Sunday, March 28, 2010

Will the CSF Bill Kill Children?

Thanks are due to the person who pointed out to me that my contention that children will be damaged by Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill has been contested by a supporter of the Bill. I don't want to get bogged down in unproductive debate with this particular individual who has repeatedly demonstrated an incapacity to argue with a due respect for reality, the rules of logic or with much integrity, but I am prepared to address at least one of his points.

My basic argument is this: if LAs and/or courts are given any greater powers to override parental/familial autonomy with regard to determining the place of education, children who are not suited to school-based education will be forced into schools and will suffer, and some will die as a result.

This for those of us who have known and acknowledged the terrible pain of many schooled children, isn't an unreasonable contention. For everyone else who trivialises the impact of the damage caused by schools, I am sorry but I just can't be bothered to argue this point just now, mostly because I think it likely that the trivialisation of school trauma is such a norm and a heftily entrenched meme amongst school advocates and others, that anything other than the most protracted explanations/investigations/epiphanic moments is unlikely to shift this.

What remains at issue however, is whether the CSF bill will actually override parental autonomy with regard to the determining of the place of education. It is perfectly understandable that there might have been some disagreement over whether the new system for School Attendance Orders (which would result from the overlaying of the CSF Bill) would result in further removal of parental/familial autonomy to decide the place of education, as there is considerable ambiguity about how the re-writing of s437 will play out.

From the relevant sections of the Bill:

"(B1) The authority shall serve a notice in writing on the child’s parent requiring the parent to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is either—

(a) receiving suitable education provided wholly or partly by regular attendance at school, or otherwise than at school under section 19,

(b) registered on their home education register, or

(c) in the area of another authority and registered on that authority’s home education register.

Don't be fooled by the bit about section 19 in B1(a) since this only applies to children whose education is funded by local authorities out of school.

B1(b) and (c) seem to imply that a child must already be on their own or another LA's home education register when the LA make a written request to the parent giving them 'x' days notice to demonstrate that this is the case.

Should the parent fail to demonstrate either a, b or c, an SAO will be issued.

The only possible get-out clause: that a family might be able to scramble an acceptance onto the LA's home education register within the time frame that an LA sets out in the notice, but it is by no means clear that this would be possible and given the ambiguity and the intent behind the law, which is surely to frighten home educators into registering, LAs are almost certain to opt for the first interpretation, ie: if you aren't already on a register...boomf, an SAO is coming your way soon.

From the DCSF's Policy Statement on Schedule 1, (para 18), it seems unlikely that a family will be able to do such scrambling, since it appears that new HEors will only have 20 days to apply to register, whilst HEors who have been in the business a long time will only have three months in which to apply.

It therefore seems highly unlikely that there will be a chance for home educating families to argue that whilst they aren't registered, they are still actually providing a suitable education outside of school.

If the notice runs out before the family can demonstrate that they are on the home education register and the LA think it expedient that the child attend school, the authority shall serve a school attendance order. In considering whether it is expedient that a child should attend school:

"(3B)...an authority shall disregard any education being provided to the child as a home-educated child."

Hmm...so even less chance that a family can get out of jail (I mean school) free then?

So, given that the SAO has been issued, what should a family with a child who would fail in school then do? Most will not dare to face court, (given that the penalty for being found guilty is likely to be a hefty fine, "not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale" - whatever that means) and will therefore probably just accede to authority, and try to cope with all the suffering that this will entail for their child.

On the other hand, if such a family do dig in their heels, what then? At this point, we must look to the re-write of s443.

443 Offence: failure to comply with school attendance order

(A1) A parent on whom a school attendance order is served in respect of a child by a local authority in England, and who fails to comply with the requirements of the order, is guilty of an offence unless —

(a) the parent proves that he is causing the child to receive suitable education, otherwise than at school, under section 19

(b) the child is registered on the authority’s home education register, or

(c) the parent proves that the child is in the area of another authority, and the child is registered on that authority’s home education register.

