Saturday, 22 September 2012

Every Child Safeguarded

Mr. Humphrey Pumphrey-Carrick-Watson (HPCW) sits in his bureaucratic office where he thinks up new policies everyday. It is his job.

Ms. Coleen Clevercogs (CC) is his personal assistant.

HPCW: "I don't like this business of homeschooling, y'know."

CC: "I believe that in the United Kingdom it's called home educating, sir."

HPCW: "What? Home educating? When it's homeschooling?"

CC coughs apologetically: "Not everyone sees it as schooling, sir. Some home educating parents believe that 'schooling' is what you do with a horse, not a child."

Her boss looks at her sideways: "They all have kitchen tables, don't they? When they let the little bl... er... young people out of the cupboard under the stairs?"

CC: “Home educators as a rule don't keep their children in cupboards under the stairs, sir. The children are quite widely educated in other places such as museums, the environment, observatories, friends' homes, church halls, forests... The home edders are quite well aware that their classrooms are the whole wide world..."

HPCW holds up a hand. "Humph! But they are lazy, aren't they? I mean 'educating at home' just means you can't be bothered to get up to force them out of their jammies and into the school uniforms..."

CC: "Home educating parents are generally opposed to forcing their children to do anything...sir."

Her boss raises his eyebrows. "Oh, that kind..."

CC: “Er, sir, since you don't seem to know any home educators perhaps you should spend some time talking to them. It smacks of bigotry if you just condemn people for their views if you don't agree with them..."

"Dirty word, at the moment, CC." HPCW shuffles a pile of papers from one side of the desk to the other. "There's, of course, the safeguarding issue. The most important matter in hand..."

CC: "Naturally. But home educators are less likely to hurt their children than are parents who 'force' their children into school."

HPCW: “Eh?”

CC: "Yes, sir. Schooled children are more at risk of harm than are home educating children."

HPCW: “Huh? How's that?”

CC: “Well, Mr. Pumphrey-Carrick-Watson there are more schooled children so there are more schooled children being abused. Add to that, the fact that it would be so difficult for home educators to abuse their children.”

HPCW: “Ha! They can't wriggle into the cupboards under the stairs, ha! No exercise 'cos they're too lazy to get their kids to school.”

CC: “I'll pretend I didn't hear that, sir. It's defamation: you are harming the home educators' reputation, decreasing the respect in which they are held and...”

HPCW: “I knew it was a mistake to send you on one of the Law GCSE courses.”

CC: “Home educators are regarded with suspicion by many people in society so it would be difficult for them to harm their children. There are a lot of malicious referrals by neighbours and others to local authorities saying that the children are running wild all day and not learning anything. It's a basic lack of comprehension of the true learning process which occurs at all times and in all places...”

HPCW: “So you're saying that they're all running wild – which is a lack of care by the parents, isn't it? - but the parents are also keeping them in stair cupboards so... I mean... It...”

CC: “Yes, exactly, sir. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about home education, sir.”

HPCW: “I need coffee.”

CC: (handing him a cup) Of course you cannot treat home educating parents as a different species.”

HPCW frowning: “Why not?”

CC: “Well, we don't do safe and well checks on under-2s as a routine measure in our quest to safeguard every child. Schoolchildren aren't visited in the school holidays by local authority 'monitors' and they aren't checked on if the parent rings in to say the child is sick.”

HPCW: “Of course not. Those children are safely at school. School means they are safe...”

CC: “Not particularly, sir. Do you want to see the statistics on teachers and other school employees who have been arrested and/or charged with some kind of abuse against children in their charge?”

HPCW: “Er, not at the moment, Miss Clevercogs. Do you mean? Well, are there a lot of... Never mind, schools have a duty of care that... Um, well, yes, my nephew's arm was broken by bullies last year and the teachers maintain that it didn't happen at school and yet...

CC: “Yes, sir.”

HPCW picks up a pen and twiddles it around his finger. “I think I see what you are saying, Coleen. We can't treat home educating parents differently. We can't monitor them because we don't monitor schoolchildren's parents at times when the children aren't at school. It's discrimination, is that right?”

CC: “Right, sir. And it might activate the Human Rights Act. Families have a right to privacy. Local authorities can enquire about the education parents are providing to their children, but even that's an awkward one because local authorities expect school types of learning.”

HPCW: “Kitchen tables. Sharpened pencils. Tests. Exams. Qualifications instead of learning.”

CC: (smiling) Rather a shame when, if you don't have a qualification you don't get a job but when you do you're overqualified for it. You can't win, sir.”

HPCW: “Unless your uncle, Lord Wadgletter, gives you a leg up and you get a post interning for the Home Office like I did.”

HPCW: “Coleen, how do you know so much about home educators?”

CC: “My sister has home educated her four since birth and I was home educated for five years when my mother took me out of secondary school because I was suffering from bullying.”

HPCW: “Get your sister on the phone, would you, Coleen? I'd like to meet her and her family.”

