Sunday, 21 November 2010

CME Postcard

I decided that it might be useful if there was a simple postcard that people who support the call for changes to CME legislation could send to their MPs etc.

My daughter did the drawings, we know that they are terribly stereotyped, this was done deliberately to make the point very clearly in the easiest way possible. We do not believe that home educated children all sit studiously at desks all day long in the same way that we don't believe all truants are yobbish, chain smoking graffiti artists.

If you want to read more about this issue then please look at the following two links both of which are included on the postcard:

AHEd letter to Michael Gove

Mieke's blog about how CME is changing relations between the LA and HEers in Cumbria.

You might also like to look at these threads on the Home Education Forums which details further examples of CME being directed at Home Educators.

And at Gill's blog detailing why CME needs changing before we have any new guidelines.

If you click on the highlighted named links you will be able to download a copy of the front and back of the postcard to print off on an A6 sized piece of card. There is a lot of info to try to squeeze into a small space, but it does all print out ok - well, it did for me!

If you don't already know who your MP is you can find out who they are and where to write to them here.

CME Postcard Front

Back of CME Post Card (1)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Conspiracy of Silence

It's now been over a month since the HE grapevine first started kicking off about the rumour that new guidelines were being written.

A month of people wondering, questioning, worrying and debating potential issues.

A month in which the known author of the guidelines could have responded to people's questions. A month in which she could have put people's minds at rest. It is surely what any decent person would do?

Instead we have had nothing. Zilch. Nada. Oh we've had the mutterings of a few self appointed fire fighters, who for their part seem only to have fanned the flames and attempted to stifle reasoned debate. From the Queen Bee though, nothing. She is, it would appear, above reproach.

There are people who could shed some light on the goings on, but we seem to be firmly in the midst of a conspiracy of silence. Whilst this may sound dramatic, I think that anyone who has been drawn into this episode would find it hard to disagree that elements of these effects are evident within parts of the HE *Community*.

Those who are directly suffering, or causing others to suffer, perpetuate their cycle of harm and suffering

Those who have suffered have their suffering extended by having their condition ignored or minimized, and are not considered seriously or redressed appropriately

Lessons that might be learned for future are not learned

Apparently the reason no one will speak out is because they are too frightened to *stick their heads above the parapet*. If those involved had the courage of their convictions then they would not seek to hide behind what they must perceive to be the safety of anonymity, they would be willing to defend their actions. That they are not suggests that self interest is at the heart of the whole sorry mess. We can only wonder at the possible motives involved, but top of the list would surely have to be financial gain. Maybe not immediately, that would be too obvious, but perhaps there is a longer term game plan afoot here?

Words like slander, libel and defamation are flying around the ether; friendships are being torn apart; suspicion is rife. Ed Balls's government couldn't have done a better job of creating such a rift. Meanwhile, silence.

Words couldn't express it better than this photo:

I would ask that the person responsible stand up and own her actions, but I know all too well that I would be ignored. Reprehensible doesn't begin to cover it.

Of course this post is probably just another example of me *Doing a Tech*.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

What's In A Word?

Guidance Guidelines what's the difference?

Guidance is statutory that is it is prescribed or authorized by statute. The CME (Children Missing Education) guidance is statutory because there is a clause in the original act which directs the relevant authority to take note of the contents of any guidance issued. It would appear that this is a neat way of altering the law without having to keep changing the primary legislation.

Guidelines are not statutory, and are basically just advice as to how to carry out particular duties.

GuidANCE trumps guideLINES.

As I understand it, HE cannot have statutory guidance because there is nothing in statute which refers an authority to any guidance. So to have statutory HE guidance we would need a change to the primary legislation.

It seems to me that this would not be a good thing, as each new guidance issued alters the legal situation - if I have misunderstood this PLEASE tell me, and explain to me how.

We have a situation where the 2007 HE Guidelines specifically state "The guidance issued makes it clear that the duty does not apply to children who are being educated at home." This was in relation to CME and pointed to the 2007 guidance on CME.

3.3.16. If it becomes known that a child identified as not receiving education is being home educated, this should be recorded on the local authority's database and no further action should be taken unless there is cause for concern about the child's safety and welfare. Monitoring arrangements already exist for children being educated at home. Where there are concerns about the child's safety and welfare, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed.

However, the guidance was updated and so now it is the 2009 guidance which is the one that must be adhered to, and this is where the problems arise.

2009 CME guidance gives over a whole section to Home Education I would like to draw attention to this particular section:

92. In order to discharge their duties in relation to children not receiving an education, local authorities should make inquiries with parents about whether their home educated children are receiving a suitable education. The Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities make clear that parents who home educate may take a number of equally valid approaches to educational provision for their children.

So in one fell swoop we have gone from a case of - "record the fact that the child is home educated and that's all you need to do", to "make inquiries".

It would seem from looking at the websites of various local authorities that they have interpreted this new duty by immediately referring HEers to the CME department. North Yorkshire for instance was certainly a week or two ago advising headteachers not to deregister a child 'on demand' but to instead pass the details onto the CME team.

"2.1 Regarding the Headteacher's duty to inform the LA before deleting pupil who is to be home educated from the register. In such cases please inform: Julie Fenny, CME coordinator"

Unless I have misunderstood the law regarding deregistration, the headteacher is supposed to remove the child from the register immediately the deregistration letter has been received, and then notify the LA, not vice versa.

If we look at what is happening in Bedfordshire, it's an even worse scenario:

"When parents withdraw their child from school to EHE, the child’s name can only
be deleted from the admissions register when the parents inform the school in
writing (section 8 (d) of the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006)
giving reasons for decisions. The Head Teacher/Governor has to inform the LA of
withdrawal together with reasons before the child’s name is deleted."

Compare that with the actual law:

"It is then the duty of the proprietor of the school to inform the LA within 10 working days under Regulation 13 (3): “when the name of a pupil has been deleted from the admission register in accordance with regulation 9(1)(c) the proprietor shall make a return to the local education authority giving the full name and address of that pupil within the ten school days immediately following the date on which the pupil's name was so deleted”.

Arse about face isn't it? (You can see the full details here)

More and more cases are turning up where HEers are being *found out* having come into contact with local authority services. It would seem to be the case that everyone with a connection to children's services has a duty to inform the CME department about any HE children they come across in the course of their work. Previously, as far as I understand it, the librarian, school nurse, health visitor, hospital, gp etc etc could choose to *shop* you if they felt that way inclined, but equally could choose to do nothing and let you go on your merry way with no further hassle. It would seem that the CME guidance has changed all that, so unless you are able to avoid all public services you stand a very good chance of becoming known. If all LAs follow N Yorks lead and report straight to CME officers before deregistering a child, and it seems unlikely that N Yorks are acting as a maverick authority, then we effectively have non voluntary registration.

Whilst the 2007 EHE Guidelines are not statutory, they do stand as a clear reminder that HE was not to be conflated with CME. If we put in place new, updated guidelines, will that particular element be removed? If it is, are we left with not a leg to stand on when it comes to challenging the CME guidance, which is what I believe we need to do before we even think about putting new guidelines in place.

Thanks to Gill for laying this out on this blog piece, and to Elaine for digging out the dodgy LA practices.

ETA: thinking about it further, would it even be possible to refer to outdated guidance in new guidelines? I would imagine not, so it would seem that that particular section will have to go.

Another addition: I have had a message passed to me via a third party from Alison Sauer:

"You might, if you are brave enough, like to suggest to Tech that she revisits her blog post and quotes the correct law........which sadly means that all these policies are actually technically correct. I'd really hate her to look daft. And this is not a sarcastic comment, it's genuine otherwise I would be on there correcting her.

Tech is quoting 1995 regs not 2006 ones. And the guidance accompanying it is poisonous and confusing. It tells schools to notify LAs ASAP and if the dereg is with immediate effect to delay dereg for 2 days.

I went ballistic when they changed it but it had no effect........

