Friday, February 20, 2009

So, what can the review do for you?

When I first saw Baroness Morgan's atrocious press release about this last month (expertly analysed by Mieke here) the thought came to me that it would take a big dose of alchemy to turn it to our advantage. Then I forgot about that, and got stuck into gathering information and studying the background and the ECM framework to try to work out what it was all really about. In a strange way, I'm now actually grateful for the review because without it I wouldn't have done that, and all that small print in the ECM programme would have passed me by.

Since we ran the poll on Tuesday (current results: 3 for; 313 against) we've had another piece of good news (thank you Tracy for passing it on): Dr Alan Thomas and Professor James Conroy ("The danger of undermining parents through a culture of suspicion is politically and socially injurious, It’s bizarre to pathologise others purely because they are other.") will be meeting Graham Badman as part of the Home Education Review. So now three members of the panel of 'experts' (many more and I shall have to drop the inverted commas) know something about elective home education, which does slightly beg the question: what are the other five who don't going to talk about? But let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. I will run another poll on our confidence in the review system when there are at least two more real experts in Elective Home Education on board to see whether our views have changed. (I'm ignoring the involvement of Mr Arthur Ivatts [opens pdf] as I think, sadly, that's the only thing you can do with someone who could put his name to such a document.)

But in formulating the précis on our specific problems with the five outcomes on Wednesday, and then my own answers to the six questions yesterday, it occurred to me that in the context of the encroaching ECM framework [opens pdf], this review could actually do us some good.

I think we need to look at it from the point of view of the average Local Authority employee. (And by this I don't mean the Tony Mooneys of this world, who seem unable to believe that learning could possibly be an enjoyable - let alone a voluntary - experience and who want to make it their mission to prevent us from proving them wrong.) I mean the majority of workers who are just trying to do their job without getting into trouble. Their lives have suddenly become profoundly more difficult due to the extra burdens of apparent responsibility being placed on them by DCSF. They are now being held responsible for not only the health and safety, but the enjoyment, achievement, positivity, contribution and economic wellbeing of every single child in their catchment area! I can't think how any of them are managing to sleep at night. And it's not even as simple as the imposition of a few abstract concepts, because there is nothing abstract about these five outcomes. Each one is but the tip of a honeycomb of intricate and sometimes legally binding pdf documents and a swarm of statistical indicators and I imagine that financial inducements and penalties will be attached to performance measured by these.

When you look at it that way, it's quite easy to see why some Local Authorities are calling for the position regarding Elective Home Education to be further clarified. Many of the ECM documents and parts of the framework itself rely on school attendance to allow aims to be met, which is in direct conflict with Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, in which our right to EHE is enshrined, as well as national and international human rights legislation. These should be changed to reflect the lawful existence of other kinds of education: the 'enjoy and achieve' outcome is a particular case in point.

PSA 14 [opens pdf] about the 'Path to Success' contains the following phrase:

8. ensuring there are robust systems in place for the identification of, and interventions for, young people who do not attend school.

Perhaps the authors of this document had truants and other troubled youngsters in mind rather than children in receipt of elective home education, but the use of the word 'interventions' here regarding young people who do not attend school appears to create a confusing conflict with the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf] which state:

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.

(I plan to write again tomorrow about the negative effects of Local Authority monitoring on our children's education.) This confusion could and should be alleviated by changing the word 'school' in PSA 14 to 'full-time education' and the same remedy could be employed to every other similar problematic reference to school throughout the framework and associated documents, all of which I haven't yet read.

The other difficulty with the ECM framework and associated documents is the repeated use of the terms 'all children' and 'every child'. Yes, every child does matter of course (especially, in most cases, to his or her parents) but all children do not legally have to be obtaining qualifications - some might be quite gainfully employed in other equally valid educational activities. And not all children have to attend Extended Schools and Children's Centres between 8am and 6pm every day - some might have alternative activities planned at home or elsewhere with their parents, or just be safely engaged in free play or study somewhere. It might perhaps be a relatively easy matter to alter all of these references (and again, there will be many I haven't seen yet) to 'all schoolchildren' and 'every schoolchild'. The whole concept is deeply flawed for every child and family in my opinion, but there should at least be an opt-out written into this very one-sided framework of contracts to protect Local Authorities as much as children and parents.

If the review really is a genuine attempt to provide clarity and to resolve the concerns of Local Authorities whilst also being of help to home educating families, then recommendations along these lines would be a good start.


Blogger lotusbirther said...

