Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on the DCSF Position Statement

Quite simply, it is a combination of spin and outright lies, designed to deceive MPs, many of whom will have received a far more accurate briefing from their constituent home educators. This document deserves the same sort of fisking that Ciaran gave to the DCSF claim that some home educators were harassing Mr Badman.

I don't actually have the time to fisk the Position Statement thoroughly right now, but below I have picked out some of the obvious corkers and believe me, it is not difficult to do!

If you think there is any chance that your MP might believe what he/she reads here, please write to him/her yet again, and point out that the impact of the Children, Schools and Families Bill will result not from some legislatively irrelevant piece of government agitprop, but from the actual Bill itself.

(UPDATE: Have just realised that Firebird has done an excellent job on fisking the whole thing. Took six posts to do it, mind you, which only goes to show just how much rubbish the Position Statement contains!)

Spin, Lies and Dirty Tricks:

1. "Our reforms will have minimal impact on home educators who are doing a good job"

I am actually still not sure whether this is a lie or a complete failure to understand. Either way it is wrong, for the reforms will impact upon HEors throughout their entire lives. If Schedule 1 were to made law, home educators would, under threat of having their child summarily returned to school, have to provide an education to suit the LA officer rather than one that is suitable for the child.

Given that LA officers do not know the child well and frequently do not have a close understanding of, for example, autonomous education, these can be two entirely different things.

We have no faith that LA officers will understand how autonomous education works. Heck, I tried to explain it to Graham Badman in person, and at the time, I thought I had made a good job of it, since he appeared to understand completely and even made unprompted reference to the philosophical underpinnings of it, ie: Karl Popper.

Yet lo and behold, in the Public Bill Committee meeting, by demanding that home educators produce a statement of their educational intentions and aims for the following year, Badman demonstrated that like many LA officers, he either has ABSOLUTELY NO UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF AUTONOMOUS EDUCATION or has NO DESIRE TO ACCOMMODATE HIS UNDERSTANDING OF IT.

Autonomous home educators in all honesty, can only say that they will offer a range of options and what seem like good theories to their children; they will help their children to employ critical analyses of these theories, and will help their children act on their own best theories, and that they will facilitate the child's interests.

There that is it, but this wouldn't be good enough for Mr. Badman. He is determined that we should be able to predict our children's progress for the next year. In the Public Bill Committee meeting, he used the example of a parent predicting that a toddler would develop their vocabularly at such and such a rate over the coming year. Oh honestly, surely Mr Badman knows that toddlers are actually not so predictable in this regard. Apparently not, however, for it appears that he wants us to develop the mystical powers of soothsaying. Of course, this would be a poor way to proceed for all home educators, but it will be all the more difficult for autonomous home educators who will not try to force their children to meet these pre-conceived objectives.

We must make it clear to our MPs. The impact of the reforms is actually in the Bill. The DCSF might like to claim that autonomous education will be respected, but the plain fact of the matter is that most LA officers don't really understand it, and some of them haul HEors over the coals for it.

Our own (new) LA officer says she understands AE but then presents you with a form that requires answers that make it seem that you must provide a school-based curricula. With the threat of a School Attendance Order directly in front of us, our right to home educate hanging in the balance, will we dare to continue to educate autonomously, despite the fact that we know it suits our children perfectly???? Already, I am bullying the children, and already this is destroying what we have.

These reforms WILL NOT BE MINIMAL IN THEIR IMPACT. They will be devastating to the education of children, and may well impact upon relationships between parent and child too.

2. And now for an example of a Dirty Trick. The Position Statement was published without notice by DCSF 19 January 2010 and not circulated in advance to the panel giving evidence at the Public Bill Committee on 19 January, so there was no chance to air criticisms of this document. It would appear that the DCSF are not being confident in the document for otherwise they would have let us have sight of it and it would have stood up to criticism.

3. Further from the Position Statement:

"Our proposals will help overcome those obstacles and assist local authorities in focusing their efforts on children who are missing education as opposed to wasting time and public money pursuing home educators who are providing an adequate standard of education but who are unwilling to provide reliable evidence to their local authorities."

