Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Thought Police and the Home Educating Family

The news is that it is now standard practice to ask school kids about how they feel about their schooling. Of course, it all sounds such a charming idea, but naturally enough, we wonder if there is actually any substance to this proposal. For starters, does all that feedback actually make a blind bit of difference? And are the assessments that children provide genuinely free of their own or other people's applied assumptions about what is or isn't possible? It all looks rather doubtful. How many children, for example, are actually going to give expression to the idea "I don't want to be here at all; get me out of this hell-hole", even if in their hearts that is exactly what they would want to say?

But the point I mean to get round to is that it appears that local authorities in some areas seem to think that since these questions get asked of school children, then they should automatically get asked of Home Educated children too.

Hmmm. Just recently I have become curious as to how one should represent that game-show, two-tone BA BAAA noise that indicates some glaringly wrong answer since whenever I think about this LA ploy, I immediately experience this ear-worm playing over and over in the front of my mind so that it becomes very hard to say anything more cogent about the subject.

But here goes. Straining to hear sense through the buzzing, I would say, first off, that the LA is wrong to assume that they have any rights to ask HE kids about their education because parents (all parents) are still (in law) responsible for the education of their children. This means that when a parent decides to devolve some of that responsibility onto state-run schools, then the state does appear to have a duty to assess the efficacy of that education in various ways. However, when a parent does not devolve responsibility in this way, then the state does not have responsibilities in this area and it therefore does not have any prima facie reason for sticking it's nose in.

OK, so we aren't talking here about situations where there is reason to think that abuse and neglect are taking place. The state, in the absense of anything better, (and in my opinion there are better solutions other than the state, such as a fully functioning, mature civil society - an experienced HE group, for example), may have to get involved at this point. I am not even talking about those preliminary informal enquiries which are now deemed necessary in order to ascertain that a home educating parent is at least reasonably clued up. What I am objecting to here is the state is interfering in family life to find out whether a kid is happy with this and that, about their intimate thoughts on their family life and if that isn't a massive intrusion, I don't know what is. So my second huge objection is that this initiative is a massive invasion of privacy, not only of the family, but also of the private thoughts of private individuals.

My third objection, BA...BAAAAAAA....is that one of the objectives of Every Child Matters agenda is that children ENJOY stuff. My guess is that filling in this form, (when the child realises that he is required to snitch on his parents to the state), is not the quickest way to great waves of enjoyment. You have to give the ptb credit for a neat little catch 22 which should automatically mean that HE families are bound to fail at this particular test. Why not send out an automated School Attendance Order a couple of days after sending the first form? The child is bound to be pretty miserable round that time, ergo parents have failed and school is the only answer.

Eugh. I reckon there are many more points one could make here but the buzzing is getting tedious. There is no way I am giving up on this one. My kids can fill in this form if they want to, but if there is the merest hint that they don't want to, then I am binning it and will fight this one to the bitter end.

We don't want the thought police round these parts, thanks.


Ron R said...

Having taught in a college environment where such feedback was collected, what I found was that most of it was not reflected in the next year's classes.

I doubt that in any institutionalized environment that soliciting feedback from the students can be anything other than a window dressing. The nature of institutions prevents it.

4 girls and 3 boys said...

Our LEA has been asking HE kids, where they get to see them, if they like HE for years. On the reports they send back after we send them evidence the part about if a HE child likes HE or not is left with the statement - child not available to ask. Connexions also send out these HE questionaires asking if they like HE and if not why? We have had 3 so far I binned. My older children were in school for while and no one ever asked them if they wanted to be there.

Carlotta said...

I am sure you're right, Ron.

and4G and 3boys...
Good to hear that there doesn't appear to have been any feedback for not filling in the feedback forms...I wonder if this will last, now that the state seems to think that it has a remit to ensure that a child is enjoying himself.

Jax said...

*how* are they asking these children? Should I expect a form in the post?

Carlotta said...

Hi Jax,

It seems the questions directed at children have been coming either with the informal enquiries made by LAs, or with the more formal assessments that LAs feel it is incumbent upon them to make of Home Educators...:(