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Case Against Monitoring Home Education

Exam Results

"Greater regulation does not produce better results. The following quotation from a peer-reviewed academic article on this topic made the following observation:

'The authors of this study find no evidence from their analysis that supports the claim that states should exercise more regulation of homeschool families and students in order to assure better academic success in general or improved higher-education success in particular. On the contrary, the findings of this study are consistent with other research findings that homeschool students perform well academically - typically above national averages on standardized achievement tests and at least on par with others on college-admission tests - and do so regardless of whether they live in a state that applies low, moderate or high governmental regulation of homeschooling.'

(Brian D. Ray, Bruce K. Eagleson, "State Regulation of Homeschooling and Homeschoolers' SAT Scores," Academic Leadership, August 11, 2009)."

The above was quoted in Kelly L. Green's book 'A Matter of Conscience: Education as A Fundamental Freedom' from Rubeus Books.

More from Dr. Brian Ray can be found here:


And what about the safety of children who may suffer harm in the care of home educating parents (which is always the elephant in the corner in every debating room)?

""As the debate on home education has developed, I have become particularly worried about the way in which various issues have been conflated; I am especially worried about the conflation of safeguarding and child protection with quality of education. I deeply regret the way statistics have been used to suggest somehow that children are intrinsically at greater risk if they are being home educated; I believe I am right in saying that not a single home-educated child has had to be taken into care as a result of a child protection plan, yet there are those who have sedulously spread the myth that somehow children are at greater risk through being home educated."

The above is a quotation from Michael Gove's blog:

January 12, 2010

While debating the non-issue of home education during the Balls-Badman (hellish) period in the continuing struggle between local authorities and legally but alternatively educating parents and children, this was said by Andrew George MP in Parliament on June 9, 2009:

"... there may be public concern about this sector, but having visited a group of home educators in Penzance in my constituency, it was clear to me that in many cases these people have chosen this option precisely because they want to escape abuse and bullying in schools. Some choose it for other reasons. In a letter dated 19 June 2007 that I received from the then Under-Secretary in the Department, Lord Adonis, he made it clear that under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 the powers already exist to intervene in cases in which the state believes that a child may suffer harm. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The state already has the powers to intervene where it suspects that harm may be going on."

Representatives of the state may intercede in any case when they have reason to believe that children are at risk whether those children are educated at home, at a private school, at a state school or anywhere. Home educators live under the same strictures of law as do any other parents. We are accountable to the law for how we treat our children and we are accountable to our children for their safeguarding. We are also accountable to our children for how they are educated. Safeguarding and education are not intertwined. They are separate issues.

So what, exactly, is the problem, Wales?

P.S. Did you know that one synonym of 'intervene' is 'come to school'? 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Party Popper

I'm trying to be a bit more creative with the blogpost titles.

Karl Popper was a philosopher and professor at the London School of Economics, and a cool dude.

The cool dude said some sayings that I think apply to our modern day local authorities and general authorities who want to change home education things in Wales and, eventually no doubt, in the rest of this Great Britain.

He said: "The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence."

Home educators have learned to be critical of the taboo that protects the ineffable mess that is the school system in England and Wales. The taboo is CRITICISING SCHOOL. Our solemn duty is to believe all the adoring comments by those who love school. 

Children at school can be watched and their possible abuse discovered by caring and alert teachers. Rubbish. It is just such rubbish. Thirty kids in a class going in fifty different directions at the speed of light and the decibels of five aeroplanes landing at Heathrow. I don't think so.

Home educators base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence which tells them that school teachers have enough to do grading tests and grading children to notice whether or not those children are being abused. There's also the fact (dreadful though it is) that persons in authority over children are not immune to using their positions of power to perpetrate abuse upon children themselves.

Our friend Karl also said: "No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude."

No amount of me telling you, dear local authority, that parents love their children and part of loving a child is wishing to give her the best education tailor-made for that child, and that parents love their children and don't spend their time abusing them even though those children are not in school. I can say it until I'm blue, yellow and orange in the face but my rational arguments won't influence you, local authority people, because you don't want to accept my rational comments and good sense. You want to control my child's education. You want to control my ability to see that my child has the best possible education I can give her.

You cannot see that controlling my child's education means taking responsibility for it. If you take responsibility for it and my child feels that she has been let down by the choices you make for her then she will sue the authority off you.

Sooner or later. Or sue-ner or later.

When you assume responsibility for education you are directly responsible for each and every lack  (probably as defined by the subject of that education - the ex-child or consumer of said education). You will be taken to court to face the idea of remedy. In other words, you'll have to pay and you'll have to pay hard, and you'll have millions and millions of adults who will feel that you have let them down and not provided an education suitable to their needs. It's a can of worms. No, it's a can of Lambton worms. That's why PARENTS are responsible for providing an education and who in the statescape gives a toothpick if an aggrieved adult sues his parents for providing him with a lousy education.

But you can't get it, local authority. You just can't get it.

