Monday, June 11, 2007

Get in Those Responses NOW!

for the DfES consultation on raising the school leaving age to 18.

The reason: from Freedom for Children to Grow

"The main thing to note is that "education" is now being defined as "attendance at school or college" and "working towards accredited qualifications".

The current proposals do not make any exceptions for home educated young people, or young people with SEN or young people who work for someone else or young people who start their own businesses. All of them will be compelled to attend school or college and follow what the Government deems to be an "appropriate course" , else they or their parents (or both!) will be subject to legal sanctions. The only concession being made at present is that young people in employment will attend 5 hours a week instead of the 16+ hours stipulated for everyone else. This is in marked contrast to how "full time education" is currently defined in
Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act as "by regular attendance at school or otherwise" and it could obviously turn out to be the thin end of the wedge."

Below is a draft template response to the DfES Consultation entitled Increasing the Leaving Age. Have Your Say, to which we should respond, along with the other consultation on the same subject here, by this Thursday (14th June). There is a draft response for the second consultation at Freedom for Children to Grow.

Please do use any bits of the following as you feel inclined.

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Increasing the Leaving Age. Have Your Say.

Consultation Questions (in red).

This questionnaire asks whether you agree or disagree with some simple statements about education. Please tick the box that best describes how you feel. Feel free to add extra comments where you want to.

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1. The Government's suggesting that from 2013 all young people will have to stay in training or education until they're 18, rather than 16 as it is now. Do you agree that this is a good idea?



Compulsion in education is a very poor idea for the reason that it is not possible to pour information into the mind of a learner as you would water into a bucket. The learner's mind must be actively engaged for learning to take place. The phrase "compulsory education" is clearly meaningless for whilst someone may be forced to sit in a classroom, it does not necessarily mean that they are being educated. If a young person is not engaged in the learning process, there is no point in insisting that they continue in this situation, other than that a classroom or training situation provides an expensive minding service.

Increasing compulsion in education will not help teens to become responsible, autonomous adults since it will reduce opportunities for children to learn how best to conduct their lives. Instead such a policy risks increasing dependency, institutionalisation or sense of revolt, disaffection and boredom with learning. Threats for recalcitrant learners are likely only to alienate them further.

Nacro, The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has stated that compulsion is not the way forward, and instead have stated that they "would like to see the positive measures, such as a broader range of educational provision, comprehensive information, advice and guidance services, and increased support for young people at risk of dropping out, introduced without the element of compulsion".

Since this organisation appears to be well placed to know what would work well for this age group, and given that for the reasons as stated above, we feel that further coercion in education is likely to be counter-productive, we firmly oppose the introduction of compulsion, whilst welcoming all attempts to broaden access to education.

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2. For young people who like hands-on work, there will be more apprenticeships, more on-the-job training plus new Diplomas that combine practical work and theory. For anyone who enjoys academic work, there will still be GCSEs and A levels, plus the International Baccalaureate. With all these choices, do you agree that there will be something for everyone?



No, for example, for those who want to start a new business, or who are working on a line of research, accredited learning could well prove to be serious impediment to progress.

Or, by way of another example of those for whom the proposed system would not cater, there are children who have suffered badly in the school system, for whom yet more of the same or very similar is likely to be at least unprofitable, at worst even more damaging. Such people may need time away from the system in order to try to recover from their schooling ordeal, retrieve a sense of self, courage, hope and a belief in the possibilities open to them.

We are concerned that children are not being treated here as rounded individuals; that they are being perhaps unnecessarily pigeon-holed in the drive to enhance the economy, but without the sensitivity that would be required to genuinely make progress in this regard.

There should be less emphasis upon qualifications and regulations and the government should not be responsible for deciding upon whether or not exams are accredited or not. Employers should be capable of making appropriate judgements for themselves and much can be achieved by being flexible and open-minded. Rigid insistence upon accredited exams will foreclose upon many innovative routes into employment. It also discriminates against self-employment and entrepreneurship.

Very significantly, businesses are very likely to refuse to take on young people because they could not provide the formal training element leading to a mandatory qualification. They may even be forced to close if they cannot access a relatively cheap workforce. The problem of unemployment will therefore most likely increase for young people.

In addition, it should be clear that home education is a valid educational option.

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3a) Schools, colleges and employers can all help you decide what's the best route for you as you approach 16, and they'll help you switch if it's not working out. Do you agree that offering support and advice will help young people to choose the right course and do well in it?



What if none of the options are suitable for some people? It seems that young people will be penalised if they do not attend an accredited course, and yet if they are getting little benefit from the course, the so-called education could hardly be deemed to be of use to anyone, the individual or the economy.

It would be infinitely preferable to widen access to education, to make the options attractive and fitting for the needs of the learner and the country.

Further it should be noted that parents, families, friends and the wider community should be included as sources of support and advice. Why is educational provision apparently being limited to that which would be delivered by professionals?

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3b) What do you think would help you to choose the right course and do well in it? You can tick more than one box if you like.

Taster sessions
Advice from Connexions
Advice from young people who've done the course before
Other - please specify


All these options would be better offered without the compulsion underpinning them.

