Friday, October 31, 2008

Panorama on Databases

...featuring from approximately half way through, Terri Dowty of ARCH, Ross Anderson and Ian Brown.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Integrated Children's System

..aka the database for social work cases has already been dubbed not "fit for purpose". Now it is becoming evident that the judiciary agree.

Presumably this won't stop the DCSF from ploughing on with ContactPoint, which will either be accurate but incredibly costly to maintain with the pernickety data input that it will require, or somewhat cheaper but riddled with misinformation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Great News for Runners the New Scientist. Unfortunately you have to sub to get the full gist, but the article was based upon research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Apparently men who run at least 4 hours a week consume 54% more fuel at rest than those men who don't run. At rest, runners will be burning extra fuel as heat. And if I'm right to make this link, it seems that wasting energy like this also means you are likely to live longer.

Altogether it was quite enough to get me jumping out of a nice hot bath, and out into the freezing cold to go for a jog. Now I'm off to slob out and eat pizza.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brains R Us

Neuroscience and education.

Sam Harris

...on the is/ought problem.

HT: Sonnier Tribe Mama

Obama on Homeschooling

"Q. Do you support home schooling?

A. Barack Obama respects the decisions reached by some parents to home school their children, provided those parents are conforming to the laws and regulations set forward by their states governing home-based instruction."

Friday, October 24, 2008

And Relax!

Phew, that's done that. AHEd's response to the consultation on guidance about Children Missing from Education has gone in. There have been well over a 1000 responses, quite a number of which have stated a firm opposition to the proposal implicit in the guidance that the state should act in loco parentis.

I feel as strongly as ever that I neither want or need a busy-body with a clip-board on my doorstep. We are doing just fine without them thank you very much, but the chances are that they won't understand this. For example, how am I easily going to explain that, yes, sometimes my 6 year old does indeed stay up till 04.00am, but she is learning all the time, I promise!

Yep, my children and all the children we know well are doing just fine. I left my two last night for a sleep-over with some of their friends. Dd was younger than all the others by at least 5 years, yet the other children begged her to stay. The girls all hugged her when she agreed, and one of the boys, a wag and sophisticated cynic, grabbed her by the hands and danced her around the room. (I nearly did the same to him, though I don't suspect that wouldn't have gone down so well!)

They then apparently spent the evening scripting, rehearsing and then filming a horror movie and didn't go to bed until some unholy hour. Dd loved it.

I picked them both up this pm, and we hacked on over to waterpolo with low expectations - I thought DS might fall asleep in the pool, but he perked up on seeing another set of his friends, and has decided that he wants to go back every day next week for the half-term waterpolo fiesta.

I love this life, these people, these children. We are so privileged.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spanish Translation

For anyone (ie: me) who is grappling with the idiosyncracies of idiomatic Spanish, there is a pretty direct translation of the NY Times Home Education article here.

Home Education Community Vigilant and Informed

Of particular relevance to home educators right now, (and to all families if only they knew it - given the threat to the principle of parental responsibility that we see neatly tucked away in the proposed guidance for "Identifying Children Missing from Education"), from the Campaign for Liberty:

"An educated public is an essential ingredient of a free society. Ambitious governments would have far greater difficulty implementing schemes that undermine liberty and prosperity were they faced with an informed and vigilant population.

In that spirit, we have assembled these resources to help you learn more about some of the pressing issues of our time. The resources you'll find here include books (many of which we link to in free online versions) and articles, as well as audio and video available online and for free download. We receive many requests from people wondering what they should read to learn more about free societies. These resources, to which we intend to add periodically, will go a long way toward satisfying this demand.

For resources specifically addressing the current economic crisis, we recommend The Bailout Reader, an excellent and informative collection.

With some 600 responses to the Consultation on Identifying Children Missing a Suitable Education, it looks as if the home education community already fits the description of being vigilant and informed, but a little more reading never goes amiss, at least around here!

Of course, we only have until this Friday (October 24th) 17.00 hours to file our responses, so if you haven't done so already, and need a quick way to do it, follow this link.

HT for Campaign for Liberty: Sonnier Tribe Mama

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ContactPoint Not Just a Telephone Directory

Just in case yesterday's piece on Woman's Hour left anyone wondering what all the fuss about ContactPoint is about, (and if you didn't know better, you could wonder given that the Baroness implied that the database would be nothing more than a telephone directory), the most recent post by ARCH will set you right.

Woman's Hour on ContactPoint

Terri Dowty of ARCH was on Woman's Hour yesterday discussing ContactPoint with Baroness Delyth Morgan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families, (from the 2nd minute). I am pretty sure that the Baroness is wrong to think that the child's school will not be recorded on the database, which doesn't do much to make one feel reassured by her protestations that the database will be secure.

