Saturday, March 31, 2007

That Letter (in full)

from Lord Adonis:

"There is no specific duty in statute on LAs to monitor parents' education provision. However, it is our view that case law (Philips vs Brown 1980) places such a duty on LAs.

Only s7 of the Ed Act 1996, not s351, applies to HEks, and legislation does not define "suitability" of education. However, a suitable education has been defined in case law s one which "primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather that the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so."

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.")Whilst s437 of the Ed Act 1996 provides a remedy for LAs which have concerns that there may be no suitable provision, this is unwieldy, time consuming and expensive and in some cases will be nugatory where home educators are making good provision but are resistant to LA enquiries."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tony Mooney Is At It Again

The response from the home education community to Tony Mooney's latest pronouncements on HE in the TES has been impressive, immediate and compelling.

From the TES's discussion board:

"Myra Robinson's suggestion that "all the rights are in favour of the parent" is a misguided statement. There are adequate laws in place to protect the children of home educated families. It is up to the Local Authorities to implement the laws if they feel there is a cause for concern. If the LA and their employees do not use the law to protect the children then it is their failure."

and from S.Deuchar

"The quoted figure of 150,000 home-educated children is a serious over-estimate, (home-education researchers estimate the number as up to 65,000 with about 35,000 known their LEA). The inspectors estimate that "about a quarter of parents provide nothing". This may mean that 25% of the families they know about (up to 9000 children) are not providing an education suitable to the age, aptitude and ability of the child. If this is true, why are the inspectors not using the mechanisms of s437 of the Education Act to issue a School Attendance Order for these children? If it is not true, they are slandering a large number of parents who are doing the best that they can for children, many of whom have been failed by schools."

And elsewhere:

"The article also contains no evidence or basis for the claim that one in four home educating families is not providing a suitable education, other than the unsubstantiated opinions of two individuals."

And could the Dragon of the Valleys possibly have a point about a conflict of interest? You decide:

"Known facts about Tony Mooney:

1) Ex-science teacher
2) Ex-headmaster
3) EHE inspector for hire who doesn't believe EHE is possible unless
you're a nice middle class family who hires private tutors.
4) Private tutor for hire. Shocking conflict of interest.
5) Rent-a-gob pushing his own prejudices & self interest."

This Was Not about Home Education

From the The Times Educational Supplement, Scotland, we see Alison Preuss of Schoolhouse dealing very effectively with an attempt to smear the home educating community with a false link to child abuse.

For Another Hot Potato

...go see the BBC's article on EO's campaign to expose the dubious local authority practice of encouraging parents of persistent truants to home educate.


If you don't believe me about this government being ineptly meddlesome, try this post from Bishop Hill by way of support for this argument. He writes:

"Every child at my elder son's nursery has received a leaflet from the Scottish Children's Commissioner or some such. This masterpiece of state-sponsored tosh is to be passed on to their parents. It's a remarkable document. Try this for example:

Love your children
Be affectionate, hug and kiss them
Tell them good things about themselves and others
They will feel more secure and learn how to treat others in a positive way."

OK, so in order to be affectionate to your child, you must hug and kiss them. Am off to try this one out on Ds.

Well, yes, I admit my data pool for my own bit of personal research may be bit skewed. I did suspect that this would happen. His response?

"Euwgh, go away, mother."

Right, so let's just try the next one. I am going to tell him something good about himself and his sister. No, that didn't seem to work.

"What ARE you talking about, mother?"

Oh dear. This doesn't seem to be making him feel more secure. I am beginning to wonder if it might be having the opposite effect as he is looking at me funny and appears to be weighing up the probabilities of me having lost my marbles. I suppose you could regard the last bit of the recommendations as being about right if you happen to think of a trip to the funny farm, courtesy of your children, as being a positive experience.

Not only should one object to the fact that the government appears to be meddling in areas where they are simply not welcome, but they make such an abject mess of it, that it becomes completely unforgiveable.

For a better set of principles, how about trying to respect and facilitate the autonomy of the child, whilst at the same time, not compromising your own. Seek win-win situations. Provide seemingly good and rational explanations for choices and actions. Admit you don't know that you hold the best theory. Hold your own theories tentatively. Seek criticism of your ideas. Seek creative solutions to problems.

ie, for example: accept that some children don't like being hugged and kissed and yet still know they are loved deeply.

Leave Us Alone

With regard to the raising of the school leaving age to 18, Edward Pearce puts up an almost nostalgic plea for even very moderate libertarian instincts in politicians in Comment is Free. He notes how the education secretary Alan Johnson has been seduced by the tenor of our current government which he describes as being

"insanely disposed to boss, meddle, interfere, punish and have its will in matters which require no such engagement."

Yup, that's it. So leave home educators alone too, please.

US Study Implies that Home Schooling Promotes Social Mobility

From Homeschooling in Perspective, we hear that the National Home Education Research Institute found that in test scores

"homeschool students outperformed public school students by an average of 30 to 37 percentile points in math and reading. The same survey also stated that the income and education level of homeschool parents did not have an effect to (sic) the success of their children."

HT: Home Education and Other Stuff

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Miserable Work Force

Further on the reasons for thinking that it is worth trying to improve the work situation rather than acquiescing in unhappiness, we gather from the BBC that, completely unsurprisingly, being miserable at work can make you physically ill as well as contributing to emotional burnout, anxiety and depression. We also hear, perhaps slightly more surprisingly, from the BBC TV news (can't find on-line link) that over 70% of workers report feeling unhappy at work.

What is very surprising is that we let this situation persist. Could this be because the majority of the work force (being schooled in the belief that things must always be thus) cannot imagine solving this problem?

It must be worth believing that something can be done, surely?

The New Diplomas Set for 2008

Schools Not Fit for Purpose

From BBC News, we hear that

"Most current school buildings pre-date the computer age and are "obsolete" as learning environments, the study said. "

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Autonomous Child in the Workplace?

From the discussion in comments here, it seems that there is some anxiety as to how autonomously educated children will ever fit into hierarchical structures such as a workplace where they may have to deal with issues such as producing work to a deadline, to meet the expectations of others, and to deal with bullying.

I have to admit to little experience of this myself, since most of the AEd children I know personally are yet to make it to this stage in their lives, so I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has more experience of this, but from the little I have seen, and from the books (such as Julie Webb's Those Unschooled Minds) that I have read, I would say that the most important factor in regard to the problem of whether the autonomously educated child copes with adult life, is whether or not the parent has helped the child to be well prepared for the environment of his choice.

Therefore, many AEing parents will be talking to their children about issues to do with earning a living, how best this can be done, the likely nature of the workplace, and if necessary, about topics such as working competively as opposed to co-operatively, about meeting deadlines, about presentation of work and person, about ways of dealing with stress and bullying.

