Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Warning Shot

This blog has been pretty quiet lately, mainly because perforce, it mutated into a campaign blog fighting to protect the right of families to decide upon the nature of a suitable education for children, and yet, for a while, there have been no serious legislative threats to this freedom.  Let's hope it stays that way, but there are ominous rumblings emanating from the Department for Education.

From www.parliament.uk: 

Q. Asked by Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) Asked on: 14 October 2014 Department for Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will make it her policy to collect information on the (a) number, (b) religion and (c) ethnicity of children being homeschooled in England. 

A. Answered by: Mr Nick Gibb Answered on: 20 October 2014 

There are no current plans to collect personal information on children receiving elective home education. The Department for Education is aware, however, of some concerns amongst local authorities about the information they have on such children in their areas. We have recently begun discussions with a range of representative bodies about these concerns and other home education issues, especially in relation to safeguarding.

As far as we are aware, this "range of representative bodies" hasn't included any representative bodies from the home education community.  So, in lieu of a formal invite, let's say it loud and clear here:

Things haven't changed much as regards the essential nature of the primacy of parental responsibility for education. 
We've said it before but OK, here we go all over again:

IF the state starts meddling with the principle of parental responsibility in a way that would effectively mean that it would appropriate that responsibility, one of the fundamental tenets of a mature democracy will be fatally undone.   The state must NOT dictate the nature of an education for that leaves the populace vulnerable to authoritariansm. 

We NEED free thinkers, actually not just for the maintenance of freedom, but also because we need children not to be fed the sort of muddle-headed rubbish that DD and I discovered in a Foundation GCSE English course today.  Honestly, this screed attempted to put over such an appallingly faulty ontology that it isn't any wonder that school children in the UK are confused. We need truth-seekers who understand the scientific method rather than a fictional GCSE English ontology and who appreciate that ontology isn't a subject that can mutate across domains. We need these children to offer truth-seeming answers, not the answers that teachers and GSCE examiners erroneously think are right!

Further, if the state starts to insist that parents dance to its tune, not only will democracy be at risk, but those few free thinkers who can still think outside the national curriculum will very clearly understand that they have every right to sue the pants off the state when an education fails a child, for it WILL be the state's fault. Parents cannot be held responsible for something for which the law does not allow them to be responsible.

But that isn't the end of the arguments that can be brought to bear on the threat of greater state intervention into home education.

There is also the not inconsiderable matter of there being NO MONEY...get that?  NO MONEY to inspect loads of perfectly well-functioning families who actually do BETTER without state intervention.  

I am currently working very part-time in the health sector.  In the few years I have been out of it, there has been a marked deterioration in the care of those who demonstrably need it. District Nurses use all manner of excuses to get out of offering all manner of services to desperately needy clients and this because there is no money to offer services.  For example, clients with minimal mental capacity are deemed mentally fit at the first possible opportunity, and their initial minimal demands are left unchallenged. Professionals make no attempt to educate and obtain informed decisions. Several patients I know who would have survived for many years, possibly even decades, are now dying in a couple of years and even months and sometimes even days through professional neglect.  And yet the services seem more concerned to go burrowing around in the lives of perfectly well-functioning families who really do not need them at all!

But it isn't just the lack of money that makes universal scrutiny of home educators impractical and unethical in the extreme, it is also the fact that distrust of services in the home education has, if anything, grown in recent years, for whilst central policy hasn't changed much during the current government, quite a few local authorities continue to defy both the law and common sense by making up their own policies as they see fit. Very often these local policies often DO contravene S7 (the bit that states that it is up to parents to ensure that children are educated in suitable manner).  Ultra vires demands by LAs have caused HEors to become even more distrustful of LAs than they were in the Badman years: how can HEors trust the authorities when they show such wanton disregard for the law of the land and basic human rights?

And worse still, HEors now know about the corruption that exists in all the services - the failure to listen to children, the closing of ranks, the back-covering, the post-rationalizations, the hiding of evidence, the buying of witnesses, the neglect of pertinent evidence and the simple straightforward abuse of children in LA care.

We saw the Panorama programme on how easy it is to corrupt expert witnesses, and have no illusions that these corruptions could be perpetrated by prosecution witnesses just as easily as those for the defence. We saw the attempt by the NHS to buy the secrecy of a doctor in the Baby P case.  And we strongly suspect that there has been corruption of some sort or another, either the police and social services concealing evidence from the CPS, or the CPS colluding with the NHS in a case that is widely known about in HE circles.  We also know that the child in this case was repeatedly ignored by her social worker, and that the damage that has been done to this child by the state has been appalling and utterly unwarranted. This child had been thriving whilst home educating and due to the machinations of the state, may take years to recover, if ever!  Why would home educators put themselves at risk of such harm?

