered with LA)
Not known

Q15 Are these figures accurate or based on estimates?
Accurate

Q19 How confident is the local authority in the accuracy of this data?
Very confident

Q21 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is statemented for SEN? (please state whether accurate or estimate)
5% accurate

Q22 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is non-statemented for SEN (please state whether accurate or estimate)
95% accurate

Q23 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage (please state whether accurate or estimate)

25% accurate

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

So how exactly do these figures stack up? I guess it might be me as I am dozy this am and any residual ability to calculate accurately goes out the window when tired, BUT if the total number of HEors are not known about, how can they be sure of their percentages of, for example, SENs? Or do they mean their figure for SENs is only 5% accurate? Or are they only using the numbers of children they do know about? In which case, what sort of child is 5% of 479 children?

In defence of their figures, I guess it would be understandable that such a child would have an SEN.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HE Review - Panel Members

From Freedom for Children to Grow:

"This information has been provided by the Review Team:

Rationale

The independent review of home education will gather, analyse and interpret a wide range of evidence before it reaches any conclusions and makes recommendations to Ministers. It is imperative that the process is supported by a range of experts to ensure recommendations are rigorous and firmly rooted in evidence.

Role and remit

The Group will act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Review team. It will be used to cross check the interpretation of evidence and gain expert insight into key issues, such as the operation of current processes and practice within LAs; child development and the outcomes of home educated children; and child protection for example. It will also act as a sounding board for emerging findings and recommendations, ensuring they are based on firm evidence, are workable and will actively improve outcomes for children.

The group will not be asked to comment on drafts of the review report but may be invited to check specific parts of it, for example, aspects of the report that are pertinent to their area of expertise.

Input required

We anticipate that the Group will meet approximately three times during the course of the review (January – May 2009), with meetings of approximately 1-1.5hrs. Travel expenses will be paid.

Expert Group Reps

The Expert Panel

Area Details
Early Years, home learning environment, child development Professor Ted Melhuish, Birkbeck, University of London
Education / curriculum Mick Waters – Director of Curriculum, QCA
Child protection / 3rd Sector Delroy Pommell, Director, London and the South East, Barnardos
Safeguarding Steve Hart, (HMI, Ofsted)
SEN Jean Humphreys (HMI, Ofsted)
3rd Sector Paul Ennals – Chief Executive, NCB
ICT / future technologies Professor Steve Heppell, Trustee of NotSchool.net
Children’s rights Sue Berelowitz, Chief Executive, 11 Million
Safeguarding Professor June Statham, Institute of Education
Education Professor James Conroy, Dean of Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow
SEN Beth Reid, National Autistic Society


OK, at the very least I shall be trying to contact Susan Berelowitz to tell her that when polled, a large majority of HE children say they would prefer not to see LA personnel and that of course, this must be given due consideration, not simply because this is only right, but also because it says so under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

"Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Douglas Carswell MP

...on funding for home educators in Essex.

It will be interesting to see how accountable these parents will be expected to be but I would hazard a guess that they will be held to a far higher standard than state-run schools and the parents who use them.

Mr Badman's Letter to LAs

To: Director of Children’s Services
Lead Member for Children and Young People

January 19, 2009

Dear Colleague

Independent Review of Home Education

Today, Baroness Morgan, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Children, Young People and Families announced an independent review of home education in England. I am delighted that she has asked me to lead this review.

I know you and your staff are committed to ensuring that all children are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes. However, we know that some colleagues feel that they are not able to ensure that all home educated children are able to do so. The Secretary of State has asked me to investigate if and how far children who are educated at home are able to achieve the five outcomes; assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for ensuring their safety, welfare and education; highlight good practice; and, if necessary, make recommendations for improvements. The review’s terms of reference are attached to this letter.

Over the next three months I will gather views and evidence primarily through interviews with key stakeholders such as local authority staff, home educating parents and home educated children and their representative groups, and other relevant organisations. There will also be a public call for evidence. I will also examine research evidence and review the law and guidance.

I very much need your assistance to ensure we know the full spectrum of practice across the country. With that in mind, I would ask that you complete a questionnaire about your arrangements for supporting and monitoring home educating families. The questionnaire can be found at: http://www.myopinion.org.uk/dcsf/homeeducation/index.cfm. We ask that you respond by Friday 6th February. Completion of the questionnaire is entirely voluntary and responses will be confidential. The questionnaire also asks whether you would be willing to participate in more in-depth work. I intend to look at a small number of local authorities in more detail, investigating key aspects of their practice and interviewing members of staff. Again, participation is entirely voluntary and, should you be selected, completely confidential. Interviews will take place in February and March. I shall report to the Secretary of State in May 2009 when I will publish my full report.

I very much appreciate your taking the time to support this important review and I look forward to hearing from you in February. Should you wish to discuss this work with me further, please contact Elizabeth.green@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk.


Yours sincerely,

Graham Badman
Chair, Independent Review of Home Education


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

Review of Elective Home Education

Terms of Reference

Background and Rationale

The Department is committed to ensuring that systems for keeping children safe, and ensuring that they receive a suitable education, are as robust as possible. An independent review of home education is part of this continuing commitment.

Parents have a well established right to educate their children at home and Government respects that right. There are no plans to change that position.

However, where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child, effective systems must be in place to deal with those concerns. The review will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements and will, if necessary, make recommendations for improvements.

Terms of reference

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.

