Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This is Bristol

From This is Bristol, a letter that merits being quoted in full:

"The Government, in its infinite wisdom, has now decided that a consultation needs to be held to review the regulations concerning home educated children.Instead of allowing a flexible and personalised approach to learning to be devised by individual families in order to create the optimum environment for education, home educators are to be confined by rules and restrictions that will stifle the conditions that have inspired our children to thrive.

As a nation, every aspect of our relationship with our children is becoming regulated and it seems that it is time to start saying "stop". Statistics concerning how this government has failed state-educated children tell me it is in no position to dictate on matters of education.

Every child does indeed matter, and those of us who are willing to take personal responsibility for our children's educational welfare are effectively freeing up state resources and places in schools for those families who really do need assistance. More information may be found at www.freedomforchildrento grow.org

Hannah Walker, Withywood, Bristol. "

Paper from Birkbeck on Home Education

It rather looks as if the writer didn't finish this paper, which may be not altogether surprising, given that his conclusions look to be erring towards a vast conflict with the evidence! Monk's paper has, however, alerted me to the fact that I must re-read my Bowlby, as I admit I read Bowlby's work on attachment at a time when I was most interested in his theories of infancy. Whilst Monk may be right to suggest that Bowlby's child-centred approach was at least partially responsible for the childrens' rights movement, I don't think one could possibly infer, as I think Monk tries to do, that home educators pay any less regard for children's rights than do schooling parents, and that problems of attachment and separation exist for home educated children.

(I say this with quite high measure of confidence, whilst thinking of all those children in our ken who I am quite sure would be diagnosed securely attached in anybody's scheme of things, and yet who have actively chosen, infinitely prefer and thrive upon home education)

Home Educating Stories from Teeside

...containing, amongst other delights, a report of a husband/dad who was converted from totally against home education to totally for it within the space of a fortnight.

London Workshop on Government Consultation on Home Education

Fantastic - here's notice of the Campaign Workshop in Westbourne Grove, W11, Saturday March 24th.

Just wait for the download...and get there if you can.

Thanks Raquel.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Challenging School Memes

Will Richardson writes about the theories of education that teachers and other educrats could usefully challenge, regarding the advances in technology as the trigger for these challenges. Of course, home educators will have been challenging the same sort of school-based memes for many years, though we have been doing this on the basis that real learning takes place when the mind is actively engaged in the process of criticism and creativity, and is not treated like an empty bucket into which knowledge must be poured. In other words, learning happens when the learner is intrinsically motivated, and not to order in a classroom full of other people with differing needs and interests.

Annie Nails that Research

New HE blog Where Truth Grows carries a trenchant critique of the York Consultancy research on Home Education.

Here's a snippet:

"What York and the DfES really worry about is 'how the learning of these children could be assessed.' Why should my children's education need to be assessed by people who make no moral or financial contribution to it? All they need to know is that on the balance of probabiliites education is taking place - the details are for the family."

Home Education in Junior Magazine

Getting them young. Iris is quoted.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Home Education in the Times

But not to do with that research this time. Is that Simon Barnes, as in the Times Chief Sport's Journalist, I wonder? (Update...yes, according to Freedom for Children to Grow. )

What a Treat!

Issue 5 of Mike Fortune-Wood's Journal of Home Education dropped through the letter box today. It deserves the highest praise, and not just from Dd about the cover "Now that's a proper snowman!" It contains almost all the things I wish I'd ever said about Home Education and much, much more besides. There are articles about the recent victory for freedom in home education in France, the successes that home educators experience with their approach to literacy, plus a truly tragic tale from Duncan J. Sibley which serves to demonstrate how very badly wrong things can go when the state imagines it knows better than the parents how to educate children.

I have decided to make this edition of the journal (and probably the others too when I get my hands on them) required reading for any LA official who dares to step foot in this house.

Message via the BBC: Don't Pester Home Educators

The comments section on the BBC piece on the York Consulting Ltd research is getting it about right. Top of the recommended comments:

"I'd suggest state schooling needs to be more closely monitored than home schooling.The useless, certificate-ridden automatons that those box-ticking factories churn out these days are an insult to anyone who has actually had to work to earn their qualifications."
Topsy Turvey, England, United Kingdom
Recommended by 72 people

"Why – so the government can ruin it as well?"
anon., UK
Recommended by 71 people

"I was home educated until aged 16, only going into a school to sit exams at GCSE time.I have top grades in all subjects and believe I am better educated than the people who went to my local comp.I have social skills to interact with others my age, and do not believe I have missed out on anything other than bullying and bad teaching."
Joanna Mountney, Manchester
Recommended by 60 people

"I've met a fair few homeschooled kids who are now adults.Anybody who mindlessly bleats "socially stunted" is plain ignorant and prejudiced."
Winnie the Pooh,
Recommended by 55 people.

Telegraph Getting it Right

Coo, the Telegraph is on a roll: first an short and positive update on the home education situation in the UK, in response to the most recent bit of research and then (finally, alleluia), a story on the damage done to children when they start school at age 4.


On the other hand, the Guardian write-up of the NFER report irritated HEors with the following:

"A DfES spokesman said: "Standards [in schools] have never been higher and with record funding in our schools we believe the best place to educate a child is actually in school. "

to which many HEors just say "Ha! Totally ridiculous, but that is what you get with skewed reporting, " and other things like "I'm not sending my child to a place where corruption is rife, those who choose to be involved in protection rackets do good business, drugs are easily available, children are knifed and knocked downstairs and are otherwise generally harrassed and bullied."

Further in the Yorkshire Post, The Mirror, The Manchester Evening News and The Independent.

Friday, February 23, 2007

If We are Not an Anomaly, What is the Problem?

Home educators who wrote to Jim Knight, MP, Minister for Schools, objecting to the implication that home education is an anomaly, as happened in a letter from Lord Adonis:

"The state does not currently prescribe what form of education parents should provide, whilst all maintained and independent school provision is prescribed in legislation and subject to inspection. This anomaly is at odds with Every Child Matters reforms, supported by the Children Act 2004, which set out the Government's aim to improve educational outcomes for all children, regardless of where they are educated, and to narrow the gap between those who are doing well and those who are not.")

have been getting a fairly standard response from his office, along the lines of the following:

"Dear _______,

Thank you for your email of xx February, addressed to Jim Knight, enclosing a postcard from AHED, about elective home education. I have been asked to reply.

In 2005 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) undertook a targeted consultation on draft local authority (LA) guidelines. This included a selection of LAs, as well as the home education support organisations which we were aware of, as this seemed the most effective way of reaching the home educating community. The responses to this consultation included concerns about the lack of LA access to the child, the general difficulty in assessing children's progress and children's view on their education being heard.

The DfES has never said that home educators are an anomaly. As you know, it is every parent?s right to choose this form of education for their children. The issue that the 2005 consultation highlighted is that the Government is less able to ensure improved outcomes for home educated children (in line with the Every Child Matters agenda) compared to children in maintained and
independent schools.

However, no decisions have as yet been taken with regard to the contents of the subsequent proposed consultation on elective home education or when it is due to commence.

