Thursday, 11 November 2010

A problem with the new guidelines.....

As I am sure most readers are aware, a small group of home educators and former home educators are currently putting together guidelines on home education which, it is hoped, will be adopted by the Department for Children. These may replace the 2007 guidelines which at the moment tell local authorities how they should behave towards home educators. There is of course a little more to it than this. There has also been some talk of including something drawn up by this group in a forthcoming White Paper on education. This raises the possibility that some of what they are doing could eventually find its way onto the statute book. There is a problem at the heart of this whole process, a problem which is now becoming apparent to others. It is this. When Graham Badman was given the job of looking at elective home education in this country and making any recommendations for change that he found to be necessary, there was an announcement to the press. It was on the BBC news, in the newspapers and so on. The reaction of Education Otherwise and other groups was also in the newspapers. It was a public affair. That has very definitely not been the case with the present 'consultation'.

The situation currently is that a small group of unknown people are formulating some sort of document, at whose nature we can only guess. The only member of this group whose name we know is of course Tania Berlow. Judging by the way that she is weighing into the debate, it is a fair guess that Ali Edgley is also involved in the business. She of course has not been a home educating parent for some years now. Alison Sauer is also connected with the thing, as is Imran Shah. Betsy Anderson, an American lawyer is not directly involved, but gives the odd bit of advice. What's wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that unless one were to join up to various Internet lists and make a deliberate effort to find out about this, nobody would even know that it was happening. Most of those Internet lists have only a few hundred members, which means that the vast majority of the eighty thousand or so home educating parents in this country have absolutely no idea at all that this is happening. Which of course means that even when the guidelines have been written and others are invited to contribute, the overwhelming majority of home educators simply will not hear about them. Tania Berlow's chosen list for discussing all this is the Badman Review Action Group, which only has about seven hundred members, not all of whom are home educating parents.

With the Badman review of elective home education, we knew who instigated the thing; the Secretary of State for Education, Ed Balls. We knew the terms of reference for the enquiry. Everybody who wished was free to contact Graham Badman and contribute their views. It was a transparent and open democratic process. This is very far from being the case here. Who instigated the present 'consultation'? What are the terms of reference? Is the aim simply to produce new guidelines and if so, will these definitely replace the 2007 guidelines? Have the Department for Education asked for this to be done or is it simply a private project of Graham Stuart's? What is all this about putting stuff in a White Paper? Why are we not given the names of those working on the guidelines? Who chose them? Why was no announcement made that this was happening and why has it been necessary to engage in detective work to find out about the thing? Is this an official activity and if so, who authorised it?

Until we know a good deal more about what is going on with these secret negotiations with Graham Stuart and the Department for Education, I think that home educating parents are right to feel a little wary about this. When the document is finished and others are invited for their views, how will this be done? Will an attempt be made to publicise the chance to contribute, publicised beyond a casual message on a small Internet list? Here is something which could affect every home educator in the country, now and for years to come. That it is being conducted on the quiet, with every bit of information having to be extracted by guesswork and cloak and dagger means, is absolutely incredible. It is time that this was opened up by means of a public announcement; telling all home educators who is involved, what is being done, what is planned to be done and how they can become involved themselves. Of considerable concern is the fact that some of those involved are not themselves home educating parents. They are, in effect, drawing up rules which will not affect them in the least. For many parents, this is unacceptable. At the very least, anybody concerned in this should be a genuine home educator.

41 comments:

  1. Is everyone concerned with drawing up guidelines on food production a farmer?

    Mrs Anon

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  2. What you overlook, Simon, is what went on prior to the announcement of the Badman review. The discussions between LAs and the DCSF, the reason Badman was appointed, feedback from home educators in response to the 2007 guideline consultations etc. The public face of any changes to legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.

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  3. 'Is everyone concerned with drawing up guidelines on food production a farmer?'

    Indeed, no. Many people know about farming apart from those who are actually engaged in it themselves. If there was some sort of expert reference group associated with this enterprise then I would not expect them all to be home educators. I am asking that we know who is involved, their exptertise and their current status; whether or not they are home educators.

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  4. Betsy Anderson has clearly said that she is not involved at all.

