Sunday, April 05, 2009

Points from the Debate for Prof. Heppell

Ok, next plan: in lieu of writing a summary, I am just going to quote you lot from comments, in the hope that this will raise a few of the most relevant themes from the reams of pertinent points. Hope that's OK and apologies if others detect themes I have missed. Please do let me know!

(NB: Have just found a moment this morning to add to this with a couple of other pertinent comments).

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On the subject of the Review itself:

From Shena:

"This is specifically for Stephen Heppell. AFAICS, home educators are angry because the following process is constantly repeated:

1. Government announces a review or consultation affecting EHE but which treats LAs and other bodies as the major 'stakeholders'.

2. EHErs object because the questions do not compute and EHErs were not properly informed as 'stakeholders'.

3. No-one responds to the objections.

4. EHErs respond to the review or consultation.

5. A report is produced that treats the EHE contributions with varying degrees of disdain.

This process is repeated regularly in the apparent hope that eventually we will either give the answers government are looking for or give up and let the LA view hold sway. This is very unproductive and EHEers are angry because there is no real dialogue - we are constantly "being done to" without our consent."

From Mum of 6:

"I'm not sure what they want from us really. If they want us to agree to be registered - (we already are because I pulled my older ones out of school), what is the point? Contactpoint effectively means all children not in school are flagged as NOT IN SCHOOL and therefore the suspicion and even assumption is MISSING education; so they can send out little forms and threats to those families.

Then they have a thing about those of you who use an autonomous approach. So what will they do? Decide it isn't 'suitable'??

What will they decide about those of us using a semi-structured approach? Do kids HAVE to sit exams?

What exactly do they want?

The whole thing is so vague and wrapped up in this "Well how can we help you dears?" rubbish.

I don't think tracking online use matters at this point; they have info on all our children where they want it already. So what ELSE do they want?

I think they want to decide what our children are taught and what they are not taught. And that is what all this computer based learning is about-control of information."

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On the subject of autonomy and monitoring:

From Bruce (Maire's husband):

"I have a question for Prof Heppell. What difference (if any) does he see between personalised education and autonomous education?

The Government have announced that they want personalised education in schools. It's not entirely clear what this means, but it fits with their wider agenda on modernisation and choice in public services. Applied to schools, it's possible to see that ICT could have a role to play (along with the associated monitoring). But personalised education (however defined) is not the same as AE. It would seem important not to confuse the two; or for the review to be used as a backdoor way of introducing 'personalised' education in the home."

From Barbara:

"Prof Heppel says. "my" newly designed schools are now full of negotiated pathways and seduction rather than coercion..." " that Jan's concepts like "autonomy" and "intrinsic motivation" all have an effective place in a school setting too."

This appears to say that negotiation and seduction are in some way similar to autonomy and intrinsic motivation; in a school setting which involves, as we all know, compulsory attendance.

In my experience negotiation and seducation are not tolerant of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Negotiation and seduction do not respect the self direction of individuals but seek to influence it for other purposes. It can easily be a form of coercion."

From Diane:

"As the mother of autonomous children, I can say that tracking and monitoring is totally against the spirit of autonomous education. The only exception is if the child him or herself ever wishes to take tests, of course. Otherwise, as a concerned home educating parent, it is fairly easy for me to ascertain whether or not my children understand a concept. They ask me for clarification or they get a certain puzzled look in their eyes. You don't need to track and monitor people if you trust them. But, unfortunately, this society seems to trust no one: not parents and definitely not young people."

And more on why monitoring is unhelpful courtesy of a TCS link.

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On the subject of increasing state intrusion into private life:

From Firebird:

"Right now in the news we have Ed Balls working to gain the power to dictate the basic content of every public exam in England. This is not an administration at home to any sort of freedom in education....There are individuals within the establishment who really, honestly cannot abide the thought of any child being beyond their reach, I've met one working for our LA. It was a shock to be honest, she really believes that it's her job, her sacred duty even, to judge and approve the education of every single child in the county and she's furious that the law doesn't agree with her!"

From Gill:

"They can't do this. It's in contravention of article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

…which states that:

No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation."

From Anon:

"The review team and it's masters would do well to remember human rights, particularly these articles:

12 No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

16(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 26 (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein."

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On the subject of child welfare:

From Ali:

"The sad fact is that many CP cases go unallocated as social workers are working to capacity and are inadequately trained and supported in their role (a UK wide problem). All the serious case reviews and inquiries have reported broadly similar failings: professionals did not use existing powers appropriately. Doncaster has just been slammed in the media again, and other councils have recently been named and shamed, but with the recruitment and retention crisis in the SW profession, there are bound to be other avoidable tragedies.

Meanwhile, EHE takes a veritable pasting (at great expense to the taxpayer and based on malicious rumour mongering by LAs) 'just in case'."

From Jo:

"There are many themes that run through child abuse cases - EHE is not one of them. Abuse quite often happens with a change in family dynamics such as the mother having a new partner. This has been shown many times to be a common theme. There is no requirement for a mother to register and inform welfare services about every change in her relationships, and rightly so because, even though it is a strong theme, in only a minute number of situations where a mother is with a different partner to the biological father does abuse actually occur.

