Thursday, 11 March 2010

My complaint to the BBC

I complained to the BBC on their reporting of the Kyra Ishaq case.
I had now sent this complaint about their reply!

Thank you for replying to my complaint about this article. I am, however, still unhappy.
Your reply states that the article looked at interventions that may have saved Kyra Ishaq's life - it did not. It devoted more than half it's column inches to discussing proposals for monitoring home educators, proposals which would have done nothing to save this child's life as in this case the family were visited by the LA and the child was seen by the officer but nothing was picked up. The proposed changes to the law do not introduce anything that this officer could have used to improve this child's chances of life, they simply give more powers to send a child back to school (which would not have helped her as she was already extremely ill prior to being taken out of school and the school's repeated attempts to get social services involved failed) and to increase levels of control the LA has over educational provision. The education welfare officers do not have powers to remove a child, they can only follow the same path as the schools - report concerns to social services - and the proposed changes to home education law not only do not alter this but do nothing to provide for extra training for such officers either in the area of home education or in the area of checking safe-guarding concerns. Therefore, the disproportionate amount of space given to this bill in the article was unwarranted.
Not only this, but no other proposals or ideas were explored ie. would the mother have coped better had she had access to things like respite care or a place to go to meet other families with special needs children? Or if she had access to help for her own food fixation via an NHS diet service? Would social services have responded better if they still had the Child Protection Register to aid them? Better training? Social workers manning the phones rather than laymen? To write an article that claims to explore all the possibilities then focus on one minor one while excluding all others is TERRIBLE reporting. Neither were the very real powers the social services already have - powers that could have saved the child had they been exercised properly once social services had recieved the school's phonecalls. It was the failure of social services to act on concerns over the family and the apparent lack of understanding by the social worker involved in the case of her own right of access to the child that was cited as THE reason this child died and two others came close in the court cases this case led to - NOWHERE in the article was this mentioned, let aslone discussed. This meant the piece was grossly unbalanced and highly biased, coming across as government propoganda, not serious journalism.