Please be assured that the consultation will be a full one, open to all stakeholders and conducted via the Department's consultation website. We hope this will ensure that the documents are accessible to as many people as possible and we are currently compiling a list of home educators who have expressed an interest in being involved in the consultation.

The aim of the consultation is to open up a constructive debate on whether or not changes are required, and if so, what they might be.

Please be assured that I have added your details to our list so that you will be alerted when the consultation starts and afforded the opportunity to feed your views and concerns into the consultation process.

Following consultation, if changes to legislation were to be introduced, they would of course, be subject to the full parliamentary process. "

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Biometrics in Schools and My MP

Good news...

From my MP:

"I can confirm that I have added my signature to EDM 686 Biotmetric Data Collection in Schools...

Schools around the country are taking and storing data derived from biometrics of pupils as young as infant shcool without seeking parental consent. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I believe that parental consent should be required before schools collect biometric data.

To this end, the Liberal Democrats are calling for reassurances that the DfES will consult with non-political expert bodies when drafting guidance; wider consultation with all stakeholders, - schools, parents and pupils - to at the very least assuage public fears; and that Parliamentary time be given for consideration of the issue.

Thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. I will continue to keep you informed of developments. "

See Arch for information on the uselessness of biometrics, and here for information on the Early Day Motion.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Regional Workshop for the Midlands Area

There are plenty of campaign workshops going on about the country, but this is the one I'm going to make it to, come hell or high water, so it's getting special publicity here.

If you want to know about other workshops, (for example the one in Sunderland, on March 3rd) you can go to the Freedom for Children to Grow Website, which will carry the details of workshops as they are confirmed.

= = = = = = = = = =

Agenda: Discussion of DfES CONSULTATION re: 'Suitable and Efficient Home Education'.

On: Saturday March 31st
Start Time: 10.45 (10.15 for coffee). To close approx 3.30pm.

At: Blackwell Court, near Bromsgrove, very close to Junc 1 of the M42 and junction 4 of the M5
Map here.


There is no charge for this event. You do not need to be a member of EO to attend, all welcome.

Please bring a packed lunch - tea and coffee will be served free of charge.

Two members of the Education Otherwise Government Policy Group, Fiona Nicholson and Annette Taberner, will begin the day by explaining what the implications of the forthcoming DfES consultation will mean for home educators. They will explain how we reached this point and give an account of how we believe that Every Child Matters is the driving force behind these proposed changes to Home Education.

This will be followed by a discussion where everyone will be able to ask questions and exchange views about how we would like to address Regional and Local responses to DfES. It is vitally important that we protect our rights to home educate.

We will break for packed lunches, which may eaten in the lovely grounds of Blackwell Court.

The afternoon session will look at the importance of working together and forging good regional and local links. Also working together with other groups of home educators including those who home educate their SEN children. How much do we know about our own Local Authorities and how can we develop a working relationship with them? How can our elected members help us? We will again hold a group discussion and a sharing of views and ideas.

The final part of the day will look at our relationship with the press and why we also need to develop this. We need to leave positive footprints and create a positive image of home education.
The workshop will end at approximately 3.30pm. Refreshments will be served again afterwards.

Please try to attend this workshop or send a representative from your group. We need to work together to make sure that we do not lose our rights to home educate our children.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Leave Us Alone - It's Not Just About the Money

From a conversation with an ex LA bod who used to be responsible for organising the distribution of the budget of a relatively wealthy LA, we hear of the sort of problems they have with funding just one SEN child. People at this LA breathe a huge sigh of relief when just one SEN child moves out of area as this takes such a huge financial burden off them and when they have to fund a new SEN case, they have to take the money from other parts of their budget, which just goes to show why they are so reluctant to diagnose new SENs.

If this is the case, it is hard to imagine how LAs could possibly chase up on all of us home educators, what with each home visit costing hundreds of pounds (was it approx £400 per visit, I seem to recall?).

Couple that with subsequent requirements that we could quite reasonably make of LAs. For example, we could insist that since they are going to start insisting that we must do this and that, we in turn are going to start asking for more and more statements so that we don't have to fit their standards, and so that our children's needs can be met.

We could also quite reasonably ask that since we pay our taxes which go to educating children according to state requirements, and since you are now requiring us to educate our children along these lines too, we have no reason not to ask for a budget to cover our children's education.

Plus, if DfES standards mean (which they will), that we have to be doing this or that, so say, if they say that all children must be reading by the time they are 8, and need to be diagnosed dyslexic if they aren't, we will start out on the path of coming to get them/sue them for damaging the education of our children, since a diagnosis of difficulty when there need be one can be terribly damaging and a self-fulfilling prophesy, as many psychiatrists will tell you.
There are now way too many home educated children out there who didn't start to read before this sort of age, but who read at adult level about a year later, who were never diagnosed with anything for this not to be a serious argument, whereas there are thousands of school children who fall behind in the first couple of years, get diagnosed, diagnose themselves or generally see themselves as so inadequate, who fall further and further behind in class and then spend a lifetime struggling with literacy issues entirely unnecessarily. This should be the national scandal and a classic example of the way the state fails and even abuses children. The louder we can make this sort of point the better, so that the school system and the state at last become properly answerable for the abuses they perpetuate.

And on another point and just in case this message was missed in previous posts on this subject, the message to LAs should be that they must continue to rely on the community for reporting of child abuse, since any other way - such as a universal screen - will be grossly impractical, hugely expensive, a waste of funds, highly unlikely to turn up evidence of abuse without risking making numerous false positives, as well as being a disproportionate intrusion into family life.

All in all, my guess is that it really will all boil down to the money situation and that the problems with funding will protect us from significant intrusion, but I think we should be making the moral, epistemological and other practical arguments along the way as well, since they are the principal reasons why leaving home educators alone is properly justifiable.

What is more, we need to be making these arguments loudly: we need HEors everywhere to be standing up for the freedom to continue to HE as we do, because the last thing we want is for the DfES to think that they can sneak the principle of universal monitoring past us, without anyone really noticing, and then let the LAs implement as and when they can, doubtless not as universal monitoring, but just so that they can have a right to invade our privacy whenever they feel like it. We need to make it clear that we will not be a pushover as a community and what is more that also LAs will be held responsible for meeting their duties and that they will be sued if they don't.

The other reason why we must keep shouting about the moral and epistemological reasons for home educating is that it does keep us sane. It stops us introjecting the values of the LA and of the schooling type system. This could be seen as constituting useful criticism, but the fact is that policing ourselves in this way is usually not constructive because it just makes us more stressed out and nervous. We start constantly pushing our children to conform to school standards which may well not actually suit their abilities and aptitudes. We need to hold fast and firm to good theories of knowledge acquisition and how best to treat children well in order that we do not do the LA's job of destroying our children's education.

(Thanks to Fiona N for raising these last two points.)

Monday, February 19, 2007


Lifted from comments because it was too good to miss, a home educating parent writes:

"A few months ago, younger son was threatened (unwisely) by an older boy who wanted his phone. The conversation went like this:

Boy: gimme yer mobile

YS: p**s off

Boy: what school d'yer go to?