This seems to make it clear that the courts in England at least are not allowed to consider the nature of suitability of education (again do not be fooled by A1a as this only applies to Section 19 children). Unless the parent is still able to set about getting the child on the register, even at this late stage, my original contention that a parent will have no defence regarding suitability of educational provision in court does indeed appear to stand.

In which case, supporters of the CSF Bill - children will suffer and some will indeed die because of it.

UPDATE:

For other reasons why the CSF Bill will kill children, see Firebird's comment below.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It isn't just home educators

...who are feeling the pain of the police state. Witness this post from The Conservative Blog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why forcing children back into school can be very, very dangerous

Update on yesterday's mail:

I forgot to mention that some HE children are removed from school because the school hadn't managed their health problems well. In our group alone, there are children whose asthma, peanut allergies and diabetes which were either not well managed or would have been very diffcult to manage in school.

When you read terrible stories such as this one, you can understand why parents of such children could be terrified at the prospect of an insensitive inspector forcing children back into school.

And then of course there are all these other reasons.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To all supporters of Schedule 1

...of the CSF bill, Deech, Soley, Badman, Ed Balls, Simon Webb, whoever you may be. Be very aware that by forcing children, either because of some administrative error on the part of parents, or because an ignorant LA officer says so and without any chance to offer a defence in court, back into school, you will almost certainly have blood on your hands.

I personally know of three children who were withdrawn from school because they threatened to commit suicide. I know of two more who were self-harming. An older sibling of another HE child who had been bullied appallingly at school did commit suicide before his parents realised that HE was an option. Death, self-harming, anorexia and other long-term negative mental health sequelae...these will be your legacy.

From my own personal experience of the damage that school can inflict: three out of the 20 or so of us in my house in my year suffered from anorexia, one of them very severely. They were all fine before they went to that school. There were many other smiling depressives, and pupils who ended up with personality disorders of one sort or another, usually narcissism. At least one of the anorexics has nearly died of the disorder many times during her life so far. She is also sterile. Many of the others who suffered less severly said that their symptoms resolved the moment they walked out of the place. Am thinking this is unlikely to be a coincidence.

(Please note, I loved my junior school...I am objective about how people react to situations - unlike some others, it seems.)

School and the schooling model can be EXTREMELY DAMAGING. Get that into your tiny minds, all ye who have never suffered as a result of it. Turn on that part of your brains which appears to have got stuck in the "school is the answer" meme, turn on the ability to imagine how it might be for others who do not thrive in it and turn on the ability to imagine a better way forward for such people.

Well DUH!

Oh dear, a theme is emerging. I just can't be bothered to find a more descriptive title for recent blog posts, what with the welter of rubbish that heads our way.

Apparently,
five out of 37 home educated children in the Merton area are not receiving a satisfactory education.

Hmm. And what criteria are they using precisely? Well, first off, we hear, courtesy of a council spokeswoman, that home education is checked by a "qualified school inspector".

Merton councillors, you really do need your heads seeing to. You wouldn't ask an unqualified lay person to provide testimony on the efficacy of a brain surgeon. Why on earth should home educators be inspected by someone who is not only not trained in the subject, but is trained in another entirely different subject but who appears to think the second is the same as the first?

Really, "duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh" is the only sensible reaction at this point, though I could throw in that I really, really don't want anyone that thick coming anywhere near my family.

Merton confirm their error by talking about the need for a "curriculum". Oh just bog off. Sorry, have lost all patience.

Ok, in calmer mood, here it is - our curriculum that is: the children in our family follow their interests. We, the parents, help them pursue these. We offer our best theories which the children are free to critique and reject if they see fit. We seek common preferences and the children learn without coercion. Unsurprisingly, for those who have seen this process all the way through, this works to create responsible adults.

There, that's our "curriculum". Don't suppose that is good enough for Merton though.

Meanwhile from Birmingham

"Birmingham City Council still in deep denial over Khyra Ishaq tragedy".

"Mrs King's (the judge's) judgment in Family Court proceedings totally demolishes the council's claim that nothing more could have been done to save Khyra because her mother had withdrawn her from school to educate her at home.

