strange_raptors: And then raptors came through the stargate ... (Default)
I have been a bit of a failure in keeping up to date with the Children, Schools, and Families Act 2010 - which had included all the Badman recommendations for the compulsory registration of home educated children and so on and so forth. 

Turns out it passed into law on April 8th. With all the home educated stuff removed. Completely. 

So, rejoice, rejoice, and remember: Education is compulsory, school is not.

I'll end with a quote from Lord Lucas on the matter*:

"We are considering a section of the Bill which will cost £20 million per annum, which is about £1,000 per home-educated child. These children receive no money to help pay the costs of examinations; no money to buy textbooks; no money to buy materials; no money and no tuition to help them over difficulties in education. Now the Government can find £1,000 for each of these children-and will spend it on auditing them. Not one penny will go to help the children; it will all go on auditing them. What have these people done to deserve that?"

* I really do not approve of the current state of affairs regarding the unelected house of Lords. However, they have swatted down and opposed so many absolutely stupid Labour policies in the past year or two that I have to feel a little bit grateful towards them. 

For more information see: and
strange_raptors: Profile shot of Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena. (Utena)
My voting strategy can be summed up fairly succinctly: block the Tories from getting back into power. 

It's not a sophisticated strategy, and I feel sad that the first general election I've been allowed to vote in (stupid late May birthdays) is one where I feel so disillusioned by all the parties. I'm not voting for parties, I'm voting against them. So, for a bit of catharsis (so that I don't accidentally throw away my vote when I get into the polling booth), I've created this vid. 

I call it a vid ... it's more a series of photos, done to the same song that that excellent Merlin vid was done to (Sink or Swim by Tyrone Wells). This is my first vid, and I know it's not great. Apologies for the cast being all white men ... 

My first vid.
strange_raptors: Ellipsis (wtf?)
All unawares, I was reading yesterday's Guardian education supplement. Along with the usual oddities (a story on marmite's place in scientific research), there was an article entitled "Slumdog reveals learning treasures". Aha, I thought to myself, a feel good article about something innovative in education - that sounds wonderful!

Except that it sort of wasn't, because it had quotes like this:

"Having watched hundreds of Indian children learning without teachers at the Hole In The Wall computers, it became obvious that all children can work by themselves, if they want to." ~ Professor Sugata Mitra

"It [Hole in The Wall] proved that if you encourage individual learning, and give children interesting questions to look into independently, the learning process is sparked by curiosity."  ~ Professor Sugata Mitra

But wait! I hear you cry. Surely this is what autonomous education is all about? Surely anyone with the slightest grounding in education who has read anything by John Holt (1923-1985), for example, knows this.

"... the human animal is a learning animal; we like to learn; we are good at it; we don't need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it." ~ John Holt

"The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." ~ John Holt

Sound familiar? So, why has it taken this long, this long, for these ideas to still (still!) be greeted as new and innovative? Why are children still treated as mindless rebels who must be sat down, forcibly, and made to learn what the government wants? Why is it the case that the government doesn't recognise autonomous education as a valid form of education?

I know Prof. Mitra is one of the good guys, and what he's done has been really fantastic and great. But why is society so messed up in its way of dealing with children and their education? Why are we under this collective brainwashing that says that schools work and that this is how we raise our children - by making them spend 6-7 hours a day with strangers learning things by rote that they have no particular interest in so that they can progress to learning more things by rote that they have no particular interest in with a different set of strangers? Do we somehow not feel responsible for our children's education? Has the government thoroughly convinced us that we have no place educating them ourselves?

More and more I find myself drifting towards the thought that if you do not have the time or the inclination to educate your children then you have no place having children; that such a thing is quite simply irresponsible.

Every day I consider teaching as a job. In my spare time my thoughts drift towards lesson plans and ways of challenging the kids, of inspiring them, of encouraging them to reach the very peak of their potential and then some. I am a rebel teacher, seeking to bring down the system from the inside. I would question the protocol, form a subversive reading group (alá Dead Poet's Society), tell them about opera and music and the world, listen to their debates and ideas. And I know this isn't what school is like. I know I wouldn't last two minutes in an inner city comprehensive. But there are times when I'm so full of myself, so confident in my abilities, that I think I could make a difference.
strange_raptors: And then raptors came through the stargate ... (Default)
I've been catching up with what's going regarding Graham Badman's report on home education (full report here, summary of recommendations here). More specifically, I've been looking at what Education Otherwise (the home education charity) has been up to regarding the report. 