Timing

The review will be conducted over 4 months, starting in January 2009 and concluding in April 2009 with a published report in May 2009. Ministers will then consider whether any further work is required on any aspect of home education, on the basis of the findings contained in the review report.

Scope

The Review will focus on practice in England but may consider relevant material from the devolved administrations within the UK and elsewhere.

Review methodology

The review will be led by Graham Badman, former Managing Director, Children, Families and Education in Kent. It will:

• Map existing practice and consider the effectiveness of different practice – including identifying best practice - in England and elsewhere in monitoring home education from an Every Child Matters perspective;
• Identify what evidence there is that claims of home education are, or could be, used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse under current monitoring practice;
• Consider evidence of the effectiveness of current monitoring practice contained in Serious Case Reviews, Joint Area Reviews and other relevant inspections and reviews;
• Seek evidence on how the systems operate in practice from key stakeholders including home education groups, home educating families, local authorities and children’s charities;
• Identify areas for improvement and make recommendations for any changes to strengthen current arrangements.

The review will gather views and evidence through a literature review, a review of the law and guidance and a series of interviews with key stakeholders representing the range of interests. It will consider how effectively arrangements are currently operating, focusing on the operation of systems and procedures and not on individual cases. The review team will contact key stakeholders and invite submissions. Other stakeholders who wish to contribute can do so by going to www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/ete/homeeducation.

The review will also consider the views of stakeholders gathered as part of the recent public consultation on the statutory guidance on children not receiving a suitable education.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

re: Notschool Debate

We got back from an HE camp late last night and I've just now read all your comments here. 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 by the very people who tell them not to do it, 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.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unwaveringly Determined...

Just back from an HE camp.

There was so much that was invaluable and I don't mean just the fresh blast of thriving eco-systems. I mean that my youngest spent most of the week with a group of others who were almost twice her age and this with no effort on anyone's part; that we grown-ups are learning all the time about how to manage in big co-operative groups; that every night as I drifted off, I could hear the hum of the nimble-witted conversation, no adult moderation now needed, between young people who love each other so much and who work for each other.

These things really are special. We will not give this up lightly just because the government cannot yet be certain of it's value.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Points from the Debate for Prof. Heppell

Ok, next plan: in lieu of writing a summary, I am just going to quote you lot from comments, in the hope that this will raise a few of the most relevant themes from the reams of pertinent points. Hope that's OK and apologies if others detect themes I have missed. Please do let me know!

(NB: Have just found a moment this morning to add to this with a couple of other pertinent comments).

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On the subject of the Review itself:

From Shena:

"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."

From Mum of 6:

"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 point; 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."

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On the subject of autonomy and monitoring:

From Bruce (Maire's husband):

"I have a question for Prof Heppell. What difference (if any) does he see between personalised 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."

From Barbara:

"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."

From Diane:

"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."

And more on why monitoring is unhelpful courtesy of a TCS link.

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On the subject of increasing state intrusion into private life:

From Firebird:

"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....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!"

From Gill:

"They can't do this. It's in contravention of article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

…which states that:

No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation."


From Anon:

"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."


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On the subject of child welfare:

From Ali:

"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'."


From Jo:

"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 two 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."


BloggerFrom Jemmo:

"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, ClimbiƩ 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?"


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On ignorance surrounding HE.

From Allie:

"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."

From Dani:

"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."

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Summary of points:

From Renegade Parent:

"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....

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."

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Human Rights and the HE Review

I've been trying to find a moment to summarise the themes that have arisen in comments here and have failed miserably so far. Apologies. In lieu of this, I thought I would just raise one anonymous comment to post level...(hope that's OK), as I do think it makes several of the many essential points that were raised:

"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."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Home Educators at the Conference on 21st Century Schools

Further on the sentiment expressed by These Boots in the discussion in comments below, (that many of us are interested in improving the learning experience of all children), there is a report here on home educators trying to raise the profile and methodology of HE at a conference on the future of schools.

Of note, we had Ed Balls MP telling us that he wouldn't home educate because he is worried about socialisation. Of course, the HEor did the best she could at the time and EO twittered about this too:

"Ed Balls said yesterday he fears HE kids miss out on socialisation. We say "Ed you need to meet our kids and see just how wrong you are!"

EO are followed on Twitter by the DCSF.

And just in case you ever come by this way, DCSF, just to tell you that honestly Ed's fears are completely unfounded. If anything loads of HEors are remarkably well-socialised and have a huge sense of civic and personal responsibility. We, parents and children, have to learn how to do it for ourselves. We find out how to set up and run groups, about how to be inclusive, about how to work with others of all ages and cultures, about conflict resolution etc. It is easily possible for all HEors, no matter where they are in England, to socialise their children. I myself live in one of the most rural parts of England. At last count there were 45 HEors at the meeting we help to run in a tiny, tiny country town. We go to other groups in the neighbourhood and meet with loads of other HEors there. We form lasting friendships. Please believe us: we are so often model citizens that Ed does need to adjust his views on this point.

But back to the meeting, it also worth noting that Jon Coles, Director General of Schools, claimed to the floor that it would be a bold experiment to let children decide on their own learning and that most parents would not want to go down this route. An HEor later challenged him on this point also in front of the entire hall and within Ed Balls' hearing, saying that home education had been around for a long time and that it could offer a model of the success of child-led learning, should he be interested.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Deadline for Signing

...the petition is tomorrow. Please do sign if you haven't already.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

More Information on Notschool

...has been provided by an anonymous commentator here, as a result of which, I am now interested to know if Notschool could actually cater for autonomous educators.