Your reply also states that home education was a factor in the case, which is why so much space was given to it. Home education was a factor for two minor reasons only; !) The mother's decision to remove her children from school was the trigger that decided the school to contact social services - despite having serious concerns before this, they only got in touch once the child was no longer where they could see her every day. Had they got in touch earlier things might just have turned out differently (though this is very much a long shot). Had the child remained in school, there is a good chance social services would not have been contacted for some time as the school tried to work with the family itself while the child's health deteriorated further, so in effect the decision to home educate could have been the thing that saved Kyra - had social services responded appropriately to the repeated calls from the school.
2)Social services, because 'home education' was mentioned, chose to ignore, or confuse, the welfare concerns which the school was reporting and instead took the view that an education, not a welfare, issue was the root of the problem and decided that it was the educational welfare officers problem. This shows a tremendous lack of understanding of the situation on the part of social services as the school was reporting serious problems like dramatic weight loss, stealing food and a concerning change in the mother's personality and behaviour, yet it appears that because home education was mentioned, social services assumed this to be the grounds for the school's concerns. Here, home education was a factor, but it should not have been. Social services should take any concern of the type the school was making seriously no matter what the educational or cultural background. They should not simply 'pass the buck' to education welfare, whose powers (both now and in the children, schools and families bill) do not extend to putting in place safeguarding measures to deal with a child's health and safety but deal only with the child's learning environment. (There are also some major concerns about the way that the education welfare officer who visited the family carried out his task - he appeared to either not know the children were special needs, in which case he was acting in ultra vires by demanding a visit and educational plan, -current law states that the family may choose what method they employ to engage with the LA who may only ask for educational information if they believe there might be problems - rather than have a particular one demanded of them, or he did know in which case he was right to make immediate enquiries as the LA has a duty to ensure statemented children are recieving the assistance their needs demand but should not have signed them off as he did as he had not recieved the mother's plan detailing how she intended to accomodate those needs. Either way, something was not right in the way this man worked in this case - it appears to be a situation of an over-worked official with too many cases for one person to deal with - and giving him more powers would not have improved his ability to understand or give him the time to implement them) Back to social services, nor should they be so poorly trained that they are unaware of they powers they have to carry out their own job. The social worker had the power to insist on seeing the child alone and assessing her. She had the power to check the child's school and the schools the other children attended to ask if they had any concerns, and the power to make inquiries of neighbours, doctors etc. Her task, on recieving such a serious complaint, should have been to visit the family and make an initial assessment immediately. None of this was done. It is known that social services in general, and Birmingham in particular, are extremely over-stretched and things like the abolition of the Child Protection Register and other new legistlation have made their jobs much harder and more confusing.
None of these factors were touched on in the article, yet they played the biggest role in her death. The one factor that was no real barrier to social services doing their job was the one the article was written about.
You claim the article does not take sides. I beg to differ, it is biased in the EXTREME. One truncated line of quote from a home educator does not balance out half an article of quotes from people in favour of the changes to home education law. No quotes were taken from Social Workers in other areas for their views on the case, as I have previously said the article made no attempt to look at any other factors besides home education despite the title, which made it appear that home education was the sole reason these children were suffering whereas the truth is much more complicated and concerned a huge variety of factors most of which had a far more important role to play (in fact court transcripts show that the argument that home education was involved was dismissed as being incidental in the case)
The fact that none of these other, major factors are even mentioned - mother's state of mind, partner's terrible background that he effectively replayed within the family, school's holding off reporting their concerns (one school was so concerned the teacher arranged special treatment for the child attending to be fed larger portions at lunch time and to be watched closely for injuries, yet they do not appear to have reported to social services, Kyra's school waited until the children were withdrawn before reporting their concerns), social services inadequate response to serious concerns, their attempt to let education welfare deal with it and their inability to understand their own powers to deal with such a situation, the inability of the policewoman who visited expressly to see the child to pick up on the state of her health when she was brought to the door and the education welfare officer's inability in fact and in law to do a social worker's job, meaning he too did not spot problems when he saw the child (and had no power to do anything other than report it himself had he picked up on it) plus his inadequacies in his own task which led to a family with statemented children being signed off as 'providing adequate education' without the right checks being made on their ability to deal with the special needs - let alone explored to the extent they deserve, makes this an attack on the homwe educating community, NOT a balanced report that does not take sides.
The outcome is that anyone who reads this will assume that home education was THE reason this child was unable to be saved, assume that no mistakes or other factors were involved and everyone involved behaved perfectly but were prevented from carrying out their jobs by the current home ed. laws. It in fact presents a LIE to the public, people who look to the BBC to tell them the truth about subjects they know little of. Your handling of this case, in this article and elsewhere, pushes a false belief on them.
If you wish to see articles that truly reflect the realities of this case, may I direct you to the Birmingham Mail, where a number of articles have been written detailing the facts of the case, including this one :
Their reporting puts yours to shame.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

My comment on the Lords blog to Baroness Deech

If a child is frightened when a stranger comes into the home, the child needs help, not continued protection from seeing any strangers.

The above quote seems to me to drive right to the heart of the disparity between the home educating community and those who do not truly understand the reasons for their anger. It is a question of context. The quote assumes the child in question is frightened of all strangers, and has been encouraged/made to feel this way by seclusion. However, this is not the context of the argument.

The context is this; A stranger comes to the house, because they are a stranger their opinions, biases and preferences are unknown. The stranger works for an organisation that has at best, been unhelpful in the past and at worst has been the major source of pain, frustration and emotional turmoil for the family. The family must allow them inside the home on pain of prison sentance, fine and/or having their children removed from their care whether they want to or not. Once inside, the stranger is tasked, by law, with inspecting the family – in the home, education is not separated from daily life or parent and child interaction and therefore cannot be separated from parenting even in families who use the most formal methods of enabling their child’s learning, therefore what the unwelcome stranger is in fact judging is the family’s way of life, their parenting skills, their relationship with their children and the home they live in. It is highly unlikely that the stranger will have any first-hand experience of home education themselves or that they can view cultural or lifestyle differences that are unfamiliar to them without suspicion – it is human nature to be wary of that which is unknown. This stranger will then remain in the home for a number of hours, with the power to demand to see anything they wish whether that be something the child has produced, the child’s bedroom or the child itself and the family will be forced to comply on pain of prison, fine and losing their way of life. The child, whose work may be private to them, whose bedroom is a haven to get away from the world and who may have serious concerns over talking to this stranger without the support of their parents presence will be put in a position of powerlessness, forced to allow the stranger to violate their privacy with no recourse to protest. The child, and family, will be well aware that it’s performance for the stranger may well be a big factor that determines whether or not the family’s way of life will be preserved. The child will be afraid of ‘getting it wrong’, they will be afraid that they may, personally, be the one who destroys the status quo by not being good enough or saying the wrong thing. They will pick up on tensions from the parents who may well have serious concerns over the stranger – they are afraid for their child because they know so little about the stranger. Is this person a liar who will claim untrue things about their family and their child? Is this person a manipulator who will persuade them or their child to say things they do not mean? Is this person prejudiced against something important to the family, such as race, economic status, the area they live in, religion, certain parenting phillosophies, transient lifestyles? Is this person abusive? Is this person close-minded? Has this person any real experience with things that may be affecting your child and understand how they may make the child react to them, such as disabilities, previous trauma, special talents, mental illness, intense emotions, high intelligence? Is this person even aware that the child is affected by these things? The parents are afraid of the power this stranger wields, as nothing in the law puts any limits on the reasons this stranger can give for destroying their way of life, allowing this total stranger to make an entirely subjective judgement that could easily be based on something as simple as a clash of personality and gives the family little recourse to appeal against any such judgement.

