Saturday, May 23, 2009

Questions from Ian Dowty

An article by ex-home educating lawyer Ian Dowty, due for publication in the Education Otherwise newsletter, may be found here. He summarises the current position very succinctly and then asks some searching questions.


Anonymous said...

As you say, very succinct and very balanced. I must find the time to answer the questions. I think it is difficult to divide the abuse of children into four types (not that this was Ian's doing, he was just reflecting on current thinking!) and this is not helpful, as once there is abuse of a defenceless dependent it is likely that all forms of abuse happen in one way or another at some point. Interestingly they also refer to witnessing abuse (domestic abuse) as being abuse for the children - given the prevalence of bullying in our society at home, school, in the work place and so on, that would mean that quite probably a majority of families have abused children.

Elaine said...

He fails to summarise the fact that the starvation case he speaks of was not hidden and that police, ss and child protection were involved.
He fails to say the spry children were known to the authorities

Elaine said...

Also on
is this piece , note the word SEVERAL!!!
''Friday 22 May

Preview Ian Dowty's article for Education Otherwise newsletter June 2009

Barrister Ian Dowty who has been to several meetings with Graham Badman as part of the Government's ongoing Independent Home Education Review has written an article for the EO newsletter to be published on June 1st.

The article addresses safeguarding and welfare concerns and ends with a number of questions for home educators.

Ian also wanted the article to be published online.''

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Ian is marvellous, but it doesn't change a few facts.

As Elaine points out,there have been several meetings, probably with EO. Why are we not hearing the commentary in these meetings? Secrecy surrounding such an important matter is not inducing trust in me.

Ian is bound to think like a lawyer, and lawyers are often, regrettably, part of the system.
What he says encompasses a huge shift in the basic nature of society. We are talking about who has responsibility for children here? The state or parents.

The government is in a precarious position at the moment. Can it really afford to intrude into the homes of individual citizens and hope to inspire confidence in society in general that way?

cosmic seed said...

honey trap a strategy whereby an attractive person coerces another person into doing or revealing something; also, a person employing this strategy to entrap another

cosmic seed said...

funny isn't it how the lawyer and the charity wouldn't consult with anyone before publishing the prospectus, but suddenly the lawyer, via the charity, welcomes (courteous) input from all?

Raquel said...

"Without doubt, the time has long passed for a line to be drawn in the sand, the interest
government is taking in our children is too detailed and their lives are becoming too
regulated and parents are becoming marginalised. Which brings me back to the Home
Education Review."

well that's it..time to give up and just let them have our children!


"This article grows in length and cannot deal with a full discussion of what has been
advanced to the Review."

I think that would been the article that we have all been clamouring for.

The questions at the end make me feel like I'm being put through therapy..with me being cured only when I admit that the CCTV has to go in absolutely every room in the house!

cosmic seed said...

seems like desperate scare mongering to hurriedly get the 4000 members on board to me.

Anonymous said...

"What he says encompasses a huge shift in the basic nature of society. We are talking about who has responsibility for children here? The state or parents.

The government is in a precarious position at the moment. Can it really afford to intrude into the homes of individual citizens and hope to inspire confidence in society in general that way?"

I think that is part of Ian's point. The shift has happened. Most people accept the state as having this big role.

We don't like it, he doesn't like it- but it has happened.

I really hope people wake up and smell the coffee and realise what this really means to individual families and do something about it.

Won't be holding my breath though.

Ian actually does say that Spry was well known to the authorities and visted regulary.

The facts about the other child are not yet known as far as I am aware.

Raquel said...

"The shift has happened. Most people accept the state as having this big role."

but do they? This s a govt. that is predicted to lose the next election. Blogs all over the net are berating them. People are saying they are the worst government ever.

Surely this is a time to be optimistic that we can get people onside. ID cards aren't popular so people won't want to be watched in their homes any more than they want to show their papers. The schools suck, so they must be thinking about alternatives in education themselves.