Is Arthur Ivatts on the panel?
His personal views as expressed in the document are linked to include lies, misleading quotes and an awful lot of prejudice as well as lack of understanding of the law even though he quotes it. He certainly doesn't have independent thought - his views are made plain

6.8 In terms of securing uniform guarantees of children’s rights and entitlements to a
quality education irrespective of provider, and the safeguarding of the care and
protection of children from possible harm and abuse, parliamentary legislation is

6.10 It is suggest that the legislation should ensure that:
a) a standardised national system of registration be implemented by each
local education authority in terms of assessment criteria;
monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events
b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the
assessment process.
d) a clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced.
e) all children to be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been
registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen
initially and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in
law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution
f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in
relation to expectations of educational progress.
6.12 That Local authorities be required to include within their Inspection Cycle, an
assessment of the quality of the assessment and monitoring/inspection functions in
relation to elective home education and to report on their findings.
6.13 That the criteria for assessment and monitoring/inspection visits should be
based on a modified version of the requirements for the inspection of independent
schools under Section 162a.25

9:22 am, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I'm a bit confused about what they mean by 'on the panel' and 'meeting with'. I am very glad Graham Badman is meeting with Alan Thomas and James Conroy but this isn't being 'on the panel' is it? I got the impression from Steve Heppell's words that the panel would be meeting as a group and the composition of it was down to Mr Badman. Do you know if this is right?

9:39 am, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

I don't know the difference between 'consulting an expert' and having an 'expert' panel in this case, no.

It's to be hoped - if Mr Badman doesn't live up to his name - that the home education experts' view will carry the most weight though, isn't it?

9:51 am, February 20, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Hmm, well I know I am a cynic, but it seems to me that *meeting with experts* = paying lipservice to make us think that the review really will consider our opinions. Until there are HE experts ON THE PANEL, it's still a whitewash, IMO.

10:47 am, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

I wonder how we can find out. Is there anything that sets out what the panel is for, exactly? I'll dig through some emails when I get chance to see if I can find anything. We could also ask, I suppose. We're going out for the day soon though.

11:08 am, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Deb said...

I remain unconvinced that the review is "a genuine attempt" at anything other than a witch-hunt.

I hope I'm wrong.

12:37 pm, February 20, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I agree Deb.

1:26 pm, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

No, I think you're probably right, but if we loudly expose the honourable thing to do and they then blatantly don't do it, they just prove you right. For what that's worth.

4:54 pm, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I've just realised that I might have been told the answer to my own question about 'meeting with' and 'on the expert panel'. When I wrote to the dcsf to suggest Alan Thomas, and they said that he was meeting with Mr Badman, they also said,
"The expert reference group will comprise a range of experts and the composition of that group will be made available once it is finalised."
So I gues that means that meeting with Mr Badman doesn't mean Alan Thomas will necessarily be on the panel.

5:02 pm, February 20, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Yep Gill I agree with that too :)

5:20 pm, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am wondering if all these consultations will actully work to strengthen our position in the long run - ie still no reason can be found to change the existing sitution OR the government try to change legislation allowing us to mount a legal challenge to it.
If they change legislation due to abuse concerns from anecdotal evidence from LAs surely there must be some comeback in terms of libel/slander type issues if these cases haven't been independently investigated to ensure that a) they do provide evidence of a greater level of abuse amomg home educators and b) that it was failures in HE legislation and not failure of staff to use existing powers not just HE but all powers around safeguarding children.
By changing legislation on these grounds they would effectively be making a statement linking HE with abuse and we should be able to challenge it.
If they make changes in legislation to monitor and assess to ensure our children meet the 5 outcomes then they would also have to legislate to give themselves that duty for all children as they don't currently have that duty.
In which case that would affect a lot more people outside of HE and would probably be quite robustly resisted in view of the liability it would also infer.
I have not seen any other pegs on which they could hang a justifiction for change in legislation though I am quite tired and "foggy" right now.
It might be a tough road but it might indeed lead to a position of strength.
On a side note might it be worth trying to get Liberty and Shami Chakrabarti onside from a civil liberties/ human rights point of view - both in terms of this review, the ongoing consultations,ultra vires practices and harassment by LAs and issues around EHE being seen as a welfare issue by nhs staff etc.It might be worth considering if we do have to resist legislative change.

9:41 pm, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok my keyboard is terrible so sorry for all the typos but amused myself with this one - obviously another Freudian slip although maybe we could get it into the dictionary in terms of governments reasons for doing things. It would have worked quite well for weapons of mass destruction too!

11:03 pm, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Allie, I think I might be clutching at straws, but the fact that the composition of the 'expert reference group' isn't finalised yet sounds like good news to me.

"I have not seen any other pegs on which they could hang a justifiction for change in legislation though"

Me neither Jo. I'm racking my brains to think what it could be, because you're right - it would fundamentally change the current position of the State as 'parent of last resort' - but then I think that ECM does that anyway. It relegates the position of parents to.. well, this diagram shows you where.

It's an ongoing process, but I think a chunk of the framework is already statutory, and obviously the aim is to make it all so eventually, in little tiptoe steps so as to negate any resistance.

"justifiction" is about right, IMO!

6:04 am, February 21, 2009  

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