It would be unacceptable to stigmatise all single mothers with a new partner as potentially colluding with that partner to abuse her children and to subject them to regular welfare visits.
EHE has not emerged as a theme although the two difficult and serious recent cases where children were home educated did fit some of those strong themes. And in both cases it seems concerns had been raised before they even deregistered their children - so they were not hidden and unknown and there were reasons to follow them up on a welfare basis so no further powers in relation to ehe were needed in the only cases we have seen.

The NSPCC has access to huge amounts of information about abuse of children through childline and all their child protection work and yet have admitted they have no evidence to support this concern."

BloggerFrom Jemmo:

"Stephen said:

"Training should be better, recruitment should run at 100%, local authorities should spell better, young staff are neither trained nor experienced enough, ... Well in a world where trillions are being spent on a doomed banking system money will be even tighter and none of these things will happen."

"Stephen, I can't agree with your view that none of these things will happen. Remember that you are here talking about the basic things to enable effective child welfare services in this country.

The public are crying out for better trained, funded and staffed children's services. The Media has pushed this point of view to a huge degree, and have done for years. The Laming Report has stressed and re-stressed the need for this. Ed Balls has said (in one of his few moments of rationality) that all Laming's recommendations will be implemented.

I accept that money is ever tighter, but I really can't see how a government that now fails to improve children's services in precisely this way can possibly hope to survive in the current climate. Baby P, ClimbiƩ et al are all seen to have happened due to the failings of professionals.

So the point I'd like to make is, given that children's services must improve in their protection of children, and the implementation and evolution of current practice to provide this protection must likewise improve, what the heck is the point of the continuation of the welfare aspect of this review?"

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On ignorance surrounding HE.

From Allie:

"I believe that ignorance surrounding home education within children's services is damaging to the well-being of home-educated children. Home educators have, time and time again, been treated with suspicion and prejudice when they attempt to use such services. I know of people who have tried to get help from CAHMS only to be told that the *obvious* problem was that they home-educated and school was the only answer. I know of someone visited by a social worker (after a malicious referral to social services) who was informed that her education provision for her child had to be changed as it was "child-lead" (sic) and not "teacher-lead" (sic). People who know nothing of home education (indeed, often nothing about education at all!) populate many children's services of all types. Even those who are not hostile are usually clueless.

If the govt is serious about protecting the well-being of home-educated children then the first thing they should do is inform local authorities to TRAIN THEIR STAFF properly. Then, encourage those properly trained staff to remember to include home educating families when planning their service provision and publicity. I believe that many situations which end up as tragedies could have been averted if people had been able to access help when they were looking for it. This would, I believe, be a far more effective way of working than instituting a mass system of monitoring in the hope of finding a few abusive situations."

From Dani:

"I think there are a lot of parallels between the way the HE community is viewed now and attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community about 20 years ago. At that time I was very involved in campaigning against Section 28 and the vilification it encouraged. Moving on from our campaign to change the law, we pushed for services to be provided equally to LGBT people, and for acceptance and understanding of the reasons why people from that community were reluctant to use services (such as GPs, policing) because of very realistic fears of homophobia. Where I live, now, LGBT people are actively encouraged to become foster parents, and are represented and acknowledged in all areas of the local council's work. I'm not saying things are perfect now for LGBT people, but there has been a massive shift.

The key message that seems to have finally got through in that case is that being different is not necessarily wrong, or suspect. That's all we want in relation to HE."

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Summary of points:

From Renegade Parent:

"Your examples of crack using parents and child prostitutes are compelling, but not, I believe, representative of the vast majority of EHE families, however loosely one chooses to define them.
In such cases sufficient legislation already exists to safeguard the children at risk - whether or not it is universally understood or used efficiently or effectively, I am unsure....

Any further scrutiny (of welfare or ed) will harm most if not all EHE parents and children as well as their individual paths of learning. It will also unnecessarily increase the burden on overstretched children's services, thus taking resource away from people who really need it. A lot of actual pain for little if no real gain!"

I suspect that a more helpful consultation might examine the impact of ever-expanding state intervention into our lives and those of our children. In these circumstances, your input on autonomy would be equally as valuable, but EHE families would feel far more happy to voluntarily engage in constructive dialogue."

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Jan said...


You might like to know about

The Right to Play ... and all that goes with it ....

mum6kids said...

This looks concerning.

Dani said...

Thanks for doing this Carlotta. It's a pity Stephen Heppell didn't return to the discussion. I hope he still read all these arguments.

Firebird said...

It's a pity he didn't explain what the actual problem they're looking for a solution to *IS*!

Oh sure, I can see several problems from the govt POV, like children growing up not subject to the NC and related state indoctrination, but nothing that they'd want to admit to in public.

I can also see a problem from our POV, power-mad LAs who ignore the law, but 'they' don't give a stuff about that!

Hmm, maybe won't hear any more because he's already said too much?