I admit that there are still many who think nanny knows best because they haven't woken up and smelt the coffee. But there are many others who are more active politically who can help us get the message across.

I felt Ian's message was very pessimistic when I see this is a time when we could really get some support from a very fed up electorate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Is it right that in order to defend children's rights, we have to take away those of the parents? How do we communicate with children, and the very young, so that we can be sure they know their rights? Parents should not have to fear this sort of freedom respecing information being given to their children as they know that if all children didn't receive it, some would be left unprotected. Children certainly do not need to be strip searched and removed from their parents! Families should not have to submit to intrusive actions by authorities for this information to be imparted. Children could just be informed of their rights by being given a space to sit and read/watch what these rights are are so that they have an idea of the sort of treatment they should and should not receive.

Currently the only way to defend the very young that actually works is the policy of education about abuse. This information is provided to people who can be reached (ie the adults generally and children in school). The civil servants who inform politicians about what policies they should fight for are understandably concerned that some children can't be reached and informed of their rights to freedom from abuse. Home educators like every one else need to accept that children have to be reached so that the vulnerable can be informed. This does not have to be done in the abusive way it is currently done – it can be done without prejudice to the variety of parenting styles and educational choices that exist. (The problem is that the public and government misunderstand HE and think it might be part of abuse...and this is what needs to be addressed because it is a witch hunt that doesn't solve any real problems and just creates noise to avoid good communication.)

The ECM agenda - for each child to know their rights - is generally a good idea. It is just how they have gone about it that is unhelpful, and it is unhelpful to believe that they can enforce it. We need to give up a little of our privacy – that is to say a government body needs to know how to communicate information to all children from a very young age – in order to protect a vulnerable minority. But we shouldn't, in the process, need to fear an excessive interference and misunderstanding of our educational and parenting philosophies.

We also need to look at the problem more widely in order to solve this problem long term. If abusive behaviour didn't happen routinely in society at large and in relationships between adults at home, it would not be the risk to children it currently is. Therefore, increasing the drive to eradicate abuse on a wide scale would diminish the risk to the under fives automatically and without infringing our freedom to live our family lives as we choose.

emma said...

Mr Dowty and I must have been compiling our liat of questions at a similar time. Mine are focused rather differently, however...

Anonymous said...

With regard to the Singleton report on safe guarding I read that Ed Balls wrote to Singleton:

"We will look for opportunities to reassert Directors of Children's
Services' and Lead Members' responsibilities for *all* children in their area.
The first opportunity is the forthcoming statutory guidance on the roles
and responsibilities of the Lead Member for Children's Services which we
expect to publish later this spring. We will strengthen the message through
the proposed statutory guidance for directors of Children's Services and Lead
Members on improving ECM outcomes, and in guidance to Children's Trust
Boards on Children and Young People's Plans. We will state explicitly that
local authorities' and Children's Trusts' ECM responsibilities extend to all
children receiving services in their area, irrespective of the type of
education their parents have chosen and the area in which whey are usually

Firebird said...

The questions at the end are VERY leading, most assuming that you gave the 'right' answer to the one before. They are forgiveable ONLY IF he's using them to illustrate how government will attempt to trap us with strawmen and lies.

I added another form of abuse in answer to the first question, invasion of a child's privacy is abuse. After that all the rest is balancing a small chance of other kinds of abuse again the certainty of that form inflicted on EVERY child.

The one that REALLY got me angry was this "How can the DCSF and its ministers be convinced that they will not be adversely criticised in the press and by the general public if there is a child, who is of compulsory school age but who is not registered at a school, who is abused?"

