Saturday, January 17, 2015

What's wrong with the West Midland's position?

Towards the end of 2014, members of the West Midlands Elective Home Education Forum which was headed up by Jenny Dodd of Staffordshire LA, put together a critique of the 2007 Elective Home Education Legal Guidelines (EHELG) which they forwarded to Stephen Bishop, the contact for Home Education within the Department for Education.

This has been ably fisked by Rambling Violets, and thank goodness for that as there are plenty of problems with the West Midland Forum's  take.  There is little point rehashing Rambling Violet's arguments in full, but I would just like to pick out what seem to me to be a few of the most salient points and elaborate a little.

With regard to the voice of the home educated child, WMF complained that:

"the voice of the child is not implicit in the guidelines".

Rambling Violet rightly suggests that this complaint is the height of hypocrisy, given that the voice of the schooled child is routinely ignored whilst the voice of the home educated child is widely respected and acted upon to a high degree and this DESPITE the existence of government guidance that dictates that schooled children do have a right to be engaged as "active participants in their education", and that there must be ways of listening to the views of pupils and/or involving them in decision-making.

It strongly suggests that it doesn't really matter what guidance and guidelines say on the matter of the voice of the child, the authorities will use it for their own purposes, and ignore it when it doesn't suit them.  The authorities haven't any genuine interest in turning children into "active participants in their education".  If they had, they might find that huge swathes of children prefer not be educated in schools, and would far rather pursue an entirely different path outside of school.

But HEors should not be gulled into thinking that it doesn't much matter if the voice of the child does get included in the EHELG. HEors might even think it a good idea since it might, for example, protect an HE child from being forced into school against their will.  However, on balance it is far better to avoid this and for all concerned.

For HEors it is best avoided because of course the real reason why the WMF asked to hear the voice of the child is not because they are remotely interested in what the child says, let alone actually acting upon what he says.  They only want it added to the guidelines so that it becomes clear that they have a remit to insist that they inspect the child.  It has nothing to do with genuine well-being of the child, and everything to do with protecting their backs.

For the state it would be far better not to include this, since if the authorities are to become the ultimate arbiters of whether the voice of the child is being respected or not, they in effect appropriate a responsibility that had previously belonged to parents. The reason why it is possible to write guidance which allows for a schooling authority to respect a pupil voice is because parents have passed certain responsibilities regarding the education of their children to schooling authorities. Schooling parents therefore have, in effect, retained the role of primary responsibility in the act of passing on that responsibility.  Home educating parents, on the other hand, have made no such a delegation of responsibility.  In choosing to educate their own child according to age, ability and aptitude, they have not conferred any duties upon any one else with regard to the education of their children, and this would include considering the voice of the child.

IF the state really does want to take on the duty of final arbiter in the matter of listening to the voice of the child, they must accept that this is the role that they have and all the consequences that might flow from this.  A parent really cannot be said to be responsible for something over which the state does not let him have the final say. So if, for example, the LA doesn't listen to the voice of the child, forces him child into school against his will perhaps, it is the state who should be held responsible and the child could rightfully sue them. The state has appropriated what was a parental responsibility and they should stand accused for any failure that resulted from not acting according to the duties they appropriated.

A very similar argument should be applied to the WMF's complaints about Part 2 of the guidelines, where they appear to become exasperated at the lack of definition of a suitable education. They say quite categorically:

"Efficient education SHOULD include a systematic approach to learning the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy."

Wow, pretty explicit, pretty dogmatic and yep, pretty darn stupid and ignorant!!

Firstly let me just tell you a little bit about our experience.  My son never learnt to read in any systematic sort of a way. I had initially tried to teach him using a systematic phonics programme when he was very young but it hadn't worked at all, he retained absolutely nothing of it as far as anyone could see and he became dispirited and unhappy whenever we tried to do it, so on the advice of quite a number of autonomous home educators who had already been there and done that, I gave up with that and instead provided him with the things that actually did interest him, (mostly video games, computers, musical instruments, trampolines, climbing walls and friends). And that was all we did.  Nothing even remotely resembling a systematic approach to literacy.

Aged 9, he still wasn't reading a word. By age 10, he was an adult level reader.  He learnt to read by wanting to work out how to do the quests on Runescape.  He did this almost entirely on his own, with only minimal help from the readers in his life.  He then went on to get a 100% in his GCSE English coursework and an A grade at a sixth form college.  He is also now predicted an A in his English A level. ie: there really are more than one way to manage these sorts of things.   Had the local authority pitched up at our door insisting we use a systematic approach to learning the basic skills, I have little doubt it would have ruined his love of reading and writing.  He did it when he was ready, to his time-table, and when it really was suited to his age, ability and aptitude.

