Tuesday, July 28, 2009

every cloud has a silver lining

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/swine-flu/5924342/BBC-may-screen-education-programmes-if-swine-flu-shuts-schools.html this could be fun for HEers! Or it could be for those who have a TV, but unfortunately we can't own one because of being opposed to paying the Biased Broadcasting Corporation levy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

grist to the mill

I'm actually somewhat pleased that the dcsf have gone loop-de-loo and are apparently refusing all FOI requests related to the review. This is not going to look good to the select committee at. all. :-D

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Children, Schools and Families Committee
Select Committee have announced an

Inquiry into the DCSF-commissioned review of elective home education

Leave a comment if you want me to tell you what's in the email - it's one of those "don't pass this on" official ones and I am anxious to do things by the book :-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

know your enemy - dealing with the LA


This is spine chilling. But also really good - that the EHEers in the case kept their cool, kept records, and acted lawfully throughout. Unlike the LA staffers. Gasp, shock, horror.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shooting from the hip

I'm really beyond composing carefully worded and nuanced letters.

So here's a 10 minute rant for the draft legislative programme people. It doesn't have in it everything it should, but I am coming to the conclusion that as long as I say SOME of the important things, other people will cover the other bits.


“improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home;”

I am very concerned about this clause.

The current legal position is perfectly adequate to ensure that all children receive a suitable education (as defined in case law). If you want to improve matters in this area, then a good start would be to turn the 2007 elective Home Education Guidelines for LAs into statutory Guidance. The next step would be to support families in seeking legal redress against LA employees who act ultra vires.

I understand that there are “safeguarding concerns” over home educated children in general, a concern that they may be "hidden". The recommendations of the Badman review are absolutely not the answer to the concerns of the DCSF, since his review has been widely condemned as partial, disproportionate, ill-researched, and lacking in expertise. It quotes selectively and thus misleadingly from the CofE submission to the review, as well as from a home educator's submission. It misuses statistics (where it uses them at all), perhaps because the actual figures do not help him come to his prejudged conclusions. Badman's report was supposed to be concerned with welfare, but steps WAY outside his remit (and the remit on which he consulted), and outside his expertise, conflating welfare issues with educational issues. His conclusions and recommendations are aligned neither with his stated brief nor with his findings.

As soon as the Badman review was published, a consultation was opened. Ed Balls may have accepted the review, but the primary stakeholders, Home Educating families, most certainly have not. Nor have social workers (http://www.radical.org.uk/barefoot/heducation.htm). Consultations are supposed to be held when there is the chance of affecting the outcome. But Ed Balls has already accepted the Badman recommendations, and promises to respond in more detail in September, over half way through the consultation period. And now we see ‘monitoring arrangements’ in the draft legislation before the consultation (supposed to explore whether there should be any new legislation) has closed, let alone been reported on. Is this really how the legislative process is supposed to operate?

The proposed legislation is also uncosted, not having been subjected to an impact assessment (which should have taken place before the consultation opened, surely?).

What should the government be doing instead? Rather than concentrating its efforts on disproportionate, inconsistent and uncosted legislation whose consequence (intended or unintended) will be to control the perfectly valid educational and lifestyle choices of innocent families, and to shift the primary responsibility both for the education and welfare of children from parents to the state (brace yourselves for the law suits when state employees fail to educate children or keep them safe in schools), the government should concentrate on making sure that LA staff are fully aware of and act in accordance with current welfare and education legislation, both of which are perfectly adequate if properly applied.

Whatever draconian legislation you introduce will impact negatively on law-abiding families, and on the educational freedom they currently enjoy. The hypothetical vicious child abusers hiding their children from society from birth onwards are not going to be affected at all - a £1000 fine (or whatever) for failure to register as a home educator with the LA is hardly going to be the top priority for our hypothetical sweat-shop dad or get-her-on-the-game-young mum, is it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top Tip for Bureaucrats

Badman wants all HEers to be required to register so that child abusers will be found.

But the people who will register if required are the law abiding.