Alison Sauer"

Which is interesting as the section I quoted came Derbyshire Council's website screenshot linked to above and here too.

Elaine has posted this rather clear graphic dated 01/09/08, along with some other interesting information on the forums

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Friday, 8 October 2010

Guidance Connivance

Gill has already done an excellent blog post about all this. Read it here.

For my part, all I want to say is this:

People who think they are qualified to write such things on behalf of the rest of us, without telling us, should at the very least be known to their LA, and have gone through the process of providing information to them. Training them in how to deal with the rest of us does not equal expert knowledge unless you have actually sat on both sides of the fence and come through the other side. It's the difference between theoretical knowledge and actual experience.

ETA: GS apparently has this to say about it all:

"For home education I think we need new guidance issued by the government to local authorities (LAs) which lays to rest, once and for all (hopefully), the agitation by LAs for more powers and encourages a new culture of support and humility ...from LAs rather than suspicion and distrust. I have spoken to a number of different people about this (including the Minister) and hope to come forward with a proposal for everyone to look at, dispute, improve etc to deliver the above aims. I have initially asked a few people to help come up with a first draft before opening out to the full drama of HE community input. Fundamental to anything I come up with will be the primacy of parents in determining their child's education and a complete rejection of compulsory registration and all the other "licensing" facets of the last government's approach. I think we have a real opportunity to settle this issue in a way that LAs can live with and which makes the chance of future action by government unlikely so that the Badman proposals are never resurrected."

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Machinations and Networking

This dropped into my inbox a short while ago:

"We are having a meeting at the Department of Education at their request with significant civil servants next week on the subject of home education.
If you have reports from your local education authority advisers or inspectors which you would be willing to make available to us to give to the Department of Education if they ask us could you send us copies? Scanned versions and email might be the only way we could do this at this stage. (Our meeting is on Wednesday 29th, next week.) But if you are able to help we would be grateful to receive."

It is apparently a communication from Teach, sent to those who use their ACE programme.

I suppose this meeting could be a good thing. Perhaps the new department is planning on pulling all those misbehaving LAs into line. LAs like Lancashire who were very disappointed not to see Badman implemented:

"In June 2009, Badman's report on the Review of Elective Home Education in
England was published. An overview of the Badman report was included at
Appendix B to the report now presented. Twenty Eight recommendations had
been made and accepted by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and
Families. Many of the recommendations in the task group's report were mirrored
in the Badman report. The Badman recommendations were far reaching for local
authorities and strengthened the right of local authority officers to have "right of
access to the home" and "speak to the child alone if appropriate.

"The Children, Schools and Families Bill, had been progressing through
parliamentary procedures and it had been expected to become law in the ‘washup’
period (the last few days of a Parliament, after the election had been
announced but before dissolution). However, it was now reported to the
committee that not everything in the Bill had been enacted as expected and that
the elective home education element had been dropped."

"Mike Hart, Director of Children's Strategy and Resources came to the table and
explained that whilst the passage of the Bill in its entirety would have provided a
clear legislative basis to progress the recommendations of the EHE Task Group,
it was important to now look at the issues raised by the task group within the
existing framework.

"It was emphasised that the county council had a legal responsibility to safeguard
children and that it would do all that it could within the current framework to fulfil
that responsibility. One member urged that the county council should press the
next government to ensure that Badman's recommendations were enacted as
soon as possible

"It was suggested that a further report be brought to the Children and Young
People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the summer to set out how the
recommendations of the EHE Task Group would be addressed in light of the
EHE elements of the Children, Schools and Families Bill not being passed into

Lancashire LA already run CRB checks on all the adults in a HE household:

"TM asked if there are any checks made on the family and home circumstances. AR advised that there were, home visit are made within the first month and parents are engaged to work through any difficulties. A CRB check is also made as well as a check of agency records with regard to any adults in the home; this information is covered in a parent's questionnaire."

I've been told that the EHE advisor is quite vehement that parents fill in and sign these questionnaires on the spot. One can only presume that they are using these forms as de facto permission to carry out the CRB check, without informing the parents that this is what is going to happen. Naughty.

Quite clearly these people are not going to let it lie just because a little thing like the law isn't currently on their side.

Going back to the email about the up and coming meeting, the bit about *significant civil servants* concerns me. I made some enquiries last week to see if Penny Jones was still *in charge* of HE over at the new department, and I was sent confirmation back that it is indeed part of her portfolio. I find this somewhat of a worry not least because PJ has been in this role for the past several years with the pinnacle of her career being her role as Badman's right hand woman during the review last year. Information released under the FOI Act show that much of what the CSF Bill wanted to implement was already in the pipeline for us as far back as 2006, with Badman just being the latest in a long line of attempts to bring in the extra powers that many LAs have sought for years. Will the civil servants who have plotted and schemed for all these years suddenly have had a moment of enlightenment with the change of government I wonder? I find this rather unlikely, especially when their colleagues on the ground are pushing for more power. Old habits die hard, and people with power who are defeated often become all the more determined to win.

So we have a situation, once again, where our children's futures are being discussed without their knowledge or ours. Unless you're a member of Teach that is, an organisation who have at least had the decency to inform their members what is going on, albeit with rather limited information. What other HE orgs will be present at this meeting? Have they informed their members? If so, why is this not general knowledge? Why is this meeting and the implications not being widely discussed? Something stinks.

Thank goodness the HE networks that proved so successful at disseminating information during the Badman review are still alive and kicking. Is it time to roll out the Just Say No campaign again?

ETA: I've been reminded about the HEYC meeting with Penny Jones back in 2009, which they've helpfully transcribed here after being refused permission to share the video of the meeting. I know it's naughty to take just one line out of a whole conversation but I'm going to do it anyway because I think this one line says all we need to know ;)

PENNY JONES: Well, want or not, I am a government official, and these five outcomes are government policy. [loud crosstalk from all sides]

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Child Abusers, Again.

A link to this article from community care was left on Kelly's blog. If you scroll to the bottom of the page there is ever such an attractive check list of *risk factors*. Highlighted in red in the victims section is *home educated*.

Looks like those made up statistics of Mr Badman's have been doing the rounds then. Whosoever is behind this lovely little chart is clearly suffering from a particularly bad case of FSBP (flawed statistic based policy).

ETA: Ali has posted an excellent piece about this on the HE Forums here.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Happy Freedom In Education Day!

I can't believe that this nearly passed me by, after all, I set this blog up just over a year ago specifically to celebrate freedom in education day.

So spurred on by this rather glowing blog post from my friend Kelly here is just a brief post to mark the day.

Today we didn't really do much to celebrate we just got on with the business of living, but this year we were able to do that without the deep seated fear that we were in the final days of the freedom that we have taken for granted over the past 10 years.

I don't think we will ever feel as carefree as we did in the preceding years, because the last year and a bit has made us realise just how much we need to protect freedom. It's not something that can or should ever be taken for granted.

Tomorrow we are meeting some HE friends for a picnic, mini sports day, bubble blowing, circus skills, messing around and enjoying life kind of day. The irony of this is that we will be doing all of these things in a playground that was largely funded by the DCSF. It feels like a final bit of defiance in the face of that blasted rainbow that caused us all so much heartache last year.

And because I'm currently listening to it whilst I cook tea here is my personal life anthem for your delectation and delight :D

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

James Overton

I don't know who you are, but I think I love you!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Thank You :)

I've now got 40 responses to my request for opinions on the affects of the badman review. That's so fantastic thank you all so much.

Still room for more though, if anyone feels up to it - positive, negative, bit of both it's all good :)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Help needed

I'm currently working on a project that I would really appreciate some help with.

I'm looking to collect people's opinions about how the badman review and it's aftermath affected them (and their families too).

A paragraph or two is fine, as is more than a couple of paragraphs if you find it flows once you start writing!

Anonymous or named both fine.

