Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nagging about MMR

According to Wikipedia, plenty of US home schoolers are unprotected against measles. I'd reckon the same could be said of UK home educators. The hypothesised link between MMR and autism was the killer blow. Since plenty of families in the HE community contain children with autistic spectrum disorders, many younger siblings would not have been vaccinated. Other home educators just reject vaccination on principle.

In the population as a whole, the number of measles cases has shot up this year. There have already been over a thousand cases and this despite the fact that rate of vaccination in the younger age ranges has slowly risen, though it has apparently recently stalled. Herd immunity is only achieved when 95% of the population are vaccinated or are already immune.

A small percentage of those who have received two doses of the vaccine are still susceptible to measles, though they should have a less severe form of the disease.

Deaths from measles are due largely to an increased susceptibility to secondary bacterial and viral infections. Mortality rates in the developed world are quoted at best as being around 1/5000, (though other sources put it at 1/1000). However, even in the developed world, 30% of the immuno-compromised will die if infected. The mortality rates in undeveloped countries ranges from 5 - 10% and there is currently a huge push to vaccinate those most at risk in these populations, ie: the under fives.

Measles is highly contagious. Once it gets a grip, people will die or be left with permanent complications such as brain damage, however well-nourished they may be.

There is no proven link between autism and MMR. When they stopped using the vaccination in Yokohama, the incidence of autism continued to rise.

The single vaccine for measles result in more cases of life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Go get your MMR!

Best News of the Year

Ocean currents can power the world. Just hoping it really is viable.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Personalised Learning in the Classroom = Nothing but Spin

The lie that personalised learning in the classroom is a serious option looks as if it is finally going to be laid to rest.

Home educators, otoh, manage it all the time, and are increasingly turning out successful adults as a result.

Breastfeeding and Abuse

...are inversely related.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On-line Time is Not a Waste of Time

"Learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century,"

Clacton Home Schooling Parents Demanding Funding

...via the House of Lords.

One to watch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Integrated Children's System Database Slammed.

From the Guardian: "The [computer] system regularly takes up 80% of their [social workers'] day."

Sigh. Yep, this echos my experience of a similar system over a decade ago now. Inputting records onto the computer definitely took up more time than paper notes, took one away from patient care, and provided one with less sensitive, tailored information at the end of it all.

Honestly, they should have listened to me all along!

Half Severely Bullied Children Attempt Suicide

A headline which shouldn't be altered in the telling.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HEors may well need to quote Kitty Ussher on this...

From written answers:

"Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak, Labour) | Hansard source

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) whether the provision of additional flexibilities in the Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 for those lone parents who face circumstances that need special consideration will include those who home educate out of necessity rather than choice;

(2) what provision has been made in the Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008 for those lone parents who home educate their children out of necessity rather than choice; what estimate he has made of the number of children who are home educated out of (a) necessity and (b) choice; and if he will make a statement.

Kitty Ussher (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions; Burnley, Labour) | Hansard source

The proposed Regulation changes will not apply to lone parents who: are in receipt of Carer's Allowance; have a child for whom they are receiving the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance; foster children. These lone parents will be exempt and continue to be eligible for Income Support.

Lone parents in these circumstances who are also home educators are included in this group. Those lone parents who do not qualify for exemption and are capable of work will have to claim Jobseeker's Allowance, where they will be required to actively seek and be available for work of at least 16 hours a week.

However, it is recognised that lone parents who home educate may face unique and varied circumstances. Therefore we are ensuring that Jobcentre Plus Personal Advisers will have the appropriate training and guidance to deal with home educators when they make a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance. This will include making use of the proposed additional flexibilities to the Jobseeker's Allowance regime where the individual circumstances of home educators make this necessary. In addition home educators, like all other lone parents, will not be penalised if they have good cause for not taking up a job and the availability and suitability of childcare will be central to such a decision."

More Experienced Social Workers Needed

This seemed to be the conclusion of those on the ground and actually in the know in this edition of Panorama, which once again features the admirable Terri Dowty of ARCH, along with Dr. Eileen Munro.

Wouldn't it have helped not to have spent all that money and wasted all those man hours on all these databases? You have to wonder, particularly when you also factor in all the extra trouble the databases cause with the perpetual data leakage. (See here for another example.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Outstanding Talent = Application

Presumably then, school is an impediment to a world-class degree of success. Interest-driven home education, otoh, would provide plenty of opportunities.

A History of Child Abuse

...makes sickening but ultimately hopeful reading.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Steiner or Home Education?

...a journalist in the Guardian wonders. The answer of course is that it depends on the child although all the adults I know who were Steiner educated either didn't like it much or simply loathed it and got next to nothing out of it.

And he shouldn't kid himself: plenty of the original Steiner theory, the epistemology, the ethics, the ontology are all completely bats, and many Steiner schools perpetuate the foolishness to this day.

He certainly kids himself on the matter of coerciveness of Steiner schools.

"The children are free to play without their natural curiosity or imagination being stifled by numeracy or literacy lessons. "

OK, so Steiner isn't prescriptive in exactly the same way as a state school but it is nonetheless still highly prescriptive, potentially hugely restrictive and stifling to curiously and imagination, eg: a child is not enabled to read before the age of 7, he won't be aren't allowed to watch MythBusters because he won't be allowed a TV at home. He won't be allowed to listen to music in the car on the way home because this stifles what would otherwise apparently be a far more valuable conversation. He'll be compelled to wear a hat on prescribed occasions because otherwise a child's spirit might wiggle out... or something equally batty. He won't be allowed to draw Buzz Lightyear with a fine pen when he should be drawing little angels with chunky crayons.

