Friday, February 29, 2008

Schools and Truth-Seeking Don't Mix

A friend who did a teacher-training course last year told me that plenty of the teachers she spoke to found the recruitment TV ads for teachers shockingly misleading and I've often wondered what would happen if school prospectuses were made to conform to an Advertising Standards code. Yep, I wonder how they'd accurately pitch the following story in amongst all those pretty pictures of teachers swirling in job satisfaction.

On yesterday's BBC Breakfast News, it was reported that approximately 50% of teachers admit to having been bullied by their pupils. This percentage is not repeated in the article here, but whatever the figure, the BBC investigators still assert that incidents are under-reported by heads.

Mick Brookes, the NAHT's general secretary has an explanation:

"I think we're quite right in asserting the under-reporting of these sorts of incidents because it's not the sort of thing that schools, and even teachers, will want to be shouting from the rooftops." "

Too right. It also seems perfectly possible that the same explanation could account for the fact that so many schools claim not to have a significant pupil to pupil bullying problem when this is so clearly not the case.

Hm. Put all that in your prospectus if you can.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Pet Hates

OK, I'm feeling a bit tetchy right now. It could be the flu, but I am pretty sure that even if I were in tip-top condition, I would be hoppingly irritated by quite a number of the statements made by local authorites in their responses to the consultation on guidance for home education. It's the potent combination of local authority ignorance, their inability to see how inequitable they would like to be and their inability to think through the consequences that really gets to me.

By way of an example, take this statement from Brighton and Hove:

" What happens if a child wants to go to school but the parent doesn’t want this? Who advocates for the child? Is the parent’s decision overriding? "

Ignorance: most home educated children are absolutely thrilled to be home educating. I personally don't know a single one who isn't. In addition, every home educating parent I know would send their child to school if the child wanted to go. They might do this reluctantly, given what they know about schools, but if the child chose this, they would go with it. I suspect therefore that the problem of a child being kept at home against their will is absolutely MINISCULE. If LA personel actually knew anything about most HE families, they would know this already.

Inability to spot the inequitable nature of their demands: If LA's really feel they must intervene in families to check where are child wants to be educated, will they ensure that children who say they don't want to go to school can be educated at home? No? Then don't demand this of the HE community, because it is clearly hugely inequitable.

Inability to think through the consequences: In setting out to ask all HEKs where they would prefer to be educated, and then presumably determining that a child must be sent to school if he says he would prefer it, LAs would be over-riding the principle of parental responsibility for education. Once that has gone, LAs would become responsible for a child's education, so for example, when a child is failed by school, that family would have a case.

Phew, actually I feel better for getting that off my chest, even if the flu will take a little longer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Will They Ever Learn?

We guessed it was bad, but it's nonetheless still galling to read yet more of the Local Authority responses to the DCSF's Consultation on Elective Home Education Guidelines which are emerging as a result of Freedom of Information requests by a number of home educators to various councils.

The fact that the final version of the Guidelines clearly did not give the LAs the leverage they were asking for, could give us some hope that the message will finally sink in. But just in case it hasn't...

To the any LA despots out there: You might be able to control what school children do to the very nth degree, but this is only because parents have (even if completely unwittingly) given you that responsibility. Don't forget in all your customary wielding of power, that the principle of parental responsibility for the welfare and education of children hasn't gone away. You never ever have a prima facie responsibility to do anything in this area, so butt out and only intervene when you are pretty damn sure you really need to. Most of you don't have enough money to go throwing your weight around doing something so totally unnecessary and so frequently very damaging as to interfere with perfectly well-functioning families, so go find something meaningful to do instead.

You know, the secret to education is to learn something. Perhaps the likes of the Education Welfare officers in Doncaster, Bournemouth, Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire really have seen the light at last, but if this is not the case and we really are right back were we were in 2004, well, you would have to wonder whether they'd have been better off being home educated.

UPDATE: Pete has alerted me to the fact that it can be done!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

German Home Educators Flee to UK

...a story from the Guardian which contains a perfectly legitimate reference to Hitler.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Connexions and Home Education

The home education community has recently been re-alerted to the fact that personal advisors (PAs) from the government's Connexions Careers Advice Service for teens aged 13 - 18 are cold-calling home educating families in what looks like an attempt to conscript HEKs into the system.

This is not innocuous. From the invaluable Database Masterclass:

"Every young person is allocated a ‘personal adviser’ (PA) who brokers access to services, and is responsible for carrying out an in-depth personal assessment of the young person. This assessment process is known as APIR (Assessment, Planning, Implementation and Review) and covers every area of the young person’s life, including information about parents, family and friends. "

Yep, that really means every area of a young person's life: health, income, family relationships, mental health, emotional health, you name it. And guess where all this highly personal information gets stored? Yep, you got it: yet another database, this time the Connexions Customer Information System (CCIS).