Worse yet, this person may not be a stranger. It may be the family have to deal with someone who has already made their life a misery in the past, either by causing or exaserbating serious problems at a time when a particular family may have been trying to sort out issues with a school or who has previously visited them before the law altered and shown a lack of understanding of home education practices, severe prejudice or, as is actually quite common, a lack of understanding of the law and the respective duties of themselves and the families within it. The prospect of seeing such a person again in a state where that person has all the power even within the families own homes, while the parents have no protection in law would be beyond frightening.

You say we have nothing to fear from inspection if what we are doing is ‘as good as is claimed’, but the fact of the matter is, there is no one right way of educating your child just as there is no one right way of living. The effectiveness of an education can only truly be measured in the adult the child will become, and suitability is not a universal standard but implict on the individual needs of each child. What looks like ‘poor’ education to an outsider may be precisely what that child needs at that particular time and unless an inspector knows the child well and is open to educational phillosophies that they may personally not believe in, know about or understand, appearances may be highly deceptive.
This law will expose thousands of families to insitutionalised prejudice, where many ‘inspectors’ will hold it as a black mark against them the very fact that they are home educating. This already happens, and while major strides in many areas have been made towards improving this, the proposed law will put that work back by decades because by it’s very nature it legalises suspicion against a sector of the community whose only ‘crime’ is to live differently.

What other niche group is forced to accept forced entry into their homes by inspectors whose sole remit is to judge their lifestyle? The answer is None.
What other group is forced to expose their children to legal invasions of privacy, both material and mental, without being able to stand up and protect them should the child beg to have it stop? the answer is None.

The proposals are based on nothing but rumours and fears that have no basis in fact, elevating misconceptions and hearsay to the status of law. They are written by those who niether understand the nature of home education nor care to learn. Nor do they accept that it is the parents duty to educate and care for their child but confer that duty onto the authorities (who also have serious objections to these plans in many cases as they not only add extra costs in time, staff and resources without allowing for extra funding, but by making them responsible for the education and welfare of these children it lays them open to a legal quagmire where they will be blamed for any failing and is likely to ultimately lead to court cases with families suing them for breach of duty if a child forced into school does not receive the promised ’suitable’ education).

It is my duty to protect my children, to be their voice and their strength and to guide them through the world until they are capable of taking on those tasks themselves. These proposals will reduce my ability and effectiveness in this and teach my children that their parents are not capable of caring for them. They will grow up in a world where home education is treated as a form of child abuse – by singling us out for inspection, the general perception will inevitably be ‘Oh, there must be something dodgy going on or they wouldn’t be forced to submit to it would they?’ They will reduce the ability of parents who wish to start home educating to do so. This is never a decision taken lightly and to add a layer of heavy beurocracy to what is already a terrifyingly huge responsibility while at the same time erroding family autonomy and privacy will cause many parents to leave their children in unsuitable, and in some cases extremely harmful, situations when they would otherwise have put their child’s needs first.