YS: I'm home educated

Boy: (pausing to gob on pavement) Oh, so you ain't got no social skills then "


Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Consequence of Ignorance of Infant Attachment Needs

Flat heads! I know it sounds ridiculous, but actually I don't think it is. I have seen a lot of flat heads recently and I think I do have the proper explanation for it. It isn't just about babies now only lying on their backs because of the fear of cot death. It is also about babies being left for hours just lying there, not being picked up and cuddled - those kinds of babies who are left to cry it out and then just give up before the age of one. So I strongly suspect that Dr Platt, despite being a consultant paediatrician at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, is actually just plain ignorant when he says:

"It is extremely common for babies to have flat patches on their heads and it always has been. It is part of the normal condition because babies are born with very large brains. This is another example of the tendency to create medical problems out of normality. It is not a problem."

It has nothing to do with babies having very large brains, because some babies with ostensibly perfectly large brains don't have this problem, and they are the babies who are picked up and carried a lot and allowed to sleep in a loved person's arms, rather than just flat on their backs like beached whales. These kids have proper craniums.

Cave children didn't just lie there waiting for wolves to eat them up. They got carried about if they were to survive. This is the norm, Dr Platt, as is a perfectly rounded cranium...and properly aligned teeth from the action of extended breastfeeding which lowers the roof of the mouth and brings the lower mandible forward. (just in case you didn't know that one either.)

(Hey, guess what, am feeling snarky today!)

What is Wrong with "Child Protection"?

Home Educators are very scared of any suggestion that social workers should be allowed to use the fact of home education as a prime facie reason to demand entrance to the home to inspect the kids. It appears they may well be right to feel this way. First we heard of Prof. Southall's diagnosis of Munchausen's by Proxy by TV (he saw mum talking on a TV programme and diagnosed her that way - she very nearly lost her kids permanently until her estranged husband admitted he had poisoned the dogs) and now we hear this sort of story from the BBC.

"The MPs fear a rise in the number of young children being taken into care in England and Wales is linked to pressure on councils to increase adoption rates. Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who has tabled a Commons motion on the issue, said it was a "national scandal". "

Looks like we may need to enlist the likes of John Hemming, MP since surprisingly enough, we don't want the SS knocking on our doors pinching our very nice and easy to adopt kids, thank you very much.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Home Schooling on AOL

Apart from the myth that homeschoolers have problems with socialisation...(AOL, I pay my sub, listen to me - THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM - eg: there are support networks for Home Educators all over the country) this article from AOL gets it more or less right.

Hands Up 4 Home Ed - Update.

There are now 65 pairs of hands waving at us at Hands Up 4 Home Ed. It is a great way to show how our children feel about HE and to provide a showcase for their wishes for their lives. Keep them going. The more the merrier.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What Can Happen to Skewed Consultations

Well, if Greenpeace can do it!

"A High Court judge has ordered a rethink of the government's nuclear power plans, after a legal challenge by environmental campaigners Greenpeace. A judge ruled that the consultation process before making the decision last year had been "misleading", "seriously flawed" and "procedurally unfair".

Complaints from Home Educating organisations have already been lodged with the Cabinet Office about the signficant problems with the proposed DfES consultation on Statutory Changes to Home Education Legislation - and that is before the thing has even started! How many more errors could they possibly commit before completion? We will be keeping a close eye.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Good Childhood Inquiry - a Chance for HEors to Put GB Back on Track!

Via BBC we hear that Unicef reports that:

"The UK has been accused of failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries. "

Now, why would that be, we wonder? Lack of a sense of well-being doesn't seem to be a major problem for this bunch of children, their main concerns in an otherwise happy existence being that the government keeps out of their lives and let them get on with things as they are.

To coincide with the Unicef report above, the Children's Society has set about asking children what they think of their lives via their Good Childhood Inquiry. Of course, we've only just finished doing the one for the UN, but hey ho - Ds is motivated to do it since he is very eager to preserve his way of life and am off to see what Dd thinks of the whole idea.

The Parents Centre Forum

Have just come across this discussion on Home Education on the Parents Centre Forum. Started last August, it is still on-going and doubtless a good idea to get the facts straight as any search of home education does throw up this site pdq. Lots of articulate arguments from HEors.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Child Protection and Home Education

To return to this knotty one, (which I think we should be prepared to answer, even if we don't have to, iyswim...)

From reports such as this one from Unicef, it is clear that a child is indeed far more likely to be abused in pre-school years. Something in the order of 88% of child abuse occurs before a child is 5 years old. The reasons for this that are given in the reports, are NOT that the child is not regularly surveilled as they would be in school, or that schools offer respite to parents, but that the various demands upon parents are greatest at the infancy stage because of the nature of infancy itself and the newness of the situation for the parent.

I would argue that this is so, not only because these are the reasons that is cited in these reports, but also because of the oft-repeated reports of the experiences of those parents who have both HEd and schooled their children, from which we gather that sending a child to school is not actually any less stressful than HEing a child, since there are almost universally issues to do with helping a child to deal with the complex problems that school attendance presents, even for the most school adjusted child. HE can be comparatively a very relaxed way of life...you don't have to get up or go to bed at prescribed times, for example, you don't have to attend meetings that don't suit your needs etc etc...

In which case, we would argue that school attendance is NOT the reason for the sudden lessening of in the rate of abuse of children when they reach the age of 5. The reason why 5 year olds plus are less likely to be abused is because of the maturation of the child and the lessening of stresses of infancy upon the parents.

The argument therefore that HEors should be targetted because their children are not in school, and are therefore at high risk of abuse, does not pan out. Instead, if the government is really serious about tackling abuse, it should be concentrating upon the under 6s:

In this age group, studies such as this one (from Australia but still relevant in principle, I think,)
suggest that the way to approach the problem of detection and prevention of child abuse is to enact primary, secondary and tertiary levels of intervention.

The primary level of detection involves the offering of health service screens by health professionals.

Secondary and tertiary interventions involve referrals to other agencies, regular screening visits and much more intervention in parent education and other forms of support.

The question that pertains to the situation of HEors, given that the rate of abuse in the age of our children is so significantly lower, and that there are good reasons to believe that these rates are as low, if not lower in the HE community given that many if not most HE families find their lives relatively unstressful, what level of intervention should the HE community accept?

Presumably, in the situation of a primary screen, we could only reasonably be required to accept the same level of intervention that is asked of the group with an apparently much higher risk of abuse.

At this stage in time, this would involve accepting offers of health checks in any environment of the parent's choice and at a time of their choosing.

The questions then are:

1. Would this be an effective way to detect abuse in this age group of

2. Would the home educating community accept this offer?

Answers very welcome!!

Why the Photos, all of a Sudden?

People have asked, so I should explain why it is that I have got a little less careful about protecting our identities. There are two reasons. Firstly, I think the LA now know about us, and secondly, the child who did not want to be identifiable through the blog is more relaxed about it now, though I should point out that I always check with them both whenever I post something that could be connected to them. This seems to me to be only fair.