This was the line relied upon by Birmingham children's director Tony Howell and cabinet member Les Lawrence, who told a media briefing that legislation giving parents the right to withdraw children from school gave local authorities no powers to enter houses to inspect the arrangements for schooling at home.

In fact, as Mrs Justice King points out, the council had sufficient powers under the Children Act to enter the house where Khyra was being held."

UPDATE

News in the Telegraph of the crippled social services department in Birmingham. We have been saying it all along. Social services are woefully underfunded and not just in Birmingham and there would be no point wasting money on a universal inspection service of all HEors when social services can't even manage families known to be at risk.



DCSF Announce Research into HE

...to start in April 2010.

This is what Civitas has to say about government priorities.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Honestly!

Any passing DCSF person reading this: no home educator was coerced to write a response to any consultation. Everyone replied of their own free will. If some people directly copied responses they had read elsewhere, it is highly likely that they did so because they completely agreed with what is being said. It does not invalidate what they said. They said it because they meant it.

Do not continue to discount what was said with some oblique suggestion that people were jostled unwillingly into responding. The strength of feeling against the proposals in the Children, Schools and Families Bill is very, very real. Home educators know that children could well die as a result of them.

Rate your Local Authority Elective Home Education Staff

...here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Schooling Turns Pupils Off Learning

...says Professor of Education Policy at Newcastle. It seems he is right.

So what's new, home educators might well ask? We have been saying as much for about a decade or so now.

Well for one thing, articles like the ones above point to the inequity of holding only home educators to account over the issue of the provision of a suitable education.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Update on CSF Bill

From Education Otherwise:

Government runs out of time to change law on home education.

Last night the House of Lords debated the Children Schools and Families Bill at Second Reading. You can watch the recording of the debate here, (18.41 - 22.20pm) or read the transcript here in Hansard.

A number of peers made reference to the fact that the Bill will not reach Committee stage, ie the Government has run out of time. The opposition front bench has already made it quite clear that the home education parts of the Bill will not survive the wash-up.

===========

Lord Lucas has much the same message.

Monday, March 08, 2010

From Smug Home Educating Bxxxxxd

After a spate of personal experiences involving negative assumptions about home education on the part of people who know absolutely nothing about it, I have been thinking I should be getting back to basics and should be explaining all over again why home education - particularly the autonomous sort - is so great. However, Grit has saved me the trouble.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Saturday, March 06, 2010

NSPCC says Social Workers should have automatic powers

...to see the child alone. From the Rocket News:

"But Unison, the union that represents most social workers, believes this proposal is not needed.

Helga Pile of Unison said: "We don’t believe there is a need for this duty to be put in place… we fear this could be a blunt instrument and be too heavy-handed.

"There are powers for social workers to get a court order or involve the police if they need to see a child alone, but in many other cases they won’t want to have to go in with this insistence that they see the child at that stage."

Now here's an idea for the government. How about actually listening to the people who actually do the work and know what they are talking about, ie: social workers and you might as well include home educators in that too whilst you're about it.

Social workers understand that families will know that they have draconian powers, and that they risk losing every last ounce of co-operation from families. They know that such powers will put them in an even harder place as they try to balance having the co-operation of the family with the pressure from government to see the child.

And they might as well also know right now that that they will almost certainly lose any hope of co-operation from home educators who will probably just tell their children to be honest about their feelings and just tell these unnecessary interlopers to bog off and that they have nothing else to say.

(This from a mother who, without any rose-tinted glasses on, has seen her daughter be polite, well-mannered, kind, considerate and witty all day and who really doesn't want to have to tell her to behave so rudely, but in the current circumstances, if an NSPCC person turned up on our doorstep, I would say she is perfectly free and within her natural rights to behave as curtly as possible).

A way for a young person to see the world

...very, very cheaply.

Home educated Jack talks about his experiences here.

Barry on the APPG with the Lords

Here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Report from the Lords APPG

available here.