If you're up for doing this, please email your opinions to me at

thank you :D

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Children Were Educated in a School

That is the headline we never see when a tragedy unfolds, ok so it's hardly big news is it? Most children go to school. This is something that social scientists refer to as an "unmarked identity", that is: something which is taken for granted, a social norm. Home educated children, by contrast, have a "marked identity" - something which is defined in my OU text book like this:

"... the marked identity never goes unnoticed and usually carries a negative value."

The BBC, as ever, loves to point out the marked identity of home education, it can't seem to help itself even when other journalists manage to write perfectly good copy without resorting to the spreading of prejudice against a minority group which has had more than it's fair share of attacks in the past 18 months.

Maybe, if every time a child died, the fact that they had attended that great social safety net that is a school was pointed out to them, people might start to question this form of education too. >hollow laughter<

This story is what has prompted this mini rant, if you haven't already seen it. Home Education Forums has an excellent rebuff on it's blog here.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The (in)famous Mr Ed

I'm finally getting round to finishing this excellent book which I started way back in March - other books have taken precedence in the intervening months. Something which seems to happen with interesting regularity is that, since taking up this book again, several other areas of life have convened and lots of things are now slotting into place for me as a result.

I've been reading Kelly's collection of essays this morning, which has, rather uncomfortably, made me think about Ed Balls again - how I had hoped that man had been purged from my mind! So with that (him) in mind I'm just going to type up a bit of the book:

"One of the most poisonous ethereal ideas in human history is the concept of an absolute authority which overrides all other moral or legal considerations. Whether the authority cited is God or The Party, Science or Truth or The State, this particular ethereal idea has been used, and is still being used today, to justify some truly disgusting atrocities. By treating human beings as means rather than ends in their own right, it places human life, and quality of life, below some abstract goal. Whether or not it is associated with an explicitly totalitarian regime, it is a clear example of totalist thinking."

"... one of the joys of ethereal ideas is their apparent explanatory power, their capacity to make everything look simple. Dividing the world into clearly-marked *us* and *them* groups puts much less strain on one's cognitive resources than acknowledging the details of human difference."

I think that sums up pretty well what the man did, and is still trying to do when he writes guff such as this.

Lots of people have suggested that what home educators must now do is to keep positive stories about what we do in the press. That we can't afford to slide back into the shadows and get back to just living our lives as we were pre Badman. I must admit that I've not felt much attraction for this PR exercise, to be honest I resent it, it's an imposition, we are not celebrities, our lives are not fodder for the trashy magazines. But. Having read what Kelly has to say, and to find that it marries up with what this neuroscientist says about how to break through strong *cogwebs*, I think we really don't have any other option.

Can't recommend the book enough, it's fascinating, eye opening and a real education!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Caption Competition

No prizes I'm afraid, just a bit of fun.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. OUT! OUT! OUT!

I’ll admit that politics hasn’t been top of my agenda since the change of government, but I couldn’t let the review of the Children’s Commissioner pass by without comment.

It was to be hoped that, this time, the cries of “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. Out. Out. Out.” would be heeded by a Tory government, but alas, with the political situation being what it is, we shall have to wait and see whether the coalition will have the balls to give Maggie the boot when the *independent* review presents its findings in November. In the mean time a little recap, along with a catch up, is in order I think.

Back in March I wrote this post which detailed some of the interesting connections between the various players in the HE Review, and the way that they appeared to link up to the tragic case of Khyra Ishaq. There are several mentions of Maggie Atkinson in that post which will be making a reappearance in this one, and whilst this post should stand alone, you might want to have a skim read of the earlier post to get an idea of the wider picture.

The review into the role of the Children’s Commissioner for England [CC] was announced on July 12th following “a furore over insensitive remarks by the current commissioner over the killing of James Bulger.” (Daily Mail article) This is not the first time Ms Atkinson has courted controversy in her role as CC: her appointment to the role was extremely controversial, with her champion, Ed Balls, thumbing his nose at the advice of the Select Committee charged with interviewing for the post, who felt that they were:

"unable to endorse her appointment, as we would like to have seen more sign of determination to assert the independence of the role, to challenge the status quo on children’s behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post, in particular by championing children’s rights." (opens Select Committee report PDF)

I find Barry Sheerman’s comments on this matter very interesting, and deeply concerning:

"When pushed... she said she would not champion children's rights, her role was to be the voice of children. We found it difficult to see how she could do one without the other."

If this article is anything to go by, I find her assertion that she would be the voice of children rather hollow.

On July 23rd Ms Atkinson told the TES that she had been given the nod that her role is safe, and that “she believes that the review could even STRENGTHEN her powers.” (my emphasis)

Consider that “the powers the Commissioner does have exceed those granted to parents under the terms of the legislation. Parents are not mentioned in Part One of the Act, so although the Commissioner is required to consult organisations working with children in the discharge of his functions, he is not obliged to consult parents. Similarly, he has the power to conduct interviews, or authorise someone else to do so, with a child in private, subject only to the child’s consent.” (opens PDF)

Personally, I think the role, and therefore Ms Atkinson, has far too much power already, and that it needs reining in, not strengthening. Have a look at this video where Maggie describes your children as her children, and see how comfortable you feel with her having this much power. It sends shivers down my spine. Perhaps it was a well meant comment, but it’s not one that I think anyone who is a parent would make.

Another concern regards the duties of the CC, which according to the Bill that enacted the role are:

“monitoring complaints procedures for children, overseeing arrangements for children’s advocacy, monitoring legislation to ensure that the needs of children are taken into account, overseeing child death reviews and carrying out inquiries into major child abuse cases and child deaths; and to make provision to ensure that the work of the Commissioner is compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the

Looking at these duties I believe the Select Committee was absolutely right to question whether Ms Atkinson would be able to “assert the independence of the role”.

Ms Atkinson was formerly the Director of Gateshead Children’s Services, and head of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS). In her role as CC she now “oversees child death reviews and inquiries into major child abuse cases and child deaths”.... So when a child dies, or suffers abuse enough to result in a serious case review, Ms Atkinson will be overseeing it, it would seem. I am struggling to see how it would be possible to trust the outcome of such reviews given Ms Atkinson’s close affinity to the people who are “accountable for the outcomes of every child in an area.” (Ministerial speech (opens Word Doc) to ADCS 2008 conference) It would surely be a conflict of interests?

In 2009 Gateshead Safeguarding Children Board held a serious case review after Child D was hospitalised with a fracture and malnutrition. The SRC found that the issues investigated were “primarily a failing on the part of Children’s Services”. One cannot help but draw parallels with the Khyra Ishaq case. The person in overall charge of Gateshead Children’s Services in 2009, was Ms Atkinson, as DCS.

I’m struggling to comprehend how then, as the head of a failing Children’s Services involved in a serious case review, she managed to land the role of Children’s Commissioner.

Mind you, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the Teflon coating these people seem to have. Let’s for a moment move our attention to Graham Badman who, only last week in a matter unrelated to home education, was described by a Conservative MP as being “Ed Balls’ henchman”. (I think this is also what Michael Gove was inferring about Atkinson when he said “that Atkinson had been appointed to three government educational roles in the past and that in each post she had been "a consistent supporter of government policy".) (Guardian Article)

In 2008 a little girl called Tiffany died at the hands of her father. As this Telegraph article explains: “Kent County Council, which deals with up to 20,000 referrals from children's social services, conceded that an independent review of the case had identified a "missed opportunity" within children's social services to share information.” The Director of Children’s Services in Kent at the time was Graham Badman, and yet he was tasked with carrying out a serious case review into the death of Baby P! As John Dunford (yes, the same man who is conducting the review into the Children’s Commissioner) said in this Guardian article:

“directors of children's services have "the job from hell", responsible for everything that happens to children in their area.”

But they know that when they take the role on, and if they aren’t prepared to carry the can for their failings then they shouldn’t be in post.