The advantages that the AEd child may have is that he is familiar with being in charge of his life and learning. If he is well advised about the likely nature of the workplace, he can then make the choice as to whether or not to go for it. Having made that free choice, he knows that he can walk away, which in itself immediately makes the stressful environment seem less so. He also knows, having been encouraged to solve problems with creativity and ingenuity, that he needn't acquiesce in terrible situations, that he can seek to solve these problems. He may be very familiar with the benefits of working co-operatively with others, that competition within the workplace as often as not actually stymies productivity, rather than enhances it. He may also be familiar with taking criticism, (since there is often less terror in receiving it when the stakes are lower, as they can be at home), that he may be able to stand the criticism far better than a schooled child can. He may be gentler in giving it too. He may also be a truth seeker, since again there is often no reason not to be in a healthy family, whereas lying (eg: to protect friends from a bullying teacher) frequently seems a proportionate response to some of the strains of schooling.

In other words, I suspect that AEd children could have an advantage over coercively schooled children because the former are aware that they are freely choosing these environments, that these environments are not necessarily optimal, but that they can use their ingenuity and creativity to try to solve the problems that hierarchical structures create.

As regards solving problems creatively, it is the case that some inspirational company directors, such as Bravilian CEO Ricardo Semler, who managed a six-fold increased his company profits by dissipating the hierarchical structure of his company, have shown that it is possible to manage big organisations by creating a situation where autonomous individuals can work collectively. In Semco, workers set their own salaries, share company profits and hire and fire their own managers. They say: "Our philosophy is built on participation and involvement. Don't settle down. Give opinions, seek opportunities and advancement, always say what you think. Don't be just one more person in the company." An autonomously educated child could fit in very easily in such an environment.

Because AEd kids understand that they have freely chosen to be at their place of work, and can see a good reason for being so, and because they can envisage a better way of doing things and since they still do feel empowered to solve their problems, it may the case that they can actually cope with it better than the schooled child who has lost all hope of a better life, who feels compelled to continue in a miserable existence, who cannot imagine a better future and who does not try to solve the problems he faces in the workplace because he is not familiar with acting autonomously.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What Can be Done to Reclaim Childhood?

Any Home Educators out there brave enough to face a Telegraph comment section?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Autonomous Learning

Gill explains what autonomous learning looks like.

Special Needs Children Bullied in Schools

No wonder there is such a high number of children with Asperger syndrome amongst the Home Education community, though actually bullying in schools is but one small reason why so many of these children are HEd.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

An Autonomous Educator's Answer to LEA Inspector

From Sometimes It's Peaceful:

"So have home educating families with autonomous learning children got anything to fear from their LEAs, really?

One LEA visitor to our house, early in our autonomous provision, asked to see samples of the children's work. "I've stopped insisting on them producing work," I said, "Because their interest in learning shut down whenever I did. Is the LEA interested in my children's learning, or in their work? Because the two things are mutually exclusive, so it can't have both."

"Erm... well I suppose learning is the important thing," said the visitor and the LEA has been happy to take my word for it that the children are learning, ever since - though I accept that some LEAs might just never be so amenable. "

Whilst trying not to reveal too much about our family, I should say that not having to produce work for the inspection of anybody else, to meet anyone's externally imposed criteria, to meet anyone's else's expectations, has been enormously beneficial for our family in so many ways:

It has meant that we can tackle the problems we are genuinely interested in.

We can do this when our bodies and minds feel ready.

It has meant that we can give our whole minds to solving the problem.

Having time and no pressure to present work has meant that we can mull over problems, thinking around them, paying attention to issues such as when we think best, eg: not just when we are obviously dealing with the problem directly, but when we are doing the gardening, jumping on a trampoline, lying on a sofa, ie: learning about the value of walking away from a problem, taking time out to think, playing with ideas, coming back when you are ready with new and valuable connections, creative solutions, and we can do this all because we don't have to foreclose upon a problem to present our work at a prescribed time and to meet another person's set of expectations.

Having said all of which, I do make a deadline for myself, usually to write at least one blog post a day, and yet probably because this is freely chosen, I have no problem at all with this.

In the course of studying the problems that interest us, we absorb information deeply. It isn't held superficially to be used in a test for the next day. The sort of information that is eagerly sought is likely to become embedded in long-term memory.

Also in the course of studying problems which interest us, we come across all sorts of other information which we absorb often without consciously so-doing. For example, a child may learn to do long division or to multiply large numbers when playing an on-line game. He finds out about from global warming watching the Simpsons, say.

Children can deal with the problem of presentation as a last and trivial problem in the course of solving the other more pertinent problems, but this will be the last and often most trivial consideration.

We don't waste time struggling with problems that don't interest us.

We don't become completely unnecessarily disheartened because the situation of meeting other people's extenally imposed agendas happens so rarely. It is our conviction that numerous children are labelled with problems which simply would not exist if these absurd and unproven benchmarks were not imposed upon them. For example, many HE children don't learn to read until they are 7 or 8, yet within a few weeks of starting and with minimal effort, they can be reading at the same level as schooled children who have spent hours and hours slaving laboriously over their literacy skills.

Yep, this is where true learning really is at. It works for me and it seems to work for my children. Perhaps we suffer from some kind of genetic learning anomaly, but I suspect this is not the case, and that many other people would benefit from this kind of genuine learning.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Examining Entrenched Memes the E.G.West Centre which has a hefty number of links on the subject of compulsory education.

HT: Tibetan Star

Government Response to HE Petition

HT: Leo

Vote For Home Schooling

On AOL now.

What More Powers Do They Want?

Whilst the abused children in the Eunice Spry case were visited by education officials at least twice a year for the length of time that they were home educating, and concerns had been raised by neighbours and others about the care of the children, AND, don't forget, LAs already have powers to intervene in situations such as this, we nonetheless have heard from several sources, including the Guardian , that

"Darren Shaw, director of services for children and young people in Gloucestershire, said more powers were needed to make sure children educated at home are not ill-treated. The council will lobby the government on the issue."

Here's Blog Dial's take on the way the Eunice Spry case has been spun and used against HEors.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Template Letter of Complaint

Below a template letter. Please do use and adapt to write to whoever you can think of - perhaps to the Gloucestershire Council Elective Home Education Service at:, or use it on the complaint form to Gloucestershire Council here. Or to Tewkesbury MP, Laurence Robertson at Or to comment to the Gloucestershire Echo here.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are horrified to learn of the serious and prolonged abuse of three children at the hands of the Gloucestershire foster carer and adoptive parent, Eunice Spry and are writing to express our concern that despite the fact that the council had sufficient powers and a significant amount of evidence that there were concerns about this family, that nothing was done by the Gloucestershire Local Authority (including social services and the police) to deal with this.

from: this is Gloucestershire

we learn that

"the council "inspected" Eunice twice a year throughout the 90s when she was teaching the children at home. The accommodation was seen on each visit, but the most recent visits were made to the barge on which they were staying. There was no suggestion that the care of the children or the living conditions seen were unsatisfactory. "

We also have reason to believe that many people such as teachers, members of the family's church, health workers and neighbours, raised concerns over many years. In addition, the children are known to have run away on a number of occasions, and we believe that they reported their situation to the police who also appear to have failed to have acted.

