Archive for June, 2009

Badman’s twisting of the UNCRC

There’s a wonderful analysis of Mr Badman’s totally and utterly dishonest twisting and cheery-picking of the UNCRC posted on one of the HE lists but no permission yet to publish further so until then here’s a quick summary without legal assessment.

3.3. Badman quotes Article 12 but ONLY part 1 which says children should have their opinions taken into account, not part 2 which says how that should happen because it doesn’t fit with his ideas.

3.4. Article 28 gets a passing mention but isn’t quoted.

3.11. Article 29 and we’re back to quoting one paragraph but pretending the second doesn’t exist.

2. No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

Then there are the Articles that he chooses to ignore because they REALLY get in the way of his monitoring plans.

Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 16

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 18 Paragraph 1

1. States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.

Well, I think we can see why those got missed out, how frightfully inconvenient!

Fiesta!

If you are a visiting government official - today we worked on ECM Outcome #4, making a positive contribution. We engaged in law-abiding and positive behaviour and supported the community. We also had fun but I can’t find that listed anywhere on the ECM framework document so I suppose it doesn’t count for anything.

If you are a normal person - today along with several other local HE families we took part in the Guildford Fiesta Parade (having previously done a workshop to create our masks). If you saw it you couldn’t have missed us, we were the lions, hear us “ROAR”!

I believe

I started to write a post about Graham Badman’s multiple uses of “I believe” in his HE report trying to work out which were delusional, lies or just poor writing style, but I kept coming back to the simple, central fact. The whole report is poorly researched, poorly written and terminally biased. What I cleaned out of the chicken house this morning smelled better and had the major advantage that it could be used to feed tomato plants. Others (see the links section over there on the right) are doing a fine job of picking the whole sorry mess apart so I’ll just throw in the occasional thought if it seems that I might be adding something and other than that I might just take the Grit approach and making sarcastic and mocking comments while talking about the real business of home ed. Of that, more later … with photos.

Animal stuff

Lots of animal stuff to report, file it all under “Life Processes and Living Things” if you like :-)

Eight weeks old tomorrow and haven’t the girls grown!? Well, we’re still hoping that they’re all girls, the one in doubt is Naughty, the Speckeldy second from the right.

The Painted Ladies are taking a nap. One more is on the bottom of the net thing and we’ve got a 6th one who’s still busy eating in the plastic pot.

Several tadpoles in the nature pond now have four legs, the fish are the same as always, and we’ve been seeing lots of these lovelies.

This morning I did NOT look at the Badman report

Audrey helped me clean out the greenhouse. We potted up a cucumber, washed blackfly off the broadbeans, watered stuff in pots and put a new perch up in the chicken run. Then she read Sam Sheep Can’t Sleep and found another stag beetle. As I type this she’s having lunch and then we will be off to her music lesson.

Yes, in the back of my mind the fury and disgust are still there but I am not going to let that miserable, bigoted, evil SOB dominate my life. He wants to destroy the freedom and joy of home education and maybe he will, but not TODAY!

After careful consideration … SOD OFF!

I don’t CARE what Isaiah Berlin said. If you want quotes we’ve got a whole page of them here.

“Great spirits have always been violently oppressed by mediocre minds” - Albert Einstein

1.5 “there has to be a balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child”

This has been addressed by other bloggers but I’ll say it here again. It is a false premise that the ‘rights’ of parents are somehow in opposition to the ‘rights’ of children. Most parents say ‘rights’ but think in terms of being allowed to discharge their responsibilities towards their children who they love and want the very best for. Those of us who take a largely autonomous approach take the ‘rights’ of our children far more seriously than the state is ever going to. Would they for one second consider asking every child how they wish to be educated or what they want to learn and then ACT upon the answers? I think not!

3.3 “Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right
to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being
given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
Yet under the current legislation and guidance, local authorities have no right of access to the
child to determine or ascertain such views.

They already have access to all school children. When will they be asking them THEIR opinions about going to school? Why not start with the thousands of children who by virtue of truanting are already clearly expressing the view that they don’t want to be educated at school? Yeah, right, I thought not. Hypocrites!

3.11 such is the demand and complexity of 21st Century society and
employment that further thought should be given to what constitutes an appropriate
curriculum within the context of elective home education.

And what form will 21st Century society take pray? Got a functioning crystal ball have you? Please tell me it’s not that insane notion of UK Plc as a “knowledge economy”.

And here they are, the battle lines are drawn. I’ll pause for one moment to pass on one word coming from other local HEers which sums up the feeling right now

Bastards!

RECOMMENdATION 1
That the dCSF establishes a compulsory national registration scheme, locally administered, for all children of statutory school age, who are, or become, electively home educated.
This scheme should be common to all local authorities.