(Just in case you're wondering, I've asked them if this one is OK too!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Debi and Michel Pearl Still Damaging Schoolhouse Reputation

If you have a spare mo, go tell the editor of homeschool.com why you wouldn't sub to The Old Schoolhouse magazine.

This is what I said:

To the Editor

Since Gina Suarez is a vocal supporter of Michael & Debbie Pearl, who encourage their followers to beat young children with plumbing supplies in order to instil discipline, I support the homeschoolers' boycott of everything associated with TOS and the Pearls.



Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Nationalisation of Childhood

...by Jill Kirby looks set to be next on my reading list.

From the press release in 2006:

"Based on the Chancellor’s doctrine of “progressive universalism”, the Government's new strategy enables it to intervene in the lives of all 11 million children in the country in the hope that this will help the most vulnerable of them. But, as recent evidence from Sure Start confirms, this is more likely to divert attention from the most needy, leaving them at greater risk. It also directly contradicts the Prime Minister's stated desire to provide more “personalised and responsive” public services.

"...As Jill Kirby concludes: In the guise of a caring, child-centred administration, this Government is making a radical change in the balance of authority between parents, children and the state. It is nationalising the upbringing of children."

The PDF seems to be working here.

EO Briefing Paper on Forthcoming Consultation

For some reason that slips my mind, I think I failed to link to this - namely, EO's Briefing Paper about their meeting with the DfES on the forthcoming Statutory Changes to Legislation for Home Education. It's a good place to catch up, if you have been otherwise engaged over last month or so.

No Surprise There Then

School children are still being bullied despite all those anti-bullying initiatives in schools.

From the beginning of an article in The Independent,

"The Children's Commissioner, Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, has warned that relentless bullying is driving some children to the brink of suicide, while the number of children counselled by ChildLine about bullying rose by 12 per cent last year. "

Hmm. Given that those anti-bullying initiatives are clearly not working very well, how can parents of bullied and desperate children just stand by and watch this sort of thing happening? They are the ones who are responsible for neglecting their children it seems to me. Worse still, the state simply stands by and does nothing about it.

If your child is being bullied in school and complaints to the school don't work, DO SOMETHING ELSE ABOUT IT. Move your child to another school or home educate them somehow.

Which is better, a temporary loss of income or a suicidal child?

Public Figures who Home Educate

Starting a collection. I know there are more, but they escape me at present.

So far:

James Bartholomew (Author and journalist)
Janey Lee Grace (Radio 2 presenter)
Jason Robinson (Rugby Union International)
Jimmy Wales (Founder of Wikipedia)
John Travolta (actor) (HT: Daryl )
Simon Barnes (Times Chief Sportswriter)
Sting (singer)
Tom Cruise (actor)
Will Smith (actor)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Protecting Children in Home Educating Families

Question: What, if any, new measures should be taken to help assure the safety of home educated children in reference to child abuse and neglect?

1. Home Educators share with the every other right-minded citizen, a strong desire to protect all children from parental abuse or neglect.

It is generally the case that home educating parents, as a group, do not wish for any further regulation of their family's educational choice. Nonetheless, because no one wants to put any child at greater risk of abuse, many home educating parents have sincerely asked themselves the question of what to do about child abuse and neglect. Each time a tragedy occurs that involves a family anywhere in the nation, home educators discuss and analyse at great length the question of what, if any, further regulation would have prevented the tragedies. The end result is that we have never been able to conceive of new measures that would be more successful than the regulations already in place for the general population.

We would be pleased to discuss with the DfES any particular cases of abuse in home educating families of which they are aware, in order to provide the perspective of home educating advocates in examining what steps might have been taken, using available laws and regulations, to prevent such tragedies.

2. Traditionally, and in our legal system, the best way to protect children has been determined to be to presume that parents, rather than an agency of government, are "fit" to act in their child's best interests.

We are all painfully aware that some parents do actually harm their own children. From viewing the horrific tragedies inflicted on some children by their parents, we tend to lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of parents fulfill their parental responsibilities in an appropriate and fitting manner, [1]. For this very sound reason, our society has traditionally presumed that parents are the proper agents to make decisions about their own children.

To remove the presumption of "fitness" from the entire class of parents who home educate their children would be to harm the entire class of home educating children, simply because of the parents' educational choice and would also destroy the principle of the presumption of innocence of all families everywhere.

3. We fully concur that parents who have shown themselves unfit have abnegated their responsibility as natural guardians, and therefore the state must intervene in order to protect the children. However, designating the entire class of home educating parents as a group likely to abuse their children has the practical effect of presuming home educating parents are not fit parents simply because of the educational choice they have made.

While we all believe children should be protected, the opposite of protection occurs if a child's parents are presumed by the state to be unfit simply because of an educational choice. The message to home educating children in that instance would be: "Your parents are not trusted by society to take care of you." The message to parents is that they are not to be trusted. This is highly likely to undermine the confidence of the family to detrimental effect. In addition, the resulting state scrutiny and intrusion that the distrust of home educating families will entail, is likely to be highly disruptive, anxiety producing, and counter-productive in parental efforts to provide an appropriate education.

We suspect that most efficient method for unearthing child abuse will remain a system of informal reporting by communities.

4. Parents who home educate their children, as a group, have not been shown to be more likely to abuse or neglect their children than parents who send their children to state or independent school, and whose children are seen on a daily basis by teachers.

In fact, by far the greatest majority of child fatalities occur in children younger than five years of age. These children are not in school, but are at home with their families. Yet, because of the presumption of parental fitness, no one proposes routine investigation of all parents of children under six in order to screen this highest risk category.

Without data clearly indicating that home educating parents are more likely than other parents to abuse their children, special regulation of home educating parents is not warranted. Proposing regulation "just in case" is not advisable, given the adverse effect of such regulation on innocent home educating families, as well as the unjustified costs and burdens of implementing such a program.

5. Seeking to protect all children through removing the presumption of fitness of all parents who home educate their children would be inadvisable for reasons of policy, law, and practicality.

Policy: An agency that seeks to protect children should not have a blanket policy designating an entire class of parents as unfit without indisputable empirical evidence that warrants such a special class designation.

Law: Our legislative system presumes that parents, unless evidence is shown to the contrary, are "fit" to make educational and childrearing decisions for their children.[2]

Practicality: It is virtually impossible to conceive of a regulation that would have the practical effect of sorting out those few parents who might, in the future, victimize their children. Universal "Safe and Well" checks will not achieve anything, since either social workers will have to turn up unannounced, and thereby impinge unduly upon the right of home educating children to a private family life, as prescribed in European Law [3], or the family will have warning of impending visits and in the unlikely situation that they are abusive, will have time to cover up evidence of abuse.

In addition, universal screening will mean that resources, which could have been more usefully used working with families where the risk of abuse is high, will be spread more thinly.

It will also not be helpful for social workers to insist that they should be left alone with all children. Whilst this may be necessary in the situation that there appears to be a genuine suspicion of child abuse, it would disproportionate in the situation that that there was no suggestion of abuse, for it would unduly undermine the assumption of innocence of families and would destroy the principle of respect for family privacy. Many children would prefer not to be left alone with a strange person who has the ultimate power to decide how their lives should be conducted. If the government is serious about listening to the views of children, as is asserted in the Every Child Matters agenda [4], we request that they do not insist upon seeing these children against their will. If the DfES does insist upon this, we will reciprocally insist that sections about listening to children's views and attempting to take these views seriously be moved from any relevant legislation and guidance.