Terri's point that the database would have done nothing to protect Victoria Climbie was rather lost by the failure of the interviewer to grasp this central point, so in a tiny attempt to start to put this right...."ContactPoint would not have saved Victoria. " Victoria didn't need a superficial tracking device. She needed experienced workers who were able to make good face to face risk assessments and to take responsibility for their decisions rather than to pass them around the houses to other members of the multi-disciplinary team.

Resources are scarce. The little that is available should be concentrated upon employing experienced workers and upon the children who most need the intervention, not wasted on a vast computer system which will haemorrhage cash and information, make seeking out children in genuine need all the more difficult, (like looking for needles in haystacks), and won't save much time to boot.

Should the link above break, it is worth trying here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Home Schoolers Taking the Flak

I usually assume that criticisms of the more unschooling forms of home education are motivated by a genuine if ignorant belief that the parents are being irresponsible and the children let down. An editor here thinks it can be pure jealousy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Come On, Own Up!

Which group of you home educators are managing to stay well dressed? I thought the one defining feature of home educators was that they didn't give a monkeys that they have to run around covered in baby sick and paint. Tell me otherwise, or I shall have to conclude that Mr. Finn has been dreaming.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


...responses to the "children missing a suitable eductation" consultation so far. If you haven't done replied already, click here for help with completing the forms.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Success Story

Gloucestershire Local Authority have just updated and vastly improved their website. Congratulations to all concerned.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Responses to the Consultation

...about finding children missing from a suitable education are piling in - 419 at the latest count. Let's hope that most of these responses are from home educators who understand the problems.

It seems there are a few HEors who don't. This is not really so surprising as it is complex. Other HEors think it's hopeless, because the proposed guidance could seem to be directly informed by the law, ie: section 436a of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted from the 2006 Education and Inspections Act). However, in this regard, HEors need not despair, for the proposed guidance contains such an extreme interpretation of section 436a that it will result in problems in other areas of the law, ie: Sections 7 and 9 of the very same act. It seems that the bods at the DCSF haven't worked that one out just yet and home educators need to be gently explaining it to them.

And yes, if this seems familiar, it is because it is. We've thrashed out many of these problems only last year with the Elective Home Education guidelines consultation. Unfortunately, there are new people in post in the DCSF and they simply have to be re-educated all over again. This time we hope that they will pass on their received wisdom and prevent this sort of problem from happening all over again.

In brief:

This revised statutory guidance (note: since this is "guidance" it will be legally binding and will take precedence over the EHE "guidelines"), contains major changes to the previous February 2007 guidance on finding children missing from education. The 2007 version was all about finding "children missing education" and the guidelines explicitly said that did NOT include home educated children; ie: from the 2007 Guidelines:

"s3.3.16. If it becomes known that a child identified as not receiving education is being home educated, this should be recorded on the local authority's database and no further action should be taken unless there is cause for concern about the child's safety and welfare. Monitoring arrangements already exist for children being educated at home. Where there are concerns about the child's safety and welfare, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed."

However, the 2008 proposed version of guidance is about "children not receiving a suitable education" and INCLUDES home educators. It implies an assessment of suitability of the education, not about a child not being in any educational setting. From 2008:

"Section 6.35 In order to discharge their duties in relation to children not receiving an education, local authorities should make inquiries with parents about whether their HE children are receiving a suitable education. "

This puts the emphasis on a positive duty to assess all educational provision out of schools for suitability, rather than only to assess when there is reason to think that there might be a problem and it seems pretty obvious that those LAs who do not have a good attitude to home educators and do not follow the EHE guidelines, will use THIS statutory guidance to prove once and for all that they have a *duty* to *assess* how *suitable* our educational provision is.

Worse still, the guidance also implies and certainly doesn't rule out that families with children out of school should be assessed for meeting the five ambitions for children in the Children Act 2004.
This will significantly lower the level of risk at which LAs will think they have a right to intervene in family life, will override any rights to privacy for families, (see Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights), and will mean that the state will appropriate the role of parenting, thereby contravening Sections 7 and 9 of the Education Act 1996.

You can read up on all of this it at the Freedom for Children to Grow Walkthrough

If you need a quick way to respond, just fill in the consult form, NO to every question and add a bit to any questions where you could demonstrate how what is being proposed would impact negatively upon your family.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Disgusted of West Midlands...

This is what school socialisation does for you: University of Gloucester initiation ceremonies.

Makes one almost understand why a fifth of teachers want to bring back the cane, but the fact is that if they hadn't created such absurd conditions in the first place (schools), they wouldn't have to introduce immoral methods in an attempt to sort the situation out.

Sigh. It's all so unappealing, really.