Let's go back to Karl Popper. "I see now more clearly than ever before that even our greatest troubles spring from something that is as admirable and sound as it is dangerous — from our impatience to better the lot of our fellows."

Yep, it sure is admirable and sound to want to protect our every child who matters from abuse. So you go in to home educating domiciles and you check the child. You could ask the child, but then the child could be protecting the parent so you examine the child medically. Or you grill the child like a sausage on a barbeque. Or maybe you don't because the child might sue your ass-umed authority for torturing him.

Remember those darned inconvenient Human Rights:

"It is an absolute right – in no circumstances will it ever be justifiable to torture someone.

  • Inhuman acts will amount to torture when used to deliberately cause serious and cruel suffering.
  • Treatment will be considered inhuman when it causes intense physical or mental suffering.
  • Treatment or punishment will be degrading if it humiliates and debases a person beyond that which is usual from punishment."
Treating one person (a home educator) differently to another person (schooling child parent) will result in a whole pile of human rights attacks on local authorities. Trust me, I'm a home educator. And it's simply called discrimination. And it's not a proportionate response. It's just like cutting your head off because you have a migraine (although, as a migraine sufferer, sometimes I've felt like it) but it's hardly helpful.

"There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions."

Karl again. No, we home educators don't agree that school is just the apple pie dandy thing that most people seem to be convinced that it is. We don't agree that home education should be monitored because it's our responsibility and - let's face it - local authority bods do favour school-type education (it's what they understand). So we'all don't share the same opinions, and we must suspect each other's good faith. Or, basically, we can't agree that they should monitor us because they're bound to be looking for stuff that we aren't providing (in the case of autonomous learners that would be schooly tick boxy examy testy curriculumy stuff) and we're providing stuff we think that they won't understand because they like schooly tick boxy examy testy curriculumy stuff and they understand that. Understand?

So the local authority folk don't like us because we don't want school for our children but the local authority folk DO want school for our children. We don't share the same opinions and neither side thinks the other is right. Some bad faith there, perhaps?

Popper: "True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it."

It didn't take home educators long to 'get' the ideas behind the law. It took them a little study to see why the law is as it is. The law safeguards the whole system. It's constructed to allow the children who don't fit the one-size-fits-all (those clothes are always so wrong for me) to fit somewhere. It means the local authorities/government won't go down the pan trying to remedy the foul failings of a dreadful mishmash that the school system can wreak on a youngster. It means that parents have to carry the can and hope that they are good enough providers to have their children win through and get what they want whether or not their kids are home educators or schooled.

It's all carefully constructed. But, if you start messing with it, you introduce instability. It comes crashing down. All of it. 

I advise you: don't mess with it. You don't have a system big enough and tough enough to survive this crash.

Home educators have told the authorities over and over and over and over... but it's a case of "True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it."

Thanks, Karl. 

The torture stuff: 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Welsh dodgy aims

Another Trojan horse? The Welsh government want to monitor home educators.


Do they want to spend more money on something that doesn't need to be fixed? Do they want to prove to Welsh parents that they don't trust them with their own children? Do they think the local authorities can do better in providing an education?

Nah, can't be that last one..

This blog entry says a lot of things that I would have said:

"The long arm and bottomless wallet of the Welsh Assembly Government" on

Thanks Sprout and Squidge blogspot.

I can't comment at the minute. Cos I've met the dragon inside me and it's pretty pissed. Again.

And I don't mean drunk.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


No, not the jobshop or that place advertising for teachers. The agency I mean is the one I've been thinking about for a few weeks.

It's the power you give yourself to be an agent in the world. To be active. To determine. To do. To say.

One of my friends is about to lose her job. She knows that the powers that be are massing against her and waiting for her to make a mistake, even a teeny tiny one. Then, when she does, she will be let go. However, she will not WILL NOT do anything. D is determined that she's staying. Never mind that the ptb are determined to oust her. Never mind that it's costing her monumentally in stress and panic. D is going to stay.

D has no agency.

When you work for an institution your power of agency is limited or non-existent. You do what the institution wants or you look for another situation.

You have no agency.

Home educators have agency. They are agents. They choose. They select. They captain. They are active. They determine. They do. And they say. Boy, do some of those agents say.

That's why the staff of a local authority sometimes fear home educators. They don't understand agency and, until they become dissatisfied with how they deal with other people 'outside', they never will.

Most of society has given up on agency. Or they think that outside agencies will solve their problems, get them jobs, tell them how to live and what to do.

Institutional non-agents are accustomed to citizen non-agents. They understand them. They can mold and manipulate them. They can treat them badly. They can demand silly things of them.

We need to be agents in our own lives. Home educators are agents in charge of educating their young or themselves. That's why institutional agents don't like us and seek to monitor us – to reduce our agency and increase the illusion of their own power.

Do not give up your sense of agency to anyone. Empower your young people and yourself. Never give up. Never give up your power. Don't squander or surrender your agency. Remember:

"Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up."
A Winston Churchill quote from