Of course Badman’s gravy train came to an abrupt halt with the change of government, his pet quango being one of the first to be killed off in the cutbacks making quite a hefty saving of £75 million. If the role of Children’s Commissioner were abolished, it would only save £3 million so perhaps the government will decide that it is worth keeping to avoid any potential posturing about a lack of concern over children’s rights. Something I think Ms Atkinson was hinting at when she said in the TES article that:

“there were children's commissioners or ombudsmen in every other UK country and in most European and Commonwealth nations and that cutting the post would put England in an "absolutely unique" position.”

I hope that the government will not be swayed by such veiled threats, and instead look very closely at the damage someone with Ms Atkinson’s history could do to parent/child and state/parent/child relationships, particularly if they do as she seems to want and grant her more power.

John Dunford says at the end of the Ministerial Letter announcing the review:

“I look forward to leading this important review into the role and functions of the Children’s Commissioner. I will be looking with an open mind about the best way to give young people a voice and protect their rights. That is why it is important that I talk to young people themselves to hear their views about the best way to represent them.
I will also be talking to a wide range of children’s groups, people working in education and children’s services, and looking at successful practices in other countries.”

I think that there might be rather a lot of Home Educated children who would like to tell Mr Dunford their views. You can respond to the consultation here, if you or your child feel up to taking part in yet another government consultation process that is...

With thanks, as ever, to EK for providing the information and the much needed push to create this post!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

To Blog or not to Blog

Trying to decide if I should use this space a bit more as a general HE blog, now that Badman, Brown, Balls and Becta have bitten the dust.

We're at a bit of a turning point in our HE journey right now, and now that the wonderful UKHE is up and running again, I've been feeling inspired by the stories and voices of those who have walked this path before us.


Thursday, 13 May 2010


What a great day, not only is Michael Gove in charge of education, but we hear of the death of the DCSF. Wonderful, and to celebrate this was created by a real Jem.

Hopefully that's me signing out of this blog for the foreseeable!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Tonight We Celebrate!

At long last, after more than a year of flat out battling we can take a pause for breath and raise a glass, and dance on the grave of the CSF Bill.

I cannot tell you how much pleasure it gives me to think how galling it must have been for Baroness Morgan to have to stand against the HE parts of the Bill.

9.30pm we shall be raising a glass and jumping for joy!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Capitulation? No Thanks.

Two words I particularly dislike:

Pragmatism: "Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected."


Capitulation: "A military term. Capitulation refers to surrendering or giving up.

In the stock market, capitulation is associated with "giving up" any previous gains in stock price as investors sell equities in an effort to get out of the market and into less risky investments. True capitulation involves extremely high volume and sharp declines. It usually is indicated by panic selling."

Now I have been told that the reason for my dislike of these particular words is that I am an idealist, as though idealism were a bad thing; a childish fantasy; a silliness not to be entertained by proper grown up people. I disagree, obviously.

There is much talk of the war against Home Educators continuing after the election, no matter which party *wins*, because the LAs are going to keep on pushing the powers that be for more and more power over us, so we'd better brook a deal, hadn't we?


Because it's the pragmatic thing to do of course.

No. making deals with other people's freedom is wrong. We have no right to give up this fight for the sake of a bit of peace. If anyone seriously believes that we will achieve that longed for respite from the fighting by capitulating, then frankly they need their heads read. A timely reminder of the attitudes we are up against can be found here over at Douglas Carswell MP's blog.

Do you honestly believe that if these people have more power they will respect us? Treat us and our children well? Give us that longed for peace we all desire? They are incapable of using the powers they already have for goodness sake.

Those in parliament have no respect for the rule of law, let alone those who they are supposed to be there to serve. Can any of you honestly say that watching the performances in the houses of parliament - that most ancient and revered of political institutions - filled you with pride and honour? That you felt respected as sovereign beings? That your children would be safe in the hands of these twisters of words? Or did you feel like me and my family did - horrified that this was how our laws are made? That this was surely a farcical pantomime not the workings of government? That there was no way that lot are to be trusted to do what is right and just?

Once upon a time many of us would have recoiled in horror at the idea of being considered anarchists, but the truth is that more and more of us are now finding we have anarchist leanings and the government have only themselves to blame for that.

I, along with other HEing friends, eagerly tuned into Newsnight to watch Balls, Gove and Law discuss education. What a great debate that would be I thought, we might see some real discussion; some real ideas; some real movement forward. What a bloody joke. It was playground behaviour, political point scoring in the run up to the election. Well it's just not good enough. This is the education of our children they are playing silly buggers with, and bickering will not come up with a solution to the problem. If they can't get their act together how can they expect parents to blithely accept what the state provides? Why are more and more parents turning to Home Education? Because the state is failing the country's children and parents are (in the most part) hard wired to do what is best for their own children. As Heidi so brilliantly points out:

"A parent is biologically and psychologically designed, programmed, conditioned – call it what you will – to care deeply about the wellbeing of their child. If the child is threatened, or the parent’s ability to nurture the child to the best of their ability is threatened, the parent cannot help but defend themselves, their children and family. Moreover, the parent is unable to be motivated by, and give a normal response to, needs that come higher up the hierarchy until this fundamental need has been satisfied."

Our children come first. They are our main priority. We must do our damnedest to preserve and protect their freedoms, they will not thank us for capitulating. Those who think they know better, who meet behind closed doors, who value pragmatism over idealism, who think they can make deals on our behalf, ought to know that this is not acceptable. They have no more authority to do this than the LAs and the government and they will look very foolish when we all JUST SAY NO! No one says it will be easy, but we have come this far, why on earth would we back down now?

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. ~Woodrow Wilson

Monday, 8 March 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post, Tha Needs Playing Pop Wi'.

Now I'm a Yorkshire Lass, from good Yorkshire stock. Yorkshire folk are renowned for being plain speaking people, so Yorkshire Evening Post, I'll keep it simple, and tell it like it is.

This article you've written, it's a pile of rubbish. You've been duped. You are being used to propagate anti home education propaganda at a politically sensitive time.

I'm rather ashamed, I really did expect better of a Yorkshire publication; I had this romantic notion that Yorkshire folks were a bit more canny than this.

You can view the figures that gave rise to your article here[opens PDF].

I don't have anything to say about those figures, others can and have done a better job than I, such as one commenter on the YEP article who said:

"FOIs show Leeds to have 140 home educated children, 6 with no education, 5 not suitable, 14 not co-operating, 20 not yet assessed and 34 not "full-time" which is a bit of a red herring as in the official guidance it states EHE is assumed to be full time.... I can't find any way of making 6+5 = 25% of 140....can you? I can't even get it by adding in the 14 not co-operating!"

What I will say though is that I wouldn't trust Leeds as far as I could throw them. They are not a great LA, I know people who have had problems with them. I also know that they don't like EHE parents being informed about the law, they went as far as to admit this in a consultation document a few years ago. The particular quote I was thinking of is:

"Like other LEAs, we have no idea how many parents in total are educating their children at home. We do know of 150 in Leeds. We are successful in arranging home visits with 98% of these parents largely because they see us as being helpful but also partly because a number of them are not aware that they need not agree to meet us!"

This may be irrelevant to this issue, but I do think it is important that people realise that LAs behave badly where home education is concerned. If LAs truly believe that they have HE'd children who are not receiving an education suitable to their age, apptitude, ability and any SEN, then they should be issuing SAOs. Are they doing that? I think not. If you take Plymouth LA they say that 100% of their EHE children are NOT receiving a suitable and full time education! Really? I find that a staggering *fact* quite frankly, and I'm more inclined to think that it has more to do with issues that the LA has with the idea of EHE in general, than the failings of EHE parents in the area.

What you might like to do, YEP, is have a look at this expose of the figures and then you might like to have a read of my previous blog post and think about how you have just fallen into the trap laid by government. You will see that the TES did exactly the same thing as you have, which goes to show the shoddy standard of journalism today. Shame we no longer use newspapers as chip wrappers, as it least then your article would have a use. As it stands it is neither use nor ornament.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bursting Bubbles

It's been a beautiful sunny day here, with hardly a cloud in the sky. We've had friends visit and we all made and burst giant bubbles. It was a perfect day in home ed land.