And finally, whilst LAs argue that they need to know about HEors for safeguarding reason, the truth of the matter is that families who are really struggling already come to the attention of social services and those extremely rare families who are truly abusive won't come to the attention of the authorities even if a registration scheme is brought in.  They will just go further under the radar.   ie: a registration scheme would be a terrible, terrible waste of money we don't have.

There...and to cap it all, I suspect there will be HUGE NAKED resistance to intervention, a powerful upsurge of civil disobedience, and given that the home education community is ever growing, this could now be an impressive upheaval.

Update:  There is a great piece on the spurious nature of the accusations against home education made by the NSPCC in their report on SCRs here.  


Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping everyone updated, as always!

liveotherwise said...

Well said

Carlotta said...

Hmmm...looks as if suspicions are correct: from this document:

2.15 Professional bodies nationally are currently discussing the DfE 2007 guidance in relation to EHE which many believe is in need of revision, as it can be interpreted as not always helpful in supporting Local Authorities to fulfil their statutory responsibilities.

Carlotta said...

From Logical Incrementalism:

In March this year the NSPCC published a briefing entitled Home education: learning from case reviews. It’s based on seven Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) published since 2008 ‘where elective home education was highlighted as a key factor’ and ‘consists of learning about child protection pulled from the published versions of the reports’.

I got the impression from the briefing that the seven cases involved tragic situations in which parents had neglected or abused children and that home education had played a significant role in that neglect and abuse. The picture painted by the SCRs themselves is somewhat different. In only three cases was there unambiguous evidence that parents and carers were directly responsible for the harm the child suffered. In only one case were local authorities unaware of the challenges faced by the families or of the risk to children. There were several examples of healthcare actually contributing to the harm. And the claims and recommendations highlighted in the briefing don’t accurately reflect the evidence in the SCRs.

Anonymous said...

OK...so one of the "representative bodies"" to whom the DfE has been speaking turns out to be the Association for Directors of Children's Services.

They had this to say:

"A representative from the DfE joined the committee to discuss elective home education (EHE). Although the department does not have any immediate plans to review this policy, a series of conversations with stakeholders have now begun in order to assess whether it is still relevant given the government’s guidance has remained unchanged since 2007. Members talked about the difficulty they have in knowing home education pupils exist at all without a statutory registration process and the limited safeguarding powers they and their staff have to protect home educated pupils from harm. Several members expressed serious concern that the parental voice appears to be prioritised over that of the child or young person being educated in the home which directly contradicts the child-centred approach used in schools. Checks and balances around the suitability of the setting, the quality of teaching and the content of curriculum provided in the home setting was also raised with some members suggesting that EHE seems to be a grey area for Ofsted."

OK, so most of these issues are addressed in the above post...see bit on safeguarding. In the very few Serious Review Cases that have involved EHE children, all but one were already known to services. In quite a few of these cases, EHE was not a factor in the SCR, and indeed in some of them it was the medical services that were actually implicated.

With the one family the services didn't know about, a registration scheme would not help as they would stay below the radar. They have too much to lose already to come forward at that point.

But as to the argument from the ADCS about child centred approach!! OH my god, the lack of relation to reality is so dramatic...no wonder HEors don't trust these sorts of people. Ask how many HE children want to go back into school and you will find VIRTUALLY NONE. It takes bundles of effort and energy to educate a child oneself, and if a child wants to go to school, almost every HEing parent will oblige.

Ask how many school children want to be there...go on, give them a genuine option to be properly educated out of school. Given that huge numbers of them are made utterly miserable by school, my guess is the schooling system would be in tatters if a genuinely child centred approach were implemented in regard to the question of where they want to be educated.

According to this chart, only 30% are completely happy with school...approx 20% are very unhappy...Yes, start with that lot...and imagine 20% of children walking straight out the school gates as I am sure they would if anybody actually did really bother with a child centred approach.

Honestly the cant is infuriating.


tomcousins said...

Thanks for the update. Money flows in strange ways, just because cash flow is constricting in parts of the NHS, doesn't mean that departments of child inspection might not be able to lay claim to huge wedges of cash for 'saving children at risk'.But I get the feeling there are even more of us home edders now so I guess Badman's successor will have an even rougher ride.