Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Select Committee Report... now available here.

Whilst being critical of Badman's methods and data, it nonetheless recommends that a suitable education be more strictly defined:

"We agree that there should be a more precise definition of what constitutes "suitable" education. The definition must be established prior to any registration and monitoring proposals being introduced "

and that a voluntary registration scheme be implemented. The reason given for the latter:

"In our view it is unacceptable that local authorities do not know accurately how many children of school age in their area are in school, are being home educated or are otherwise not in school. The main argument for a registration scheme, as we see it, is to help to provide this information."

Simply not having this information does not in itself seem like a strong enough reason for the state needing to know the whereabouts of all children of school age. On the same basis of just not knowing, I could argue that I should have the statutory right to know how often our next-door neighbour waters her banana plant. Of course, not knowing is simply not a good enough reason in itself, for intruding upon her privacy, (though I suspect, without any evidence whatsoever, that she doesn't water it enough).

It seems that by not providing a substantial reason for voluntary registration, the Select Committee are merely trying not to stir up the hornet's nest all over again. They are trying not to say that they actually do believe, along with Baroness Morgan, that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse.

But why, oh why, you may ask, (as indeed I was asked yesterday), if I have nothing to hide, do I resist registration?

One of my principle reasons for continued resistance is this: proving your innocence is very often not a trivial matter. It can involve a HUGE amount of work, it can take up almost all your time, it can substantially alter your life so that you cannot live it in a more positive and constructive way. If you stand accused, as any investigation by the LA in this instance would imply, you would have to go out of you way to life-altering lengths, to prove that you educate appropriately and are not abusing your children, and even when you do this, you have no guarantee that the person assessing you will agree with you that you are doing things, since there as many different versions of a suitable education, and there is a strong possibility that they may not understand your form of parenting and may take what is in fact the least abusive method for a form of neglect.

If you don't believe me that proving your innocence can be a huge distraction and vastly detrimental to normal life, let me give you a recent example of the lengths we, as in my family, should have gone to to prove our innocence in another matter entirely.

Not long ago, we received a stern letter from the council informing us of a complaint from a neighbour about our barking dogs. We were quite surprised to receive this, particularly as we actually only have one neighbour, they have approximately six dogs, all of which bark a great deal! Our two do bark occasionally, usually asking to be let in. However, we do respond pdq, so their barks are usually one-offs, though I concede that in the case of the wolf-hound cross, they are ear-shatteringly loud.

Anyhow, I went round to all the neighbours (only three altogether) within the radius of approximately 3/4 of a mile to apologise and say I thought it couldn't really be us. Rather mysteriously, they all looked duly shocked and said they weren't responsible for reporting us.

So we then rang the council and explained that we thought that the letter was over the top and that complaints really couldn't be held against us. We also said that we thought it likely that the barking was coming from elsewhere, though it didn't trouble us in the least as it was far enough away from us to make it almost inaudible in the general hubbub of life here.

The council told us that in order to clear our names, we would have to make a record of any barking that we heard, to note the times, duration and loudness of the barks.

Well we did try, but rapidly found this nigh impossible. Had we done this, all normal life in our home would have had to have ceased. We would have had to have sat still in a quietened house, pen and paper in hand, waiting for the next batch of barking to happen. Of course, the barking is not in the least predictable and is as likely to happen late in the evening and well into the night when the foxes come sniffing around, so you couldn't possibly go for a night out, practice the drums, go to bed early or watch the TV of an evening. Proving our innocence turns out to be no trivial matter and of course, in asking the neighbour to quiet her dogs, her chickens and possibly a piglet or two, or even the TV, the sound system, a lawn mower or heaven forbid, the tractor may well get taken out as collateral.

In trying to improve the quality of life on the hill here, the council has, through failing to understand local need and through the problem of unintended consequences, actually disturbed a perfectly well-functioning system and created a terrible mess.

And so it would doubtless be, should we have to register as home educators. There is so little understanding of how autonomous education works that we would have to go out of our way to prove that it does, and in so doing, we would actually destroy it entirely. This is one of the principle reasons why I resist registration, voluntary or otherwise.

Of course there are others. As Graham Stuart said:

"If enacted, the Government's proposals will for the first time in our history tear away from parents and give to the state the responsibility for a child's education."

Whilst this would *arguably* not result from system of "voluntary" registration, it would nonetheless certainly happen if the 20 day pause in off-rolling a child from a school register, as endorsed by the Select Committee, were to go ahead.