We also hear that "In a press interview, Ms Jo Davidson, Group Director of Children and Young People's Services at Gloucestershire County Council admitted that "agencies and individuals failed to pass on vital information to each other.... nobody had a consistent overview of what was happening."

In other words, this is another case of social services provision failing to protect children's welfare.

Since the time of this dreadful case, the Children Act has come into force (at the end of 2004) bringing with it integrated Children's Services and multi-agency co-operation, plus the establishment of local Safeguarding Children Boards. In addition, more stringent requirements have been introduced for foster carers. We understand that the abuse in this case took place before the law extending the powers of LAs to share information came into force. We therefore hope that this sort of situation is already less likely to occur in the current climate.

However, Ms Davidson does not appear to recognise that local councils now have measures in place which are designed to protect vulnerable children and has instead used the case to demand stronger safeguards for children who are home educated.

Home Educators are furious that this case is being used for further intrusion upon their privacy. We should stress that we have been led to believe, eg by the Gloucestershire Echo that the children were already inspected by home education visitors who went to the house to assess the children's education notice. The question is asked as to how the problems were missed but instead of answering this question, Mr Shaw said: "The process 20 years ago was not as vigorous as the one in place today", thus suggesting that LAs already do have increased powers and yet at the same time we hear that other members of the LA have announced their intention to continue to lobby parliament for further powers over the lives of home educators. So what more rights could they possibly want?

LAs do, after all, have the right to make enquiries, and to carry an action further if they suspect that there is evidence that an appropriate education is not being provided. Given that in the case of Eunice Spry, twice yearly home visits failed to produce evidence of problems, and we hear from local people who knew the children, that on the face of it, they were articulate and well spoken with no obvious reason to suspect educational neglect, we imagine that the council must now be asking for the right to enter home educators houses unannounced, and with a right to see children without parents being present, for this seems to be the only conceivable measure that would have unearthed abuse in this case. And yet this sort of measure, not unsurprisingly, strikes home educators as disproportionate.

We cannot help but suspect that your current call to lobby government for more powers to enter home educators' homes is a matter creating a smokescreen to an attempt to obscure the fact that there were long-standing failures on the part of the Local Authority. In so doing, it seems to us that you are unfairly passing the buck onto a community who are already feeling beleaguered by prejudicial announcements and who feel that they should have some rights to privacy in their own homes when there is no reason to suspect that they have not acted within the law.

Yours faithfully,


Anna King Show - Radio Gloucestershire

From Radio Gloucestershire, from 11 minutes into the show.

AK = Anna King, Radio journalist
AN = Ann Newstead, of Education Otherwise
MR = Mary Rose, Home Educator

AK: Now parents who educate children at home say that they are concerned that people would put off home teaching in the wake of the child abuse case of Eunice Spry, the foster mother from Tewkesbury. The 62 year old convicted of 26 offences, having removed the youngsters from school to teach them at home.

Now Ann Newstead is from Education Otherwise.

AN: Well it shouldn't affect public perception of home education because the fact that the children had been removed from school, is as I understand it, just one small part of the case. I mean, when you think this actually took place, all the safeguards that have been put in place in the last couple of years with the Childrens Act etc, to set up of all these heads of children's services and all this interagency co-operation, they weren't there then. And the whole point is that things like this shouldn't be able to happen now.

The lady, if she had removed the children from school, it doesn't automatically make her a home educator in the sense that we would call ourselves home educators. For us it is a way of life, it is a choice, we are committed to our children, we take these steps because we believe it is the only way to get the best for our children and we commit all our time and energy to them to educating them and bringing them up. That clearly wasn't her motivation in removing the children from school.

AK: The council have said, Well we don't have any rights to go into a home if somebody is home educating and we don't have any rights to see what is on their curriculum, if they even have one. Um, would you be happy to see inspections, would you see that as a way forward or a detrimental step?

AN: I think this case actually proves that no amount of inspections, home visits, off the cuff inspections, dropping in when you are passing, actually is enough in itself to prevent something like this from happening. I truly don't think if the lady lied herself, to doctors and to everyone around her, and forced the children to lie, then no amount of inspecting and visiting would actually have in itself, from an education point of view, would have highlighted what was going on.

AK: Anne Newstead there from Education Otherwise, well Mary Rose home schooled her three children from her house in the Forest of Dean
MR: This family was visible and they were more visible than most to be honest. Now home education isn't about hiding. I think there is a general view that it is about the Little House on the Prairie type of approach where everybody goes into their own homes and doesn't come out. And I don't think that is generally the case with home education in the UK at the moment.

LEAs certainly don't have the right of entry to everybody's private accommodation, private home and quite right too, in my opinion because that would be in the same way as saying they can have the right to search anybody's homes because they are Muslim on account of the fact that they may be building bombs or they could see through teacher's computers to look for porn. That would be ridiculous. And I think in the same way, because people choose to home educate, this is to do with education, this is a choice about how your children are educated, I think that to have a blanket approach to saying that home education equates to child abuse on the result of even one or a few isolated cases of abuse, is silly really.

Abuse goes right across the board. It doesn't matter where you look. Whether it be in school or anywhere else.

AK: Mary Rose there from the Forest of Dean.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Press Release From Education Otherwise


Following reports in the local and national media Education Otherwise, the largest organisation representing home educating families, issued the following statement:

Parents throughout the country have been horrified to learn of the serious and prolonged abuse of children revealed in the case of foster carer Eunice Spry.

It is clear that many people: teachers, members of the family's church, health workers and neighbours, raised concerns over many years.

In a press interview [1], Ms Jo Davidson, Group Director of Children and Young People's Services at Gloucestershire County Council admitted that "agencies and individuals failed to pass on vital information to each other.... nobody had a consistent overview of what was happening."

This is another case of social services provision failing to protect children's welfare. The Children Act came into force at the end of 2004 and brought with it integrated Children's Services and multi-agency co-operation, plus the establishment of local Safeguarding Children Boards. In addition, more stringent requirements were introduced for foster carers. We understand that the abuse in Gloucestershire took place before the law was changed.

However, Ms Davidson does not appear to recognise that the local council already has measures in place which are designed to protect vulnerable children in the future and has instead used the case to demand stronger safeguards for children who are home educated.

This call is being made at a time when home educating families are awaiting the launch of a full public consultation into home education.

Education Otherwise deplore the way in which the regulation of home education is being used as a smoke screen to draw attention away from the historical failings of the local authorities in this case.

Child welfare legislation applies equally to all children irrespective of their educational setting.
Home education cannot be made the scapegoat for this tragedy.