All these things will harm my children. They will grow up feeling powerless against the whims of the state, fearful that one wrong move will cause their parents to be imprisoned and in all likelyhood expose them to the worst sort of behaviours from those, official and public, who will assume the law means home education = bad family.
No other country has measures such as those proposed. No one in their right minds can call them ‘Light-touch changes’.
You are concerned over a mythical beast, the ‘possibility’ that some home educators may not be doing a good job, that a hypothetical child may not be getting what they need. I am concerned for my very real children, who really do exist.

You cannot educate everyone to the highest level, not in your schools and certainly not with the current proposals which actually demand the quality of education not be taken into account when sending a child back to school in the case of their parents forgetting or refusing to fill out the paperwork. You cannot save everyone, especially when social services are understaffed, undertrained, underfunded and are known to have be unable to prevent bad things happening within families they know extremely well.

The education of one child is not worth the harm this law will do to thousands of others.

Please, I understand it can seem strange and suspicious to people who have no experience of home education, but don’t, I beg of you, attempt to judge it or worse, pass laws on it, before taking the time to look into it. Read some books – Alan Thomas’s ‘Education at home’ is a good place to start, Paula Rothermel has studdied home education and it’s outcomes, and writers such as John Holt and John Taylor Gatto talk about things that are the basis of many home educators phillosophies. Then, check your laws. Look at the current legal position and the court rulings made based on it, and consider them carefully. Then look at the new proposals and take the time to wonder what it would be like if you were part of a family forced to abide by them. Laws should not be made without consideration for those who will have to live with them. Laws should not be made without evidence that they are necessary. Laws that detract from a person’s civil liberties should not be rushed. Laws that impact on the ancient duties of parents to their children sould not be passed without good-quality, in-depth, carefully constructed, unbiased, accurate and truthful research into the facts and the impacts.
The history of these proposals is at odds with good practice in law-making. The fear and dissention in the population is real. Would you harm, not just me and my children, but the whole of Britain’s legal system with an ill-thought-out law based on pre-conceptions and flawed data that has been complied so suspiciously quickly it was announced before the results of the consultation and the government’s own Select Committee inquiry of the review it is said to be based on were announced and left to go unchecked despite both disagreeing strongly with the proposals?
I would hope that the Lords are all individuals of strong character who are capable and willing to investigate all aspects of a situation and forming their opinions based on the evidence without being swayed by a party line. I hope that my hope is justified.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

'A suitable education'

As a parent, I have a duty in law as follows;

(I ) shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
  1. to his age, ability and aptitude, and

  2. to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

I am interested in the wording of this law. One word in particular, in fact.


This law is written using a personal pronoun, with 'him' standing for 'the child' (of any gender) Why?

This law does not focus on all children, a faceless 'them'. It uses a personal pronoun very deliberately all the way through, denoting that EACH child has DIFFERENT needs and that my duty, as a parent, is to ensure that, no matter how many children I may have, the education of each one is decided by it's own personal abilities and difficulties, aptitudes and struggles.

I have two children. A creative, dreamy daughter who hates loud noises and crowds, is highly cautious physically and is so intensely visual it is often a source of amazement to me that she ever learned to talk at all let alone be the highly verbal child she is. And a loud, physically fearless son with a highly outgoing sociable personality who is drawn to sound over everything else but who at 18 months has yet to speak more that a couple of 'real' words.

There is no way that the same education that is suitable for my daughter would adequately fulfill my son's individual needs. And the kind of education my son will thrive on would be more likely to terrify my daughter than teach her.

Therefore, my intention is to attend to each one's personal needs, and I will do this easily because I know them very well as individuals. If my daughter learns best by seeing, she can learn by watching TV or watching someone else performing a task. If my son needs to hear to learn, he can talk to people, ask questions and listen to instructions. I will praise my daughter for jumping and my son for sitting still. I will leave my trustworthy daughter alone with the acrylic paint while I heavily supervise my not so trustworthy son's use of the crayons. I will hold my daughter's hand as she climbs while watching her younger brother zoom up without comment. And I will change with them, allowing crayoning alone for my son when he finally learns to neither eat them or draw on my furniture with them, letting go of my daughter's hand when she learns enough confidence in herself to climb alone. I will allow them to put aside old interests for new passions, allow them to leap ahead where they wish to without ensuring 'all previous steps have been covered' first or regress if they feel they need to with needing to 'show steady progress' because what they need is more important than what I want.