I mean, we're meant to CARE about the poor ittle wittle ministers being afwaid that the big bad press will say mean things about them? Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

I cannot sign in here, and will show up as anonymous, but I'm

I don't accept that the shift has taken place at all. If the authorities, while having 'monitored' children cannot even stop one abuser how in God's name is more monitoring going to stop it? If a medicine doesn't work you don't keep pouring it down someone's neck, do you?
Everyone now knows that the government is full of self-serving (other people's) money-grabbing slime who haven't got a smatch of honour left. Who in their right minds would listen to a bloody word they squeak?

To misquote Walter in The Big Lebowski, "I didn't see my buddies die in the mud just for jumped-up nobody officials to mangle and destroy my children's autonomy."

Anyway, it's not about 'safeguarding' anyone. If the government wanted to save young lives it wouldn't have sent those young boys to Iran to get blown up or shot. Nor would people be driving children around in those damn dangerous things called cars. They would ban wars and they would ban cars.

It is about control, control, control.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a very large part of it is about control, and know that Ian and ARCH have been fighting this for a long time.
Connexions/the databases-all of it has been about control

They are coming for us now, they have the rest stitched up.

Don't think it matters what we think of Ministers. But it matters very much to Ministers what the media reports about them and what the public thinks.

Carlotta said...

After these questions, I did ask myself (in the spirit of putting the case against myself): "Why? Why, even if it did some good with detecting abuse, (and I still don't think it would), do I still not want these people in my house?"

I'll tell you really why it is. It is because I don't trust their judgement.

It's not that I think them venal or otherwise generally immoral (...well, as a rule that is). I distrust them because in my experience, they often make absolutely absurd and deeply damaging judgements for reasons which are more to do with underlying prejudice and ignorance.

Although I have not had to deal with our LA yet, my experience of other stat services does not give me more confidence. Apart from all the absurd advice I have received in my time from health visitors (who often knew next to nothing about breastfeeding and yet often seemed to imagine that they did), we had to suffer the extremely disturbing experience of being imposed upon by someone who appeared to not understand that she was a guest in our home. She treated us with extraordinary distain and I had to remain very well defended not to feel post-natally blue after her visits.

Of course, we have also heard of innumerable cases of similar poor advice given by other HVs to our friends...and this is in a subject where HVs are meant to be experts and are meant to be promoting breastfeeding!

Heaven help us when an LA official pitches up at your door! He/she is probably an ex-school teacher or ex-head, who is probably, if we're honest, secretly antipathetic to HE. What fricking hope do you feel it's sensible to have!

Of course, we also know via our own personal experience of the poor judgements made by LA officials of other home educators. We have even seen HE children taken into care, when to us it seemed that there couldn't have been sufficient cause for this.

I don't trust the training solution either. You can be trained to the eyeballs and still not think that what you are doing is ethical for example. I know this from personal experience too since I briefly worked in a role for which I was well-trained, but which I still saw as being problematic.

By way of another example, involving other statutory services, only today, I heard from a friend about an elderly neighbour of hers who has recently been given an ASBO for shop-lifting, somehow ignoring the fact that this lady suffers from moderately severe multi-infarct dementia.

I mean, if this can happen, what faith can one possibly have?

Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't see why it is either helpful or necessary for 'authorities' to visit the home - not that they recognise abuse under their noses even when it is happening and they probably never will! But perhaps all children could attend external locations, say a school in summer, and with or without their parents be given other points of view. ie their rights to respectful treatment from all carers.

What would you think of that?


Carlotta said...

Hi D,

"But perhaps all children could attend external locations, say a school in summer, and with or without their parents be given other points of view"

This sort of suggestion has recently come up on one of the HE lists and I have to say that all of us here would prefer something like this to home visits.

If there were a drop in centre which HEors could use where they would have contact with those who do would then have a duty to report abuse, that surely would satisfy LAs???

I forgot to mention yet another reason why I hate letting an authority figure in the door: should (heaven forbid) it ever come to a court situation, they could make up any rubbish about you (see all the fabricated rubbish that was spouted in evidence against Iris Harrison and her family), and yet they are the so-called experts who are likely to be taken more seriously than the parent.

