For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Child Abuse, WMD, football coaches and butchers

The Select Committee of Children, Schools and Families have published the submissions made to them as memoranda here

Below is mine (no. 122)




SUBMISSION TO THE CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES SELECT COMMITTEE



SUBJECT: Elective Home Education Inquiry


1. Introduction of yet another home educator


2. The scope of the terms of reference for the Review; child abuse and WMD


3. The constitution of the Review Team, football coaches and butchers


4. Tampering with, and manipulative changes to questions and text, invalidating the whole review
4.1 The 6 questions
4.2 The 60 questions
4.3 Question number 6 / a.k.a. number 7


5. More spinning and twisting...
5.1 Recommendation 7, What Badman says and what Balls wants
5.2 Submission from the Church of England, the whole story


6. Independent and unbiased, out of the question


7. Conclusions




Dear Members of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee,


Thank you for your invitation to submit evidence regarding the Review of Elective Home Education and the resulting Report and Recommendations.


1- Introduction of yet another home educator


I am a home educating parent, not a lawyer, not a politician and English isn't my first language, so writing a submission to your Committee is quite a challenge. Of my three - home educated - children, two are already over 18 (both in employment and continued education) and the youngest is making her way to university, so at first sight there is no personal necessity for me to testify. But the reality is that I live in this country and it is most likely that my future grandchildren will live here, too. Therefore I feel it's my duty to speak out and provide what evidence I can about the way the Review was conducted and the Report was put together, and about the possible impact of the Recommendations and the licensing scheme that would result from it.


I hope you will excuse me for mistakes in language, and for not being all scientific and providing you with the results of in-depth research; I do not have the means, nor the time, nor the knowledge for that.



2- The scope of the terms of reference for the Review; child abuse and WMD


I have never had a problem with openly discussing the prejudices people quite often hold about our elected way of learning. But Baroness Morgan gave the prejudice a whole new angle when she commissioned the Review to Graham Badman and explained in the media that one of Mr Badman's tasks would be to identify what evidence there was that home education was possibly used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. Established within our own community as we are, the statement and review have raised quite a few unbelieving eyebrows and critical questions with people who know us, but beyond our own community we - and home educators in general - are often subjected to the 'no smoke without fire' attitude. It is a known fact that this kind of information, when coming from a figure of authority through the national media, is often perceived as truthful by the general public. It is also a fact that Mr Badman found as little evidence of child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect amongst home educators as Lord Butler found of WMD in Iraq. I won't go as far as comparing the consequences of these two Reviews, but I will state that our family and a huge number of home educators feel that they are being attacked on false allegations.


Under the pretext of welfare issues this is yet another attempt to get a government controlled grip on the completely legal educational choice of a minority group.


3- The constitution of the Review Team, football coaches and butchers


A majority of home educators have inside knowledge and experience of the school system and for quite a few of us that is actually the reason to home educate. Others choose to home educate because there are no schools that provide the kind of education they prefer. Whatever the reason to home educate, it is safe to assume that knowledge about the school system was part of the equation.


Elective home education is a form of education suitable to age, aptitude and ability and to any special needs (a) child(ren) might have, provided otherwise than by a school. It covers a rainbow of diversity in methods, from very structured and curriculum following school at home to child led and autonomous education.


Of the twelve members of the Review Team only one showed insight in the nature of Elective Home Education, none of the others had any actual experience of it, nor have they displayed any knowledge of the nature or workings of current legislation regarding EHE.


The leader of the review himself has knowledge and experience only of education within the school system and is the former Managing Director of Children, Families and Education in Kent, a county with a history of ultra vires practices towards and bad relations with home educators.


Although he's an extremely capable sportsman, nobody would ask Sir Alex Ferguson to judge the finals of the Olympic Figure Skating and nobody would expect a butcher to advice a vegetarian on what to eat.


Mr Badman and the members of the Review Team may all be experts in their own field, but none of them has the qualifications or background to (help) produce an expert report on Elective Home Education and the remit of the Review doesn't allow enough time to gather the required background information, research results and statistics. This has been made even more obvious by Mr Badman himself, who at the very last moment has asked Local Authorities for more information to back up his already written and accepted Recommendations.


4- Tampering with, and manipulative changes to questions and text, invalidating the whole review


4.1 The 6 questions put to home educators and private people were leading, if not manipulative. In spite of that 1600 home educating parents and children (and not 2000 as Mr Balls suggests in his letter of acceptance) managed to put their views across, which resulted in 80% of the in total 2000 respondents stating they were happy with the status quo . Although this outcome was mentioned in the report, it was most certainly not reflected in the recommendations or in the current consultation.


4.2 In sharp contrast to the above, the Local Authorities had 60 questions to answer, although there seemed to be another questionnaire going around, too. Although anybody could answer the 6 questions in the public consultation, the 60 questions were reserved for LA's only. One would expect an independent reviewer to listen equally to both sides and give both sides equal opportunities for input.


4.3 A most disturbing thing happened to the last question of the short consultation. When it was presented to the public as question number 6, it read: Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen? (my emphasis). The official analysis of the consultation questions shows a similar phrasing ;


However: In the Report to the Secretary of State, Annex C , question 6 of the consultation, now referred to as question 7 of the public call for evidence, reads:


Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this cannot happen again? (my emphasis).


Two important changes:


1) The 'consultation questions' became a 'public call for evidence', and


2) The different phrasing changes the meaning of the question about possible preventive policy change to policy that would deal with existing abuse.