If I were abusing my children so horrifically that keeping them hidden at home rather than sending them off to school seemed like the best option, would I be losing sleep at night over the possible £1000 fine for failure to register them, and a possible S.A.O. for failing to provide a suitable education? Would I heck as like. I'd be more worried about the multiple life sentences awaiting me, surely.

I'm really failing to see how the registration proposal would be the slightest bit effective. Why would child abusers register their children? What would they have to lose, in the grand scheme of things, by failing to comply?

This is all in the context, of course, that the Badman report in its entirety would be best used to line a cat litter tray rather than to inform government policy.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why I am optimistic

I believe that there is a governmental campaign afoot to completely change the relationship between the State and the Family, starting with home educators.

But I believe that they will fail.

I know that there is a great deal of doom and gloom around, and of course I am having my days of despair too, but here is what gives me hope:

When we can explain what is happening in terms which relate our plight to the lives of more conventional families, they are starting to wake up and get it. Slowly, but they really are (spot the brilliantly articulate non-HEer in that second link).

We have a power which Mr Macho Bully Boy Balls did not anticipate in his wildest dreams. That power is female. It is the power of the mama tiger seeing a threat to her cubs (Hear me ROOOOAAAAARRRRR) combined with the power more often seen in women than men, IME, to network and share ideas and actually get on with 45 things at once. How many ideas have you seen in the last month of ways to fight the proposed legislation? And maybe half of them are damp squibs, but there are just so many of us on the blogs and the boards and the lists and at the local HE meetings who are fired up with ideas and fury and goddammit with right against might.

It's not samizdat now it is teh internetz. We are connected. We are a many headed hydra. We are going to be a thorn in the side of the State. And if they do pass their evil legislation, we will, legally and politely, find ways of making it just too horrible for anyone to be prepared to do the HomeEducationStaziInspector job.

And, in a year's time, Ed Balls will be out of a job, and Graham Badman will still have to be Graham Badman every morning when he wakes up.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Petition template for marginals

Declaration: At the next general election I intend to vote for a candidate who opposes the DCSF’s proposed legislation relating to intrusive educational monitoring and welfare surveillance of Home Educators. This proposed legislation would:
- give Local Authority staff right of access to our homes without reason to suspect any wrong doing (even the police do not have this power!)
- give Local Authority staff the right to interview our children whether they are willing to be interviewed or not, without anyone supportive present, and without reason to suspect that any harm is being done to them (even social services do not have this power!)
- give Local Authority staff power of veto over who is allowed to register as a home educator, placing those who home educate in unconventional yet effective ways (Christian curriculum? Waldorf- or Steiner-inspired? Summerhill-inspired? Autonomous?) or in unconventional circumstances (Family on benefits? Single parent family? Wrong religion? Roma or travellers? Child with special needs? Parent with illness or disability?) at the mercy of what the LA staffer considers to be an appropriate approach and suitable family circumstances.

The proposed legislation is disproportionate, uncosted and inconsistent.

[insert pretty table with following columns:]


You can signal your opposition by
- signing Early Day Motion 1785 if you are a sitting MP
- issuing a press statement
- writing to your party HQ to register your opposition to the proposed legislation.

Marginal constituencies

Place sitting Lab MP 2nd in 2005 size of majority
Oxford East Andrew Smith LD 963
Chester, City of Christine Russell CON 915
Finchley & Golders Green Rudi Vis CON 741
South Thanet Stephen Ladyman CON 664
Islington South & Finsbury Emily Thornberry LD 484
Dartford Howard Stoate CON 706
(Ochil & South Perthshire Gordon Banks SNP 688)
High Peak Tom Levitt CON 735
Stourbridge Lynda Waltho CON 407
(Edinburgh South Nigel Griffiths LD 405)
Hove Celia Barlow CON 420
Selby John Grogan CON 467
Stroud David Drew CON 350
Gillingham Paul Clark CON 254
Medway Robert Marshall-Andrews CON 213
Warwick & Leamington James Plaskitt CON 266
Battersea Martin Linton CON 163
Harlow Bill Rammell CON 97
Sittingbourne & Sheppey Derek Wyatt CON 79
Crawley Laura Moffatt CON 37