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  5. 'Betsy Anderson has clearly said that she is not involved at all.'

    I am aware of what she has said. As I say, she is not directly involved but limits herself to giving the odd bit of advice by telephone and email to those who are actually working upon the guidelines.

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  6. 'The public face of any changes to legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.'

    In this case, there is no public face at all. Anybody who is not actually a member of certain Internet lists would not know anything at all about this business. Tell me, what do you consider the 'public face' to be here ?

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  7. old Webb says -Of considerable concern is the fact that some of those involved are not themselves home educating parents. They are, in effect, drawing up rules which will not affect them in the least. For many parents, this is unacceptable. At the very least, anybody concerned in this should be a genuine home educator.

    and for once Webb is right! this should all be out in the open for all of us to see and comment on!

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  8. "Of considerable concern is the fact that some of those involved are not themselves home educating parents"

    Doesn't that mean the guidelines have a better chance of being accepted ?

    By having a mixed bag both HEors and non HEors the process will have to take into account differing perspectives and word the report so it has the best possible chance of appealing to the wider public, politicos, LEA staff etc. whilst at the same time being moulded around the reality of HEing, rather than knee jerk reactions thanks to the presence of level headed HE representation.

    I doubt the HEing contingent had much of a choice. They were probably offered the chance to make the case for the HEing perspective to be taken into account on the understanding that the initial part of the process was on the basis of keeping things under wraps until a "prototype" set of guidelines was ready to be offered up for public discussion.

    It's a guess, but possibly if they had refused on principle not to involve the HE community as a whole and keep them informed at every step, the chances are the guidelines might have ended up being created without an HEing presence as part of the process.

    I know I don't get a vote, not living there and all at the minute (although that could change cos I've just had the knickers scared off me about some interpretations of the law here and rumbles about changes that could be proposed while I still have a school aged child), but I really don't care if somebody is an ex HEor and is actively involved.

    You are an ex HEor and I find you perspective both relevant and useful, whether I agree or disagree with you on any given point. Somebody who has that scale of experience at a range of ages and stages is a resource that shouldn't be squandered in the name of "currently doing it".

    I'm "currently doing it", I was one of the most experienced HEors at our first group meet. This is the start of my second year and frankly being seen as anything like an authority scares me half to death, cos I'm bumbling around in the dark just like everybody else. I'd kill for a few ex HEors in our group who had your sort of experience that we could take advantage of.

    I'm currently working on a plan to kidnap Julie, Mrs. Anon and Alison to export them just for their breath, depth and length of experience ( =

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  9. sarah says-I'm currently working on a plan to kidnap Julie, Mrs. Anon and Alison to export them just for their breath, depth and length of experience ( =

    We not miss them here in UK so go ahead! Julie could be a teacher in Italy! wonder what miss annon could do any ideas?

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  10. Webb says-that it is being conducted on the quiet, with every bit of information having to be extracted by guesswork and cloak and dagger means, is absolutely incredible

    again for once Webb is right! anything done like thise is always bound to end in failure

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  11. Mrs Anon said: Is everyone concerned with drawing up guidelines on food production a farmer?

    No, but people who stand to gain from the aftermath (i.e. training contracts) should not be involved. It is a conflict of interests.

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  12. Oh I wouldn't share them with the school system.

    They will be mine, all mine !!! (evil cackle)

    I hope I never get so blinkered through doing this that I learn to look gift horses in the mouth.

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  13. sarah says -They will be mine, all mine !!!

    your welcome to them! with those 2 helping you your soon be doing home education the right way!

    you really think those 2 are gift horses? what is it that they do that is so good? does any one know? cos we dont! according julie a women called Jan Lewis was going to all sorts of wonderful things for home educators in Hamphire but so far nothing!

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  14. "No, but people who stand to gain from the aftermath (i.e. training contracts) should not be involved"

    I disagree. People who have achieved the level of expertise and reputation required in order to be in the running for contracts are exactly the sort I'd like involved in our process over here. To avoid them would be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    If anything I feel like these people are taking the bigger risk. Their reputations are on the line here and if the guidelines don't go the way the HEing community like then their self employment in the field is likely to come to an abrupt end.