In my opinion this alone renders not only the consultation and the conclusions drawn from it, but also the whole review, invalid. As I, here below, and undoubtedly others in their submissions, will point out to you there are many more reasons to suspect that the outcome of this review was pre-determined and the recommendations drafted beforehand.


5- More spinning and twisting...


5.1 In Recommendation 7 Mr Badman wants LA personnel to have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer.


Apparently, to Mr Balls this utterly disgusting form of intrusion on the life of innocent (as in: not suspected of any crime) children and their family does not go quite far enough. In the letter he wrote on the same day the Report was presented to him, he says: We agree that home educated children must be seen regularly in their education setting, on their own, or with an independent person present as appropriate [...].


So where even Mr Badman leaves room for the fact that there could be instances where it might not be appropriate to demand to speak to a child alone, Mr Balls states that all home educated children must be seen on their own, as a rule. And the 'trusted' person that Mr Badman suggests should accompany the child if deemed appropriate, has become merely an 'independent' person in Mr Balls view.


5.2 In Chapter 4 - Elective Home Education in Context; the Views of Home Educators and Others - Mr Badman writes:


quote
And the Education Division of the Church of England states its concern:
“that children and young people not in formal education are missing the benefits and challenges of learning in community with their peers. Children who do not go to school may not experience the social and cultural diversity encountered there; they will not learn how to deal with the rough and tumble of everyday life; they may never meet people with different faith and value systems. All such encounters, even the difficult or painful ones are enriching. We are concerned not only with the five Every Child Matters outcomes, but also with the spiritual well-being of all children and young people. Spiritual well-being arises not only from being cared for in a loving family and/or faith community, but also in encounters with people of different opinions and backgrounds; in learning to listen to a variety of opinions; to encounter diversity and the riches and life-enhancement it can bring. Spiritual well-being depends on living and taking a full part in community life. Children and young people in schools learn about and from the five major religions. This may be a difficult part of the curriculum for home educators to provide, yet it is vital for the Government’s community cohesion agenda that all children learn in a balanced way about the variety of religious values and practices, and to be encouraged to question their own beliefs and practices.”
unquote


As there is no reference to a context, to the unsuspecting reader it seems as if this is what the Church of England has to say about EHE. But the above is one out of ten points. Most other points show at least sympathy for people's choice to home educate and the concluding tenth point states:


quote
We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children in a home-educating this should be a matter for Children’s Services.
unquote


By only using point 7 Mr Badman has, in my opinion, taken part of the Submission out of its well balanced context, to give readers the impression that the Church of England is against Elective Home Education. In my opinion that can only be described as manipulative and misleading .


The fact that Mr Badman had to resort to these measures to discredit the value of EHE is more indication that he failed to find evidence to support his negative assumptions.


6- Independent and unbiased, out of the question


The Terms of Reference state: "Seek evidence on how the systems operate in practice from stakeholders, including home education groups, home educating families, local authorities and children's organisations." Yet, Mr Badman has failed to properly investigate numerous complaints by home educators about ultra vires practices of LA's, nor has notice has been taken of the more than 80% of respondents to the public questionnaire who thought current legislations was adequate and sufficient.


He has failed to properly research existing legislation and how it is being implemented by the different LA's. He has not properly researched the local authorities with good practice. I know that my own local authority, which has a very positive relationship with home educators in the county, has offered to provide examples of good practice and information about establishing a good working relationship with home educators, but that offer was not taken up by Mr Badman.


7- Conclusions


7.1 What Badman and Balls are proposing is effectively a licensing scheme for a minority of parents /carers. For these recommendations to become law without being discriminatory would require major changes to primary legislation, which would see all parents/carers requiring a license to provide the education of their choice.


7.2 There is a total disregard for the negative effects these recommendations are going to have on children and there is no mention whatsoever of a possibility to appeal to what could easily be the personal and or prejudiced opinion of an LA officer.


7.3 The way facts and figures have been manipulated, the way words and quotes have been twisted and misused, the lack of research into for instance the Scottish or the North American situation, the total lack of impartiality and the apparently immovable prejudices, all these factors together and more that I am unable to mention here as I have not had enough time to research it and not enough space to word it, make this report unreliable and untrustworthy and therefore invalid.


7.4 As there is no evidence that there are welfare issues that cannot be dealt with under current legislation, and as there is no evidence that the law does not provide enough possibilities to determine whether a sufficient education is being provided, there is no reason to implement any of the recommendations.


7.5 This is a last minute submission and I am aware of many more things that I could and maybe should have said. But the reality of the situation is that I am a practicing home educating mother and foster carer, self employed, with a very busy and intense life. I hazard a guess that the time I have invested on reading up on the Review, filling in the questionnaire, discussing matters with both fellow home educators and non-home educators as a result of false rumours, informing MP's and other interested parties about EHE and gathering evidence for this submission, by far exceeds the time Mr Badman and his Review Team together have spent on it. The fact that they got paid for it and I - and all these other home educators who are doing the same and more - am doing this on a voluntary basis, should be an indication how much we care and how much we want to protect our children and families.


Home Education is not a choice lightly made and home educating a family is not without sacrifices. I sincerely hope that the Select Committee will honour this and recognize that it is time to let home educators get on with what we do best and with more love, dedication and commitment than any system could ever offer: Providing our children with an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude and any special needs they might have.


Thank you for taking the time to read this.


22 September 2009

4 comments:

Fee said...

Bravo!

Given how badly written the original report is, I do not think you have anything to apologise for in your eloquent response.

Maire said...

Wonderful Meike clear and humane.

Sally said...

Meike, can I put this past you http://salamanda.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/876/
bw
Sal

CrisisMaven said...

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