From the Select Committee report:

"We believe that a child who is de-registered from school to be home educated should be nominally kept on his or her school's roll for 20 school days. This would offer much greater scope for resolving problems where parents had any unease about the prospect of home educating their child. We ask the Department to confirm that the child's absence from school during the 20 days would be treated as authorised absence. "

Ho hum.

To anyone from the DCSF and from LAs who happens to pass by this way: please just leave us alone. We will get on with things far better if you do. You DO have the powers to intervene if it appears that we aren't coping. Until that point, please, please just leave us alone, for the damage you cause by your ham-fisted attempts to intervene will only create havoc where there was none.


UPDATE: Goodness, Diana Johnson's response to the Select Committee report is woefully misleading in almost every regard. Take for example:

"We are confident that taken together, Graham Badman’s recommendations will make sure every child is safe and learning well."

Well, you may be confident, but you would be ridiculously wrong to be so, since your interventions will do next to nothing to ensure that children are learning well, and in most cases, you will probably damage the education of many home educated children by imposing irrelevant state-imposed "standards" for suitability. (Please see post above for analogy of why state-imposed standards do not work).

LAs will also waste a huge amount of money inspecting tens of thousands of otherwise well-functioning families when that money could have been far better spent dealing with families who are known to be at risk.

We believe the introduction of compulsory, light touch registration for home educated children is an important element of the way forward. "

Dear oh dear. What on earth is going on here? Does Ms Johnson really not realise that what the government is actually proposing is so far from LIGHT TOUCH it is hard to imagine. No minister with any sense of rightness or understanding of the situation could possibly pretend that these radical proposals which would shift responsibility for education entirely to the state are ANYTHING LIKE LIGHT TOUCH.

"It is only if all home educated children are registered that local authorities will get the information they need to make accurate assessments about the numbers of home educated children in their areas, and we agree with the Committee that this is essential."

We have yet to establish just WHY this is so essential. See post above for the essential fatuousness of such an argument which contains no actual explanation.

"Home education is a well established part of our education system and we have no plans to change that position."

Yes, you do. Don't fudge the facts. You may be allowing it to continue, insofar as children may still be educated at home, but they must now do the state's bidding and in that regard, it would be but home education in name.

"...we’ve said we want to provide better access for home educated children to facilities that enrich their experience of education, including school libraries, sports facilities and music lessons"

The government may have said this, but like plenty of other promises from the Labour party, there is actually no available evidence at all to show that they are working to implement this policy. There is nothing in the up and coming legislation as far as we are aware and is pure guff as far as we can see.

And anyway, most home educating families manage a far, far richer educational experience and environment for their children than I ever enjoyed in one of THE most expensive private schools in the country, so quite why HEors would want to come with begging bowl in hand to plead for the impoverished offerings of a bankrupted state, one can hardly imagine!

"Home educators also tell us they want more tailored support for children with special educational needs. This is something we’re working hard to address, and we will today publish our response to Brian Lamb’s review of SEN provision."

One would think this only fair as these home educators are saving the state a monstrous amount of money by not sending their children to school where special needs provision usually costs tens of thousands of pounds per child per annum. So yeah, by all means, actually do something useful with the money you haven't got!


Fiona T said...

Yes indeed. You make the point well as always. Thankyou for posting this.

Merry said...

I think the "define suitable" element is very worrying indeed. But i suspect that it can't be made to happen.

I've got some positive feelings about what this will help us to fend off, while not agreeing with plenty of it too.

My suspicion is they think they might be able to encourage a slow start registration that will simply dwindle away with a change of government.

Fiona T said...

'We also take the view that parental responsibility in relation to the provision of home education should be strengthened.

We therefore support the proposals to introduce annual registration for home educating families.'

I have only just begun reading. This statement above is so back to front, the utter opposite of what it is saying that I am in despair!!How can we fight such blantant deception? : (

Anonymous said...

its a rubber stamp job!I wonder how much tax payers money they got for writing it?

Fiona T said...

ARRRRGGGHHH. Theres just too much wrong with it to write it all.So they're basically saying that registration will be volountary, but if after that if you haven't all come forward we'll make you? It is a wolf in sheeps clothing.
Ok thats enough I'm being too negative, I'll not hog these comments any more.

Anonymous said...