So, I will 'cause' my children 'to receive' an education that is suitable by making certain each one has their individual needs, wants and passions met. And by doing so I will fulfill my duty as laid out in the law that specifically defines the suitability of a person's education on how well it marries with their individual, personal traits.

In light of this, what sort of lunacy is the government's intention to try to define 'a suitable education'?

How do they intend to find the time to get to know every child in the country on such a personal basis that they will be able to say what will be suitable for each one at each stage of their educational journey? How will they follow each child through to adulthood and beyond in order to recognise what factors in the child's education served it well as an adult and what hindered it? How will they take this knowledge and use it to produce a method for determining the best method of educating any individual child?

How will they even recognise 'education' when they see it? After all, I often don't. I take it on trust that whatever my child is choosing to do at that moment must have some educational value to them or they would not be doing it, whether I can see it or not. I have always been proved right, but rarely at the time and never without surprise. If I can't always see the educational value of an activity, and I know how my child thinks, how will someone else fare better?

Obviously, they will do none of these things. It would be highly impractical and intrusive for a government to try it on even a minor scale. So, what are they talking about when they discuss 'defining a suitable eduation'?

It can only mean one thing. They want to set perameters based on what they think education looks like and define 'suitable' as 'that which suits the average'. Because they can't possibly define it on an individual basis without studying every child intimately every day of it's life until it dies.

And that means the government has not understood the law it perports to uphold. Because To define 'suitability' based on an average, or a majority, is to deny the personal aspect of it. The law does not confer the duty on parents to educate their child in the same way, or to the same standards, or using the same values or core subjects/knowledge as every other parent. It demands that education be something far more specific and individual, based on the child in front of you, not on statistics, studies, the lastest fads, cultural dictates or government desires.

From which I conclude that any attempt to define the meaning of 'a suitable education' in generic, countrywide terms would interfere with my ability to carry out my statutory duty to my two, very different, highly unique children and ultimately be in direct opposition to the law. And the government bods who think doing so would be a great idea and would solve a lot of problems haven't even realised it.

Assuming that 'suitable' means 'fit for purpose', what can be concluded about their education? And their ability to spot a 'suitable' one when they see it in another?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

If it saves one child....

"If these measures save only one child, it's worth it."

"Not if it harms a hundred others in the process it isn't."

I will not sacrifice my own living, breathing, growing, very real children at the altar of some hypothetical child who may or may not be 'saved' by measures based on such fear and mistrust and suspicion that they will thereby damage my children in ways that are impossible to calculate by forcing these things into their young lives via their own homes, the one place they should be able to feel safe and protected, over the protestations of their parents, the people they should be able to look to for comfort and support, and their own wishes, which should always be taken into account by those who claim to care for them. I will not stand by and watch my own children being harmed in the vague hope that by allowing it to happen to them it may stop harm to another.

One hypothetical life is not worth two real ones. Certainly not my two. One is definitely not a hundred, and above all one is not worth the thousands of real people whose lives would really be affected by the Children, Schools and Families bill.

Projected 'support' for home educators

At a recent All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, the DCSF came out with the following pledges of support, to show that they are thinking of providing benefits to home educators as well as the planned severe restrictions. The Golden Carrot to balance out the Big Stick With Nails In It, if you like.
Having looked them over, this certainly hasn't done the job of a good Carrot and made me any less aware of the Big Stick - far from it, it has instead thrown it into sharper focus as it clearly shows how little thought has really gone into what Home Educators really need or want, and how little they plan to exhert themselves, mentally or financially, in finding out and providing it.
Read on for my opinions of each 'bite' of the Carrot;