Education Otherwise Government Policy Group


For further information please contact:

Ann Newstead
National Media Contact
thenewstead5@ uk
01689 826504

"Information Sharing"

Further on the Eunice Spry case, we hear from the BBC that

"Although these children were seen by many different professionals, few were a consistent presence. Information was not shared so that it was impossible for anyone to have a clear picture. As a result of the Victoria Climbie inquiry, one of the significant safeguards now in place is the requirement for agencies to work far more closely together and for information to be shared."

Hmm. So what we are made to think is that information sharing is the answer here but would information sharing really have saved the children? Is it really the answer? It has become the shibboleth of today, I agree, but why is this so? Is there any hard evidence for it? Our suspicions may be aroused when we hear that the government were eager to press through the e-government agenda. Was this anything to do with evidence for the efficacy of information sharing, or could it, just could it have had something to do with commercial interests?

So what is the evidence for the efficacy of information sharing? In an article in the BMJ some time back, (very frustratingly I cannot find this on-line, and am off to look in paper copies), I distinctly recall reading that information sharing was far from the automatic answer to these kinds of problems. Indeed it was often found to actually mitigate against finding an effective solution, for the reason that everyone, in sharing information, could happily get in on the business of passing the buck.

The answer proposed in the BMJ, and which I remember being an principle of good practice in the not so distant past, was that a trusted, known, consistent individual could be on site to provide consistent, insightful support. What does being trusted entail? Well, it means establishing a proper, on-going relationship and it means that the professional doesn't breach confidentiality, which brings us to the next problem with "information sharing".

What does the euphemism "information to be shared" actually mean in practice? It means that every time you see a professional, that that professional not only can, but it seems has a duty to report widely anything about you that they decide is relevant. How does that make you feel?

We know of one home educating family, who do very well thank you and who have no reason to think that they are letting their children down at all, who spent a significant chunk of yesterday hiding in another part of the building whilst a friend who was staying with them was visited by a community midwife. All professionals should know that this is the sort of implication of information sharing. They will not have information to share.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hard Cases DO Make for Bad Laws

Gloucestershire foster carer, Eunice Spry, has been convicted of abusing children in her care. The website Freedom For Children to Grow carries the story, which we originally saw here, under the headline "Council admits failings over 'sadistic' foster mother".

Despite the council failing to follow up on concerns from a number of agencies and individuals, it seems they are still going to use this as an excuse to hassle perfectly innocent home educators in the apparently idiotic belief that enlarging the size of the haystack will make it easier to find the needle.

Despite the gross mischaracterisation of the legal situation in this article, see the following:

"Ms Davidson said the council was now demanding stronger safeguards for children who were educated at home. "What we do have concerns about is the level of protection and basic safeguarding, which is hugely less (in the home) than that child would otherwise get in any other setting." "We don't have a point of entry to a home. The expectation is we only have an inspection once a year and it's easy for someone to put on a particular front on a planned visit."

it is in fact the case that if there is any reason to think that an education is not taking place, LAs already have perfectly adequate powers to intervene in the lives of home educating families. In this case it seems there were plenty of reasons to think that something undesirable was going on which merited being followed up. The fact that the council didn't do it doesn't mean that they should demand a change in the law. It just means that they should act on the law as it stands, and anyone in Gloucestershire should be writing to their council to demand that they be held accountable for their failure to act.

After all, what more rights to intrude could a council possibly demand? Presumably, given that in this instance, a formal adoption appears to have taken place, the foster mother must have been extensively assessed and visited and yet she still managed to escape detection. The only intervention that could possibly have worked here would be for the council to be able to call at any time of the day or night with the right to have immediate access to our children without adults present. Nothing else would have worked, so it seems that this is what they must demand and that this is what we will come to. The powers-that-be will be asking for the right to burst in on your family life whenever they like and without any prior announcement and will demand to see your children without you present and all this simply because you have chosen to educate your child at home.

Hmm, let's this really proportionate?

Ok, so what about an analogy or two? I think, given that teachers sometimes end up having relations with their pupils, I think it only fair, on this basis, that we should demand that council officials have the right to burst in on all teachers in all of their homes at any time of the day or night. Yep, that seems about right.

Oh yes, and given that we suspect that some Labour ministers may have been using the honours system dishonorably, we also would like to demand on a fair's fair basis, immediate access to all the personal emails and recordings of private telephone conversations of all MPs. Yes, this really does seem just about fair.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Education in the Sentinel

Only just seen this: a positive take on Home Education from Staffordshire.

On the Problems of Moral Relativism

Further on that Guardian article about pre-school assessments of children, we hear that children will be assessed upon respecting the beliefs of others.

"When children enter compulsory schooling, they should be able to read simple sentences using a phonics-based approach, count reliably up to 10 and sing simple songs from memory, as well as respecting others' beliefs and learning to share and take turns."

This apparently unqualified requirement (in red) either points to the tortured logic of moral relativism, in other words - will children be required to show this respect if a person believes that it is right to commit murder, or steal from or otherwise abuse others? Or it points to such a limited definition of the notion of respect as to render having it virtually useless and irrelevant, which, whilst not being a relativist problem, is still likely to be a problem, in that it is likely to lead to misunderstandings along relativist lines.

To demonstrate more clearly what I am trying to say on the matter of the potential for illogicality inherent in moral relativism, what, say, if a child doesn't want to be measured by all these standards? If you respect his belief properly, surely you would act on this respect for his belief and not appraise him according to these standards? If, on the other hand, you say you respect his belief, but are still going to appraise him, what is the point the notion of respect, and what is the point of teaching that children should have it for others?

It may be that this apparently unqualified call to moral relativism may be more accurately described in the original documentation. However, if this is indeed the case, it is not good enough to allow the press to put about such terribly misleading representations of what you want. Of course, I don't think you should be making these sort of requirements of your population in the first place, for all the reasons already stated, see here and here, but it is even more unforgiveable that the government should be putting about such apparently feel-good but at best utterly meaningless, at worst, hugely damaging pronouncements on how we formulate moral theories.

Another HE Petition

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to grant home educators the right to sit exams in local schools as independent students. "

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Big Databases are Not Safe

If you are still not worried about all the centralisation of your intimate details such as your health records, on government databases, go read about phishing and pharming, courtesy of Ross Anderson and others at the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

Complaint re Loss of BBC Jam

Forgot to say that if you feel strongly about the suspension of the BBC Jam as posted here, you can send a complaint to the feedback site here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Workshop Reminders

From Freedom For Children to Grow

"Spring Into Action...please spread the word.

The Government is planning changes to the monitoring of home education. Proposed changes include: that HEors produce a mission statement and clear plan which we stick to, targets, a broad and balanced curriculum, more surveillance and monitoring from the LA to make sure we are "doing it properly".

