Friday, 6 November 2009

Submissions to the select committee

I have been looking through the submissions made to the DCSF select committee recently and very interesting reading they make too. On a personal note, they do tend rather to confirm my suspicion as to why I alone of home educating parents was called to give evidence to the committee. Readers will no doubt recollect that the suggestion was widely made that this was some sort of fix, evidence of a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the consultation process. It was, as I said all along, nothing of the sort. I mean just look at some of this stuff. Tania Berlow, well known to habitues of the HE-UK list, sent in an astonishing ten thousand words, craftily split up into three separate documents. Did she really imagine that anybody would actually read all that? The average civil servant has the attention span of a grasshopper; his eyes begin to glaze over after reading a couple of hundred words at most! Which is precisely why I cunningly limited my own submission to a mere three hundred words. No wonder they invited me; I was probably the only person whose submission was read in its entirety!

There are a number of interesting points about the submissions. One, which I have touched upon above, is the sheer number of words churned out by many of those sending memoranda to the committee. The Staffords between them managed five and a half thousand, somebody called Sariter Goacher sent in a single handed effort of five thousand. Even Jeremy Yallop, who opposed me in the TES debate, could not slim his opinions down to fewer than three and a half thousand words; more than ten times as many as my own submission.

As I suspected, the number of anti-Badman submissions had been inflated by various means. The Staffords and Tania Berlow sent in five submissions; that's five from just two home educating families. I noticed other husband and wife teams who had sent in separate pieces under different names in order to suggest that opposition to the Badman Report was greater than is actually the case. There were also a few parents and children both sending in separate memoranda. When you add to that the submissions from people who were opposed to the recommendations of the Badman Report but were not actually home educators (some were parents who were planning to home educate, others were academics ), MPs and somebody called Kelly Green who does not even live in this country, then the actual number of home educating families opposing Badman's recommendations in this way to the select committee is slim indeed.

A couple of other points that I noticed. Firstly, no fewer than eight "doctors". Not doctors of the sort who carry a stethoscope and measure your blood pressure, you understand, but academic types. I deplore this tendency for people to describe themselves as Dr. Smith in this way! It has crept up on us over the years; forty years ago nobody but a medical man would have dreamt of using the title "doctor". Ah well, autre temps, autre mores . Another thing that catches the eye immediately is the fact that 99% of the people who wrote to the select committee appear to be educated and white. Only a couple of names which look as though they have their origin in the Indian subcontinent, a few Jews, a group of Muslims and that's pretty well it on the minority front. I mention this, because some people objected to my inclusion in the list of witnesses specifically on the grounds that I was white, male and probably middle class. Looks as though I was not alone in this.

I have been looking closely at Paula Rothermel's submission, mainly because of the Munchausen's thing that was attributed to my influence. I have to say that there is something a little fishy about this submission. Dr. Rothermel, (another "doctor"!), had two meetings with Badman. At the second one she claims that he was dismissive of her research. She says;

"I consider the review to be seriously flawed. It should be a matter of concern to the Select Committee that the person commissioned to carry out the review could so easily be influenced by a lay person hostile to my work. I question the rigour applied to the Review."

Now how on earth did she know that it was a lay person who had influenced Graham Badman in this way? And how did she know that he had been easily influenced? How did she know that he hadn't been asking about her research to other people in the field? This is odd and it becomes even odder when I look at an email sent to me by Dr. Rothermel in May, shortly after she had met Graham Badman. She said then that the people who had been "bitching" about her work to him were other academics who were always denigrating her work. Could it be that she has told the select committee that he was "easily influenced" by a "lay person" in order to try and put him in a bad light?

I am also curious about this Munchausen's business. In her memorandum she says that the first thing Graham Badman asked her about was the possibility that home educating mothers suffered from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy. Since she was in regular communication with Mike Fortune-Wood all through the time of the review, I am rather surprised that this strange suggestion did not surface earlier. After all, every time there was any talk of any sort of abuse, home educators leapt at once to crush the idea. How is it possible that Graham Badman was saying weird stuff like this in the early Spring and nobody has talked about it before? Very odd. At the very least I should have expected Mike Fortune-Wood to spread it round the HE-UK list. After all, it is a pretty odd suggestion and could have shown Graham Badman in a poor light had it been publicised. It would certainly have indicated that her was not impartial. But no, had these submissions not been made public, I suspect that we would never have heard about this.

I am still trawling through the other submissions to see what comes up. I have to say that the DCSF one is interesting, although some of their claims need to be checked carefully. I cannot resist closing with a quotation from somebody called Ruth Grey. She opens her submission with the line;

"I reject the Badman report and its recommendations in their entirety."