The bit about voluntary registration turning into compulsory worries me too. They seemed to have grasped some things well, but others not at all.
I found the notes from the informal meeting with the LA's interesting. It's a postcode lottery - if you have HE sympathetic LA staff you are fine. But I've heard too many horror stories
I would not voluntarily come forward. I just have no reason to. I am more than capable of educating my children without state interference. There is nothing they can offer that would change my mind.
I can go to my health visitor to help with bringing up my babies, but I don't because - shock horror - I know how to myself!
If I need help, there are loads of Home Ed parents on internet groups to offer advice. I'd rather take their advice than some council worker because the parents are HEing the council worker is not.
The report has it's problems, but it's not as bad as I was expecting.

Anonymous said...

Rather ironic when they are trying to make people MORE responsible for their own health that they are trying to take responsibility off them for educating their own children.

Carlotta said...

Fiona T...please don't stop are only saying what I should and would have said, had time permitted! Thanks for saying it.

Merry...I agree re the defining suitable. Can't see how they can do it if they stay within the bounds of reason, but I guess that isn't a necessary parameter and therefore dread to think what they might come up with.

And Anon, yes...also ridiculous that the educational system maintains that it aims to turn children into responsible, autonomous citizens, when actually adults are finding that they are not to be trusted at all, and must have all initiative and responsbiility removed from them.

Anonymous said...

who cares what they think? a bunch of over paid M.Ps.

Carlotta said...

Only reason to care, Anon, is that it may seriously impact upon our lives and I suspect that the Select Committee report could be hugely influential in terms of outcomes.

I also suspect from the way the report has been written, (see, for example the para that Fiona T quotes from above), that there were a number of different voices contributing to this report, some of which have a deep understanding of and appreciation for the position that we take. We can only hope that these voices - the voices of reason - ultimately win out and in the cause of this, we should be providing as much help as necessary.

emma said...

I'm actually really happy with the report. It criticizes Badman's evidence base and, because of the unsafety of the evidence, the report backs off from the really problematic parts of the proposals - interviewing the child alone, access to family house, being measured on a detailed curriculum plan. It says clearly that the DCSF need to think out how any legislation will impact on SEN children before bringing it forward and it also says that the registration=licensing proposals are crazy. It says none of it is workable without properly costed and carried out LA staff training. It says a lot about autonomous HE. Mostly that they don't understand it - I think there is a clear acknowledgment that the report writers feel a tad out of their depth - but also that the DCSF should blooming well have done that research properly before bringing forward legislation that affects AE.

So now Graham Stuart and our other allies take that lot to conservative HQ, and they draft 2562 amendments to the proposed education bill - just the HE related bits, before they even start in on the rest of the bill - and if anyone says "steady on old chap, why not just let it go through?", Graham Stuart says "well, have you not seen the hiiiiighly critical select committee report on the Badman review? We can't just leave it be, you know, we have a responsibility" "good point, good point" they say. "pass the port".

And with the 2562 proposed amendments, the bill can't just go through, it will get stuck either in a committee somewhere or in the Lords and there's no way it can get included in the wash up - I mean, sorry Ed, but no way Jose in the light of such a critical select committee finding for part of the bill.

And then - oopsie - it'll run out of time as the general election is announced, and there's no way a conservative government is going to want to proceed with Ed Balls's fag ends, they'll want their own bright shiny new education legislations.

So yes, the battle goes on, but this should be enough to prevent the Balls nightmare going through (unless we get another labour government - not that I've met anyone anywhere in the last 6 months inclined to vote for them, so God knows who their constituency would be) and then once the conservatives arrive, well, they know about us, they are broadly sympathetic to us, and we make sure that we are right in there talking to michael gove and his chums from the get go. We no longer need to persuade balls and co of the problems of registration and defining suitable education, we have no hope of persuading them and it doesn't matter. We just need to be poised and ready to explain the issues clearly to Gove and co once they are elected.

The select committee enquiry had three purposes from our point of view. 1. to buy us time; 2. to bring HE to the attention of as many MPs as possible so they wouldn't nod through legislation concerning us in ignorance; 3. to place on public record the shoddiness of the Badman process, and the culpability of both Badman and the DCSF in that. How many times does the report say "this data was not in the Badman report, but HEers have acquired it through FOI requests..." Egg meet face.

We have a positive result on all three counts. We should be ready for a very merry Christmas.