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the Ed Balls Bubble reached terminal velocity today, and now we can look and see all the chaotic little pieces that originally made up the unified whole, flying off in all directions.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."


  1. I keep re reading it, such poetry

  2. Super post. I am absolutely stunned at that London Safeguarding document. It's going to take me days to digest the ramifications of that.

  3. Oh I so wish I had written this, bits of it have been whirring around my head for ages, but I am so grateful that you have written it. Excellent stunning wonderful work. As a dyslexic I sometimes leave out commas on purpose as a protest, it is indecipherable from ignorance but I don't care! Lol.

  4. Thank you very much indeed Tech and Elaine :)

  5. have you seen his turnaround?

  6. Wonderful work, Tech!

    Wrt the DCSF link, they've just corrected the spelling of Khyra.

  7. wonderful!!!!!Ive got a screenshot of the statement saved, should it ever be required as evidence to back what youve said

  8. Tech, you're superwoman! You deserve a highly paid job as an investigative reporter. You're doing the job the media should be doing, and you're doing it bloody good. But then of course, you're driven by intrinsic motivation - a rare, almost extinct quality nowadays. But luckily still well preserved and nurtured amongst home educators :).

  9. Ah, and that should really be plural, shouldn't it? As in Tech and Elaine. Great teamwork :).

  10. LOL yes it was definitely a joint effort, we were both up til just before 5 this morning getting it finished :)

    All links now cached ;)

  11. Excellent post! Thanks for all your hard work. Could (has this) be sent to Birmingham Post/Mail? It's too good not to share.

  12. I've no idea Sam, do feel free to do so if you think it will help :)

  13. It just gets more boggling the absolute disrespect !

    I am informed that in the last two weeks of a case that the children Director Tony Howell is dealing with. A person has been told that the Council will not investigate any Whistle-blower complaint about abuse in the Council Children Services if the Whistle-blower is not a Council employee. This means that The Council will not investigate any information from members of the public about any abuse in the Council Children Services Department or any abuse in any other parts of the Council.

    So under these circumstances how can the Director of Children Services, Tony Howell be allowed to remain in his job. The above demonstrates that he is not learning lessons and that is why his Department has repeatedly failed to properly protect children in the past and will continue to fail to protect children in the future with Director takes such attitudes.

  14. What arrogant, self serving bastard he is!!!


  16. Thanks for all the hard work, Tech. Made a miniscule contribution of my own to satisfy the urge and humbly accept that you got the coup :-)


  17. Superb post, absolutely stunning!!!! Thanks Tech and Elaine.

  18. You are both ace!

    Poor Ed - where did his statement go? Did it go POP do you think?

  19. yes, this post needs to travel; it draws together a lot and needs to be studied more. thank you for the time and effort you've spent pulling some of these issues together.

  20. I doff my virtual cap to you both. A fantastic summary and analysis. I will be pointing everyone at this post. Thanks!

    Submit it to the Brum Post and see if they run it. Seriously, I think you should chuck it at some of the Nationals too!

    Much respect.

  21. Excellent work Tech & Elaine!

  22. Fantastic work, a great article- let's keep on keeping on!!

  23. Bravo. A much-needed post, brilliantly written.

  24. Thank you - will blog your blog. And thanks to everyone making these Herculean efforts on the behalf of the rest of the HE community. You have earned our eternal respect and appreciation, irrespective of the eventual outcome.

  25. What a team :) Heartfelt thanks xx