On the plus side, they seem to have a decent barrister with whom they're consulting, who raised a large number of issues with the report (proper issues that stand up in court rather than the instinctive "Oh god! This is so stupid!"). The minutes from that meeting are here

And then there was the survey that EO did of its own members - not the adults, though, but the kids. And I read through the responses that EO had collated. And I know they probably picked the ones that best suited their purpose because this is politics and not science. And I know that the sample size is far too small for the numbers to actually mean anything realistically. But the responses ... they made me cry. They made me cry quite a lot, in the sort of desperate crying you get when you realise that the messed up bit of the world has just intruded on something close to your heart. 

And I made footnote rashly promise that we would seriously consider home educating our kids when we have kids. Because the responses of the kids to that survey were about how some of them had had really appalling times at school, really appalling, but how they were doing better now. How they were happy, and learning stuff, but above all being happy. 

This is not a good detached report on what's happening with the law and home education at the moment. But it sums up my feelings on the matter, I guess. 

For reference, Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 (which is referenced quite a lot) can be found here.
strange_raptors: Ellipsis (wtf?)
Thought I should link to the actual report

Some of the recommendations are good. Things like the DCSF paying for exam entry, should the child want to be examined (recommendation 10). 

And then we get to recommendation 15:

That the DCSF take such action as necessary to prevent schools or local authorities advising parents
to consider home education to prevent permanent exclusion or using such a mechanism to deal with
educational or behavioural issues.

I'm sorry. Say that again? You're preventing schools and local authorities from advising parents to consider home education? WTF? WTF? No, seriously, WTF?

And that's ignoring such gems as recommendation 7:

The DCSF should bring forward proposals to change the current regulatory and statutory basis to
ensure that in monitoring the efficiency and suitability of elective home education:
  • That designated local authority officers should: 
    •  have the right of access to the home;
    •  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.
In so doing, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well.
  • That a requirement is placed upon local authorities to secure the monitoring of the effectiveness of elective home education as determined in Recommendation 1.
  • That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration.
Watch! Watch as the small child performs for the inspectors! Watch how they jump through the hoops that their parents were forced to write down 12 months ago in order to allow them to continue to home educate their children. Because autonomous education totally works like that.

Honestly, I hope Education Otherwise screws the government well and truly over this, preferably under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26, paragraph 3: Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children). Oh, but wait, this is a Labour government and we all know their record regarding human rights. Guess we're all screwed afterall.

(Seriously, though, if people could write to their MPs about why this review is mind-boggingly stupid, it would really help. They have 3 months to make a decision on this (I think) so any and all action taken during that time will help.)
strange_raptors: Ellipsis (Angry)
I am so angry by this report that I spent the last few minutes swearing at the screen. Repeatedly. This isn't about the welfare of kids - they've made that clear by the emphasis on having a planned education for your child. I knew it would come to this, that once they started looking into home education they'd find more and more excuses to regulate it. This! This from the government that promised in its election manifesto for 1997 to get rid of the national curriculum. This from the government who said that every child matters. This. I am beyond disgusted. I am beyond annoyed. Never again will fucking Labour get my vote. Never again. Bastards. Filthy lying rotten bastards. Never again.
strange_raptors: Profile shot of Utena from Revolutionary Girl Utena. (Utena)
Going by this BBC article, it sounds like the government will be recommended to increase monitoring of home educated kids. Will it be good for home education? I'm not sure. Increasing the LEA's (Local Education Authorities') power to allow home checks (something a number of LEAs already think they have the power to do) is, I think, somewhat an invasion of privacy - although I freely admit that I don't have a good answer as to how to check on the welfare of kids. I do not think, however hard the government claim, that schools provide a good way of checking up on this kind of thing. From that point of view, I'd rather have a national child registration scheme that checked up on everyone who has kids annually. Except that that would cause an immense fuss about nanny-states and so on. Picking on a small minority of educators won't really damage their votes all that much.

The other side to this review, that home educators should receive more support from LEAs is encouraging. Most of the advances for home education have been made by the charity Education Otherwise - things like free admission to museums, or educational discounts. I'd like to see the government give home educated kids the money that they put by for their education if they go to state school, a token that says we accept that you're choosing to educate your child at home, and that this means you will be working reduced hours, and that you will need to buy things like books, or educational software. But if they did that, they'd similarly have to give handouts to kids who go to private schools, and there might be a monetary incentive for home education. 

Ultimately, I disapprove of increased regulation of home education, partly because of my own experiences dealing with an LEA and listening to other people's stories, and partly because what it boils down to is a check on parenting, and I don't see why home educators should be singled out this way. 
strange_raptors: Ellipsis (Angry)
*GAH*. Why? Seriously, why? I (would have, if I'd been born a month earlier) voted for this government. I like this government. Why do they have to be such prats? Why? Note to future self: When having children, check the law re. home education. If over-regulated, emigrate.