It has also emerged that some local authorities have nominated a Connexions worker to actively seek out those teens who are not obviously within the system, so HEKs are very likely to be in their sights.

PAs are meant to garner consent before starting out on this whole redundant yet dangerous process, but once a teen has given that consent, it looks pretty damn difficult to withdraw it, so plenty of HE parents will be making absolutely certain that their teens have imbibed the message that they shouldn't give out personal information to a complete stranger on the doorstep or over the telephone, so they also shouldn't do it simply because someone says they are from the government.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Space

Talking of finding Orion, here's another project which involves identifying the constellation.

"GLOBE at Night Event Taking Place Feb. 25 - March 8, 2008

Take part in this international event to observe the night time sky and learn more about light pollution around the world. GLOBE at Night is an easy observation and reporting activity that takes approximately 15-30 minutes to complete."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse

To save you having to get out of bed at 3.00 am on Thursday, there's an animation here. I am quite sure I am being extremely witless, but why does the moon show up in the middle of the umbra?

OK...Daryl provided an explanation in comments here.


From The Independent:

"The psychologist Frank Smith in The Book of Learning and Forgetting chronicles how the current schooling model has only been in existence for the last 120 years. It was based on a plan used to produce soldiers for the Prussian army.

Corralling children in groups of 30, segregating them according to age, and perceived ability, forcing them all to attend to the same material at the same time ... none of these approaches favour learning and all fly in the face of years of experience, which show us that the most effective way to learn is the classic one: that of being apprenticed to someone with whom you identify and whose skill you wish to learn. Although I am a qualified teacher, I would be the first to acknowledge that some of the very best home-educators have no teaching qualification, just a desire to help their children and an open mind. "

Confused over Kosovo

...but this has helped.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Avoiding the Surveillance State - Another Reason to Home Educate

They haven't got to the children so far, it seems! Despite the fact that my medical records and those of my husband (such as they are) appear to have been uploaded onto the NHS Spine, and this even though we had requested that they shouldn't be, the existence of non-schooled children appears to have thrown several systems into some confusion. Even in our own GP surgery's database, the children would appear not to exist, though they they were registered there perfectly satisfactorily for a number of years prior to the computerisation! I'm guessing that this is because they aren't on school databases and the mismatch throws the system into confusion.

Very sadly, I don't imagine this situation will continue for long.

However, for another related reason to home educate, read Gordon Brown's woefully inadequate response to Nick Clegg's questions about fingerprinting children in schools, via

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brotherly Love


Long journey. Children staring out of the window. DS stirs.

DS: (to younger sister): You know what we're doing is illegal.

DD: What?

DS: Yeah, home education is illegal.

DD: No, it isn't. It isn't is it Mum?

Mum: No. It's perfectly legal. The law says that a child must be educated in school or otherwise.

DS: Yes, that's what I mean. In school or else.

DD: (squeaking). MUMMMMM....

Website of the Morning

Trainee Paramedic.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Continuum Concept Tour

Jean Leidloff, author of The Continuum Concept, will be speaking in a number of venues in the UK in the near future.

Although she undervalued the role of the parent as a provider of seemingly good theories, her book challenged many of the prevailing assumptions about how children should be raised and did much to encourage a trend towards attachment parenting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Following On...

...from yesterday's article in the Guardian, The Observer quotes Roland Meighan (previously Professor of Education at Notts University):

'The one downside is that home-scholers have no laboratories or sports equipment. "But that is the fault of the system, not the home-educators," says Meighan.'

Actually, I'd say that would be the fault of the parents and is actually not a real problem. Most HEors can get themselves a chemistry set and make their way down to their local leisure centre.

Update: Please note Archright's comment below. They and I suspect that Roland Meighan didn't actually say this!

Popper's Open Society for Busy People

From the introduction to a highly desirable precis of Popper's Open Society and it's Enemies:

"Western thought has been described as a series of footnotes to Plato. This is a tribute to his achievement and to the way that his ideas have continued to exert influence to the present day. Many of our problems in politics and the social sciences are complicated by methods and doctrines that we have inherited from him.

Some of these are:

Essentialism – excessive concern with the “correct” definition of terms.
The idea that individualism and altruism are not compatible.
The idea that “who shall rule?” is the most important question in political philosophy.
The quest for a utopian society by means of violent and revolutionary reform.

Karl Popper subjected Plato’s social and political thought to searching scrutiny in the first volume of The Open Society and its Enemies. My aim here is to make this work more accessible by providing the bare bones of the arguments with some supporting text from the book."

Now that should tickle the fancy! Am off to read the precis with a view to considering the place of home education in Popper's scheme of things.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fiona Brookes Speaks!