Education Otherwise has organised 3 more Regional Campaign Workshops which are free to all home educating families. All workshops include Children's Room with CRB-checked worker and supervised activities. Please contact local organisers for more details.

You can use the following links to print out fliers for people who are not on the internet. You can also blog it and paste the link into emails.


Westbourne Grove Church, London W11

Doors open 10.15 for a prompt start at 10.45. Finishes at 3 pm.
Download flyer for the event here.

What the 2004 Children Act means in practice. Networking across Local Authorities. There will be presentations with guest speakers on using the media and getting positive PR for home education.

Leslie Barson
Annette Taberner

Map of location of Westbourne Grove Church.
Information on access and transport links to the venue including disabled access

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

Doors open at 10.15 for a prompt start at 10.45. Finishes at 3pm
Download flyer for the event here.

What the 2004 Children Act means in practice. Networking across Local Authorities. Iris Harrison on the work of the EO national helpline, personalised learning and new ways of working with dyslexic children and young people.


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Crofton Halls Crofton Road, Orpington, BR6 8PR

Map here.

Doors open 10.15 for a prompt start at 10.30. Finishes at 2.30 pm
Download flyer for the event: here.

What the 2004 Children Act means in practice. Networking across Local Authorities. Truancy: how to train your Local Authority. With guest speaker. Working with the media. Home Education and SEN.

Contact: Ann Newstead 01689 826504

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For further information and reports on previous Campaign Workshops
please see

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Melanie Philips on the Nationalisation of Childhood

Melanie Philips objects to the tick box approach to pre-school childcare for a number of good reasons, including that it

"will cause wholly unnecessary alarm, turn acts of simple caring and nurturing into a kind of permanent competition and trigger fresh waves of intervention by ‘experts’ on behalf of the State."

and that

"in any event, as any parent of young children knows, the legions of so-called ‘experts’ on childhood tend to offer diametrically opposite views about the correct way to bring up a child.
The idea that the Government should impose any one view as an unchallengeable standard by which all childrearing is to be judged is an intolerable assault not only on the freedom to differ on such private matters but on basic common sense. "

and that

"It is the deeply disturbing idea of an all-seeing, beneficent state that knows better than parents how a child should develop and even what attitudes it should have, and which therefore seeks to infiltrate itself into every area of children’s lives so they become effectively programmed to turn out as little clones of what the State expects them to be. It is the ultimate Nanny State. And it is all about changing both society and human nature itself."

I agree and would only elaborate slightly on the point she makes about the assault upon human nature. In requiring that even babies meet a certain set of predetermined criteria, the state at least attempts in practice and certainly succeeds symbolically in removing any hope of autonomy from its citizens. It risks a great deal in so doing. A person who does what they are told, risks doing so without really critiquing the reasons for their actions. Almost at best, they may make it to their deathbeds and then realise that their lives have never been properly meaningful. At worst, they become blindly obedient and open to performing all manner of terrible things, simply because someone tells them to. Other people will react against the often sensible ideas that are proposed under the citizenship inculcation regime, simply because these ideas are imposed rather than offered tentatively, and not because these ideas are essentially wrong. Such people end up acting out poor theories instead. In other words, there is very little room left for freely chosen, rational, autonomous action.

The only hope now? Home educate so that your kids are not tickboxed from birth - and then fight that in order that this may remain the case for home educated kids too.

BBC Jam to Be Suspended

which will be a shame for many home educators. Am in a conflicted state about this, given my preference for market forces. The way I justified the Jam to myself was to think that we don't get our fair share of the education budget, and it worked by way of a pay back.

The press release is here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More on Home Education in Wales

From ic Wales.

Universities and Social Engineering

I am not completely convinced that Pete isn't trying to give us all heart attacks. He was the first to alert me yesterday to the toe-playing story, and today he has pointed us in the direction of the woeful news that

"Universities can ask applicants about their ethnicity and parents' education and occupations, under changes agreed by the admissions service, Ucas. "

How can this be about anything other than social engineering? University entrance should be based upon whether the prospective student is really interested in the subject, is genuinely curious and motivated about it, and has some reason to think they have the capability. That would be the perfect university interview, surely!?

(I would tell you about the other story he linked to, but will give you a chance to find pop your glycerine trinitrate first).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

As the Pig Farmer Said

"You don't fatten a pig by weighing it ", yet according to the Guardian:

"Babies will be assessed on their gurgling, babbling and toe-playing abilities when they are a few months old under a legally enforced national curriculum for children from birth to five published by the government yesterday. Every nursery, childminder and reception class in Britain will have to monitor children’s progress towards a set of 69 government-set “early learning goals”, recording them against more than 500 development milestones..."

Not Saussure has stayed calm enough to offer an excellent critique!


...something to redress the biased reporting we have had to put up with from recent radio programmes, this one from Radio Newcastle, courtesy of Denise. Cathy Koetsier of EO did a fantastic job, the only quibble: just at the end the interviewer needs to know that the home educating life is so far from lonely, even in this rural part of England, that we sometimes have to choose to make it more so. (Have just counted, there have been 44 people in our house this week alone, and 13 of those stayed overnight for some or all of the nights.) This of course, doesn't include the fact that we also went to three home education meetings, with loads of other people of all ages from 0 to someone in their mid 80s. There, how lonely is that?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Schools Not Working in Any Scheme of Things

I am here I admit, giving up on my preference for adhering to good principles of debate, which would normally mean that I would resist the temptation to turn the debate away from the arguments as to why home educators do not need checking up on, but the latest news that employers are blaming schools for the poor quality of candidates who are pitching up to interviews is just too much.

With apologies to Matthew:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Welsh Home Educators Face Increased Scrutiny

From ic Wales, news that

"Parents teaching their children at home in Wales may be monitored more closely amid concerns over standards, the Welsh Assembly has warned."

It has been suggested that those who live in Wales join HE-Cymru mailing list where Welsh HEors can plan what to do. To join the Welsh HE list, send an email to:

Questioning School and Compulsory Conformity

Tibetan Star has a fascinating post on the education of Spartan children in which she shows that this education was clearly intended to produce conformity in the population. She also shows how this model has influenced subsequent thinking on the education of children.

Talking of which, my old school magazine has just plopped onto the door mat. On the cover it shows 15 girls all seated in three neat rows of five, in exactly the same clothes, with exactly the same closed book on their laps. Almost all of them have their hands crossed over the book, though one has the temerity to be scratching her nose. They all (without exception) have exactly the same length hair, bunched in a neat pony tail. The hair colour does differ, but is uniformally natural.

Just how personalised can this form of education really hope to be?

Isn't it time that everyone (not just home educators) asked themselves if this really is an acceptable and efficient model of learning? Afterall, the human race has tolerated the slave trade for most of human history. It is only relatively recently that it has been regarded as evil and attempts have been made to eliminate it. I don't think the analogy is necessarily a very loose one, btw.