Further, we envisage many a situation where a child will need to be compelled to meet with a state employee against their will, and that the parents will therefore be required to force such a child to attend the meeting, which would therefore constitute a form of abuse. Would the state be happy to concede that their policies, far from solving the problem of abuse, instead perpetuate it?

Finally, on this point of practicality, we suspect that universal screening of a reluctant child population risks social workers diagnosing abuse where none exists. The problem of false accusations of abuse looks set to become a much bigger problem than it already is, and according to the descriptions of the situation from charities set up to support victims of false allegations of abuse, the situation is currently very frightening, [5]. Earl Howe, in the House of Lords, described the situation thus:

"Children are made to live in constant fear of being parted from their parents.The climate is like that of a witchhunt in which the voice of reason and all sense of proportion is lost." [6]

Suggestions for Positive Steps the DfES Might Consider

There is a commonly held concern that home educating families can too easily maintain their children in social isolation. However, home educators do not share that concern since we are well aware of the numerous social activities of most home educators. Home educators have developed their own broad networks through which to arrange for group activities, sports, field trips, small group classes, textbook exchanges, and so forth.

Nonetheless, there are some ways a government agency might contribute to a reduction in the potential isolation of some home educating families by speaking out against some current policies and practices that actually serve to promote isolation of home educating families from the rest of the community. We are thinking here, for example, of the problems home educators experience with truancy sweeps and other measures to curtail the free movement of children, since this can unnecessarily limit the involvement of home educating children in the life of the community. Such a welcoming attitude from the community would do much to reduce the feeling that some home educating families have that they should keep out of public view during school hours. Older home educating children, in age appropriate ways, might be much more likely to visit libraries, stores, parks or other public facilities were it not for fear of the unfriendly questioning by truancy sweeps and curfew laws and unfriendly questioning.

Communities can welcome home educating families through library programs given during school hours, or courses given at the community center. Many families would not necessarily choose to avail themselves of such services. Any lack of interest in participation should not be viewed as cause for alarm; rather, it may simply be an indication that the children's social needs are otherwise being met through the vast array of activities in which home educators are already involved. But, whether or not they choose to participate, all families would know the community was not profiling them as child abusers, but rather welcoming them and respecting their educational choices

The DfES could also encourage more LAs to follow the example of Dudley LA who have offered home educators GCSE courses in maths and English, without any significant attendant bureaucratic difficulties. [7]

= = = = = = = =

General Information on Home Education.

Number of Home Educators Nationwide

There are no accurate figures for how many families or individual children homeschool in the UK. Estimates vary, the average guess being around 50, 000, [8].

Profile of Home Educating Families

Families choose to home educate for a wide variety of reasons, including being able to give their child a better and more individualized education at home, the opportunity to create a better learning environment and the ability to more fully integrate their religious beliefs into their children’s education.

Home Educators Academically and Socially

Home Educators, in general, compare well with their state schooled counterparts on standardized tests.[9]

These findings are not surprising since many studies have indicated that parental involvement in a child’s education is highly correlated with academic achievement. Home educated children are accepted into the most prestigious universities and colleges. And it is not only academically talented students who benefit from home education. Many parents attest to the remarkable gains of their special-education children, who flourish at home, gaining skills to help them become productive adults capable of living independently.

Home educators often chuckle when they are asked what they refer to as “the S (socialization) question.” Social skills, home educating parents quickly realize, are best learned not from a classroom of 29 other eight year olds, but in a caring family and community setting. Home educating children learn social skills in surroundings that more accurately reflect society as a whole. The limited research on the social skills of home educating students, compared to their public school counterparts, supports our collective belief that home educating children have at least as high self-esteem as children in school. [10]. As more homes educators grow to adulthood they are gaining recognition as involved citizens, creative entrepreneurs, good parents and reliable employees.

All indicators, and our own accumulated experience, reveal that home educated children as a group can certainly hold their own in terms of academic, social, and life skills.



[1] Statistically, parents who abuse their children represent a very small fraction of all parents.
From the NSPCC website, we read that the rate of abuse of children in England in 2002 - 2003, was 2.7 per 1000 children. Of these cases of abuse, neglect constituted 39% of cases, physical abuse 19%, emotional abuse 18%, sexual abuse 10%.

[2] ARTICLE 2 of Protocols in the ECHR

[3] European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8

"In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions."

This is confirmed in The UN Convention on Human Rights

[4] Every Child Matters - Building a Culture of Participation

[5]FASO. Charity to support victims of false allegations of abuse.

[6] Earl Howe. House of Lords "Child Abuse" Hansard 17 Oct. 2001 FULL TEXT

[7] GCSE's For Home Educated Children in Dudley

[8] Home Education Research. Conclusions re: numbers of home educators.

[9] Dr. Paula Rothermel: Home Education: Rationales, Practices and Outcomes
To the extent this issue has been studied, it has not been studied in a completely random sample. Many home educators have no interest in participating in studies, perceiving that participation might bring their program under inordinate scrutiny. Many home educators perceive that they are expected to make exemplary progress in order to continue home educating and this may be difficult to impossible for families who have chosen to educate because their children have special needs. If a child in a state school scored below a certain centile, they would not be removed from school, though this is precisely what many home educators fear will happen in a highly regulated sitaution. It is the case, however, that many home educating children score well above average in standardized tests, but they have no wish to have their children’s scores become part of a database on home education, since they are convinced that high test scores, while perhaps a side effect, are not the goal of a home educating program.

Our subjective perception, as experienced home educators in contact with home educators across the nation, is that we can safely say that home educators can hold their own with their public and private schooled contemporaries in terms of academic achievement. We see no need to make a larger claim, that home educators consistently score higher than their contemporaries, though all the studies that we know of show that result.

[10] Paula Rothermel.
One of the most unnatural aspects of the state school environment is the age segregation. Learning to get on with peers does not necessarily prepare the student for interactions with older and younger people in real life. In the home educating family, on the other hand, people of various ages and generations mix easily together in a variety that more accurately mirrors the outside society. There is an emphasis on service and responsibility that turns differences into opportunities for compassion. Younger siblings are best friends, not embarrassments. When 100+ home school kids get together, the crowd is noteworthy for its orderliness and pleasantness.

Anecdotal reports by long-time home educating parents reveal that their children are at ease with adults as well as with very young children. Home educating children learn their socialization skills in a setting that more accurately reflects society as a whole, rather than a classroom of thirty same-age children.

Furthermore, an honest appraisal of the vaunted social benefits of state school attendance would show that for a certain number of state school students, the social experience is not positive. Our jails are filled with people who attended state school. Clearly, state school attendance is no guarantee of proper socialization. As with academic performance, homes educators can certainly hold their own with their state schooled counterparts in the areas of socialization and interpersonal skills.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Jim Knight Said....

