Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Most Recent Letter to a Lord

We should all be writing now to educate the Lords on the implications of Schedule 1 and to encourage them to speak at the 2nd reading in the Lords. See here for more details about writing to the Lords and visit the Freedom for Children to Grow site for more information on what goes on in the House of Lords. There is also a list of Lords here where some Lords have included an email address in the "biog" section.

Sent via Write to Them:

Dear Lord xxxx,

I am writing to you with regard to the Children, Schools and Families Bill which is due its second reading in the House of Lords on 8th March 2010. In particular, I and many others in the xxxx area are very concerned about the implications of Schedule 1 which may be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmbills/008/10008.38-44.html#m01s

My husband and I have been home educating for over 12 years now. I have seen how it provides a wonderful and invigorating environment which strengthens the bond between parents and children, which allows for a flourishing of talent, which empowers parents to take care of their children to the best of their ability, delivers advantages to the otherwise seemingly disadvantaged child and which makes for successful young people who are very ready to face the challenges of the modern world.

And yet over the past year or so, one could be forgiven, as a general observer, for thinking home educators the most abusive bunch of parents in the land. Home educators have been subjected to a review with the remit to search for evidence that home education is used as a cover for abuse. When this was not easily forthcoming, highly unusual cases, such as the terrible case of Khyra Ishaq, have been cited as the reason for the draconian proposals at Schedule 1.

However it is clear that in every one of these unusual cases, current legislation would have been sufficient to solve the problems, had it been used correctly. In the case of Khyra Ishaq, social services and the home education teams knew that there were concerns and had heard on numerous occasions that she appeared be at risk. Social services simply had to use their current powers as enshrined in s47 of the Children Act 1989:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/ukpga_19890041_en_7#pt5-l1g47

It is extremely unfortunate that they chose not to, though not surprising when you consider how short-staffed, over-worked and under-funded most social work teams are nowadays.

A universal monitoring scheme for all home educators, as proposed in Schedule 1, would not be the best solution here. It would result in the monumental waste of public funds as thousands of otherwise well-functioning families will be inspected for no reason whatsoever and with some devastating implications for these families, and all the while, social work services will be struggling to cope with those they know to be at risk.

Of course, the lack of funding for social service departments only looks set to get much worse from 2011 onwards, and it will therefore be all the more imperative to target the money wisely - where it will be most likely to save children in abusive situations. Schedule 1 will not do this and does not represent a wise investment of public monies.

Further on the ineffectiveness of Schedule 1: if there are any seriously abusive, undiscovered families out there, they are highly unlikely to come forward to register, for what have they got to lose by not doing so? Only law-abiding HEors, with so much to lose, (ie: the right to home educate), will come forward to undergo this licencing process.

It is indeed the case that HEing families have much to lose, should Schedule 1 be enacted. One of the most significant problems is that the licencing process would mean that the state would become the educator of first resort. Parents will no longer be able to determine the nature of the educational provision for their children, since this will be determined by the Local Authority officer. Parents, who after all, usually do know their children best, will no longer be able to tailor the education to fit the child, but will have to provide an education that fits the subjective judgement of "suitable" that the LA officer (a virtual stranger to the child) holds.

This is already a problem for many HE families who are inspected under the current, less draconian regime. It looks set to get much worse should the local authorities be delivered of the powers in Schedule 1. Under Schedule 1, LA officers will be able to force children, many of whom will have previously been failed by state education, straight back into it, simply on a LA officer's say-so. Families will have no defence in courts, as Schedule 1 makes it clear that courts will not be allowed to consider whether the parents were in fact providing a suitable education out of school.

Parents and families will thereby be reduced to acting as agents of the state, required to do its bidding. This will not only undermine parental/familial initiative and familial trust, (qualities that has up till now been very much in evidence in HE circles), but it will also undermine the principles of democracy. A democracy is predicated upon the idea of an articulate, literate and independent populace who are capable of holding the state to account. If everyone is to receive only a state-mandated education, the possibility of a genuine democracy is thereby diminished.

This legislation will have a profound and on occasion, devastating impact upon the lives of many home educated children. We would therefore be extremely grateful if you would consider debating this issue in the House of Lords, not least because this issue received extremely scant attention in the Third Reading in the Commons, and we see here:

http://www.lordswhips.org.uk/display/templatedisplay3.asp?sectionid=5

that there are only a few Lords currently listed to speak.

If you need any further information, you may be interested to know that there is to be a meeting on the subject of Schedule 1 on Tuesday March 2nd 6-7pm, Committee Room 16, House of Commons. Hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group, the room will be available until 7.30pm.

Confirmed speakers:

*Dr. Alan Thomas - has written papers on self-directed/autonomous learning - how successful it is and why you cannot monitor this kind of learning.

*Christine Waterman, on Special Educational Needs and how the proposals would impact on home educated children with SEN.

* Mike Crawshaw, on how the government misled the House of Commons with flawed analysis and discredited statistics.

* Jane Lowe (HEAS) on the current situation with the LAs and why no change in the law is necessary.

Many thanks for you help in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

7 comments:

Fiona T said...

well put as always carlotta : )
Did you mean this or is it a typo? ( I say this to be helpful incase it is to be copied on elsewhere.)

'if there are any seriously abusive, undiscovered families out there, they are highly likely to come forward to register,'

x Fiona

Carlotta said...

No...I didn't. Thank you so much for pointing that out, F. Have just corrected.

Anonymous said...

Birmingham City Council hired Terry Brownbill, a specialist PR consultant, to liaise with journalists in the wake of seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq's death.

The authority’s social services department has been condemned for failing Khyra who was starved to death by her mother Angela Gordon, despite repeated warnings from her teacher and several visits from welfare officials.

Related Articles

*
Video: Max Clifford reacts to News of the World phone tapping scandal
*
Pathologist 'shocked' by emaciated body of Khyra Ishaq

But Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Bar, claimed that the council has paid Mr Brownbill £800 a day for his services.

He said that it was "disgraceful" that the council had spent the money at a time when cuts are being made.

The council has defended its decision to employ Mr Brownbill, citing his “considerable specialist knowledge of supporting local authorities, particularly where children have died in suspicious circumstances”.

It said in a statement: “Being such a small team, there will be occasion when we need additional specialist support, which is why Terry Brownbill, a former national journalist himself, was retained.

"Terry Brownbill attended court every day during two trials regarding the Khyra Ishaq case, to liaise with media, which given the low staff numbers, the press office did not have the capacity to do.

“In addition, his daily attendance at court provided invaluable detailed information about the progress of the case, both for senior managers, and for central government."

Khyra died in excruciating pain in May 2008 after months of abuse by Gordon and her partner Junaid Abuhamza.

Shena Deuchars said...

You say:
> and we see here:
> http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2009/B36.html
> that there are only a few Lords currently listed to speak.

However, that link is to the case for taking the surviving five Ishaq children into care. Did you mean:
http://www.lordswhips.org.uk/display/templatedisplay3.asp?sectionid=5

Carlotta said...

Thank you Shena. Have put it right. Errgh...the phrase "more haste, less speed" has sprung to mind.

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