Just when we thought it couldn't get any more perfect the most beautiful poetry landed in my inbox.

Birmingham City Council's LABOUR councillors are calling for Ed Balls to launch a public inquiry into the events which lead to the death of Khyra Ishaq. Obviously there are political points to be scored against the Conservative/Lib Dem Council in the run up to the election, but this is something of an own goal for their party. The Labour councillors know that home education had nothing to do with this tragic case, and it would seem that they are angry that the council is using home education in a buck passing exercise, and bless them, they intend to bring the judge's ruling to the attention of Ed Balls himself! I don't imagine Ed is going to be very happy about that, do you? He and his henchman have worked so hard, for so long, to use this case to bring in draconian legislation which will, to all intent and purpose, kill home education as we know it, and here are people from his own party trying to put the kibosh on the peg he had been hoping to hang it all on! If that isn't poetic justice I'm not sure what is!

You could say that the bubble has burst, and what would you know? We got a picture of the exact moment it happened!

Bubble Hydrodynamics say that "after formation, a bubble rapidly accelerates to its terminal velocity." I rather like that use of language. Terminal velocity. Yep, I think you can safely say that the Ed Balls Bubble reached terminal velocity today, and now we can look and see all the chaotic little pieces that originally made up the unified whole, flying off in all directions.

An interesting thing to come out of today's newspaper report from the Birmingham Mail, is that the Judge's findings were available to the council way back in March 2009. That's a whole year to get a story worked out to save their sorry arses. You have to wonder if they thought that the judge's findings would never make it into the public arena, as her findings are so clear that home education was not the reason Khyra was failed. Surely they would have come up with a more water tight excuse if they suspected the findings would be made public?

"Mr Howell, supported by Councillor Les Lawrence, the cabinet member, and by assistant chief constable Suzette Davenport, claimed that tough laws governing the right of parents to remove their children from school and educate them at home made it impossible to gain access to the house and to check on Khyra."

Maybe they all just thought that with Home Educators having been so nicely stitched up in the press, that they would be safe to continue to abuse the death of a child and castigate a community of loving, caring parents in the name of protecting their rather hefty pay packets, regardless of the evidence.

Thankfully the Birmingham Mail is not letting them get away with it:

"Today, the Mail can expose Mr Howell and Coun Lawrence’s pathetic excuses for what they are – weasel words designed to protect the self-serving interests of two public servants who know that a department under their control must carry a huge responsibility for Khyra’s death."

The thing is though, I don't think it's just the Birmingham Councillors, social services and police who are at fault here. The whole twisted system needs to be exposed and made accountable for its despicable use of the death of a child to smear an entire community of families, who, for whatever reason, they just don't think should be allowed to carry on going about their loving and lawful business.

Khyra died in May, 2008.

In March 2008, Maggie Atkinson was appointed president of ADCS - the Association of Directors of Children's Services. We'll come back to Maggie again in a little while.

The heads of all the chairs of local safeguarding children's boards as at March, 2008 are listed here. Judging by the contents of this report, it would seem that these people are extremely influential in both local and national government. Indeed, John Harris says on page 16 of this newsletter:

"I can tell you from first hand experience that the partnership with DCSF and other government departments is better than it has ever been. Local authorities are actively engaged in developing national policy, through formal working groups but also with informal contacts with key civil servants and Ministers."

There are 4 names which immediately jump out at me from that list and they are:

Graham Badman
Tony Howell
Jo Grills
Sue Berelowitz

Graham Badman, well not much needs saying about him does it? Presided over the biggest stitch up of Home Educators to date, largely discredited, but still there flogging his dead horse, presumably trying to salvage the knighthood that Ed Balls must have promised him for services rendered. Or did Ed just Balls up again when he said: "I have asked Sir Graham Badman to produce a report" (Find it here, directly above column 174.)

Moving on to Tony Howell; he's our man in Birmingham, the same guy who hired a PR expert to spin the Khyra story, to the tune of £800 a day.

Moving along then to Jo Grills. Now us home educators have long memories, and Jo is something of a blast from the past. Jo was the woman in Gloucestershire at the time of the Eunice Spry case. She tried to pull off the same trick as Tony Howell by blaming the failings of her department on Home Education. Unfortunately for Jo, the then Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes did not agree as this reply shows:

"I appreciate you writing to me with your concerns about the case of Eunice Spry. The Serious Case Review found that although Gloucestershire was judged to be serving most children well, in the case of Eunice Spry there were shortcomings in the services the children received as looked after children. The Commission of Social Care Inspection felt that this was the most significant factor in this case, rather than the fact that they were home educated."

That's pretty clear I think, although if you've only read the latest article about the Spry case, you'd never know it. This social worker's perspective is more objective.

Moving on to Sue Berelowitz. Hand picked by Graham Badman to be one of the *expert panel* for the HE Review, in her capacity as chief executive of 11 Million AKA the office of the children's commissioner. In her submission to the Select Committee she says of 11 Million:

"We support these proposals coupled with the recommendation that designated local authority officers should have the right of access to the home and to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate. These are basic measures which will assist officers in satisfying themselves that the child is safe and well."

Singing from the *right* song sheet there then. Now this business about interviewing the child alone is interesting, lets have a look at the ADCS submission to the Select Committee. Oh and here we go, that same song sheet again:

"4.3.1 The local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place, and two weeks notice of this visit should enable parents to be engaged in this process. Regular visits by the local authority to premises and interviews with the child would enable safeguarding issues to be addressed."

Hmm. And yet, the same ADCS, regarding Laming's proposals that ALL children referred to social services should be seen, said:

"the Loughborough research indicated that prescribing an initial assessment for all referrals would divert resources away from the most vulnerable children."

Which is precisely the point that home educators have been making regarding the Badman proposals contained within the CSF Bill.

Now let's go back to Maggie, or *Two Words Atkinson* as we home educators like to call her. Why? Well, Maggie was in front of the Select Committee for a job interview, the position being Children's Commissioner (11 Million...) At the end of her interview Paul Holmes MP asked:

"What do you think we should be saying as a Committee regarding the legislative process and the Badman report, and whether it is protecting children's interests or trampling all over the interests of home-educated children?".

and Maggie replied:

"I would give you two words, and they are the first and second names of the child who died — Khyra Ishaq"

Consider that the case was sub judice, consider that this means that it is "considered inappropriate to comment publicly on such cases, and that it can be considered an offence which can lead to contempt of court proceedings." Consider that Maggie uttered her infamous *two words* immediately prior to the Select Committee hearing evidence in its inquiry into the Badman Review. Naughty, very naughty. One has to wonder if it was calculated, particularly as Balls, Badman and Atkinson had met just prior to the announcement of the review, back in January 2009 at:

"a 24-hour session with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and partners about the Children's Plan. Ed Balls introduces. The event is excellent with a great sense of opportunity and shared commitment. My co-president John Freeman and directors Maggie Atkinson and Graham Badman fly the ADCS flag".

The interview with the select committee didn't go so well for Maggie, they had this to say:

"While we are satisfied that Maggie Atkinson demonstrated a high degree of professional competence, we feel unable to endorse her appointment, as we would like to have seen more sign of determination to assert the independence of the role, to challenge the status quo on children’s behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post, in particular by championing children’s rights."

But, no worries, Ed was on the case:

"he rejected the verdict, declaring that Ms Atkinson's evidence in fact showed she would be a "strong, effective and independent voice for the children and young people of our country".