The first thing is, obstacles to a police state are NOT A BAD THING. If you want no obstacles to state intrusion, the government could set up CCTVs in all our rooms, fingerprint and store our genetic information, they could lock us up without charge for as long as they liked...these things WOULD make the job of the police and LAs a lot easier, but it wouldn't make it right.

Plus, the reality is that LAs don't spend much of their time chasing unwilling home educators. LAs almost always get what they want out of us pretty darn quickly, so this is a complete red herring. And there is good reason to believe that home educators will actually make the whole process FAR more uncomfortable for LAs should this system be implemented for HEors will see this as defending some of their most basic liberties, such as the right to a private life. Plans are afoot for this right now.

4. From the Position Statement:

"There will also be funding to help local authorities provide support to home educators such as access to school libraries, music lessons, after school clubs and sports facilities."

This is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill itself and is pure guff as far as we can see. LAs have no money, (and what little they have should be spent on pot-hole and land-slide repairs as this would actually save lifes). Real support from LAs has been extremely hard to access and has only happened extremely rarely, so unless this is legislated for, we won't see it. MPs must be made aware of this.

5. "Local authorities are currently not under a duty to monitor home education on a regular basis but they are under a duty under section 436A EA 1996 to have arrangements in place to identify children not receiving a suitable education. Subsection (b) of section 436A makes clear that this provision does not relate to home educated children that are receiving suitable education. However, in order for a local authority to establish whether the education is suitable, the duty supposes some kind of investigation by a local authority. Arguably it imposes an obligation to act. Currently this can only be done with the co-operation of those home educating parents that the local authority know about. Our proposals for registration and monitoring will ensure that all home educated children are known to their local authority and none are missing out on their education."

To give the DCSF it's due, s436A actually IS the source of the problem. S436A is based upon the presumption that the state knows what suitable educational provision actually is and that it has a right to impose this upon everyone. It behoves the DCSF to take what probably is a big step for them, ie : to try to wrap their brains around the fact that an LA officer cannot possibly know what would be the best education for a child they barely know, and to leave this to the parents, unless there is significant reason to believe that the parents are not fullfilling their duty to provide a suitable education. In other words, re-institute the legal situation prior to the issuance of the January 2009 Guidance on Identifying Children Missing a Suitable Education.

I have run out of time, and am quite sure that home educators will find loads of other stuff in there that is not a good portrayal of the reality of the impact of the reforms. It would be great if you could write to your MPs to explain that the Position Statement is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the Bill.


Fiona T said...

thankyou carlotta put well as always.
A big hug.

liz said...

'Already, I am bullying the children, and already this is destroying what we have.'

Did you mean that this is already having an effect in your household or that it would/will if the bill is passed? If it is the former then I'm already in that horrible place too, beginning to change what we do as a family out of fear of it becoming law:-(

Firebird said...

Have to admit that I've been optimistically waving an English workbook at dd a fair bit recently, but she's having none of it bless her.

Anonymous said...

Our own (new) LA officer says she understands AE but then presents you with a form that requires answers that make it seem that you must provide a school-based curricula. With the threat of a School Attendance Order
Yes they make out they understand home education but in truth just want boxes to tick! if you cant tick the boxes for your LA then trouble will occur! see ticking boxes is easy for an LA officer you dont really have to think to much but we do not home educate just so an LA can tick its boxes do we?

Ruth J said...

I've not been following amendments discussions (owing to brain-fry, and being unable to face it, mostly), but I'm wondering if an amendment is on the table that CHANGES s436A EA 1996. To somehow make it nothing to do with us. Surely that's a better solution than writing convoluted laws to try and make our inclusion in it work?

Carlotta said...

I couldn't agree more, Ruth, and it wasn't there last I looked. It was then discussed, so am hoping that it will have been raised in the Public Bill Committee somehow.

It is certainly something we could be asking of the Lords we write to.