As expected, they want us to help them violate our children’s right to privacy and to update ContactPoint. Roll on the national ID database!

Registration should be renewed annually.

Why? Seriously, the point of that would be what exactly?

Those who are registering for the first time should be visited by the appropriate local authority officer within one month of registration.

Let me see … the phrase “PISS OFF!” springs to mind.

Local authorities should ensure that all home educated children and young people already known to them are registered on the new scheme within one month of its inception and visited over the following twelve months, following the commencement of any new legislation.

No, seriously I mean it, piss off! They are NOT ‘visiting’ this house, we won’t let them in.

Provision should be made to allow registration at a local school, children’s centre or other public building as determined by the local authority.
When parents are thinking of deregistering their child/children from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should there be a change in circumstances, the child could be readmitted to the school. This period would also allow for the resolution of such difficulties that may have prompted the decision to remove the child from school.

NEARLY but no cigar. Make that “When parents CHOOSE TO DEREGISTER their child/children” and make it very clear that school attendance is not required and that it is ONLY for the benefit of the family should they change their minds. When parents are only at the THINKING stage there is no need to make any changes.

National guidance should be issued on the requirements of registration and be made available online and at appropriate public buildings. Such guidance must include a clear statement of the statutory basis of elective home education and the rights and responsibilities of parents.
At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.

That’s easy, I can give you mine right now! “My approach is autonomous and the intended outcomes for my child are that she achieves whatever she chooses to during the next 12 months. As such she will be the sole judge of her own success.”

Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.

See above, it’s already written.

As well as written guidance, support should encompass advice from a range of advisers and organisations, including schools. Schools should regard this support as a part of their commitment to extended schooling.

Like they would know an autonomous education if it came up and bit them on the arse. You just don’t get it do you Badman?

Where a child is removed from a school roll to be home educated, the school must provide to the appropriate officer of the local authority a record of the child’s achievement to date and expected achievement, within 20 school days of the registration, together with any other school records.
Local authorities must ensure that there are mechanisms/systems in place to record and review registrations annually.

Right and no school is going to exaggerate to make themselves look better are they? Pointless!

RECOMMENDATION 2
That the dCSF review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a
“suitable” and “efficient” education in the light of the Rose review of the primary
curriculum, and other changes to curriculum assessment and definition throughout
statutory school age. Such a review should take account of the five Every Child
Matters outcomes determined by the 2004 Children Act, should not be overly
prescriptive but be sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and
differentiated curriculum that would allow children and young people educated
at home to have sufficient information to enable them to expand their talents and
make choices about likely careers. The outcome of this review should further inform
guidance on registration.
Home educators should be engaged in this process.

No, no, no, NO! So wrong on so many levels. Not only would autonomous education become impossible (what about those rights of the child?) it would even allow the government to proscribe the curriculum contents of structured HE. You can take this recommendation and stick it where the sun don’t shine! I will seriously leave the country before allowing this!

Food and other sundry stuff

Asking my son last year where he thought various items of food came from and getting the half joking reply-’Tesco or Sainsburys !’ made me decide to make growing food a bigger part of our HE. We have only been HE for 14 months so fairly new still.

We had the usual conversation about packaging and how harmful that was to the enviroment. He seemed to know quite a bit about that already-don’t know where from. We discussed buying fruit and veg from the local market, as they supported local farms and the produce was more seasonal.

‘Apart from the bananas.’

‘What ?’

‘You can’t grow bananas in England, it’s too cold.’ he explained kindly to his dim witted mother.

‘No alright apart from bananas.;

‘Or oranges, or lemons, or melons either.’ he added gleefully.

We then had an in depth conversation on where the expression ’smart alec’ came from. You see how one thing leads to another with HE.

Apart from all the things you CAN’T grow in your back garden in England, we set about sewing what would grow. Only ever having done tomatos in pots and the odd cucumber before, I was a novice at this. So we stuck with the easy things, potatos, carrots, leeks and salad crops. It has been enormously satisfying watching things grow, healthy exercise in the fresh air. Food tech , science and ecology all in one. You never know I may ever get him to actually eat some of the veggies !

A also decided that he wanted to follow a World Cookery course that I had found. After all his friend’s at school were doing food tech and learning how to make fruit salad, soup and fairy cakes. The course was very good and each lesson themed around a different country. It was ‘proper’ meal time food as well so we could all eat in the evening.

However the theory and the practical do not always go hand-in-hand. The other evening we ate Morrocan. A having made a chicken tagine. I dished up and asked for the verdict. It had smelt lovely whilst cooking, a delicate infusion of herbs and spices and gently simmering fruit.

‘Mm’ said number one son thoughtfully, ‘I don’t like it-all those aprricots spoil the taste of the chicken.’

And my husband….’ Well doesn’t do anything me for dear.’ he said reaching across and liberally dousing his plate in soy sauce !!!