ADCS held a conference in July 2008, chances are high that many if not all of our little list above attended, networked, talked about "the big case". I couldn't possibly say that they hatched a plan, but it makes you wonder, particularly as this newsletter (page 16), published in July 2008 says of the Ishaq case:

"I therefore contacted Maggie Atkinson (DCS - Gateshead), who is the ADCS President,to discuss how ADCS should respond. In fact, Maggie Atkinson did appear on the Radio 4 bulletin to discuss Lord Laming's comments. ADCS has since prepared a position statement that is going to be shared with key officials at DCSF, the Children's Commissioner, Local Government Association, and the British Association of Social Workers."

Strangely the DCSF deny any knowledge of this position statement.

These people really do not like Home Education or Home Educators as was made clear to Douglas Carswell MP only last month:

"The unyeilding, arrogant, we-know-what's-best-for-your-child attitude I encountered today makes me realise that mums and dads who fear what these proposals could mean are right to be fearful."

It's taken a long time for people to start to see the institutional prejudice we have had to put up with for too many years. Back in 2007 we had hearsay written up into a document and passed around authorities to help them fill in their consultation responses:

"It was minuted that Ms Kuhn's draft had indeed been helpful in assisting individual local authorities in writing their own submissions. The document had formed the basis of a London Regional Partnership response and other Regional Partnerships had used it as a basis for their's, so there had been a good "cascade effect " from the work."

Even dear old Aunty (The BBC) get in on the act. Their coverage of the Kyhra Ishaq trial judgement was nothing short of propaganda for Ed Balls. I can't link to the 6 o'clock news, but I have it on good authority that it was the Badman and Balls show.

The TES trumpeted Badman's discredited statistics in a scandalous headline:

"Officials at Leeds City Council said many home-educating parents "hide behind the law" and some children are "never seen" after being taken out of school. Others use it as a way to avoid being prosecuted for truancy, according to Brian Hogg, who is responsible for "education other than at school" services for Education Leeds."

Can you blame us for believing that the entire review was engineered around the Kyhra Ishaq case? That it was only the unfortunately illness of a juror which prevented the Government from getting away with it? They would have too, if it wasn't for those pesky home educators.

In America, it is the social workers who get put under greater scrutiny when a child starves to death. Yes, that is definitely needed, but let's remember that it is those at the top of the food chain, making the policies that fail the staff on the ground, that need to be answerable.

Indeed, their own policies demand it of them:

"In 2003 the Every Child Matters Green Paper announced the creation of the DCS role as follows; ”We are proposing a range of measures to reform and improve children’s care – crucially, for the first time ever requiring local authorities to bring together in one place under one person services for children.

Not in the sense of directly managing every service, of course, but being accountable for the outcomes of every child in an area.

And as the responsibilities of local authorities are clarified and Children’s Trusts are increasingly empowered to drive the system forward, so your accountability for those outcomes comes into even sharper relief."

This responsibility and accountability was something Peter Traves was well aware of, and admitted to the select committee that it was all about arse covering:

"We have seen recently what happens recently to directors of children' services when things go seriously wrong - it is not only sacking, it is public humiliation and it is a very serious matter."

Well I'm afraid the protection of your arse is not my problem, nor is it my children's, and we WILL NOT be forced into abusive relationships with those who have been deemed to have power over us by nature of their daily work. We certainly will not be letting strangers with pieces of paper take our children to one side, alone.

What is more we demand public apologies, we expect accountability and resignations - and yes, that includes you too Ed - and we will not roll over and allow any of these despicable human beings to carry on treating us as cattle.

Remember, when it looks as though the bubble will engulf you, it is about to reach terminal velocity, and it will burst into a million tiny fragments of slime.

I would of course have included Ed Balls' statement via the DCSF, but something very strange has happened to the link. I shall be checking in the morning to see if it is back as it should be!

With heartfelt gratitude to EK for supplying the material for this post.

ETA: Well, well, well. Ed's statement on the DCSF website is still a mass of error codes, so if anyone cached it I would be grateful if you could let me have a copy, and now he bleats to the Birmingham Mail:

“I want to see the Serious Case Review on my desk as soon as possible explaining what happened and why, identifying the right lessons to be learned and setting out what needs to improve in Birmingham.

“I expect a full, thorough executive summary to be published so everyone can see what happened and the action being taken as a result."

Is Ed about to do a U-Turn? One thing's for certain, it looks as though he is going to try to cover his own sorry arse and lay the blame at the door of Birmingham social services. Sorry, Ed, but the buck stops with you as I seem to remember saying the other day:

"At the beginning of October last year, Birmingham Social Services was branded "not fit for purpose." They were given THREE MORE MONTHS to sort things out, otherwise the government would intervene. They had already received the lowest rating back in 2008. That's nearly TWO YEARS ago."

I wonder if that original statement, blaming Home Ed, has disappeared down the memory hole on purpose?

But look, in the space of a few minutes fabulous HEers have found the original in a google cache:

Secretary of State's response to verdicts in the Khyra Ishaq case

25 February 2010

Regarding the verdicts in the Khyra Ishaq case, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said:

What happened to Khyra Ishaq and the other children involved in this case was tragic and will shock and appal everyone who reads or hears about her terrible death. It is very hard for any of us to understand how adults could do this to children in their care.

There are clearly serious questions to be answered about what local services and professionals were doing in the months before this tragedy took place. As the trial has shown, it is now clear that concerns about these children were not acted upon effectively and it is right that a Serious Case Review has been carried out.

The Local Safeguarding Children Board will report shortly - I expect it to publish a full and detailed Serious Case Review (SCR) executive summary that is clear about what happened and what action is being taken as a result. The Government has already taken decisive action to intervene in Birmingham’s children's services, following Ofsted's judgement in December 2008 that their services were inadequate in terms of safeguarding. If we think there is more to do, we will.

The trial has demonstrated, and statements today from the police confirm, that home education was a factor in this case. It shows why we do need a system in place to make sure that when children are home educated or removed from school, they not only get a good education but are safe. That is why I asked Graham Badman to review home education and home educated children’s safety and welfare.

I am now taking forward Graham Badman’s recommendations that every local authority should have access to any home educating family and that all home educating parents must register with the local authority. We will do all we can to ensure the safety of children, in Birmingham and elsewhere, including using statutory powers where it is right to do so."

Monday, 1 March 2010

Map Pins

Sharing this picture - apparently it's banned on face ache!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Time Table of Sordid Events

I wasn't going to blog about the Khyra Ishaq case as others have already done so far more eloquently than I ever could, but...

I've just been reading this article which includes this comment made by Gordon Brown:

"On Monday Gordon Brown paid tribute to the two girls, saying: “It is a sad and tragic situation when children so young die.
"Ed Balls and the Children's department will take very seriously any information that is given to them concerning these cases."

Now just look at the first two words of that comment. "On MONDAY". "On MONDAY". Monday was February 22nd. THREE DAYS before Ed Balls made this statement regarding the Khyra Ishaq case.

THREE DAYS before Home Educators were vilified across the national press by Balls and his henchman Badman.

Are we really expected to believe that "Ed Balls and the Children's department will take very seriously any information that is given to them concerning these cases"?

In March last year, ie nearly a whole year ago, Ed Balls stood up in parliament and promised a "root and branch shake up of child protection services."

At the beginning of October last year, Birmingham Social Services was branded "not fit for purpose." They were given THREE MORE MONTHS to sort things out, otherwise the government would intervene. They had already received the lowest rating back in 2008. That's nearly TWO YEARS ago.

Who has been head of the DCSF for those intervening years? Who has done sweet FA to sort out the horrific mess that is Birmingham children's services? Would that be one Mr Edward Balls?

I said this the other night on twitter and was rounded on by a Ballite (Ballache?!) for it, but Ed Balls should fall on his sword. Particularly now, after wilfully slandering an entire community in his desire for political point scoring over the death of a child. How poisonous can a person who heads the department of Children and Families be to knowingly blame the failings of one of his departments, knowing that more children had died on his watch who had NOTHING to do with home education, on something he despises so much - home education? No matter that he is causing real and heartfelt pain and distress for tens of thousands of those he is supposed to help and support in his role of Secretary of State for Children [schools] and Families.