Via Hansard, Jim Knight MP is reported to have said:

"Parents who elect to home educate their children must ensure that they receive efficient, full-time education suitable to each child's age, ability and aptitude and to any special needs they may have. Local authorities can make whatever enquiries they consider appropriate to establish whether education provided at home is in accordance with the law. My officials are currently drafting guidelines for local authorities on elective home education, which are due to be issued later this year. "

Ok, let us hope that is an unfortunate turn of phrase, shall we, Mr Knight? I mean "whatever" enquiries they consider appropriate. Suppose that means that LAs consider it appropriate to turn up on your doorstep every three months. Come on , all you non-HE readers. Would you, as law abiding citizens, like having someone who had complete say-so over your entire life, and yet knows next to nothing about it, stepping through your door every three months, when in the opinion of many right-minded people, you are doing nothing wrong?

Hmm...when I have a mo, I will be telling him what I think.

We Aren't Going Anywhere Today Either

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Sisyphus Happy!

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Ds Waves

Ds (9) waves and wishes that all children could have the chance to home educate. Am off to send it to The Hands Up 4 Home Ed Project here
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The Grandma Unearthed the Problem - Not Social Services

Brian Micklethwait said it all in 2004. His argument still applies, and in fact needs to be shouted even more loudly, in the light both of the prospective consultation on possible statutory changes to home education and with regard to the recent terrible headlines:

"The pattern is the same with home education as it is with everything else. Something goes wrong, in the context of harmless, legal activity X. Therefore everyone – not just wrongdoers but everyone – doing X gets screwed around from now until the End of Time by the government.

Child abuse is already illegal. The way to stop it is to punish it as and when it is detected. The way to detect it is for neighbours to keep an eye and an ear out for it. The idea that harassing people like Julius Blumfeld and his family is going to improve anything except the salaries of the harassing classes is absurd. "

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Give Back the Reins

Ann Newstead, of Freedom for Children to Grow had this to say in response to Simon Heffer's article about how the state first undermines the role of parents and then seeks to replace them:

"... the Government seems intent on interfering in the few rights we (parents) have. The legal right to home educate in England is one that many of us value above all else - it enables us to provide our children with an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude (as per the Education Act) in a far greater way than any school is able to do. Even the Government's commissioned report - 2020 Vision - recognises that personalised learning wins hands down over the mass, one size fits all, system currently employed by the state."

Wow. It Has Actually Happened

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Dd's First Sight of British Snow!

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Jake's First Sight of Snow. What is this Stuff?

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Even Nina and Poppy Look Slightly Confused

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Actually, I'm Rather Cold Now

A slightly scary, six foot Victorian woman, complete with bustle, hand muff and bun, appeared in our garden. She reminds me (in spirit, ethos and body-shape) of my old headmistress...eek. Posted by Picasa

We Missed the HE Excursion

but hey, it isn't so bad! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

War Zone or School?

The stories from these inner London schools are actually not dissimilar to some that emanate from at least three of our local schools in rural West of England. And they wonder why we want to Home Educate!

HT: Tibetan Star

LAs Take Note!

It is possible to be helpful with very few strings attached. The only string we have come across so far is that a few HEors had to lose their anonymity, but given that we are fully expecting to lose this anyway, this could be seen as is no big deal really.

Might be worth referring this to other LAs as a model of good practice?

Popper on Education

In his book "The Open Society", Popper develops a devastating critique of our academic tradition. He wrote:

"Instead of encouraging the student to devote himself to his studies for the sake of studying, instead of encouraging in him a real love for his subject and for enquiry, he is led to acquire only such knowledge as is serviceable in getting him over the hurdles which he must clear for the sake of his advancement."

For more on Popper's thoughts on education, as well as a history of his own early life education, which appears to have most meaningfully occurred out of school, see here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Libertarian Paternalism

There at least two home education meetings we attend on a regular basis where it must appear to those who I hope are not looking closely, that I behave like the despotic, bullying gym mistress of your worst nightmares.

David Friedman has a possible explanation. (I hope so, anyway.)

Dd Waves

Dd (aged 4). Her message: "I like Home Education coz it's fun and I like my friends coz they're nice. Big kiss and big heart." Posted by Picasa

See Hands Up 4 Home Ed here and send your hands to handsup4homeed@aol.com.

Hands Up 4 Home Ed

This looks like such a good idea that am having problems resisting the urge to wake the kids and get them on to it straight away!

Monday, February 05, 2007

EO's New Campaign Website

With credit going to HEK, Theo for the design work on the website, EO have issued a press release about the launch.


Education Otherwise, Britain's largest and longest established Home Education Support Charity has just launched a new Campaign Website:


The purpose of this innovative new website is to inform and empower the home education community who are reeling from the news that the DfES suddenly plans to launch a full consultation about Elective Home Education without any dialogue with Home Education Support Groups or with home educating families themselves.

Education Otherwise has also written to the DfES and to Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Education to remind them that home educators are stakeholders in any debate about the future of Elective Home Education.

Education Otherwise was established in 1977 by a small group of home educating families. One of these families was Iris Harrison's , whose diary for this critical time in the history of home education in England is now available on the new Campaign website.

Over the last 30 years Education Otherwise has helped thousands of families who want to take responsibility for their children's education outside the school system.

Contact :

Fiona Nicholson
phone number

Annette Taberner
phone and mobile number

Carole Rutherford
phone and mobile number"

Sleeping on It...

...well, I actually haven't done that when deciding to post this link, but that's because I already know the truth and value of it. I know it works for me and I think I see it working for home educated kids. What I don't understand is how it works for children in school, who are, of course, required to make decisions according to a pre-prescribed time-table which almost always doesn't include sufficient staring-out-the window time.

The other thing the article doesn't mention, but which I am convinced is a related feature, is that when I don't get that sort of time, I start to feel overloaded, and incapable of processing even new and consciously held information correctly.

"When to Sleep on It

Have a difficult decision to make? You should engage in long and careful deliberation, right? Not necessarily. Psychological research shows that conscious deliberation, however long and careful, can be a surprisingly crude and ineffective tool, because the conscious mind has a very limited processing capacity. Most people cannot, for example, compare three organizations differing on 14 dimensions. That is simply too much information for the conscious mind to take in and handle all at once.

Conscious deliberation, however long and careful, can be a surprisingly crude and ineffective tool.

Of course, if this limited capacity led executives to use only the best and most relevant information, the situation would be fine. But it doesn’t. People who mull over their decisions typically get the relative importance of the various pros and cons very wrong. In one recent experiment I helped conduct, we studied experts’ predictions for World Cup soccer matches. We found that the longer our participants thought about their answers, the more likely they were to include irrelevant information (which city will host the game) at the expense of relevant information (track records of the teams playing). And the more information they factored in, the less accurate their predictions became. The logical conclusion from this and similar experiments is that conscious deliberation leads to sound decisions only when a very limited amount of information is involved.

Luckily, there is another way to make difficult choices: Don’t think hard about the decision, and after a while your unconscious mind, which is known to have a far greater processing capacity than your conscious mind, will tell you what you should do. Such an unconsciously generated preference is usually referred to as intuition or a gut feeling—a conviction that one alternative is better than another, even when we can’t verbalize why.