A Meaningful Pledge?

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham gives this commitment:

"Thank you for your email with regards to home education.

I will always look to support forms of education and learning that most benefits and helps the learning needs of the individual. I will be looking closely at any changes put forward by the Government which seeks to change existing teaching methods."

That should mean that he is on our side, but of course we may well have to help him see that Home Education is FAR more effective at supporting the learning needs of individual children so that his statement doesn't just become a matter of classic Labour PR fudge. In this regard, he would do well to read Gill's blog on the subject how government directives so dramatically fail to address the learning needs of individual children and about the importance of autonomous learning.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Petition in Defense of Freedom in Home Education

There is still time to sign it.


"You recently signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to "Allow home educators to be free from the interference of Local Education Authorities."The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and you can view it here:"

A Life in a Day

...of homeschooler, and I do mean homeschooler, Marina Sabisky.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gloria Steinem on Education in and out of School

From an article in the Guardian:

"I had the good luck of missing school until I was 12 or so. My parents thought that seeing the country from a trailer or caravan was as educational as a classroom, so I escaped the discouragement that, especially in my generation, came with it. I wasn't taught that boys and girls were practically different species, that America was "discovered" when the first white guy set foot on it, or that Europe deserved more space in my textbooks than Asia and Africa combined. I didn't even learn that people at the top were smarter than people at the bottom.

Instead I grew up seeing with my own eyes, following my curiosity, falling in love with books and learning mostly from being around grown-ups - which, except for the books, was the way kids had been raised for most of human history. With no one to tell me that some people were born to poverty or that women weren't leaders, but married or gave birth to them, I just assumed that hope could lead anyone anywhere.

Needless to say, school hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't prepared for gender obsession, race and class complexities or the new-to-me idea that war, male leadership and a God who mysteriously resembled the ruling class were inevitable. Soon I gave in and became an adolescent trying to fit in, pretending I didn't know what I knew, and keeping my hopes to myself - a stage that lasted through college. I owe the beginnings of rebirth to living in India for a couple of years and falling in with a group of Gandhians, then coming home to the Kennedys, the civil rights movement and protests against the war in Vietnam."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Privacy? What Privacy

ARCH, as indispensible as usual, has the situation exactly:

"For anyone still feeling confused about the relationship between the Information Sharing Index ‘Contactpoint’, the Integrated Children’s System and the eCAF, the DfES has published a handy guide called ‘How ICS, CAF and ContactPoint fit together: A short essay on Harnessing Information for ECM’ (ECM = Every Child Matters)

The document is keen to stress that no case information will be held on ‘Contactpoint’, provoking another of those “do they think our heads button up the back?” moments. It doesn’t need to hold case information! Once practitioners are in contact with each other, case information can be exchanged directly between their systems, thanks to the government’s e-GIF (e-Government Interoperability Framework) which mandates that all systems must be able talk to each other. "

Friday, March 09, 2007

Home Education on a Low Budget

Gill also has the answer to Mr Mooney's assertion that it is hugely difficult to home educate on a low budget. She sees genuine advantage of exactly the kind that is strongly in evidence in our part of the world.

BBC Response to Complaint

...about the Today Programme, Radio 4, Saturday 3rd March, transcript here.

Below a fairly typical response, which seems to suggest that the volume of complaints is significant in the matter of whether the BBC deals with the complaint, so if you haven't already, it may be worth thinking about sending a response, which can be done pretty easily here.

"This is an update to let you know that we are dealing with your recent complaint but are waiting to clarify some points with other colleagues in the BBC before we reply more fully to you.

We will of course respond as soon as possible but trust you will understand that the time taken can also depend on the nature and number of the other complaints we are currently investigating. The BBC also issues public responses to issues which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at

We would like to reassure you that your complaint has already been logged and circulated in our daily report to BBC managers. We would therefore be grateful if you would not reply to this email and, in the meantime, would like to thank you for contacting the BBC with details
of your concerns. "

Update on the The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Tour

From the UK HE grapevine we hear that the planned UK tour by the Old Schoolhouse Magazine whose editors refused to dissociate themselves from their sponsors, Debi and Michael Pearl, had been curtailed somewhat, with only eight out of the twelve venues agreeing to hold the meetings. The German leg of the tour was cancelled altogether.

The Pearls, if they were to practice what they preach, ie: that it is acceptable to use various kinds of implements including switches and piping with which to beat children, including infants under the age of one, would in all likelihood, be prosecuted for assault in this country.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fake Consultations

Artist Liam Curtin describes the sham that is the government's attempt at public engagement and consultation.

We are very aware that we too may need to enlist the media and the judiciary in a fight against the fake consultations that directly affect home educators.

Putting Mr Mooney Right

Mr Mooney asserted early on in the Radio London interview (transcript here) that it takes an awful lot of effort for home education to be successful.

Having spoken with a number of parents who have both home educated and schooled their children, we understand that the amount of effort involved is often not very different. For example, it can be hugely difficult to encourage a schooled child to take part in the learning process in the school when very often, nothing could be simpler in the home educating life. A home educated child is likely to leap out of bed to pursue his chosen activity. He absorbs information most of the time because he is interested in what he is doing. This information does not necessarily come in apparently neatly structured packages, but it is utterly appropriate because he is motivated to acquire it. This method of learning is easy, effective, personalised and tailored to the learner's needs and abilities.

Further, knowledge for a home educated child is often acquired inexplicitly. Whilst this is of course the case for practically every other person on the planet, (and probably does much to rescue the school system from abject failure), we think the learning process in the home is optimal because it provides more opportunity for active learning, and therefore for inexplicit knowledge acquisition, to take place. For example, home educated children often learn how to spell a word not by pouring over a spelling book and consciously learning how to spell it, so as to be able to reproduce it in a spelling test the next day. Rather they learn to spell by reading the word in a text which fascinates them, the visual memory of word is, in the process, stored unconsciously and is then reproduced easily when they next need to use it. If they find they actually can't recall the spelling when they need it, they can always ask the parent without any repercussions or sense of failure, or they could use their spell check, and because they are so interested to use it, they don't forget it easily.

In summary, the fact that a home educated child is motivated to learn and the fact that he is able to absorb theories inexplicitly in the context of something that interests him, all this can make home education very easy indeed.

Mr Mooney implies that you need to be a trained teacher in order to home educate successfully, with the implication that this is so because the content of so many subjects is beyond most parents.

If this is the case, Mr Mooney, if most parents (themselves schooled) cannot help a child reach the same level of ability that they themselves nominally reached as a child, would you not say that this casts some considerable doubt upon the value of learning all that stuff in schools in the first place? It is actually a fact that many HE parents find that they may have done very badly in some subjects at school, but when they come to research the subject to assist their children they find that the subject matter presents almost no problem at all. This, probably because this time they can tailor and personalise the learning, and are motivated to learn. By way of just one example, I know of a mother who herself failed her CSE maths, but who in the space of three months, worked with her 12 year old son (previously labelled with all sorts of behavioural problems) and helped to get the both of them an A grade O' level in Maths.