I for one demand your resignation Edward Balls.

ETA This article shows just how far back Birmingham's problems go.

Friday, 26 February 2010


Here is a map for you to look at boys and girls:

I wonder what jumps out at you about those little blue pins? For me it was the interesting way that many of them are in quite obvious clusters. There are the odd few which seem isolated, but overall, there does seem to be a pattern. It could be that they are just centred around the largest cities I suppose. I wonder if it could be anything to do with local authority boundaries? I don't know if there is any relevance to be honest, but that was what first struck me.

Now, you might be wondering what all those little pins are. If you go along to this page you can hover over them and find out.

Shall I spoil it and tell you? Those blue pins are instances of child abuse by people with clean CRB checks. You know, the sort of people that dear old Ed wants so desperately to have one to one private access to our children for up to 16 hours every year.

To use the vernacular... I think Ed can go fuck himself, don't you?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

My BBC Complaint

Yes it's a rant I'm afraid.

*Home Educators have been waiting months for the grave robbing activities of the government and press to start up again, and here we have it.

Graham Badman said himself in his own report, which the government accepted in full, that he found NO EVIDENCE that home education was being used as a cover for abuse. He knew about the Ishaq case at the time he wrote the report. He is now pouring forth vitriol because he was caught out using dodgy statistics and bare faced lies in order to do his master's bidding.

Such a pity that a Great British institution is in the pockets of it's masters over at LIEbour central. More gongs for the boys no doubt.

Slandering a minority group by using a dead child, a child who died because of the lack of care of the authorities, authorities who already had the power to save her, is disgusting, and you should have your license to broadcast removed as a result."

ETA: Maire's complaint here

Debs complaint here

Firebird is keeping a Media Watch here

Jax complains here

If you'd like to make a more effective complaint than my rant (wise!) there is great advice here

Will add more as they are blogged

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

What Can We Do?

This is the question I keep asking myself at the moment. I realise it's probably not the done thing to admit to feelings of despair at our situation, but after yesterday I just can't pretend all is rosy and hopeful any more.

I can't blame this feeling of despondency totally on the shenanigans in parliament last night, more's the pity, though I'm quite sure I can blame it in it's entirety on the past (almost) 13 years of this government.

The country is in tatters, spirits are low, people have had enough of every single little aspect of life being a constant struggle. My children have known nothing but a Liebour government, their lives have been blighted because of it, and the only comfort I can take is that neither myself nor my husband have ever voted red. Even my MIL, a dyed in the wool labour party member jumped ship a few years ago. And yet, still there are seemingly intelligent people out there, even YOUNG people (although I suppose they know no better) who will argue for the benefits of another liebour government. It never ceases to amaze me. Do these people inhabit the same country as me?

Yesterday I was told by some automaton on the NHS Summary Care Record Helpline, that it is not up to parents to decide if their children may be opted out of the online database of health records, no, it is up to the GP to decide if it is *in the best interests of the child*. Yes, there we have it, parents are no longer able to make informed choices on behalf of their children. This disgusts me perhaps even more than the insult that is the CSF Bill. Does it surprise me though? Of course not, it's par for the course for this paranoid, control freak government which shows its utter disrespect and contempt for its citizens. Parents are the scapegoats for all of societies ills, and yet how can we be when we are having all say in the lives of our children removed from us? Twisted, perverse, despicable - but it is not us, the parents, who are these things it is YOU the government of lies and spin and bullying who are all of those things, and I hope that all decent, free thinking, responsible, intelligent people will vote with their feet whenever the election finally comes, because if they don't, England will be forever a wasteland.

Old Holborn posted a round up of the legacy this government has left us with the other day, he's a prolific blogger, so I am going to copy it here and include a link also:

Just to remind us what 13 years of power can do (cut out and keep edition):

Ballot Boxes are interfered with

Voting registers go missing

The Police can kill innocent people and get away with it

The state can kill people and get away with it

You can be put in prison for 42 days on pure suspicion

You can be put in prison indefinitely on the word of a politician

The State can torture people

Your children are monitored at School by Political Officers

Their behaviour is logged on a State database for their entire lives

Your innocent fingerprints, iris scans and biometrics are held by the State

You do not have the right to remain silent

You are watched on 4 million CCTV cameras

You may not photograph the Police

The media is controlled by the State

You do not have the right to protest peacefully

Curfews exist for entire communities

Your travel movements are logged and monitored

Who you vote for is logged and monitored

Your shopping habits are studied and logged by the State

Your emails and telephone conversations are recorded by the State

Your passport can be withdrawn at the whim of the State

Government agencies can use lie detector tests on you.

- £22,500 of debt for every child born in Britain- 111 tax rises from a government that promised no tax rises at all- The longest national tax code in the world- 100,000 million pounds drained from British pension funds- Gun crime up 57%- Violent crime up 70%- The highest proportion of children living in workless households anywhere in Europe- The number of pensioners living in poverty up by 100,000- The lowest level of social mobility in the developed world- The only G7 country with no growth this year- One in six young people neither earning nor learning- 5 million people on out-of-work benefits- Missing the target of halving child poverty... - Child poverty rising in each of the last three years instead- Cancer survival rates among the worst in Europe- Hospital-acquired infections killing nearly three times as many people as are killed on the roads- Falling from 4th to 13th in the world competitiveness league- Falling from 8th to 24th in the world education rankings in maths- Falling from 7th to 17th in the rankings in literacy- The police spending more time on paperwork than on the beat- Fatal stabbings at an all-time high- Prisoners released without serving their sentences- Foreign prisoners released and never deported- 7 million people without an NHS dentist- Small business taxes going up- Business taxes raised from among the lowest to among the highest in Europe- Tax rises for working people set for after the election- The 10p tax rate abolished- The ludicrous promise to have ended boom and bust- Our gold reserves sold for a quarter of their worth- Our armed forces overstretched and under-supplied- Profitable post offices closed against their will- One of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe- The ‘Golden Rule’ on borrowing abandoned because it didn’t fit- Police inspectors in 10 Downing Street- Dossiers that were dodgy- Mandelson resigning the first time- Mandelson resigning the second time- Mandelson coming back for a third time- Bad news buried- Personal details lost- An election bottled- A referendum denied.
New Labour. Stamping on the faces of the many, not just the few. Forever.

PS “A future fair for all” is an anagram of “Our fearful fat liar”

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Handing the Floor to Gatto

Take Back Your Education

By John Taylor Gatto

09 February, 2010
Yes Magazine

More and more people across America are waking up to the mismatch between what is taught in schools and what common sense tells us we need to know. What can you do about it?

Nobody gives you an education. If you want one, you have to take it.

Only you can educate you—and you can’t do it by memorizing. You have to find out who you are by experience and by risk-taking, then pursue your own nature intensely. School routines are set up to discourage you from self-discovery. People who know who they are make trouble for schools.

To know yourself, you have to keep track of your random choices, figure out your patterns, and use this knowledge to dominate your own mind. It’s the only way that free will can grow. If you avoid this, other minds will manipulate and control you lifelong.

One method people use to find out who they are becoming, before others do, is to keep a journal, where they log what attracts their attention, along with some commentary. In this way, you get to listen to yourself instead of listening only to others.

Another path to self-discovery that seems to have atrophied through schooling lies in finding a mentor. People aren’t the only mentors. Books can serve as mentors if you learn to read intensely, with every sense alert to nuances. Books can change your life, as mentors do.

I experienced precious little of such thinking in 30 years of teaching in the public junior high schools of Manhattan’s ultra-progressive Upper West Side. I was by turns amused, disgusted, and disbelieving when confronted with the curriculum—endless drills of fractions and decimals, reading assignments of science fiction, Jack London, and one or two Shakespeare plays for which the language had been simplified. The strategy was to kill time and stave off the worst kinds of boredom that can lead to trouble—the trouble that comes from being made aware that you are trapped in irrelevancy and powerless to escape.