Place sitting LD MP 2nd in 2005 size of majority

Hereford Keetch, P.S. CON 962
Manchester, Withington Leech, J. LAB 667
Somerton & Frome Heath, D.W.St.J. CON 812
Eastleigh Huhne, C.M.P. CON 568
Rochdale Rowen, P.J. LAB 442
Taunton Browne, J.R. CON 573
Ceredigion Williams, M.F. PC 219
Westmorland & Lonsdale Farron, T.J. CON 267
Solihull Burt, L.J. CON 279
Romsey Gidley, S.J. CON 125

Place sitting CON MP 2nd in 2005 size of majority

Wrekin, The Pritchard, M.A. LAB 942
Harwich Carswell, J.D.W. LAB 920
Preseli Pembrokeshire Crabb, S. LAB 607
Gravesham Holloway, A.J.H. LAB 654
Wellingborough Bone, P.W. LAB 687
Hornchurch Brokenshire, J.P. LAB 480
Reading East Wilson, R. LAB 475
Hemel Hempstead Penning, M.A. LAB 499
Shipley Davies, P.A. LAB 422
Guildford Milton, A.F. LD 347
Clwyd West Jones, D.I. LAB 133
Croydon Central Pelling, A.J. LAB 75

Do you live in a marginal constituency????

The Badman issue could make the difference between a sitting MP losing or retaining his/her seat at the next election. I believe we need to tell them so.

1. Do you live in a marginal constituency?

a) The marginal Labour constituencies, with majorities of less than 1000 are:

Oxford East; Chester, City of; Finchley & Golders Green; South Thanet ; Islington South & Finsbury; Dartford; High Peak, Stourbridge; Hove; Selby ; Stroud; Gillingham; Medway ; Warwick & Leamington; Battersea; Harlow; Sittingbourne & Sheppey; Crawley.

The further along the list you go, the more vulnerable the MP (the MP for Crawley has a majority of only 37!!!)

I can post a list of marginal lib dem and conservative MPs if wanted, but I personally think the labour ones near the end of the list above are the ones to focus on for now.

I have a word document with full details of the majorities. Post a comment if you want me to send it to you.

b) I have made a petition document. I will post it in a minute, and you can leave a comment if you want me to email you the Word document. If you like my wording go straight ahead and use it. If not, change at will, of course. NB note that noone is being asked to reveal what they voted in 2005, just whether they’ve voted labour in the past. Also that noone is signing up to vote in a particular way next time, just signalling their intentions at this point.

c) Are you prepared to coordinate the local petition? If not, please think of an efficient type who might be able to!

2. What the petition organiser could do:

a) Add your address at the bottom of the petition as the place to send signed copies to.

b) send the petition around the local HE lists and get copies of it to all the local HE meet ups in the next week or so.

c) get as many HEers as possible not only to sign it but also to take copies, or get you to forward the Word document by email so that they can ask friends, family and colleagues in the constituency to sign it. If you have a big number to aim at, then get them to take the petition along to all their clubs, societies, and other regular places they go, to get as many people to sign as possible – mums and dads, Akela, the vicar, the man at the Sainsbury’s checkout – everyone.

d) email the national lists to ask if anyone has friends or relations in these marginal constituencies. Get them to print off a copy of the petition and force said friends and relations to sign it and return to you.

e) here comes the maths part. If the signatory has not voted before, then a guaranteed vote away from the sitting MP is – 1 from their majority. If the signatory has voted before and has voted Labour before, then a vote away counts – 2 from their majority (minus one for them and plus one for the person in second place last time, who you may well be planning to vote for if they make the right supportive noises). If someone has voted before but has never voted labour then their signature will be nice and supportive, but won’t make any difference to the sitting MP and won’t scare them. If it’s manageable (I’d say Gillingham onwards in the list above), try to get enough signatures that the petition sheets themselves say “if you do not support us in this, you are going to guarantee to lose 155 votes in the next election. Your current majority is 154”. You don’t need to rub it in. They’ll do the maths themselves.

f) once you have the majority-killing signatures, or as many as you think you can get, photocopy all the petition sheets. Keep the originals. Send the copies to: the MP, the local constituency office of whoever was 2nd last time, the DCSF, and maybe the local and national papers. When you get near to that stage, I am happy to help draft a press release and a covering letter. I’m happy to do it and then you can alter it, if the idea of writing it from scratch is scary. Just post a comment somewhere on my blog to ask for help.

