Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My response to the commons select committee report.

Written ten mins after skim reading it.

I'm actually really happy with the report. It criticizes Badman's evidence base and, because of the unsafety of the evidence, the report backs off from the really problematic parts of the proposals - interviewing the child alone, access to family house, being measured on a detailed curriculum plan. It says clearly that the DCSF need to think out how any legislation will impact on SEN children before bringing it forward and it also says that the registration=licensing proposals are crazy. It says none of it is workable without properly costed and carried out LA staff training. It says a lot about autonomous HE. Mostly that they don't understand it - I think there is a clear acknowledgment that the report writers feel a tad out of their depth - but also that the DCSF should blooming well have done that research properly before bringing forward legislation that affects AE.

So now Graham Stuart and our other allies take that lot to conservative HQ, and they draft 2562 amendments to the proposed education bill - just the HE related bits, before they even start in on the rest of the bill - and if anyone says "steady on old chap, why not just let it go through?", Graham Stuart says "well, have you not seen the hiiiiighly critical select committee report on the Badman review? We can't just leave it be, you know, we have a responsibility" "good point, good point" they say. "pass the port".

And with the 2562 proposed amendments, the bill can't just go through, it will get stuck either in a committee somewhere or in the Lords and there's no way it can get included in the wash up - I mean, sorry Ed, but no way Jose in the light of such a critical select committee finding for part of the bill.

And then - oopsie - it'll run out of time as the general election is announced, and there's no way a conservative government is going to want to proceed with Ed Balls's fag ends, they'll want their own bright shiny new education legislations.

So yes, the battle goes on, but this should be enough to prevent the Balls nightmare going through (unless we get another labour government - not that I've met anyone anywhere in the last 6 months inclined to vote for them, so God knows who their constituency would be) and then once the conservatives arrive, well, they know about us, they are broadly sympathetic to us, and we make sure that we are right in there talking to michael gove and his chums from the get go. We no longer need to persuade balls and co of the problems of registration and defining suitable education, we have no hope of persuading them and it doesn't matter. We just need to be poised and ready to explain the issues clearly to Gove and co once they are elected.

The select committee enquiry had three purposes from our point of view. 1. to buy us time; 2. to bring HE to the attention of as many MPs as possible so they wouldn't nod through legislation concerning us in ignorance; 3. to place on public record the shoddiness of the Badman process, and the culpability of both Badman and the DCSF in that. How many times does the report say "this data was not in the Badman report, but HEers have acquired it through FOI requests..." Egg meet face.

We have a positive result on all three counts. We should be ready for a very merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

select committee report

Email I just got:

"The Children, Schools and Families Committee publishes its Second Report (HC 39-I and -II) at 00.01 am on Wednesday 16 December 2009: The Review of Elective Home Education.

Hard copies of the Report and evidence will be posted to witnesses on Tuesday 15 December 2009. Electronic embargoed copies can be supplied to Government departments, media and witnesses and will be available from 12.00 noon on Tuesday 15 December 2009. These should be requested in advance by emailing

Embargoed hard copies of the Report will be placed in the Press Gallery, House of Commons, by 12.00 noon on Tuesday 15 December. All media enquiries should be addressed to Rebecca Jones, on 020 7219 5693/07917 488549, (

The report can also be ordered from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3474) or from the Parliamentary Bookshop (020 7219 3890), or can be viewed on the Committees' website from 00.01 am on Wednesday 16 December 2009."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What might autonomous education look like?

The most important thing is finding a style that suits both parents and children. Some people buy a curriculum "in a box". Some people use workbooks. Some people follow the national curriculum. And I think those things are fine as long as the child is up for it - and it can be very reassuring for the parents to see obvious "educational product" on a regular basis.

But it doesn't have to be like that!

Some families would say that their main educational activities are those they undertake in various HE groups and other group activities.

Some families don't do anything that looks like a schoolroom at all.

Everything happens through play in our house, with parents trying to run with what the children are interested in anyway, following their lead, maybe offering alternatives or next steps, maybe just washing the paint brushes when requested.

People thinking of trying out an autonomous approach could just spend a few days or weeks where the only "education" they undertake is to try to answer all of the children's questions, or help them find answers. Or they could stand back and observe what the children are wanting to do left to their own devices, and see if they can recognise the educational value of it. Or see what the children are doing and help as desired.

The interests shift over time - maybe it's all crafty things one week, or it's all about cooking, or the children are desperate to go to the local city farm 4 times a week for a month or who knows what else - some children often like to concentrate on one activity to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

Our neighbour said the other day "you're going to sainsburys AGAIN???" with an incredulous smile, but we had a little chat about the sorts of things that can happen in sainsburys at appropriate level for my children - and I think he began to grasp the concept of the world being a classroom.

Depending on a child's age and stage, there are all sorts of literacy things in making lists and finding items, maths in counting items or doing a running total of the shop, or doing times tables with those massive multipacks of crisps, the social skills of explaining to the store staff why there is a heap of multipacks of crisps all over aisle 8 which you are in the process of reshelving [ahem]. Or for children at a suitable age and stage, they can make the list themselves, with a budget, and take responsibility for the whole thing. Or it might be a conversation about why this packet of tuna not the other sort, or why you're buying the veges that are in season, or why the whole place is full of pumpkins this week, or whatever it is - there can be conversations about your values and about politics and geography and history and who knows what all else.

I am praying that Brave Sir Ralph will save our bacon with his conservative chums but, if he doesn't, I might just invite the LEA numpty to come and do his compulsory annual interview and welfare check in the supermarket. And I'll buy him a packet of jammy dodgers if he's civilized about the whole thing.