  • LA forums for HE families
If I want to talk to my LA, I will do so by letter, phone or personal e-mail, as it would come under the heading of 'personal correspondance' and as such would not be for public consumption. If I want HE advice, tips, emotional support etc, I would not be interested in what the LA have to say (particularly not after reading the so-called 'information' leaflet they sent me unasked before Christmas - turns out they are rather notorious for misinformation and ultra vires practices) I will go to the forums and blogs already available to me that are used by people who have actual been-there-done-that experience of what I am dealing with.
Verdict - redundant
  • Plans to extend flexi-schooling
Hmmm. And how exactly are you planning to achieve this? Currently, flexi-school arrangements are at the discretion of head teachers, who use their own judgement to decide whether or not to accept a 'flexi' student. These private arrangements are thrashed out between the parents and the school and are an extention of the parents quest to provide for their child's specific, individual needs, ergo no two flexi-school arrangements are alike. They are few and far between, however, because many heads have little to no experience of how such arrangements can work successfully to the benefit of all parties involved, which can lead to frustrating experiences for families attempting to find a school willing to enter into them. Now, if the plan is to encourage heads to view such arrangements favourably by providing them with information/opportunities to see first-hand how other schools have done it and by practical actions such as ensuring things like Ofsted ratings or exam league table standing for the school is unaffected by taking on these pupils, this is a 'support' that would be useful for the few home educating families that wish to 'flex'.
However, the track record of this government suggests they are more likely to 'support' families in this by taking away the autonomy of the head in this matter and making it unlawful for a school not to comply with any flexi-school request. Not only would this set up the back of any head teacher, but it would immediately call for the issuing of statutory guidelines on how a school should go about accomodating flexi-schoolchildren in order for heads to carry out their new responsibility 'properly', which will lead neatly into a need for a 'Flexi - curriculm' for all schools to follow, probably involving strong recommendations for number of hours a child should study on the premises, subjects that should be taken by the child and an inclination for the schoolwork to be viewed as more important than the home education sanctioning inroads being made into HE time by the school. This route will undoubtedly leave most parents in a situation where it is more difficult, not less, to find the flexi arrangement they want for their child as annoyed and browbeaten heads who don't really want their child insist that flexi-schooling can only be done according to the government guidelines and never mind that you need something different.
Verdict - likely to be disasterous.
  • Use of school libraries to be made available
Why? I have a perfectly adequate public library within walking distance, and at least another 3 a short bus trip away. At the public library, we can stay for as long as we want, take out up to 10 books at a time for 3 weeks for free, without being restricted to a particular section, request books we want that are not on the shelves to be sent over from other libraries, use the computers, take out DVD's, get copies of research papers, engage in activities such as the summer reading scheme if we choose to (or not if we don't) and all either for free or a nominal fee. The opening hours suit us and we have built up an excellent relationship with the librarians.
So, why would I want to use the library in the local school? It's hardly likely to contain anything I can't get from the public library, more likely it will contain a lot less, and it's unlikely it's opening times or borrowing rules will be more convenient either. Textbooks, in my experience, are usually in the 'reference' section and I would be more likely to purchase those than borrow them even if I had the option to. And if I lived in an area without a public library building, there is a good chance that area would also not have a school (or at least, not one likely to be big enough to have much of a library) - though it may well be serviced by a mobile public library. So, why exactly would this plan to open up school libraries be a benefit?

Verdict - redundant
  • Support to families with children with SEN.
Schoolchildren with SEN are supposed to be supported. Many home educating families pulled their children out of schools because they found that supposition to be unfounded, with either no or little support at all or inappropriate services being offered. And children with special needs that are health-related should be recieving support for those needs via the Health Service regardless of the educational environment. So to offer support that families are already entitled to or which they have previously rejected on the grounds of unsuitability is something of a disingenuous promise.
Now, there are those out there who home educate SEN children who never had a problem with the support provided in school and deregistered for other reasons, or who never sent their child to school or whose needs have changed since. These families might well find they want to access some support if they could. Even without raising the concerns of whether any such support would be on a 'supplied when asked for' basis or if it would be more of a 'we are going to give you support whether you want it or not' system, this 'SEN support' is an unhelpful promise since it is so vague, failing to give any clue as to what the DCSF may mean by it. 'Support' can mean anything from handing you a bullet-point leaflet to providing grants and use of facilities, from forcing you to accept a particular therapy on pain of losing other support or other benefits or your child itself to rewriting existing laws and guidelines that have previously overlooked the home educating community to take account of the fact that said laws and guidelines affect them too. Nor does this proposal give any indication of who would provide the support and where amongst other things. SEN support would not necessarily have to come via the LA, nor would it necessarily have to be local for instance. So which is it? Without knowing what 'support' entails, it's impossible to know if it will be either a step in the right direction, useless, or a scourge on society.
Verdict - naive and vague

So, what I am getting from this is that the DCSF want to relieve me of my parental autonomy in return for a small handful of empty promises that either offer services I cannot get better elsewhere or that are likely to make life just that bit worse if I ever do find myself in a position where the areas they affect affect me too.
Not much of a Carrot, is it? Rather more of a Poisonous Weed.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear'? Don't be daft!

