Thursday, 15 October 2009

The select committee, again.

Some people who skimmed through the video of the session yesterday have told me that they thought at first that I didn't say anything at all! It is true that I spoke infrequently and then only in a sentence or two, but this was still too much for some people. One person commenting after watching, said that I was deliberately allowed to have the final word. More observant viewers will perhaps have noticed that Zena Hodgson and I both signalled our desire to speak and it was a toss-up which of us spoke last. Despite having said about a tenth as much as any other of the witnesses, what I did say was enough to enrage an old friend of mine, Firebird from Godalming. Her account of what was said may be found on the Home Education Forums site. Firebird ends her account with the words, "Simon sticks the knife in". This was in reference to my final words to the select committee. I find this such a peculiar thing to say that I thought I would set out what I actually said at the end and see if anybody disagrees with it;

"Parents might have responsibility for their children's education, but all the rights are with the child. The child has a right to a suitable education. If it's not getting that right, then I think that society has a stake in establishing whether the rights of the child are being respected in regard to the right to receive an education; in which case, parents will have to give way to society's legitimate interest in the case."

"Simon sticks the knife in"......... I am sure that not everybody will agree with me in what I said. That is inevitable. But to suggest that ending such a discussion with a mention of the rights of the child, as opposed to the rights of parents which were talked about earlier in the session, is somehow "sticking the knife in".....

Such an attitude tells me a good deal about the person who would make such a strange statement. It tells me nothing at all about whether or not I was right to bring the discussion to a close by reminding those present that it is the children who have the rights here, rather than the parents.


  1. simon said

    parents will have to give way to society's legitimate interest in the case."

    explain your theory behind this!. both sides of the coin.

  2. I have to say that you were fortunate in getting the last word...I am not a subcriber to conspiracy theories...and you managed to keep things brief so that makes them the more memorable. As to what you said - in theory I can't disagree with the actual sentiment...on some occasions the state may need to intervene- the problem is that I am not sure that we can trust the state (in the form of LAs) to be able to recognise and intervene in the right cases.

    Take the whole social care issue for example. Now we were foster carers for 20 years (although I must say that we mostly fostered children with disabilities whose parents had handed over their children to the state, rather than a lot of contested removed children). However some children are at risk at home from their parents and some are removed; in a few cases there are the inevitable false positives, where the final outcome (loss of children) isn't actually the right one in the light of (often later) evidence. Terrible as that is for the parents and children, the benefits of removing the right child (ie life rather than death) is so great that it *may* justify the false positives - although I am not excusing either social services or the legal system for ever getting it wrong.
    Appplying that to education though things aren't nearly so clear cut. A few parents may be failing to give their children an education, and so may do better if back in a school. But - do we first of all have any faith that the LAs will only pick up the right cases? More importantly.... will returning them back to school benefit them? Since the children concerned may have been removed from appalling schools in the first place and it is likely the children suffered either because of bullying or special needs, can we have any confidence that these children are going to do better in such an environment? Although I personally value education greatly, we aren't talking about a life or death situation as may arise in social care -do the benefits of action outweigh the risks?
    I may have mentioned before a local case where the allegation was lack of education - but knowing the vunerability of the child and looking at the then news reports of another child in the catchment school whose "classmates" decided to drown in a local moat during the school isn't difficult to decide that being poorly educated seems a better fate!

  3. Well first Anonymous, if I decide not to send my daughter to school and instead treat her like Cinderella and get her to keep house for me and do all the work around the place, then surely society does have a legitimate interest in over-riding my rights as a parent and insisting that my child be educated? (I hasten to add, I do not think this a common scenario among home educated children!)
    Similarly, if I were to starve or beat my child then society would have a stake in intervening. This is done through the agency of the police or social services, both of whom act on behalf of society. They enforce laws which society has consented to by electing a parliament.
    The truth is, "My" daughter is not mine in the same way that "my" shoes are mine. Nobody owns a human being and we all tactitly agree that society shall step in under some circumstances; all we are really debating is what the triggers are for such intervention. For example, should society become involvd because I raise her ina different religion? Or because I refuse blood transfusions? Adhere to a strict macrobiotic diet? In the case of a suitable education, the law is very clear as to a child's rights in the case. If the parents do not cause the child to receive this right, then legally and morally, somebody else must enforce it.

  4. You are absolutely right about all this Julie. I am actually pleased about all the controversy surrounding the Badman review. It had had the effect of showing local authorities and parliament that feelings run very high on this. By drawing attention to possible abuses of any future system, I think that some over-enthusiastic LAs might well have been deterred. I have no particular faith in the judgement of LAs, whether through their social services or education departments. So although I broadly approve of a new law, I think it very good that all concerned have been forced to acknowledge that they will have to watch their step when deciding what to do. I think that the end result of this will be nothing like as strict as what might otherwise have been put into place. Obviously, you have to watch these people. If the end product is simply a law which keeps track of where children are and makes parents think very carefully before they choose to educate their own child, I think that this will be an imrovement on the current situation.

  5. "we all tactitly agree that society shall step in under some circumstances"

    Perhaps what we disagree about it what form, or version of 'society' should do the stepping in. I don't see the government, national or local, as 'society'. It's full of paid strangers, who often aren't the best kind of people to help. And rules and regulations, which often isn't the best environment from which to be providing help.

    And, granted, we probably don't have many local, organic 'societies' left now, but I think the reasons for this should be explored, rather than time and energy spent on exacerbating the problem by adding to the power, the number of paid strangers and the rules and regulations of government.

  6. I suppose that in an ideal situation, "society" would be represented by a neighbour, or person in the street. However, two points occur to me. Firstly, people are very reluctant to involve themselves with other people's children theses days. I am sure you read about the recent survey in which alarge percentage of people said that they would not intervene even if they saw a child walking into the road? The other thing is that home educators get very irritable if complete strangers ask them why their children are not a school. I used to get annoyed by this myself when my daughter was little. So it seems sensible that if anybody is going to concern themselves with the matter, then it may as well be employees of local goovernment. I can't see anybody else doing it. I am not myself overly fond of busybodies, whether paid or unpaid, so I do see what you mean.

  7. I think I'm lamenting the fact that most of us live surrounded by strangers.

  8. I too find this sad. Maybe the situation is different in small villages and so on? Certainly where I live, on the outskirts of London, I am on nodding turns with the neighbours on either side and that's about it. As for the rest of the street, I have not a clue!

  9. I would like to make a comment with regards to your final words at the committee meeting. Neither of my children were in receipt of a 'suitable education' whilst in school, yet this was, to think of a better word, 'accepted'. The school and LA showed no real interest and did nothing to address this. How ironic that these same people, who failed both my children whilst at school, should then be judging my ability to educate them.

  10. "How ironic that these same people, who failed both my children whilst at school, should then be judging my ability to educate them."

    That was mentioned in the select committee hearing. One of the MP's brought it up when speaking to Peter Traves. Everything that had been worrying me about the Badman report was questioned by the MP's on the committee, so I'm quite satisfied that they are being quite thorough (sp?) and sincere in their attempts to find a solution.