From 37 mins into Radio 4's Friday PM recording, Prof. James Conway reiterates some slightly peculiar ideas about home educators and computer usage, but HEor Fiona Brookes is peerless.

I want to put it on record that we owe this woman and her husband a huge debt. She and her family were the first home educators we met when we moved to this area. Her example was and is inspirational and her children are WONDERFUL.

And so much for not using computers. Her family have used them pretty consistently throughout!

Friday, February 08, 2008

State Schools Shunned for Home Education

Apart from wondering both how researchers know that HEks don't spend so much time on computers, and why they assume that spending time using them is so terrible, I'd say this piece from the Guardian has got it about right. The Guardian is getting its story from a Review of Primary Education, but the research on home education that in turn informed the review is questionable in some regards.

From the review:

"In the midst of the many differences in philosophy, outlook and practice of home schoolers, from those who follow the national curriculum pretty rigidly to those whose approach makes Summerhill seem like a model of mainstream pedagogical rectitude, home schooling appears to consistently offer children a more efficacious educational experience even as measured by the standards of normative performativity. One constant in the midst of much complexity is the better than average performance of home schooled children when compared to age cohorts in the general population. Rudner's (1999) study illustrated that those in grades 1-4 who are educated at home, on average, perform one grade level higher than their public and private school counterparts. Lest this be thought as an effect of early nurture likely to dissipate later in the child's educational development, it is striking that the performance gap expands as the student progresses so that by 8th grade such children are performing at four grades above the national average in the US."

Actually, I think they may have that last bit completely right. Over and over, we see HEks starting apparently slowly, (ie: gathering information in a much more ad hoc sort of a way, according to interest and real life experience) then going on to perform very strongly by the usual academic standards.

Ho hum. We can only hope that this message finally gets through to any priggishly pedagogic LA inspectors.

There are more takes on the story from The BBC, The Independent and The Telegraph.

Update: Ah, a possible explanation for the minimal computer use assertion has emerged, (thanks Fiona N). It seem quite possible HEks have been conflated with Steiner pupils, the latter group being heavily discouraged from computer use. Most HEks aren't kept in the dark ages.

Further update: Ok, Fiona N now tells me that the assertion that HEks use computers less than schooled kids comes from outdated research on largely religious US homeschoolers. It certainly doesn't match our experience here.

The Next Reason to Home Educate

...parents actually take their responsibilities towards their children seriously. They don't want their progeny ending up in the situation of the presumably schooled children who were featured recently in Channel 4's Dispatches: Why Children Kill.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Supernanny Doesn't Make Any Difference

...from the Independent. Shame they didn't look at families where the child is provided with good explanations. Would be interesting to see how the behaviour of these children compares.

Monday, February 04, 2008

ContactPoint - What to Do Next

From Freedom for Children to Grow - (lifted in its entirety, sorry FfCtG...I can't find a permalink):

"The petition asking the Government to abandon ContactPoint, the national children's database, closed on the 20th December 2007 with 1395 signatures. On 1st February Downing Street made the following response saying that ContactPoint will still be going ahead and that it will benefit children in need of services by making it "easier for them to deliver better coordinated support to children and families "and that "security is, and always has been, of paramount importance. "
We assume that this will continue to be the official position on ContactPoint.

The Government announced a delay in the introduction of the national children's database immediately following the news of the loss of Child Benefit data discs.

The Downing Street petition response mentions that the Information Commissioner is looking at ContactPoint and the Data Protection issues.

A good place to have your say on information sharing and databases is the Ministry of Justice's Consultation into the Use of Personal Information which is being led by the Information Commissioner. This consultation closes on 15th February. The campaign site will shortly have notes on some of the main points you might want to consider and these will be flagged up here on the news page. "

Go here
for more on why ContactPoint is such a terrible idea.

Latest from Wiltshire

The North Wiltshire Home Education Robot Design Team have continued their run of form, this year winning the Technical Design Award at the First Lego League Robotics competition in Birmingham.

Way to go, boys and girls!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Libertarian Edublogger is Back

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog was essential reading back in 2005. It's therefore great to see that he is back at it again.

Only problem: there doesn't seem to be an RSS feed.

We Don't Want to Have to Say We Told You So...

...but the government is clearly continuing to ignore repeated warnings (eg: here, here and here) about the problems with ContactPoint.

When it comes to getting government departments to listen, experience seems to suggest that only threats of damage to themselves actually carries any leverage - witness their desire not to appropriate responsibility for education which informed their approach to the writing of the recent Guidelines on Home Education.

The threat of endangering the population at large just doesn't cut it with that lot.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Inspiration for Debates

Whilst looking for ideas for subjects for some proposed home educators' debates, I came across

You might want to sign up now if you fancy explaining why breastfeeding in public is not disrespectful and exactly why it can be a very good idea that children should sleep with their parents.