Firebird said...

The drop off centres SOUND reasonable, but don't all these things until you think them through? What about all the children (young, shy or previously damaged by school) who don't WANT to be dropped off with strangers for the day? How would this 'solution' be any less abusive than having a stranger come into their home to examine and question them?

Anonymous said...

Abuse is very very difficult to spot even when children are in plain view.
I was at school throughout the time I was being abused at home and NO ONE noticed. My sister and I were manipulated not to speak about our family life to anyone. It took years before I decided someone had to be told.
As it happened I chose a teacher-a wonderful person-to disclose to and she has been there for me ever since. My parents could not have been prosecuted for a number of reasons.

Being at school did not protect me. And I CHOSE who I wished to speak to in the end.
I can't see how sending in some monitor to speak to home ed children on the off chance will help at all.
Disclosing abuse is horribly difficult. I had known the teacher I went to very well for a long time.

I might add that I know of a situation now where a child who was home educated has been returned to school. Lots of people have noticed the abuse he is suffering and everyone is terrified about what to do about it.
We have a plan-but it is a difficult one made worse by the fact no one trusts the professionals.

The questions are silly and fail to understand the secrecy that is part of an abusing family.

cosmic seed said...

Even with your *drop in centre* you are still letting the assumption pass that *experts* know best, and that we are a risk to our children. I find this deeply unsettling and frankly offensive. Why should my children have to be sent to some drop in centre to be assessed for abuse? It is seriously perverse. What if they don't want to go? WHat if they resent being sent there and sit sulking or sobbing in the corner because they have been made to do something they don't want? Will that fire up a flag? We need to keep reasserting the presumption of innocence, not finding different ways or perpetuating the myth.

cosmic seed said...

different ways OF perpetuating the myth not *or*

Carlotta said...

Thanks for that testimony Anon, and thanks to for your perspective, Cosmic Seed.

Together your points seem to put pay to the idea that a drop-in centre would be the answer!

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Cosmic Seed. Imagine the stress of having this visit just to be checked to see if you're abusing your children or not looming on the whole family. Plus if people are looking for something they are more likely to think they have found it - the risk of false positives goes way high. There is a huge list out produced by NICE detailing possible flags for abuse, silly things like clothes too big or small or not appropriate for the weather. Child being clingy etc...I bet every child displays at least some of that list.

My son would definitely not go for the drop in centre idea. I've yet to leave him anywhere on his own and it takes him several visits to a new place to feel comfortable being there. Until then he burns off the emotional stress by running around and being loudly uncommunicative. When the 'experts' are seeing that tiny snapshot of my child and not him being his normal sunny self the rest of the time, what sort of conclusions will they make?

Ruth said...

But perhaps all children could attend external locations, say a school in summer, and with or without their parents be given other points of view"

This sort of suggestion has recently come up on one of the HE lists and I have to say that *all of us here would prefer something like this to home visits.*

Erm not me. My kids would hate that. We do not go to school - ever and that includes summer. Why on earth should we have to go anywhere to prove ourselves innocent of a crime we have never committed? This is nuts.

Anonymous said...

I have tackled this from a slightly different angle.

cosmic seed said...

A teacher friend of mine who home educates her own children, was telling me about a shocking story about something that happened in her school a few weeks ago.

Child was physically man handled into school by uncle and father. Child was kicking and screaming, flailing out, really didn't want to be at school. Child was dragged to the headmasters office where the headmaster tried to calm the bou but to no avail.

Social services were called. Social services said, sorry, not our problem it's a school problem. The police were called, police said, sorry, nothing we can do it's between the family and the school, but if you want we can take him to the psychiatric ward for you. Child was taken to the local psychiatric ward by the police. Psychiatric ward said, sorry, nothing we can do, you'll have to take him back to school.

This is a child who is being bullied at school and has become school phobic.

The system cares so much about children being abused does it?

Elaine said...