The notion of trusting your intuition is, of course, far from new; but what was unexamined until now is whether extensive unconscious thought can make intuition more reliable. Thus, my colleagues and I conducted experiments to test the power of the unconscious mind as a processor of information. We gave our subjects information pertaining to a choice—for example, which of four apartments was the most attractive, or which of four cars was the best. They had three options: They could make a choice immediately; they could take time for conscious deliberation; or they could figuratively sleep on it—that is, engage in unconscious thought. The subjects who chose the third option were first given information about the decision in question and then given information about an unrelated task, to occupy their conscious minds while their unconscious minds processed the relevant information.

When the unconscious thinkers were asked to choose one of the alternatives, they made better decisions, almost without exception, than the subjects who decided immediately or those who consciously deliberated. Their decisions were better from a normative perspective (more rationally justifiable), from a subjective perspective (more likely to produce post-choice satisfaction), and from an objective perspective (more accurate, as in predictions of soccer-match outcomes).

The moral? Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need for making a decision—but don’t try to analyze the information. Instead, go on holiday while your unconscious mind digests it for a day or two. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice. "

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Education Otherwise Press Release -


Phil Hicks of Education Otherwise, the national charity which has been supporting home educating families for 30 years has just written to Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Education pointing out that his department plans to launch a major consultation on home education without first addressing the issues with major stakeholders.

Phil Hicks commented, "Many home educating families are extremely upset that they have been excluded from the debate on these issues."


"There have been major changes in Children's Services over the last few years and many new officials now consider themselves responsible while having little knowledge or experience of home education " commented Ms Fiona Nicholson, a member of the Education Otherwise Government Policy team.

"This may be contributing to unfounded concerns which could be resolved through dialogue at a local and national level. In Sheffield we have begun a dialogue with our local authority, this needs repeating at a local level throughout the country and at a regional and national level."


"As stakeholders, home educating families and the organisations representing them should be consulted on any changes", Annette Taberner of the Sheffield Home Educators' Network commented. "Some parents have said to me recently that no other community is expected to tolerate the prejudice and discrimination which this community often experiences."


"Home educating families make great sacrifices and receive no public funding to assist with their children's education " says Annette Taberner. "The Government’s flagship initiative " Every Child Matters " rings a little hollow in this community."


Carole Rutherford who home educates her own autistic children and who is the spokesperson for Autism-in-Mind, a charity which supports families with Special Educational Needs Children says : "Having reached the point of sheer desperation many parents who have children with SEN have turned to home education to meet the complex needs of their children. Children as young as six are leaving the system with mental health problems. Within weeks parents are seeing a huge difference in their children who rediscover a zest for life and learning that parents feared had been lost forever. These parents are now terrified that this consultation may be the beginning of more turmoil and anguish for them and their children, and are worried that once again they are going to have to do battle with the system. "


Please enquire to blog owner

HT: Raquel. Thanks. I had completely lost that one somehow!

The Child Snatchers are Coming to a Place Near Us

Whoa...if it really is as bad as it looks, then it's bad. My only equivocation consists of the obvious HSLDA spin on the story, but I still think UK educrats should stop and ask themselves if this really is the way they want to go.

A press release from the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit provides further details.

Carnival of Deschooling

here. Thanks Joanne.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Forward Notice: More Campaign Workshops

The Treasurer of Education Otherwise reports that EO Council is happy for EO to fund a series of regional workshops during late February and March.

EO Government Policy Group have been investigating venues and possible dates. At least one member of EO Policy Group will speak at each workshop and answer questions about what is happening.

At present, EO is looking at the following dates, which will be organised by local members of GPG in consultation with the home ed community in the area:

11th February: Open workshop at Okehampton in Devon during the EO National Gathering - details to be circulated to EO members in the South West region.

24/25th February: Either Kent or Tyne and Wear

3/4th March: Either Kent or Tyne and Wear

10th March: Possibly Warrington

17th/18th March: Possibly East Anglia

24th March: London, Westbourne Grove

Confirmation of above details to be posted as soon as possible.

The EO Campaign Website is also about to go live and will contain updates and photos of the Sheffield Workshop.

Bullying of AS Kids in Schools

Watch out for those School Attendance Orders, all you HE parents with autistic spectrum kids, since they would be pretty much a recipe for being bullied.

Informal Learning DOES Work

Nominally about homework for school children, this piece from Radio 4 actually deals with the key issue of formal versus informal learning. Mr Civitas just doesn't get it so we'd like to inform him that we know of HE kids who are at top universities studying maths who have never once chanted their times tables even to themselves, let alone anyone else. They learned to calculate by coming across the need to do it, so that say, 25 multiplied by 6 had a significance because when they reached this amount, they could level up in Runescape...or some such.

Home Education Campaign Workshops - Sheffield


The pilot campaign meeting in Sheffield was attended by more than thirty home educators from around the area.

Fiona Nicholson opened the meeting with a brief introduction to the Every Child Matters agenda set out by Sheffield Council and summarised the work HEors have done in Sheffield on this to date.

A local home educating parent who is a social worker in the same council department which now covers education, ie: the Children and Young People's Directorate, then went through how the Children Act 2004 has impacted on local services for children and families and also answered questions on the social work perspective on the Information Sharing Index, (the national children's database).

Phil Hicks of EO's Government Policy Group then made observations about the Education Otherwise perspective on the Children Act and the Children Missing Education. Home Educators raised concerns about the Local Authority's benign view of the ISI and outlined some of the many agencies which the DfES suggested might be drawn into the database as active participants, (up to half a million registered users having access to the database). There were many questions from the people at the meeting about how this might affect ordinary home educators in the short, medium and long term and many people spoke of the impact they anticipated it might have on their families and what we might be able to do about it.

Phil Hicks, then gave an overview of how Education Otherwise was moving into the regions to reach people who did not come to EO gatherings. Phil also gave us an account of the meeting between Peter Walsh at the DfES and members of EO Government Policy Group shortly before Christmas when the DfES explained the rationale for the imminent consultation on "light touch changes to the monitoring of home education ". Again there were many opportunities for people to ask questions and make comments during this part of the workshop.

This free exchange of views continued during the lunch break. We asked parents who had children in the creche to go and collect their children so that the creche volunteers could be liberated for their own lunch and have a chance to catch up with what everyone was doing.

In the afternoon, people split into groups of four and discussed what home education meant to us and how we might dispel common public, media and state misconceptions . They then gave feedback to the room.

A local journalist then outlined how home educators could work with the press: local papers, trade and professional journals, the national press, specialist educational press, local and national radio and so on. She gave tips on how to write a press release and how to build up a positive working relationship with friendly journalists. Her main points were to do with Home Educators keeping or taking control of the process so that they are not caught unprepared or unawares or pushed into doing something they don't feel comfortable with. She also recommended that HEors draw up a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and agree on some common ground so that they have a sort of "crib sheet " and know that anyone who is elected to speak to the media is briefed on the pitfalls of certain types of responses to journalists' questions. She advised that HEors should be prepared, particularly when dealing with the local newspapers, to be photographed in a clearly identifiable way and to expect to provide full names, addresses and ages of children which will appear in the paper.