I love this! It puts me irresistibly in mind of the words of the ceremony of baptism, where one says; "I reject the Devil and all his works"!


  1. Mmm...well some others kept theirs short too.

    A point I made the last time you discussed this topic (numbers of HE'ers responding to the Inquiry) was that we were advised by those in the know to not send too many individual submissions, but to group together to make collective submissions, eg the county group submissions.

    Also, did you realise that they are being put up at the DCSF website in batches? And that quite a few people asked for confidentiality, so their (invariably individual) submissions won't appear at all.

    Some of the submissions are excellent, but I agree, most do seem to have been so long that readers would doze off after the first paragraph. I love Ruth Grey's opening, though! That would keep me awake!

    If I had worked hard for 7 years for a PhD, I'd display it whenever possible. That isn't a recent phenomenon, though. I remember teachers at school (1970's) being addressed as Dr when they had a right to that title.

    Mrs Anon BA(hons) PGCSE hee hee

  2. With regard to Dr Rothermel, I interpreted her submission as an assumption it must have been a lay person, not an academic accustomed to research methods, that Mr B had been talking to about her research because of the ignorance displayed about the '30'. But what do I know?

    Mrs Anon HBIHEBY
    (Hungry because I haven't eaten breakfast yet)

  3. "Kelly Green who does not even live in this country"

    Is she British ?

    I don't live in the UK. I left at 21 and am now approaching 42, with a rapidity that leaves me a little perplexed at how time seems to have speeded up.

    However I am both British and a Home Educator. Since the last 20 years odd have taught me one lesson above all others, never say never, I have a vested interest in any outcomes with regards to both these and any future proposals to change the law.

    Life sucks. I cannot disregard the possibility of divorce or widowhood, although neither have reared their ugly heads as "on the cards". I have no guarantees that, since HE can only become more popular in Italy, the current laws and regulations (which were created to manage a teeny tiny minority and by Italian standards are currently very liberal when compared to the usual response to stepping outside of the norm) might no longer be considered feasible should the numbers rise. Any "tightening up" might well push us beyond my capacity to find wiggle room should we find ourselves in a position of having to balance the benefits of HE against the benefits of living in Italy. Going "back home" for me and "over there" for husband and son could become the only option.

    While I don't believe I have a "right to a vote" I do believe that I, and others in a similar position, have a right to at least express an opinion without being discounted based on current geographical location.

    Some of us HE in conditions similar to the proposals, some of us under far more stringent regulations. Considering that the proposals seek to address specific issues I'd say it would be worth actively seeking out to what extent they impact the choice and practice in both intended and unintended ways.

  4. Academics with a PhD have always called themselves 'doctor', Simon, and have always been addressed as such. Just as professors have always been addressed as 'professor'. Indeed, at one time, the title 'professor' alone was commonly used when addressing professors, without the surname. Surgeons have traditionally been addressed as 'Mr' (or female equivalent - not that there appear to be many female surgeons) - to distinguish themselves from the common herd, even though they might have a bunch of doctorates. It is only recently that dental surgeons have dropped the 'Mr'. It isn't clear whether this is on grounds of sex discrimination or to reassure the less well-informed amongst their patients.

  5. Incidentally, I think you meant autres temps, autres mores (pl.) Whoops!

  6. Why suzyg,I thought that I was a pedant, but you knock spots off me. the mores is also mispelt, because subconciously I was probably thinking about O tempora, O mores.....

  7. Well Mrs. Anon, I don't think that talking about thirty cases with reference to Dr. Rothermel's work displays ignorance. I have to say that when talking to me, he actually said thirty five, which is the correct figure. I think it possible that when he was talking to Dr. Rothermel, he said something along the lines of "Only about thirty", which is of course absolutely right.

  8. Kelly Green is Canadian, Sarah. I was not having a dig at expats!

  9. It is perfectly true that academics with Phds have always been entitled to call themselves doctor. It was at one time though considered a little stuffy and affected to do so; hence the fact that the practice was common among schoolmasters.... I know many Phds, none of whom would dream of doing this. Americans have always been fond of the idea the idea seems to have spread in recent years.

  10. Simon said "Kelly Green is Canadian," I did have a quick look at hers and it seemed to be about the effects of attempted regulation on the various states of Canada.

    Looking at others....yes, yours is short Simon, but it also represents a different point of viw to all (?most) of the others, so I am sure that is why you were chosen to give evidence. I was staggered to find that I actually knew many of the others respondents "in the flesh" - which does sometimes make me wonder about all the statistics about how many home educators there are out there!

  11. Why Julie, how can you say that mine represented a different point to all the other submissions? Have a look at the DCSF, the NSPCC and so on......

  12. Yours was short. It was also early. Both good tactics to get an invitation. I believe you have previously made this point about early evidence yourself.