Nothing stays the same, if you buy seeds you plant and grow them, buy banana's you eat them, buy soap and wash. Knit a jumper somebody wears it, write a letter get a reply everything evolves in this manner even King Tut it still changing!
So anyone who concedes that authority has a right to suspect you of abusing your own children (yes in a nutshell they are suspecting you however it is dressed up as safe and well checks) they will in a few years be telling their adult children that it is right that a 'parent partner' joins their household for the first week of their childs life , just to 'help' because that is the next step.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I was clear about the drop-in centre idea. I didn't mean a place where you drop off your children by themselves at all if you and they didn't wish it, or where 'authorities' come to momentous judgements based on their best guess on the day. What I meant to suggest is that every few years or so children AND their parents could be called to attend a place (whether it is a school that is not in use, a library or a health centre is entirely irrelevant) where children could receive information about their rights. As an Anon pointed out, the child is the one in most cases (excluding tiny ones and hopefully other people would feel confident enough to step in for them) who has to get his/her courage up to tell some one. Information would help arm them and make them realise that the rest of the world would understand.

The centre would inform only, just the way parents and children are informed about good health choices at a health centre. It wouldn't be there to condemn parents on educational choices, breast feeding choices, religious choices, diet choices or anything else.

Ian's questions clearly raised the concern that we can not allow any child to be ignorant of their rights and those who are isolated by their parents fall into the category potentially of being victims of abuse WITHOUT even knowing it! We have to concede to the point that these children deserve some attempt on the part of everyone to be offered a way out. Yet it does not have to be at the expense of an unpleasant, intrusive and judgemental invasion of our privacy.


Carlotta said...

re: say, a compulsory annual lecture on children's rights delivered to HE families by the LA or other designated body in order not to assess for abuse but to alert children to the problem of it, to tell them what to do about it should it be happening, and otherwise generally inform them of their rights.

Do you know what, D - I would like to thrash that idea out and will try to find a time to raise this in a when? (can hear gorgeous 18 month old niece already stirring). I do think it a very interesting idea, but also think we do need to consider the cons mentioned by Anon from 11.36 about her son who would find such a situation difficult.

Can't help thinking in a scurrilous sort of a way though, how satisfying it would be to have for the whole lecture to be turned on it's head with stories such as that of Cosmic Seed's school phobia situation. I would love it if LAs could leave in the full knowledge that,generally speaking, it is HE children who are listened to and who know their rights.

I also can imagine my two and plenty of their mates now having the confidence to argue the point about their rational preference (rather than their right) to self determination being contravened by the compulsory nature of the lecture!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Firebird said...

"clothes [...] not appropriate for the weather"

Well I'm stuffed then! Dd will wear summer clothes the entire year given the change. She'll run around in shorts and a strappy shirt and make everyone else cold just looking at her!

Why do people continue offering 'solutions' to a problem that nobody has proven even exists? Badman hasn't even issued his findings yet!

Anonymous said...

There is the problem that, basically, children who are abused may know their rights. Even if they don't would a lecture by a professional in a distant manner really make any difference? Most home educated children, as has been said, are more likely to know about the law than the professionals anyway. We certainly know more about home education-related law than most professionals. Then, again, I would object to a mandatory lecture and I suspect my children would too. Mandatory lecture first, then a visit with a nice man in a white coat to 'talk' to you privately, little girl. Makes a mockery of what most parents tell their youngsters anyway: don't go anywhere with a stranger.

You cannot suspect a whole group of people of doing something. You cannot hang every man in Bedfordshire because one man in Bedfordshire abuses his children. It HAS to be a case to case matter, NOT a whole group of people discriminated against. If a person abuses a child, then the community should/could pick it up (and usually does). The grandmother of Baby P. knew there was something wrong. Professionals never seem to know, or conversely, since they're so bothered for their own skins now, they will see abuse in a natural, affectionate and loving chat between a father and his daughter.