    Far from taking it on in order to improve their earning potential, looking at it from the outside, it seems they have taken it on DESPITE their economic dependency on a niche market being put in the line of fire.

    While I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than lengthen my sojourn in the HE community, let alone tie my income to it, if I did, I would have quietly refused to take part out of self interest and the mammoth risk of negative outcome for myself personally.

    I'm far too selfish to gamble like that with the odds stacked so high against me. Being part of the guideline process smacks of heads I lose, tails I don't win. Cos if you end up in the cross hairs of the HEing community calling for your "turncoat" blood (before you've even said what they are, the extent of your involvement and how happy or not you are with the final product), you are well and truly screwed incomewise. Or mentalhealthwise.

    I think there are contexts where potential financial gain has to effectively disbar somebody from taking part. But all things weighed up, I don't think this is one of them.

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  15. Simon wrote,
    "Everybody who wished was free to contact Graham Badman and contribute their views. It was a transparent and open democratic process...

    "At the very least, anybody concerned in this should be a genuine home educator."

    I'd rather have several ex-home educators writing initial drafts of guidelines that will be opened to further consultation (it's too early to assume that it will only be publisised on a few online lists as Simon seems to suggest) than a report written by an ex-LA employee who appeared to be biased against at least some types of HE and possibly all. Not a lot of point in being able to contribute our views if they are then completely ignored.

    Peter wrote,
    "again for once Webb is right! anything done like thise is always bound to end in failure "

    Simon, does this concern you? LOL

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  16. Or even *publicised*!

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  17. "The public face of any changes to legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.'

    In this case, there is no public face at all. Anybody who is not actually a member of certain Internet lists would not know anything at all about this business. Tell me, what do you consider the 'public face' to be here ? "

    There often isn't a public face for the processes that are involved in drawing up new guidelines, legislation etc. The process becomes public once the proposed guidelines, legislation etc see the light of day. It would be extremely onerous for ministers to have to make public every book or paper one read, every conversation, every meeting attended and would skew the process of research and information-gathering to the point where it wasn't workable.

    In this case, what most people who object seem to be objecting to is that home educators (or not) *known* to them, at least online, are involved without publicising the fact. But that's nothing to do with the transparency or otherwise of the processes that go into legislation and regulations being drawn up.

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  18. 'Peter wrote,
    "again for once Webb is right! anything done like thise is always bound to end in failure "

    Simon, does this concern you? LOL'

    It's certainly alarming when I find Mr Williams of Alton agreeing with me! It makes me think that I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere.

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  19. "No, but people who stand to gain from the aftermath (i.e. training contracts) should not be involved"

    "I disagree. People who have achieved the level of expertise and reputation required in order to be in the running for contracts are exactly the sort I'd like involved in our process over here. To avoid them would be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    If anything I feel like these people are taking the bigger risk. Their reputations are on the line here and if the guidelines don't go the way the HEing community like then their self employment in the field is likely to come to an abrupt end."

    The person who I am referring to doesn't have that good a reputation. The LA's she has trained have been documented to have gotten worse since the training. Where they once were reasonable, after training by this person they got shirty and worked ultra vires. The same with our local group and another of the people reputedly involved!

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  20. well Simon seeing as you said on BRAG a few weeks back that you and I have 'conversations' maybe you are accusing yourself of being more involved than you say! Although I have said that no-one involved is pro registration so clearly you are NOT involved.Maybe you'd like to involve yourself by personally informing all the HErs known to the LAs ...Ah but wait! You cannot, by your own admission, as you are no longer a home educator!
    Finally on BRAG people are speaking up. I tried to on HE-Biz and was banned. So where else do you think I should be spreading my resources Simon? On multiple lists?
    BRAG is open to all opinions-unlike HE-Biz forums. As long as the discourse there is polite and respectful 'in as far as is possible', quoting some familiar government legislation, I am sure the BRAG moderators will be tolerant of differing views.

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  21. 'The person who I am referring to doesn't have that good a reputation. The LA's she has trained have been documented to have gotten worse since the training. Where they once were reasonable, after training by this person they got shirty and worked ultra vires. The same with our local group and another of the people reputedly involved!'

    Presumably we are talking here about Alison Sauer? Which local authorites are you saying have become less home educator friendly since her involvement?