Well you can lead a horse to water…..

Some more organised thoughts

I have a nasty feeling that there is going to be a LOT to be upset and angry about in Mr Badman’s report so I’ll address the big issues that have been ‘leaked’ already and come back when the full report is available.

Registration

I was fully expecting to see compulsory registration of home educated children suggested and all ready to argue against it, but no, he’s going one big fat Stalinist step further and suggesting that every single child should be registered with their local council AT BIRTH and that parents further be required to sign in with their new LA should they move house.

Require monitoring of all home educated children on the grounds of welfare

We’ve heard this one right from the start, because our children aren’t at school they are allegedly invisible, unknown to the outside world and thus at risk of a host of abuses. On the basis of this “well it could happen” argument all home educating parents are marked as ‘potential abusers’ and can only clear their names by allowing regular access to their children by government agents. Parents who send their children to school only escape this indignity because it is assumed that teachers will spot any abuse, who knows how, and report it. In this brave new world we are guilty until proven innocent. Parents are not to be trusted with their own children without state oversight.

The broader than expected scope of registration makes it frighteningly clear that they aren’t going to wait until later to move on from home educators to target parents of younger children. They may well be planning on some careful wording under cover of regulating home ed that will allow them to demand Abuse Checks for every single child who, by virtue of being home with mum rather than farmed out to state sponsored care, isn’t already under their control.

Let’s be clear the current law grants Social Services a lot of power when concerns are raised about ANY child. They can investigate, they can insist on seeing the child, they don’t need the right to enter every home to talk to every child regardless of there being any hint of a concern. It’s hard to imagine that over worked, under staffed social workers would ever want such powers! Makes you wonder who they plan on giving this welfare role to and just how well qualified they’ll be?

“Guidelines on minimum standards for educating children at home”

What does this MEAN? Such a short phrase. It almost sounds harmless but it means measurement, testing and regular monitoring, because how can you have “minimum standards” without policing them? It also means proscription of content and method because once you’ve monitored and tested if you don’t like what you see you can demand changes and withdraw permission if they’re not made.

This is a matter of great concern and cuts to the heart of why many of us choose to educate our own children. We’ve seen what the system offers and we don’t think it meets our legal duty to provide an education which is both efficient and suitable to the ability and aptitude of the child. I missed out age because as any home educating parent knows, it’s both futile and counter-productive to worry too much about what anyone else says a child should know or be able to do at a given age. How could anyone from inside the system be expected to fairly judge any education which at its core rejects that system, particularly if they have a tick box list in their hand?

I doubt the Badman report will give any details of these “minimum standards” but that doesn’t matter because once there’s a list it will be oh so easy for it to grow and start including specific subjects and the number of hours that should be spent on x, y or z per week and before you know it you’ll be doing “school at home” and following the Ed Balls approved book list.

The current law is clear, we are responsible, and we’re fine with that. What isn’t fine is for the state to assume, with no evidence at all, and then set down in law that we are ALL failing in our legal duties. Not only with no evidence at all that this is the case but even where there is substantial evidence that it’s NOT. Compulsory monitoring says “not only do we as a default think you’re not providing a suitable education, if you mange to convince us you are this time we’re going to come back and demand you prove it again next year, or even next month.”

The current law allows Local Authorities to make enquiries IF they have grounds for concern. What more could a reasonable person want? If they’re worried about family X they investigate, and if they’re not happy they can force the children into school, they have in fact a great deal of power.

Here we go

The typical government pre-publication ‘leaks’ have started and it’s sounding like the pre-determined conclusions that we were all fearing. It was all a cosmetic exercise, they never did have any intention of listening to us, no surprise there. However, Mr Badman seems to have stepped over the mark rather dramatically, maybe forgetting that this was a review of HE NOT the Baby P enquiry.

Sources close to the review have confirmed that its author, the former director of children’s services at Kent county council, Graham Badman, is looking “favourably” at proposals that would require parents to register their children with their council when they are born or when they move to a different local authority. source - The Guardian

Look carefully, registration of ALL children with their local council AT BIRTH, not just HE children at ‘compulsory school age’.

And then we have this

The review, which is due to be published in the next week, is also expected to recommend new guidelines on minimum standards for educating children at home. This would clarify the circumstances under which a local authority can order a child back into school, if it believed the provision at home was not up to scratch.

So that’s just another way of saying monitoring, because how can you have “minimum standards” if you don’t monitor?

You know what, I could rant on about this for pages and pages and probably later I will, but for now I’m just going to say to Mr Badman, Ms Morgan, Mr Balls and the rest of them

F*** OFF! You wouldn’t know a decent education if it came and bit you on the arse and you are NOT going to monitor my child! I’m saying NO to the fascist NeuLabour police state right now. NO!