Mr Mooney asserts that there is way too little power for a Local Authority to intervene in the lives of home educated children. He calls the legislation "lax" and "a national disgrace".

It is the case that Local Authorities already have the power to intervene substantially in the lives of home educating families and when the education of the child is deemed to be unsuitable, an LA can already issue a School Attendance Order. There is no need to increase the degree to which the state is required to intervene.

For further refutations of Mr Mooney's assertions, don't miss Sometimes it's Peaceful where Gill makes a superb job of his arguments about secondary age home education, and has also unearthed some of Mr Mooney's previous quotations which would appear to be coming back to haunt him.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Catholic Priest Blogs Home Education

Father John Boyle gives the Catholic case for home education.

"The Church has always maintained that it is the parents who are the primary educators of their children. The following Canon from the Code of Canon Law summarise the position very well:

Can. 793 #1. Parents, and those who take their place, have both the obligation and the right to educate their children. Catholic parents have also the duty and the right to choose those means and institutes which, in their local circumstances, can best promote the catholic education of their children.
#2. Parents have moreover the right to avail themselves of that assistance from civil society which they need to provide a catholic education for their children.

Throughout, it is the parents' responsibility that is stressed, and the state can only adopt an assisting role. Naturally, if a particular parent was failing in his/her duty to ensure the education of their child, the state would have a duty to 'assist' more forcefully, coercing the negligent parent."

He has the situation exactly - his information and links are right up to the minute. Worth reading the whole thing for a clear, concise summary of the where we're at.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mr Mooney Again, This Time on Radio London

Good grief, Mr Mooney has been putting himself about a bit over the weekend. On Saturday he could be found on Radio 4, contributing to the misunderstandings that persist in the public mind about home education; and it materialises that he was at it again on Sunday, this time on the Eddie Nestor show on Radio London.

From 49 mins into the show, a transcript of Mr Mooney's section:

EN = Eddie Nestor. TM = Tony Mooney.

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EN: I'm joined on the phone by Tony Mooney, a LEA inspector for homeschooling. Good morning, Tony.

TM: Good morning.

EN: Thank you for joining us. So give us an idea then. Does home schooling actually work?

TM: It can in some cases. But there's a lot of effort has to go in. I notice that those children who were being interviewed were up to the age of 10. I do secondary home education and I tell you, even the most committed parents who've got money and time find it very difficult to sustain up to the age of 16. Um, it's really hard work.

EN: But we hear all the time, I mean we did a feature on Friday about 9 year olds who get a levels in Maths, and you can imagine that lots of them are home tutored. If you do get it right, is it not the cure-all?

TM. Well it is not the cure all because, I mean you are talking about 9 year olds who get A levels, who is teaching them, the parents? I mean, I am a maths and science teacher. OK, I could get them through maths and science, but the other subjects that I think youngsters should be taught, I just wouldn't have the expertise or the confidence to teach them.

EN: OK, give us some idea of what the rules are in terms of being monitored then.

TM: Well, they are very lax indeed. I think it is actually a national disgrace. I quote for you, Lord Donaldson said in 1980 in the case of Philips v. Brown that of course, a request that we make which is going to be informal, which is going to see them, or see the children, it has got to be informal, and parents will be under no duty to comply. However, it would be sensible for them to do so but then if they do so, there is no right for the inspector to go to the home, or to see the children. They can write a report about what's happening, and some examples of work, but we don't really know what is going on.

EN: yeah but, you sound really doubtful about this. What evidence do you have that people perhaps keep their children at home just not to do anything as opposed to doing work and trying to give their children the best possible start.

TM: Well, my experience is that I go to homes where youngsters have been pulled out for bullying, as your report said, or because the parents not happy with the school. But then, they don't know what to do. In fact, I find myself giving advise to them, telling them which books to buy, how to study it, and then....

EN: is that not your job though?

TM: No, that is not my job.

EN: Oh right. Your job is not to help and support.

TM: No. My job is to report to my education authority that the progress is satisfactory or not satisfactory as the case may be.


TM: If it is satisfactory then I don't have to go back for another year.

EN: That's a long time when we are talking about a child's education.

TM: A very long time, and I have seen youngsters being educated one year. It's OK, because the parents are keen and enthusiastic, but the next year the parents have run out of time and patience and the youngster is getting a bit stroppy about it. So the education, I have to report, is unsatisfactory; and then I go back within the next six months.

EN: You know what did scare me about the report that Anna brought us, it did sound as if the children were in that wrong of me?

TM: The children are in control, yes. That's my experience. They are dictating how their education should go and what they want to do and what they don't want to do.

EN: That's not a child's place though is it?

TM: I don't think it is. I think when youngsters get out of the primary stage should be following a logical, structured course of study and it's not the case in many of the families I go to.

EN: Do you think it is increasing, that many more families are choosing to do it?

TM: It is increasing. I mean your report said that the government report said that there were between 7.5k and 35k, Education Otherwise a group of people or a body that helps parents
who are educating at home say it is nearly 200, 000.

EN. Certainly the figure that I had. It was over 100k. In my head in terms of the people I talk to about doing this. Can I just ask one question as we have the news coming up soon, in conclusion, are there particular types of children that you think fare better being taught at home?

TM: Yes, parents who have got lots of money, lots of time, lots of books around the house, who are educated themselves, those are the ones who provide in general the best home education, but a lot of the families I see are on working class estates who have been pulled out of school for bullying or truanting and it is nothing like that at all.

EN: Tony, can I say thank you very much for speaking to us.

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At the very least, someone from EO should be putting Mr Mooney and Mr Nestor right on the matter of numbers. As for correcting all the other errors, members of Action for Home Education are already writing a full complaint to the BBC about his other piece on Radio 4. Looks as if they may have to be getting on to Radio London as well.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Home Educators Putting the MSM Right

This from the Sunday Express is closer to the mark, Mr Mooney. Look and learn.

And then there's this from the Telegraph.

A View From the US

Blogdial reports on a US homeschooling family who turned a social worker away at their door. The usual advice in the UK is "don't do that here; it may well land you in trouble". So yes, Blogdial may well be right: a written constitution would probably help. However, the rights apparently conferred upon us by European Human Rights laws appear to mean next to nothing as the case of Melissa Busekros in Germany seems to demonstrate.

Blogdial concludes:

"If the British Home Schoolers do not wake up and start to get angry, they will be steamrollered and their children made into property."

He's right about the threat, though I think we are getting there in the anger stakes!

