Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Ms Johnson

Dear Ms Diana R. Johnson,

I was interested to read your contribution to the commons debate on Home Education. I appreciate that you have only just taken on this ministerial portfolio, and wanted to give you my feedback.



"That system must be built on the highest standards of teaching, real choice for parents and pupils, and rigorous accountability. Home education is a vital part of that system."

In law, parents are responsible for the education of their children either at school or otherwise. Those who provide that education using money raised through taxation are doubly accountable, firstly to the children for whose benefit the education is provided, and secondly to the tax payer who has funded it. Home educating parents are only accountable to their children not to the tax payer and, while it is the duty of the LA to investigate on behalf of the children if they have reason to suppose that an education is not taking place, the parents are not and should not be accountable to the State or the tax payer in the way that tax-funded schools are and should be. Home education is NOT part of the state system of schooling.


"One is the right of parents to decide what is best for their children in their education and development. The other is the right of every child to receive a high standard of education in a safe, secure environment."

If you are going to invoke children's rights, you would do well to remember Lord Adonis's remarks about children's rights and education: http://www.freedomforchildrentogrow.org/Adonis_Judd_Oct13_2006_copiable.pdf and you would also do well to actually ask the children concerned what their preferences are, and then respect them. For example, 77% of them do not want compulsory LA monitoring or intrusion into their homes: http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/results-of-poll.html


"It would be a very small number of parents who did not want their children to be educated. It would be a very extreme belief or philosophy that made them follow that path, and the state would, rightly, have to take a view."

Would you be able to expand on how this might play out in reality, especially given the extensive literature outlining the efficiency and efficacy of autonomous home education? (I have sent you copies of Thomas and Pattison, "How Children Learn at Home" and Dowty, "Free Range Education" which may help to widen your understanding of the ways in which children can become educated; I hope and assume that you are referring to hypothetical evil parents who keep their children locked in cupboards for 14 years rather than to those who choose to educate their children in ways which are highly successful despite looking nothing like conventional education. And the legal framework is already in place to act where there is reason to believe that parents do not want their children to be educated).

"There can be no question but that we need to ensure that every child receives a good and safe education"

If that is the case then there is serious work to be done in the institutions for which you have responsibility -

"More than 360,000 children injured in schools each year

450,000 children bullied in school last year

At least 16 children commit suicide each year as a result of school bullying

An estimated 1 million children truant every year

Treasury statistics show more than 1 in 6 children leave school each year unable to read, write or add up"

http://ahed.pbworks.com/Anomaly+Figures

- before you consider violating the right to a private family life of a minority group whose dissatisfaction with the standards of safety and effective education offered by State schools has led them to reject the State institutions altogether.


"On the review, the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster is wrong to say that home education has been consistently under scrutiny since 2004. "

With respect, "In 2004 the DfES consulted on draft Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities. These guidelines were shelved and in December 2006 the DfES told EO that they were introducing "light touch changes to monitoring". However in May 2007 the DfES reverted to its original plan and re-issued the 2005 draft guidelines to full public consultation. The revised guidelines, incorporating references to the Children Act 2004 and the Education and Inspection Act 2006, were finally published in November 2007" http://www.education-otherwise.org/Legal/Consultations/2007.htm





"In November 2007, we issued guidance on home education to local authorities, but clarity about roles and responsibilities has still not been achieved."

The clarity is there. The legal framework is in place. Now LA staff need to learn to act effectively within it. They say it is unclear because they don't like the law. That doesn't mean they are right morally or pragmatically.


"It is clear that further clarity is needed."

Perhaps a clear message to LA staff that they are expected to know the law pertaining to home education and to act within it? With full support of HEers prosecuting those employees who do not act within the law?


"They are also intended to achieve greater national consistency in providing suitable full-time education for all children"

Where is the legal, ethical or pragmatic basis for supposing that a nationally consistent education is something the government has any business imposing on all its citizens? You've tried this. It's called the National Curriculum. And it is in order to escape such consistency that many of us have rejected the State schooling system - because we can do better for our children. Consistency would be a splendid ideal if children were consistent in their ability, aptitude and SEN. They aren't. Each child thrives best on a truly personalised education and no government dictat is going to be able to encompass the needs of every child. Please leave us to educate our children as is best for them, not in a "consistent" form which enables LA staff to tick boxes easily.

This is a difficult area for those with little experience of education outside the schooling model. I urge you to make contact with home educating groups, as Graham Badman has done, and begin to understand how different from the conventional norm, but also how joyful and educational our lives are "through the looking glass". EHE is a very precious part of our culture - if you tread too heavily, you will destroy it.


Yours sincerely,

10 comments:

Firebird said...

Excellent letter!

Raquel said...

Love it!

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

What a marvellous letter. Says it all in an exceptionally interesting way.

Danae
http://www.threedegreesoffreedom.blogspot.com

cosmic seed said...

bloody fab!

emma said...

Dear Carlotta,

I only deleted your comment because I had inadvertently outed myself and you used my name too :-D

(what a twit)

Maire said...

Very well said.

Dani said...

That's great! I think the point about children not being consistent in their aptitudes and abilities is very important.

Leo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leo said...

"you would also do well to actually ask the children concerned what their preferences are, and then respect them"

That's exactly what they want to do by suggesting interviews with the children without the parents present.

I don't want any stranger I don't trust to have the right to question my child.

Imagine your philosophy being used against you, with the inspector asking the children what their interests are and if you are doing your duty of facilitating them all.

"the legal framework is already in place to act where there is reason to believe that parents do not want their children to be educated"

That is not how the law is stated and I don't think any parents would openly say they don't want their children to be educated. Also, parents that don't agree with the need for compulsory education in childhood could be misinterpreted when expressing their views on the matter freely.

If you recognize the need for a government to check if children are being educated, you open intrusion in your family life and accept that ultimately an authority should judge if the education you provide is suitable or not.

"Each child thrives best on a truly personalised education and no government dictat is going to be able to encompass the needs of every child."

They don't deny that anymore. School has been attempting to encompass the personal needs of every child for a while now and ruining itself as a system with the idea.

The problem is that they speak of needs because they think of education as an obligation. They miss the point that a child can only be educated when they are ready and willing.

Also, how do you defend your right as a parent to be the one who can best provide the personalised education or at least to be the best agent of that provision? Your philosophy denies you authority.

"those who choose to educate their children in ways which are highly successful despite looking nothing like conventional education"

They are not happy to hear you say that. They want proof that it's successful and think they can only obtain that evidence by checking on the childrens' progress.

Explain why this is not possible or desirable if you can.

Childhood is NOT about raising children to be successful adults according to government standards. Each individual has to be free to judge such standards.

"I urge you to make contact with home educating groups, as Graham Badman has done, and begin to understand how different from the conventional norm, but also how joyful and educational our lives are "through the looking glass""

What?! Why are you asking them to do this? I thought you didn't want your lives inspected and are now inviting them to come over and so so? It makes no sense.