Ho hum. Why waste your time, I'd say.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lord Kirkwood on JSA

Wow, finally someone understands just how litigious home educators are likely to become:

From Lord Kirkwood, (column GC35)

"In terms of home education, the department is heading straight for a judicial review. Home education used to be a lifestyle choice by people with a kind of hippy way of life. It is not any more. It is worrying that the department does not know how many people this measure will apply to, but I would put money on the fact that the provisions in the regulations will be challenged in the courts by those who home educate. I would support them in doing that because someone needs to test the fairness of the regulations as they currently stand."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Safeguarding Reforms Not Working

...from the Guardian:

"Lynne Featherstone, the local MP, said Baby P had fallen through "safety net after safety net. The Children's Act was borne out of tragedy in Haringey after the death of Victoria ClimbiƩ,'' she said. "Yet eight years after her death the law created to stop this happening again has failed to prevent a similar tragedy in the same borough. We must therefore have a fully independent investigation by the children's commissioner into what went so terribly wrong.""

Isn't it simply the case that with parents as appalling as this, nothing will prevent this terrible situation? 60 + visits from health and social services and they still didn't stop it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Anyone Read Any More...

..of this? The first few pages look intriguingly spot on but am not sure whether the rest will be worth shelling out for.


...on the latest NuLabour spin on ID cards. Phew, that's cathartic.

This story was also rather cheering.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Great Free Maths Site

10 Ticks. You have to register, but it's well worth it.

Proposed Welfare Reforms Challenged

From the Guardian:

'On the one hand the government is saying it wants parents to stop their children becoming vandals, on the other it is saying to lone parents "go out to work". It has got to resolve that,' Rooney said.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It isn't just Home Educators...

who think that the "Every Child Matters" agenda is worthy of serious critique. Dr. David Hoyle expresses many similar concerns, eg:

"A further set of questions surround the extent to which the processes and procedures associated with the Every Child Matters agenda seriously invade and undermine the rights of children to privacy set out under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The concern with 'joined-up services', monitoring the behaviours of children and young people, and to the sharing of information has led to both to the construction of databases that often unknown to them, contain intimate material on a scale that has been deemed disproportionate by the Information Commissioner; and to the ability of a wide range of people to access that information. In addition, it has drawn a range of practitioners (including many informal educators) into the formal surveillance process. There has been a fundamental cost to this. Children and young people are being denied spaces to explore feelings, experiences and worries away from the gaze of the state. A visit by a child or young person to a third sector advice agency, for example, to talk about sexual activity can quickly trigger police intervention. The loss of this space is very significant and the Office of the Information Commissioner has found that children themselves were concerned about invasions of their privacy, and that they would be reluctant to use 'sensitive services' – and may turn away from ‘official’ agencies and rely more heavily on other sources of help and information (Hilton & Mills, 2006)."

Lone Parent Home Educators' Benefits Update

From the second page of the report on the Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee (Thursday 30th October 2008), Kitty Ussher, the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions:

"The Conservative and the Liberal Democrat spokespeople rightly raised the issue of home educators. That gives me an opportunity to clarify our views in that regard, which is important. We completely respect the right of parents to home educate their children; however, we do not pay for them to do so. They carry on receiving income support if they wish to home educate their children. When I say that we accept the right of parents to home educate their children, that is as long as the local authorities consider the education to be suitable. That was tested through the courts; the case was Phillips v. Brown in 1980. If the education is not suitable, the local authority has the power to issue a school attendance order, but none of that is relevant in this case. I am simply clarifying that we are not attempting to make it harder for lone parents to home educate their children if that is what they seek to do and the provision is suitable.
I see no reason why a parent of a child over seven cannot successfully home educate their child and work part time. It is not common sense to presume that just because a child is at home, they are being educated all the time; nor should one presume that just because a child is home educated, they are unable to be cared for or appropriately looked after in child care when they are not in their lessons at home. That is why the provision applies to home educators.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is something of an anomaly, albeit perhaps an understandable one, that individuals can receive income support when they are working—namely, home educating? If they are taking the home education of their children seriously, that is work, yet they are also drawing income support.

Kitty Ussher: Perhaps the logical conclusion to the direction that the hon. Member for Hertsmere is going in is that someone should be paying the parent to home educate their child. We do not think that appropriate, although we recognise the right of people to home educate their children. An important point, however, is that at the moment appropriate child care may not be available for the hours of the day when home educators seek it in order to be able to take the work that is available. We consider that there will be a feedback loop involving Jobcentre Plus, the child care partnership managers and the local authorities to ensure that suitable child care is available for everyone seeking work, including home educators. I hope that that will lead to local authorities considering what atypical hours of child care they might be able to provide.

Jenny Willott: Will the Minister clarify whether Jobcentre Plus advisers will be given the discretion to take into account the fact that a parent is home educating a child? When considering what would be a reasonable job for them to take, will advisers be able to take into account not just child care issues, but the fact that parents are spending time home educating?

Kitty Ussher: Yes, but advisers will also take into account the fact that home educators have more flexibility in the hours in which they educate their children. However, there is no attempt for Jobcentre Plus advisers to say to people that, because they have to work, they cannot home educate. That is absolutely not the intention of what we are doing. None the less, home educators obviously have some flexibility in the hours that they are teaching compared to other hours when the children are at home and that will be taken into account when a Jobcentre Plus adviser considers the jobs that are available and the working hours for those jobs."