Oh, and please spread the word about this plan! Linkage much appreciated.

Friday, July 03, 2009

another route - commons select committee on children schools and families

sent to csfcom@parliament.uk

I was interested to read in the Independent today that Barry Sheerman "said it was important not to have a knee-jerk reaction following a case like Baby P. Mr Sheerman told MPs: "There is sometimes a danger that all the resources, after a tragic death, are rushed into child protection and can actually starve the resources for the support of families and good quality social work." "

Is the committee aware that just such a knee-jerk reaction appears to be under way with regard to Elective Home Education?

Graham Badman's report, welcomed by Ed Balls, has been greeted with shock and fury by the Home Educating community. The report itself is enormously problematic - selective and misleading quotation, failure to represent or reflect the views of Home Educators, acknowledgement that there is no evidence that Home Education is used as a cover for child abuse, and then putting forward a series of proposals which are already under consultation that not only call for the imposition of an intrusive monitoring regime, but also (unjustifiably) conflate the question of educational provision with the question of safeguarding.

The process of the report, consultation and proposed legislation falls short of the standards the electorate expects. How can a plan to "improve monitoring of Home Education" be in a white paper when the public consultation about whether such monitoring should be introduced - NB you can't 'improve' something before you've introduced it - is still under way? Does this not break the code of practice on consultations? e.g. criterion 1: "Consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome." If Government policy is that monitoring arrangements for children educated at home should be 'improved', then what scope do the stakeholders - home educating families - have to influence the policy outcome, please?

The proposed legislation stems from a concern that HEed children are more at risk of abuse than those who attend school. It is hardly surprising that Badman did not publish the relevant figures since they seem to show that the converse is the case... here

Given the lack of figures supporting the central premise of the Badman review, the proposed legislation as outlined in the consultation here

and already predetermined outcome at least to some extent, as evidenced by the draft improving schools and safeguarding children bill here

I consider the government's policy and proposed legislation on this matter to be disproportionate - compulsory safe-and-well checks and vastly increased powers to LA staff to approve (or not) the educational provision of families where the responsibility for the education of a child has, until now, rested with the parents.

I am also concerned about the lack of an impact assessment of this area of proposed legislation: here

If LA staff are to be given powers of intrusion into private homes without probable cause, and the power to demand interviews alone with children without probable cause (neither of these are powers which either the police or Social Services have), then what will be the costs of the new regime? Staff training in different forms of elective home education (continuation of the current situation, where the LA staff are usually retired teachers or OFSTED inspectors would obviously not be acceptable - those assessing EHE provision would have to be expert practitioners themselves)? Staff training in recognising abuse on a single annual meeting with uncooperative and unwelcoming children (you might be interested in this extensive survey of Home Educated children's opinions - would that Mr Badman had listened to them so carefully - here )? Increased budgets for training, recruiting and retaining social workers to cope with the flood of false positives referred by anxious LA education workers? Proper training for the LA staff in communicating with children with complex special needs of many different kinds?

Can any price be put on the cost in anxiety for the Home Educating parents and children? Our families are frightened that our - perfectly valid - ways of living and educating our children are about to be the hostage of LA staff who, in a perfect world would be rational and reasonable and open minded. But we do not live in a perfect world, and LA staff already fail to follow the law as it stands - we do not trust them with more power. Our children are frightened that some person from the council will have the power to come and see what they have been doing and judge it wanting, send them back to the school which failed them and where they failed, where they were bullied, perhaps, and were certainly failing to achieve the five outcomes.

If it would be helpful for the committee to hear from home educating families, I would be delighted to help set that up, or travel to London myself to make a representation to the committee. The proposed legislation is wrong headed on so many counts, and the DCSF are showing themselves committed to a course which possibly breaks various codes of conduct (for consultation and for drafting legislation) and completely fails to listen to the concerns of stakeholders.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

hear the children

survey of HE children.

It will be interesting to see whether the DCSF, to whom this has been sent, disregard this entirely and steamroller on.