So really, the education that the WMF would like to insist on seeing would actually cause many parents (who often have withdrawn their children from schools precisely because a systematic approach to education was NOT suited to their child's age, ability and aptitude), to fail in their duty to provide a suitable education.

But just as with the argument about the voice of the child, it should be transparent that in deciding upon the nature of a suitable education, the state would in effect be appropriating parental responsibility for the causing a child to receive such an education.  Parents cannot, after all, be held responsible for something over which they are not the final arbiter.

The situation is analogous to that of a person driving a car.  He is driving along happily, fully aware of his legal responsibilities as a road user, when along comes a hijacker, who jumps into the passenger seat, grabs the wheel and steers the car into a lamp-post.  Who would any high court judge hold responsible for this disaster?  Clearly it would be none other than the hijacker.

And so it would be in the case of the state becoming the final arbiter of the nature of a suitable education and the state will be held responsible when their chosen form of education fails a child. Parents could no longer be held responsible because they simply weren't.  Children will sue the state.

As I say, there is much more of this sort of thing where this comes from, but if Jenny Dodd or anyone else in or advising the newly formed Association for Elective Home Education "Professionals" , including the NSPCC and Daniel Monk has any sense, they will need to think a little bit more carefully before they get so cavalier with the asking for various powers.

Oh and home educators everywhere, don't forget to explain to your MP what a pretty pickle LAs are hoping to create!  


Danae said...

Hi Carlotta,

Yes, so much wrong with the West Midlands ideas. I give that paper an 'F'. When will these LA bods realise that home education is not school, that, if you institute special procedures for home educating children, they will have to do it for all children, and that their ideas of education are woefully inadequate. Equally, when will local authorities realise that there are so many experts around home educating their own children and stop trying to impose a system that has failed a lot of those previously schooled and now home educating youngsters. Argggh.

It all comes from personal ego. We want... We want...

Anyway, I meant to say excellent blog entry.

jOHN nEWELL said...

The solution:

Procedure By Which conservatives Could Control Parliament

If UKIP  is  Lucky,  UKIP could  get,   perhaps,  get   ten to thirty   seats
in  Parliament.  Do  not   forget,   the  public  still regards  UKIP  as   a
one  issue  party.  To gain  control of  Parliament  UKIP  and  (and frie-
nds) should  form a  new  conservative  party  with  a  platform that is 
close to that of the existing Conservative party, omitting, of course, 
policies that are objectionable to conservatives. The purpose would
be to make a bed that would be easy for conservatives to slide into,
including  the eighty  percent  of  the Conservatives who left Conser-
vative  associations. UKIP and the  conservatives  should   then  form
 a  political  association  in  each  parliamentary  district.   UKIP   could
merge with the new party, thus getting rid of the one issue problem. 
Every one who would have worked  to  form  the new,  conservative,
 party   should   be   prevented   from    joining    the    new   party    for
a  period   of time  to  prevent  the  impression  that  UKIP  controls  it.
The two or three conservative parties should hold a primary election
to determine who runs as the Parliamentary candidate, with the losers
to help the winner. The cost of forming new associations can be raised
by local contributors. It is suggested that the  new   conservative   asso-
ciations and the political party be controlled by the lowest level of con-
servatives, such as teachers, small businessmen, solicitors, professionals
etc. If the  above   procedure   can  not  be  completed  in  time  to   get 
candidates   elected   to    Parliament,  the  new  party  must  wait  until
after the  election  and  hold  a  petition  demanding  that  the  elected
MP  resign. Note: an MP  represents   every  person  in  his  district,  not
just members and   supporters of his party. When the petition reaches
fifty percent of those who voted in the prior election, the conservatives
will be morally justified in demanding their MP"s resignation. Then the
new party could run their  candidates  in  the  following by elections. 
To select a candidate, a local  association should  advertise  for applicants
or the position of candidate for  Parliament, then  select   the   best  app-
licant  by using rigorous tests, including, most importantly,  psychological 
evaluation. psychological evaluation is an absolute necessity as the psych-
ological evaluation is the only way to tell who is honest and who is a con-
artist; members of the public  cannot.  Testing  could  be  required  of the 
association  officers,  committee  members and delegates, etc.

The platform, selected by new party associations,  should be some what
 vague in order to facilitate integration  the platforms of the  new  assoc-
iations into one platform. It is suggested that self forming cliques of those
who are   honest  and   trust  worthy  be formed;  then form   self  forming
cliques of those who have   political skills  and  capabilities,  within  the
first described clique.

The corruption in Ukip is a cause for concern. Information about the corr-
uption may bee seen on the following websites:

John Newell