Dodgy Consultations Again

I admit I haven't kept fully up to speed on the DfES Consultation on the Definition of the Meaning of Full-Time Education (closed 26th February), but just to note that Jim Knight's answer here has received a sceptical response in the Home Education community, members of whom have up until now, supposed that despite the fact that home educators could be significantly affected by the outcome of the consultation, they had actually not been informed by anyone official that it was taking place at all. It was only the sharp eyes of a single home educator who happened to be trawling the DfES consultation site looking for the other consultation on home education which meant that we knew anything about it...or so it has seems to us.

If anyone knows otherwise do let us know, but in the absence of any other information, it might be wise to alert David Amess MP of the fact that primary stakeholders were not informed of the consultation process and that Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultations has therefore not been observed, as Mr Knight would have it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

More Appallingly Bad Criticism of Home Education

In the interests of balance, the BBC makes the error of roping in a so-called expert, who in actual fact knows next to nothing about what they are talking about. Or so it seemed in this piece about home education which can be heard via the Listen Again facility for the Today Programme, Radio 4, from 08.40 hours. There was a lovely section from a home educating family, which was predictably immediately followed by a poorly informed John Humphrys speaking to LA inspector, Tony Mooney, who proceeded to characterise the legal situation appallingly badly on air and didn't appear to demonstrate any proper understanding of the theories of learning that underpin home education.

The same so-called educational expert actually makes a better job of the legal situation in an article in the The Independent, but his understanding of epistemology of home education remains woeful even in the situation of having time to think about what he means to say. And whilst we are at it, contrary to another of his assertions, I don't think anyone at EO says there are 170,000 home educating children in the UK. And we almost universally call ourselves home educators, not home schoolers here in the UK, Mr Mooney. And what is so astonishing about the state not having immediate access to every child in the country? Really, it is actually astonishing that anyone could think this astonishing.

One wonders not only how the BBC imagines that its journalism is worth the licence fee, but also how home education could possibly be appropriately assessed by someone so poorly educated themselves. No wonder Mr Mooney thinks he couldn't home educate. He almost certainly couldn't. That doesn't however mean that plenty of other people can't, as he so clearly tries to imply.They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time. Believe me. I’m an ex-teacher and I would have never have tried it. Even though I teach maths, science.. and I can go and get the information I need in other subjects I would never have tried it. It’s a really taxing job.

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Below...courtesy of Gill, a transcript of the piece from the Today Programme.

Pre-recorded interview with home education family at home comes to an end.]

JH: [laughs]: well there we are. That’s the Ayres family. With me in the studio is Tony Mooney, who is the home education inspector for a couple of different Local Education Authorities. A good idea or not? I mean, obviously they were getting along terribly well, those little kids, they were having a lovely time, but is it a good idea?

TM: With some families it can be a very good idea. But mainly, you get white middle-class families on these programmes or in the papers and they’ve got the money and the time..

JH: And the education themselves..

TM: And the education themselves.. But my experience is that I go to mainly working class estates where youngsters have been pulled out of school because they’ve been expelled or they’ve been bullied or the parents just can’t get them into school and don’t want to go through the courts so they say they’re educating at home. Now..

JH: But can they say that? I thought we had a legal obligation to send our children to school? I thought we had to, by law!

TM: If you’ve never registered a child at a school then the local education authority has no responsibility at all. It has no right to go and examine whether that child is being educated or not.

JH [dramatically incredulous]: Really?

TM: I just have to go once a year if it’s satisfactory. If it’s not satisfactory I go sometimes every two or three months. But that’s few and far between. The bar is very low, in terms of proving that you’re educating at home.

JH: But put aside those problem families that you describe, and as you say there are a lot of them, if we’re talking about the increasing trend, it seems, for middle class families, for mothers and fathers to educate their children at home , can they do a good job of it? When you compare that with what’s happening at school and putting aside obviously that they’re not getting the social mix that they get at school, but put that aside, can they do a decent job of educating their children?

TM: Some people do a decent job of educating their children. But even middle-class families tell me, after a year or two, it is really taxing to keep up the effort and get the knowledge that they require to pass onto their children.

JH [laughing]: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time.

TM: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time. Believe me. I’m an ex-teacher and I would have never have tried it. Even though I teach maths, science.. and I can go and get the information I need in other subjects I would never have tried it. It’s a really taxing job.

JH: But – it’s happening and more of it is going on. What do you put that down to, the fact that it’s trebled in the last few years?

TM: It has trebled, yes. I would put it down to the fact that, you know.. parents don’t like their child being bullied, and that’s one major issue. Another major issue is that they can’t get them into the schools of their choice.. Erm. Things like that. And also they can’t get them into school sometimes, they’re truanting so they just opt out of the system not to get prosecuted.

JH: Right. But if you were advising somebody – somebody comes to you – educated person says I’d like to educate my kids, your – in a word, your advice to them, or in a sentence would be?

TM: Be very careful. It’s hard work. I personally wouldn’t do it.

JH: And you’re an ex-teacher. Tony Mooney, many thanks.

TM: Thank you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

We believe the best place to educate a child is actually in school

Freedom for Children to Grow has run with this particular theme.

Wow...Laming OKs the Database

but Fiona N puts him right.

The Letter I Want to Send

Criticisms please:

To the DfES,

In the recent press coverage of the York Consultancy study into elective home education that has recently been completed, a 'spokesman' for the DfES is widely quoted, for example here in the Guardian, as saying, "Standards have never been higher and with record funding in our schools, we believe the best place to educate a child is actually in school."

I feel compelled to protest about the fact that a government spokesman has implied that home education is second-rate when compared to education in schools. This position is prejudicial, ill-informed and discriminatory. Home education is not only equal in statute to education in schools, but has also repeatedly been shown to be a highly successful way of educating children. The schooling system on the other hand, has repeatedly been shown to fail children. In the light of such evidence, it is difficult not to assume that the DfES is in fact institutionally biased against home education to the extent that disinformation and discriminatory comments are now being made that encourage a prejudiced attitude against home educators.

Members of the government, such as David Milliband, have elsewhere promoted the view that learning should be personalised to best meet the needs of the learner. It is hard to see how the DfES can marry this laudable objective with such certainty that school is the best place for the education of children. Surely parents are in a far better position to judge where their individual child is likely to thrive educationally? For this reason, and for the fact that in law this choice rests with families, we do not see that the DfES should have any view on this matter.

Home educators are currently so concerned about their exclusion from DfES consultations that could fundamentally affect home educating families that they have found it necessary to make formal complaints about the lack of representation and other significant problems with the consultation processes, but they sadly find that they are left waiting for any response from the Better Regulation Executive to these formal complaints. In the meantime, people speaking on behalf of government have now made unjust attempts to bring this minority group into disrepute. It is not hard to see how the home education community are beginning to feel as if they have been treated very shabbily by this government.

By way of partial reparation, we request a full retraction of the statement by this spokesperson and that this statement be given equal prominence in the press to the original statement.

Yours sincerely,