It should also be noted that parents, family and friends and the community at large can be source of advice and support. Many home-educated young people have had considerable experience of the world of work since they have not been shut away from the real world in an institution for 11+ years. For institutionalised children and young people, there should be more visits to different workplaces, meeting many more people doing different jobs and learning more about different pathways to interesting and fulfilling employment beyond school and paper qualifications. Learning mentors could also be very useful here. Colleges should promote their taster sessions to include a younger age group (e.g on Saturdays) and the funding for this should be equally open to home educated children and young people. If the government is genuinely interested in engaging children in education, we wonder why has funding for this been cut in the past?

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4a) The Government's thinking about helping young people with the cost of learning. Do you agree that giving them financial support would help them stick to their course?

Not sure


Not sure. It looks like young people will be compelled to stay in education/training, why would you need to offer financial support, given that they have no choice? However, in the situation that children are not compelled, financial assistance may help some stay on in education.

4b) What kind of financial support would help? You can tick more than one box if you like.

Free transport
Money for books
Money for kit/equipment
Bonus payments for doing well on your course
Other - please specify


We checked all these but we are not convinced that any of this will be forthcoming. There should be funding for short courses/evening classes for home educated teenagers. These proposals do not address the increased costs on families on low income and the loss of potential earnings to support the family. We also wonder how home educated teens will qualify.

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5. Do you agree that you - not your parent(s) or carer(s) - should be responsible for attending school or training once you turn 16



This should be entirely a decision for the person themselves. The individual should be the one who decides the direction of their lives, and the earlier that children can be helped to learn this skill the better. Removing autonomy from young people will only further infantalise and incapacitate them. Home educated children are often helped to make responsible decisions about the direction of their lives from a very young age. It is this model that we should be applying, rather than further reducing initiative, responsibility and autonomy. The direction of one's life should not be subject to state or parental compulsion, though both sets of people are obviously perfectly free to seek to persuade.

Home educated young people 16+ would very frequently be responsible for their own education. This does not mean that they should be penalised for "non-attendance" since they may reasonably decide that they can better educate themselves in a different and more flexible way than those suggested here.

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6a) If young people ignore the warnings they've been given and still refuse to attend, do you think it's fair to penalise them?



Of course it isn't fair. If Britain has one of the highest "dropout rates" the Government should be looking at the reasons for this. Compulsion is not the solution. Many children who do not attend school do so because of their miserable experiences there. As many as a third of truants avoid school becuase of bullying. Does the government want to risk increasing the rate of bullycide or exam suicide? Does the government want to risk the UK coming even lower on the UN scale of measures of the well-being of children?

6b) How do you think they should be penalised? You can tick more than one box if you like.

By giving them a court order that makes them complete their courses
By taking away their driving licence
By giving them a fine
By giving them a criminal record
By stopping any financial support they're getting
Other - please specify


None of the above and nothing else either. Compulsion is rarely going to solve this problem. See answer to Question 6a.

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7. Even if you think young people are responsible for attending their courses, do you agree that there should also be penalties for parents who help their children break the law by not going to school, college or training?



We don't think that young people are "responsible for attending their courses." What about the thing you said earlier Q. 3 a) "they'll help you switch if it's not working out" ? It now seems clear that education and training providers are acting as enforcers in this rigid inflexible system. Learning is not to do with "attending". There may be perfectly good reasons for not attending the institution for instance if you have curriculum material and access to online learning opportunities why should "attendance" be an issue ? This is another example of not thinking outside the box.

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8. Do you have any other comments or ideas about these proposals?

Do not introduce compulsion for whilst a person may be seated in a classroom, it does not necessarily mean that they are being educated.

Instead, make courses widely available, easily accessible and attractive to learners.

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9. By the way, did you find this questionnaire easy to understand and fill out?



Anonymous said...

Is that an ironic title? 'Get in Those Responses Now!' Lol.

We shall dispose of all your time and tell you what to do ALL THE TIME! You thought you were out of the sausage mill at 16 and could recover slowly at home before finding your way, but we will keep you in the education factory becoming what we say you ought to be until you are a wage slave!

Actually, until I read through the precise questions they were asking the public, I didn't realise that the proposal was quite as bad as it is. The coercive, authoritarian, and extraordinarily ignorant agenda is quite terrifying.

I have provided a resounding NO - don't do it! But expect that they have little or no interest in what people think...


Carlotta said...

I tend to agree...I think the proposal is very likely to go ahead in some form or other anyway, despite strong opposition from various quarters...the Tories, Lib Dems, NACRO, EO, to name but a few.

Really hoping that HE can be properly catered for though. As it stands, the proposal is very ambiguous on whether HE kids will be able to stay at home with the option of not doing accredited course work.

Anonymous said...

I don't think HE children are recognised as even existing after 16. They are considered to be unemployed, aren't they?

I mean parents aren't entitled to child benefit because they aren't at school and so on.

Anonymous said...

Parents are still entitled to child benefit for a child who is home educated over the age of 16-as long as home education was established before the age of 16.
I am reciving it for my middle child-over 16 and also recived it for her older brother.
ditto child tax credit.