Institutionalized schooling, I gradually realized, is about obedience in exchange for favors and advantages: Sit where I tell you, speak when I allow it, memorize what I’ve told you to memorize. Do these things, and I’ll take care to put you above your classmates.

Wouldn’t you think everyone could figure out that school “achievement tests” measure no achievement that common sense would recognize? The surrender required of students meets the primary duty of bureaucratic establishment: to protect established order.

It wasn’t always this way. Classical schooling—the kind I was lucky enough to have growing up—teaches independent thought, appreciation for great works, and an experience of the world not found within the confines of a classroom. It was an education that is missing in public schools today but still exists in many private schools—and can for you and your children, too, if you take time to learn how to learn.

On the Wrong Side of the Tracks

In the fall of 2009, a documentary film will be released by a resident of my hometown of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Laura Magone’s film, “One Extraordinary Street,” centers on a two-mile-long road that parallels polluted Pigeon Creek. Park Avenue, as it’s called, is on the wrong side of the tracks in this little-known coal-mining burg of 4,500 souls.

So far Park Avenue has produced an Army chief of staff, the founder of the Disney Channel, the inventor of the Nerf football, the only professional baseball player to ever strike out all 27 enemy batsmen in a nine-inning game, a winner of the National Book Award, a respected cardiologist, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, and the writer whose words you’re reading.

Did the education Monongahela offered make all these miracles possible? I don’t know. It was an education filled with hands-on experience, including cooking the school meals, serving them individually (not cafeteria-style) on tablecloths, and cleaning up afterward. Students handled the daily maintenance, including basic repairs. If you weren’t earning money and adding value to the town by the age of seven, you were considered a jerk. I swept out a printing office daily, sold newspapers, shoveled snow, cut grass, and sold lemonade.

Classical schooling isn’t psychologically driven. The ancient Greeks discovered thousands of years ago that rules and ironclad procedures, when taken too seriously, burn out imagination, stifle courage, and wipe the leadership clean of resourcefulness. Greek education was much more like play, with studies undertaken for their own sake, to satisfy curiosity. It assumed that sane children want to grow up and recognized that childhood ends much earlier than modern society typically allows.

We read Caesar’s Gallic Wars—in translation between fifth and seventh grades and, for those who wanted, in Latin in ninth and tenth grades. Caesar was offered to us not as some historical relic but as a workshop in dividing and conquering superior enemies. We read The Odyssey as an aid to thinking about the role of family in a good life, as the beating heart of meaning.

Monongahela’s education integrated students, from first grade on, into the intimate life and culture of the town. Its classrooms were free of the familiar tools of official pedagogy—dumbed-down textbooks, massively irrelevant standardized tests, insanely slowed-down sequences. It was an education rich in relationships, tradition, and respect for the best that’s been written. It was a growing-up that demanded real achievement.

The admissions director at Harvard College told The New York Times a few years ago that Harvard admits only students with a record of distinctive accomplishment. I instantly thought of the Orwellian newspeak at my own Manhattan school where achievement tests were the order of the day. What achievement? Like the noisy royalty who intimidated Alice until her head cleared and she realized they were only a pack of cards, school achievement is just a pack of words.

A Deliberate Saboteur

As a schoolteacher, I was determined to act as a deliberate saboteur, and so for 30 years I woke up committed to making the system hurt in some small way and to changing the destiny of children in my orbit in a large way.

Without the eclectic grounding in classical training that I had partially absorbed, neither goal would have been possible. I set out to use the classical emphasis on qualities and specific powers. I collected from every kid a list of three powers they felt they already possessed and three weaknesses they might like to remedy in the course of the school year.

I pledged to them that I’d do my level best inside the limitations the institution imposed to make time, advice, and support available toward everyone’s private goals. There would be group lessons as worthwhile as I could come up with, but my priorities were the opportunities outside the room, outside the school, even outside the city, to strengthen a power or work on a weakness.

I let a 13-year-old boy who dreamed of being a comic-book writer spend a week in the public library—with the assistance of the librarian—to learn the tricks of graphic storytelling. I sent a shy 13-year-old girl in the company of a loudmouth classmate to the state capitol—she to speak to her local legislator, he to teach her how to be fearless. Today, that shy girl is a trial attorney.

If you understand where a kid wants to go—the kid has to understand that first—it isn’t hard to devise exercises, complete with academics, that can take them there.

But school often acts as an obstacle to success. To go from the confinement of early childhood to the confinement of the classroom to the confinement of homework, working to amass a record entitling you to a “good” college, where the radical reduction of your spirit will continue, isn’t likely to build character or prepare you for a good life.

I quit teaching in 1991 and set out to discover where this destructive institution had come from, why it had taken the shape it had, how it managed to beat back its many critics for a century while growing bigger and more intrusive, and what we might do about it.

School does exactly what it was created to do: It solves, or at least mitigates, the problem of a restless, ambitious labor pool, so deadly for capitalist economies; and it confronts democracy’s other deadly problem—that ordinary people might one day learn to un-divide themselves, band together in the common interest, and take control of the institutions that shape their lives.

The present system of institutionalized schooling is a product of two or three centuries of economic and political thinking that spread primarily from a militaristic state in the disunited Germanies known as Prussia. That philosophy destroyed classical training for the common people, reserving it for those who were expected to become leaders. Education, in the words of famous economists (such as William Playfair), captains of industry (Andrew Carnegie), and even a man who would be president (Woodrow Wilson), was a means of keeping the middle and lower classes in line and of keeping the engines of capitalism running.

In a 1909 address to New York City teachers, Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said, “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity to forgo the privilege of a liberal education.”

My job isn’t to indict Woodrow or anyone else, only to show you how inevitable the schools you hate must be in the economy and social order we’re stuck with. Liberal education served the ancient Greeks well until they got too rich to allow it, just as it served America the same way until we got too rich to allow it.

What Can You Do About All This? A lot.

You can make the system an offer it can’t refuse by doing small things, individually.

You can publicly oppose—in writing, in speech, in actions—anything that will perpetuate the institution as it is. The accumulated weight of your resistance and disapproval, together with that of thousands more, will erode the energy of any bureaucracy.

You can calmly refuse to take standardized tests. Follow the lead of Melville’s moral genius in Bartleby, the Scrivener, and ask everyone, politely, to write: “I prefer not to take this test” on the face of the test packet.

You can, of course, homeschool or unschool. You can inform your kids that bad grades won’t hurt them at all in life, if they actually learn to master valuable skills and put them on offer to the world at large. And you can begin to free yourself from the conditioned fear that not being accepted at a “good” college will preclude you from a comfortable life. If the lack of a college degree didn’t stop Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Computer), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA), Warren Avis (Avis Rent-a-Car), Ted Turner (CNN), and so many others, then it shouldn’t be too hard for you to see that you’ve been bamboozled, flummoxed, played for a sap by the propaganda mills of schooling. Get rid of your assumptions.

If you are interested in education, I’ve tried to show you a little about how that’s done, and I have faith you can learn the rest on your own. Schooling operates out of an assumption that ordinary people are biologically or psychologically or politically inferior; education assumes that individuals are sovereign spirits. Societies that don’t know that need to be changed or broken.

Once you take responsibility for your own education, you’ll join a growing army of men and women all across America who are waking up to the mismatch schools inflict on the young—a mismatch between what common sense tells you they’ll need to know, and what is actually taught. You’ll have the exquisite luxury of being able to adapt to conditions, to opportunities, to the particular spirits of your kids. With you as educational czar or czarina, feedback becomes your friend and guide.

I’ve traveled 3 million miles to every corner of this country and 12 others, and believe me, people everywhere are gradually waking up and striking out in new directions. Don’t wait for the government to say it’s OK, just come on in—the water’s fine.

John Taylor Gatto wrote this article for Learn as You Go, the Fall 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Gatto was a New York State Teacher of the Year. An advocate for school reform, Gatto’s books include Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License