Sunday, April 26, 2009

What We're Up Against

My hope is that Mr Badman, who actually struck me as someone who might not lightly dismiss the genuine concerns of the citizenry in favour of doing something ineffective in order to satiate the governments desire to be seen to do something, will work through the options as outlined below and draw the same conclusions as to the most viable approach:

"So what could the review team propose? We suggest that they look closely at the current law and accept that it represents a reasonable solution to the problems we face; that the wisdom resulting from the evolution of the relevant law over time be not lost in a fit of hysteria over what should be seen to be done; that LAs learn to work more adroitly with current law and that they be appropriately trained to understand that home education is not the same as school education and that whilst it cannot be judged by the same criteria, that in a huge majority of cases, it works, and works outstandingly well.*"

But we mustn't be fooled. We really are up against it, I think. Gill has been researching the members of the review panel here, and so far it does seem as if nitty-gritty knowledge of at least certain types of home education, particularly autonomous HE, is somewhat sketchy. I do hope that the review team will follow Mr Badman's example and try to find out more about it, particularly if they feel that they don't have the expertise they require.

But even if they do, I reckon we are up against it. The conclusion above* may be the sensible one and the arguments sound, but the pressure on the review team isn't just coming from LAs who cannot see that they have sufficient powers already, and that by asking for even more powers, they will be held all the more responsible when they fail to use them.

Whilst plenty of junior staff at the DCSF seemed more than ready to admit that the school system is a dinosaur and that the model of home education had much to be said for it, ministers at the top appeared to be far less well briefed. We had Ed Balls, MP, telling us that he wouldn't home educate his children because he would worry about their socialisation. Ed, just in case this message still hasn't reached you, THIS ISN'T A PROBLEM. In fact, most HEks are SO much better socialised in every sense of the word than schooled kids, this criticism is frankly laughable.

Worse, this most basic of misperceptions is reiterated at the top by none other than the Minister who is sometimes named as being in charge of Home Education, ie: Sarah McCarthy-Fry.

from the Portsmouth News:

"Mrs McCarthy-Fry also believes the relative lack of social contact by being taught at home can also be an issue.

'The limited socialising that can be available to home educated children is something that would worry me but that's the parents right.

'Education is about preparing children for their life in the world. Going to school and mixing with other children does that.'"

Mrs McCarthy-Fry, we live in one of the most rural parts of England, and yet we are swamped with options for socialising our kids. For starters, there are usually at least three HE meetings a week somewhere in our vicinity where we can mix with up to over a 100 others of all ages. We organise these meetings ourselves, involving the children in this process. In the course of this, we learn about taking responsibility for ourselves, about how to work in big co-operative groups, about how to resolve differences, about how to engage everyone. We have to adapt, learn and seek solutions.

Because our children are there because they want to be there, not because they are forced to be, they do not have to learn the lesson that they shouldn't bully from someone who is bullying them, (as so many school children have to do). They do not have to learn about the benefits of a democracy whilst living in an autocracy, (as school children also have to do). They do not have to be preached to about the benefits of equal opportunity, whilst being constantly marked and graded and differentiated from their peers. They do not have to suffer 11 years minimum of being told pretty precisely what to do and then to have to adjust to living in a world which requires initiative and self-motivation to get by.

Instead, they can see for themselves the benefits of co-operation and mutuality, of democracy, of being inspired by what you do, and the value of pursuing your interests as a means of developing your skills.

It does work, believe me. I have now seen enough of it to know that we don't make inflated claims for ourselves in our blogs. HE children, particularly autonomously educated ones, do have something special to offer by way of an example. Do not snuff us out!


Gill said...

I really enjoyed reading that Carlotta. I especially liked the paragraph near the end: "Because our children.." It's so true! And we don't point it out often enough, or as eloquently as you did there.

I've been thinking about the review's real purpose this weekend, and the more I think about it, the more my thoughts keep coming back to that ECM framework, and our anomalous place in it. Two out of the four terms of reference relate to ECM and yes, the LAs will be floundering when it comes to fitting us into the aims and PSAs, because so many of them make it impossible to do so!

I think that rewording those aims and PSAs will solve the problem. It only needs to be some minor changes: swapping the word 'child' for 'pupil' throughout, for example, would do the job. Hardly any muggles would notice. (Yep, we've been reading HP again!)

Isn't this what Lord Adonis meant when he referred to us as the anomaly? It's what really needs to be resolved, IMO, and the answer lies with govt, not LAs or us, on whom the problem of its making has been dumped.

Carlotta said...

The child/pupil swap strikes me as an extremely sensible idea. It would mean that LAs who clearly can't read primary legislation (The Children Act 2004) and haven't realised that they only have to take the ECM into account in the course of their current duties, finally realise that the ECM agenda is not enforceable upon us.