Fifth of primary school pupils 'failing' in English and maths

So how does this square? Are the local authority going to interview all these failing schooled children alone, in their own homes, to determine that they are receiving an unsuitable education, and then, well yes, then what? Issue a Home Education Attendance Order? An HEAO.

It wouldn't make a jot of difference if the school protests or takes the case to court since the courts will be instructed to ignore all representations from the school and just take it on the word of the inspector.

Yes, that would seem only fair under the circumstances.

On Costing Schedule 1

Diana Johnson is still peddling wild under-estimates here.

"We estimate that the cost of the registration and monitoring proposals for home-educated children will be around £26.3 million in the first year and £14.6 million in subsequent years, based on 20,000 home-educated children. We do not have figures available yet for allocations below national level. We will develop detailed funding methodologies for local authority allocations after discussion with the Local Government Association and local authorities."

At least the £14.6 million is a revision in the right direction. In October 2009, they quoted £9.7 million for follow-up years.

Michael Crawshaw's conclusion still stands.

"Don’t be distracted by the spuriously accurate figure of £9.7m. This barely scratches the surface. We stand by our central estimate of £100-300m costs pa - to address a problem that simply isn’t there."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It wasn't for want of the necessary powers

Social services had all the powers they needed. It was simply the fact that they didn't use them.

From the Birmingham Post:

"Lawrence and children’s director Tony Howell can bleat all they want, the truth is that their carefully hatched plot to pass on the blame for Khyra’s death has been exposed for what it is – a cynical, self-serving smokescreen.

A week ago, the pair told a press conference there was nothing more that could have been done by social services or education officials to save Khyra.

This was because Khyra had been removed from school by her mother to be educated at home, and under English law local councils have no right to demand entry to a house in order to make sure a child really is being educated.

That is true, but totally irrelevant in this case, and it didn’t take Mrs Justice King, the judge presiding over care proceedings involving Khyra’s brothers and sisters, to see through such a ludicrous excuse. As Mrs Justice King pointed out, social workers could at any time have insisted on seeing Khyra, talking to her in depth and conducting an initial assessment, they simply chose not to do so.

One of the great unanswered questions surrounding the Khyra Ishaq case is why the council became sidetracked on the issue of her education, when common sense should have suggested that information from teachers about the state of Khyra and her siblings – always thin, cold and so hungry – warranted a full social services investigation.

Another question is which bright spark dreamt up the home education excuse, and why on earth did anyone think the council would get away with it?

Presumably the assumption was that once Khyra’s mother and stepfather pleaded guilty to manslaughter and there was no need for a trial, the full details of social services’ incompetence would never emerge.

Perhaps Coun Lawrence and Mr Howell did not read Mrs Justice King’s coruscating assessment, or maybe they assumed the report would never come into the public domain?"

There's more from Paul Dale here.

"BIRMINGHAM social services bosses might have saved Khyra Ishaq if they had used powers available under the Children Act.

Under sections 10 and 11 of the 2004 Act, local authorities can insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare.

Judge Mrs Justice King, in her ruling on care proceedings for Khyra’s five brothers and sisters, makes the point that if social services had conducted a proper initial assessment, and gained entry to the Leyton Road house in Handsworth, they would have discovered the appalling treatment meted out to the children.

Birmingham children’s director Tony Howell told a press briefing that strict rules preventing local authorities from gaining access to children being educated at home prevented the council from entering the house.

But the council could also have used powers under the 1996 Education Act to intervene “if it appears” that parents are not providing a suitable education.

By serving a notice under Section 437(1) of the Act, Mr Howell could have required Khyra’s parents to “satisfy the local education authority that the child is receiving suitable education”. He did not do so.

If the council was not satisfied that proper educational arrangements were in place, it could have served an order requiring Khyra to return to school.

Read the full court documents here"

Please pass this on to any Lord who might have half a mind to listen to sense.

There's more from the Stirrer and the Birmingham Mail.

Ali Moir does very well from 14 mins into the Danny Pike show.