  13. Yes Fiona, you are, as usual, right on the button! It is human nature that we tend to take more notice of the first opinion that we hear and it colours how we view subsequent opinions. You are quite right that I was quick off the starting blocks and that this was my motive. Mind you, you managed OK yourself on the invitation front, so there are evidently more ways than one to skin a cat!

  14. "Kelly Green is Canadian, Sarah. I was not having a dig at expats!"

    Fair enough. I take back my sniff of high dudgeon and the threat of an imminent sulk.

    I don't actually mind having non-nationals sending in their thoughts, could be enlightening, although I don't believe it should attract the same weight and attention as people living in the country and if volume dictates that not all can be read then the externally located should be first on the list of "the round filing cabinet".

    I am decidedly not "an expat" outside of technicalities LOL. I'm just a bog standard immigrant (an economic migrant to boot). Oh that I were the material for a C4 series on "Living the dream". My life is too far from "Beautiful Homes" to make the grade. As we speak my neighbour is drilling holes in a ceiling so I can have a washing machine in a place where I don't have to wrestle with a ten metre out pipe and argue with six dogs (who think it is all great game) every time I do a load of washing. Only taken me five years to get the house this far, give me another twenty and it might be done. Although don't count on perfect finishes and daring cushions. Think visible pipes and rather dodgy paintwork where I couldn't be bothered with a third coat on fiddly beams.

  15. "I have been looking through the submissions made to the DCSF select committee recently"

    Can the indolent have a link please, Google and I are having a difficult morning.

  16. Simon said "Why Julie, how can you say that mine represented a different point to all the other submissions? Have a look at the DCSF, the NSPCC and so on......"

    Obviously I was comparing yours to the other home educators submissions - I hardly think the DCSF are going to suddenly come out against Badman! However, despite that statement I do continue to hold the view that we still can't assume that all home educators are anti the review - you may be fairly rare in being an " online" pro more legislation person, but even there you aren't unique - on another list Mrs. Anon and I are both on, you would find some friends, but (thankfully) for the anti more legislation lobby, moreothe pro lobby actaully don't seem to have any poitical interest and don'ttake part in the debates at all.

  17. Ah Julie, I was only teasing there. I think that those happy about the prospect of the new legislation don't really feel the need to do anything. Why campaign and send in submissions to something which you feel OK about and is going to happen in any case? This might be shy you don't see alot of those agreeing with the recommendations which Badman made. Another reason is the way that they are hounded and villified if they express any opinion which even hints that they might not oppose the Report on certain lists.

  18. Re Dr.
    One of the dr's who made a a submission is a friend of mine and they would never dream of asking to be addressed that way in a normal social situation, I am sure.

    However, this was a submission to to a committee of PARLIAMENT. If ever there was an occasion formal enough to use your proper title, this would be it.{g}

    Anyway, the number of individual submissions to the consultation just finished will be more interesting. I wonder if there will be any supporting the proposals to change HE? Aside from yours?

    Mrs Anon

  19. Mrs. Anon said "the number of individual submissions to the consultation just finished will be more interesting. I wonder if there will be any supporting the proposals to change HE?"

    I expect there will be some - I do know a few people who did respond in favour of both registration and monitoring; although I am not sure I have met anyone who believed that it should be made a criminal offence not to register. I do not remember what number question that was, but I am sure you will know what I am referring to! I can see (logically) at least that having a register which is unenforceable seems pointless; but what are they actually proposing - sending parents to prision if they don't comply- a bit like the truancy law?

    As for the statistics- ie actual numbers pro and against change as measured by the response to this consultation - I am not sure how much trust I put in them (any more than in some of the Badman stats)- since some families seem to have sent in multiple responses from small children. Now I am all in favour of children having a voice - but can 4 year olds really fill in a response form? The mind boggles at the thought!

  20. Big thank you to the person who provided the link to the submissions.

    I have a quick Q if anybody remembers off the top if their head, there was a review in 2007, did it start or end in 2007 and does anybody remember which month ? I have goggled and there are loads of references to it but no firm dates so far.

  21. You're welcome Sarah, and the 2007 'public consultation on home education guidelines' opened on 5th May 2007 and closed on the 31st July of that year. You can still download a Word version of the actual consultation here and you can read the relevant documents and maybe some background info from the time here. (I can't quite remember what's in that 2nd document, but you might find something useful.)

  22. Thanks for the link to the 2007 review.

    You don't know where I can find out the motivations for the crossing out of some statements do you ?

    It doesn't seem to say why the statements were withdrawn.

  23. I think the unaltered text is the original proposed guidance, and the alterations are someone's notes on how they think those should have been changed. What we ended up with was this.