A local HE parent, who is also Local Contact for Education Otherwise in Rotherham, then spoke about her family's media experiences last autumn from appearing in a feature and studio debate on home education for The Politics Show Northern Region on BBC One, and then appearing in the Breakfast Show on Radio Sheffield, to be followed by a two-page spread on home education in the local paper.

Another HE parent then delivered an impassioned speech about how she felt there were
injustices in respect of provision for 14-16 year olds - the funding for this in Sheffield is about to be cut. She reported that the MP, Nick Clegg, Liberal democrat (former MEP) had no prior knowledge of home education. She had been told prior to meeting with him that he could only give her five or ten minutes but in the end they were there for half an hour and Nick Clegg undertook to speak to Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Education about her concerns.

It was impossible in such a short space of time to cover all the issues raised by the proposed threat to the changes in monitoring home education but the group did want to deal with the subject of children with Special Educational Needs since it can be virtually impossible to access any kind of funding or provision if the child is outside the maintained school system and does not have the per capita funding. In this regard, another local HE parent talked about her deaf pre-school-age child and the difficulties she faced in accessing any help and how she felt she was being pushed into special school provision because the system was just not geared up to help home educators. More time could have been usefully spent on the whole area of SEN and home education and may be covered in much more depth at subsequent regional workshops.

The last fifteen minutes or so of the meeting was taken up with exchange of news and view and resolutions to keep up the momentum generated by the workshop.

During the meeting various papers were given out to form part of a Workshop Briefing Pack.

For future regional workshops, the EO Government Policy Co-ordinator would supply this printed material if requested and it will also become available to download from the new EO Campaign Website which will be up and running shortly.

At least Americans Get It.

From Ontario Home School, there's news of US House Resolution 578

"Congratulating home educators and home schooled students across the Nation for their ongoing contributions to education and for the role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this Nation, and for other purposes".

There's much more. Worth reading if you could do with a pick-me-up.

However, Canadians themselves appear to be having problems with ignorant educrats. Sound familiar?

Friday, February 02, 2007

EOs Complaint re DfES Consultation Practice

can be found here.

Great stuff, Phil et al.

Pledge to Write

Next assignment: Go sign this pledge.

By doing so, you promise that you will show your support for AHEd (ahed.org.uk) and home educators in general by e-mailing Alan Johnson MP (Johnsona@parliament.uk), Secretary of State for Education, calling for the term “compulsory school age” to be replaced with “compulsory education age” in the Education and Inspections Act 2006. This will, of course, then reflect the truth that school is NOT compulsory.

Deadline to sign up by: 1st March 2007

Sample letter for Mr Johnson's email:

"Dear Mr Johnson,

I am writing to show my support for the charity Action for Home Education, www.AHEd.org.uk, by asking that you do everything within your powers to ensure that the wording of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 is changed, so that all references to "compulsory school age" are altered to "compulsory education age" in order that these sections may accurately reflect the legal position in England and Wales.

I look forward to your early reassurances that you will support my endeavour.

Yours sincerely"

Home Education - Suitable for Both Genders.

Here's Boris on the matter of female ascendancy and the related issue of what to do about the education of boys.

Go tell him home educators!

AHEd Press Release

For immediate release, Friday 2nd February 2007

AHEd formal complaint: Government department ignores their own guidance. (Families threatened by DfES ignoring the Code of Practice on Consultations set out by the Cabinet Office.)

The recently launched national home education action group AHEd (1) has sent a formal complaint to the Cabinet Office following complaints by its members that the DfES has failed to consult adequately with relevant stakeholders in consultations and policy proposals relating to home education. (2)

Barbara Stark, Chair of AHEd, commented:

"Home educating families are being effectively marginalised by the DfES in what we believe to be a deliberate attempt to bypass proper public consultation on new policy proposals which will affect our members directly. We have discovered that the DfES is introducing bias into the process by using skewed research findings, and we are dismayed and disappointed that
representations by experienced home educators, whose lives may be crucially affected by this exercise, have been sidelined or completely ignored.

"We have been very patient during two years of exclusion, but enough is enough. We feel directly threatened by the prospect of a state sponsored attack on the fundamental right of parents to choose the type of education most suitable for their children and will vigorously resist attempts to impose a state inspectorate of families to dictate the how and what of
educational provision for our children regardless of the individual needs of each child.

"Once again, in the pursuit of the Every Child Matter agenda, the government is forgetting that each child is an individual with individual needs. Home educators are the experts in listening to their own children and meeting their own children's individual needs, and they quite rightly refuse to be marginalised in matters that are of fundamental importance to them. We
demand the right to be heard in any consultation which affects our children's lives and trust that the Cabinet Office will give due consideration to our formal complaint."

AHEd contends that current proposals by the DfES are a matter of serious concern for all parents and children and believes that the state must not be allowed to remove flexibility and individual choice in the education of children or further erode the right of parents to make appropriate decisions in the best interests of their children.

AHEd members are angry that the DfES has completely disregarded the Code of Practice on Consultations set out by the Cabinet Office (3) and has conveniently chosen to consult with selected local authorities who have already demonstrated hostility towards elective home education and who are seeking new and invasive powers which home educating families believe will be harmful to their children. Since the current legal framework will not support the new 'big brother' regime that is being demanded by some local authorities, they are pressing for legislative changes, which AHEd has described as "anti-children, anti-democratic and highly likely to be abused".

Ms Stark concluded: "The current consultation exercise is fundamentally flawed due to the failure of the DfES to follow proper procedures and we believe it should be abandoned forthwith. As the primary stakeholders in any discussions relating to home education, we demand that the DfES include our expert voices in any consultation that affects us. Nothing less will do."


For further information, contact Barbara Stark at enquiries@ahed.org.uk
(1) See www.ahed.org.uk
(2) http://ahed.pbwiki.com/Complaint-to-Cabinet-Office
(3) http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/regulation/consultation/.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Free Speech and Criticism

Oliver Kamm is saying such fundamental and important things right now, that it would be negligent not to link to him.

Schools and Legislation Failing Children with SENs

ARCH, once again, has the story, at the end of which they conclude:

"No wonder Ruth Kelly jumped off the roundabout".

It leaves me wondering (yet again) how on earth the DfES dare to propose impose their systems upon home educators when home educators so clearly effectively solve the problem of providing an appropriate education to all different kinds of children and they so clearly don't.

Young Home Educating Voices?

The Young Voices Project is currently recruiting for a panel of young people, between the ages of 11 - 21 to create a youth website.

"They'll be able to share their views on the issues that fire them up, discuss and debate freely and generally put the world to rights. It will offer them a forum with the advantages of an online networking site, but most importantly this will occur in a safe and secure environment."

Any HEKs interested? (Ann, Charlotte, Beth?)

Ages of Imperial Empires

If your child has ever played the Microsoft version and got a tad confused as a result, this site may be the answer.

HT: Apollos Academy