Assuming the Children schools and families bill comes into being, I have everything to hide and everything to fear.
For instance; I would need to hide it if I disagree with an LA official - because I would fear they have the power to call me 'non-compliant and agressive' and use that as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide my lack of use for a curriculm and pre-planning - because I would fear that that would be deemed 'unsuitable' and used as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide the general 'definitely not a show home' state of my house generated by the day-to-day activities of a family who spend more time out and about and playing together than they do cleaning - because I would fear it would be taken as a sign of neglect and used as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide my fear and apprehension caused by the stress of needing to be annually 'approved' - because I would fear it would be taken as a sign that I was 'guilty of something' and used as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide the number of hours my child spends watching TV, playing on the computer and running around the house in nothing but her knickers pretending to be a superhero - because I would fear the intrinsic educational value of these activities would not be obvious to an official and used as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide the fact that my daughter owns her own set of woodwork tools at 5, that my 1 year old son is allowed to climb up and down the stairs on his own as often as he likes and that I have never baby-proofed my home - because I fear these things would be treated as dangerous hazards by people who do not know my children as individuals, and used as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide the fact that my parents do not agree with our decision to home educate - because I fear that an official would assume the objections of someone so close to me must be based on their belief in my competence rather than an inability to understand home education itself, and use that as a basis to take my children away.
I would need to hide the fact that I enjoy my children's company and dislike being apart from them - because I would fear that I would be labelled 'overprotective', or 'controlling' or simply 'suspicious' and have that used as a basis to take my children away.

And I would need to hide my fears and worries from my children, because I would fear that if they picked up on my distress it would have a negative impact on their lives.
But I won't be able to do the last. The proposed laws would change our lives so much, they could not help but notice, and wonder, and object. And force a choice on me.
Either; I will not comply and spend my time worrying about the recupussions to my family should officials ever caught up with me.
Comply and spend my time worrying about the recuppussions to my family should we inadvertently upset the LA, or got an official who was prejudiced against/misunderstood home education or was not really the sort of person who should be allowed near children, or my children were not compliant with production of work/the interview process etc etc.
Send my child to school and spend my time worrying about the recuppussions to my family should it prove to have a deterimental an effect on my children and destroy our preferred way of life.
Emmigrate, and spend my time worrying about the people I have left behind and the recuppusions on my family of removing them from everything they hold dear.

Everything to Hide. Everything to fear.

Monday, 9 November 2009

An institutionalised state.

I have been increasingly amazed and dispairing of the way so many people seem so sanguine about losing their rights and freedoms under government legislation. Why are so many happy to give these up? Why are they not angry at the all-encompassing belief that the adults of this country are like small children who need to be guided and controlled by an overseeing 'wiser head' to prevent them making terrible mistakes? Why do they not feel constrained and threatened by the increasing lack of privacy and loss of ability to make their own choices?

I believe it is because they are institutionalised.

They have grown up in nurserys and schools, entered the world of work by joining large corporations, and therefore spent their entire lives living by other people's rules and being actively encouraged not to think for themselves.

This has led to fear, fear of being responsible for their own lives, their children, their neighbours. They want to be told what to do and how because that is all they have ever known. Worse, they have been indoctrinated with the belief that any other course of action is wrong and must be punished. So they look to those in charge to tell them what to do.

And those in charge are also scared, by the wieght of the responsibility being forced on them, the apparent inability of the populace to think for itself. But they are also institutionalised. They have also grown up in the 'system' and find it hard to imagine other solutions beyond more and more controls. It doesn't occur to them that removing the controls and forcing people to take the responsibilities that are theirs might be the best cousre of action, that the very 'solutions' they are currently implementing time after time are the cause of the problem, because that is what they themselves know.

It takes a lot to break free of this. Ask ex-prisoners, ex-slaves. Freedom is scary. It is easier to let someone else tell you what to do. The more controls we have, the more institutions we put in place, the fewer people there are who will have the strength, or understanding, or sheer bloody-mindedness, to break out of this mindset and the closer to death our society will come.