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  22. 'So where else do you think I should be spreading my resources Simon? On multiple lists?'

    One could ask Education Otherwise to email all their members. Likewise with HEAS and a few other organisations. Local authorities could be asked to let home educating parents known to them know what is going on and give them a contact email address. That would be about half of all home educators.

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  23. Mr Williams said, 'your welcome to them! with those 2 helping you your soon be doing home education the right way!'

    What *IS* the right way to HE? You keep talking about this mythical Right Way. I'd love to hear about it. Unfortunately, it will be too late for me to benefit, since my kids are all grown up now, but perhaps others can learn from you?

    Sarah, you can kidnap me and whisk me off to Italy any time!

    Mrs Anon

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  24. a great idea which i would think the people who ar einvolved in these groups would do anyway.No harm in asking them to do so though...so are you volunteering for the job Simon?(joking of course!)

    and as for training- well horses and water and all that.The turnover amongst the LA management is high so anyhone in an LA who attend(voluntary) may not be there the next year.Plus you have the majot issue we cannot forget-the last government actively encourged the LAs to become less friendly and its the government who sign their paychecks even though it is really 'we' who pay the taxes.

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  25. "The LA's she has trained have been documented to have gotten worse since the training. Where they once were reasonable, after training by this person they got shirty and worked ultra vires. The same with our local group and another of the people reputedly involved!'"

    Two things spring to mind.

    Is history being rewritten because of offense taken due to current involvement ? Because up till now (three years of regular list\blog lurking) that is the very first I've heard of it. I'd have expected to have seen extensive evidence of people's unhappiness leaking out into public forums, with regards to the training given, BEFORE current involvement in order to create a foundation for that to be believable.

    To be honest there is far too much room for some noses being put out of joint (cos some felt they should have been asked, and feel slighted by being uninvited into the process) not to discount the potential for "revised history" and "whisper campaigns" at the moment.

    Secondly, involvement does not automatically equal fault for outcome. If there is a downward slide in how the trained LEA officers behave is that BECAUSE of the trainer, or DESPITE the trainer, or has the trainer avoided it being even worse than it could have been had she not been involved.

    Given the huge turbulence over the last couple of years caused by both waves of proposals and their unexpected (from the officials' perspective) jilting it would be somewhat odd for there not to have been a hardening, a little more muscle flexing, a tad more inflexibility and a greater conflictual mindset not to have been an outcome in at least some of the staff. Tthe training may well have taken the edge of the worst of it, rather than be responsible for the bulk of it.

    I find the need to slag somebody's work off without holding up any evidence disheartening.

    It looks "particularly poison" pen like when done anonymously.

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  26. "Sarah, you can kidnap me and whisk me off to Italy any time!"

    Yeah !!!!!

    Now do you have a prefence between SleasyJet or the Lame Italian Postal Donkey Who is More Often Than Not On Strike ?

    Blindfold optional ( =

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  27. crafty Mrs Anon says-What *IS* the right way to HE? You keep talking about this mythical Right Way. I'd love to hear about it. Unfortunately, it will be too late for me to benefit, since my kids are all grown up now,

    The teacher Julie way or HCC way to home educate! including writing about feelings i have a letter here from HCC going on about feelings. also having face to face meeting is anther corect way of doing home education.

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  28. webb says-It's certainly alarming when I find Mr Williams of Alton agreeing with me! It makes me think that I must have taken a wrong turning somewhere.

    unlike you if i see you saying something that mkaes sense i fully support you!
    Was your daughter on that march yesterday about those cuts in education uni etc?

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  29. Field trip to Italy, Mrs A??

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  30. "Field trip to Italy, Mrs A??"

    (fires up breakmaker to fake "homemade" pizza and pretend that Barilla sauce on top is own creation from MIL's million year old recipie)

    I promise not to burn dinners !!!

    Most of the time.

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  31. I'm liking the sound of the Donkey Delivery, Sarah!

    Can Julie and I have separate donkeys though? Would that be ok?

    Better get on with burning my own dinner now.

    Mrs Anon

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  32. Montenegro is a better place to live and cheaper! why dont you both go there!

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  33. But we only run to one Italian Postal Donkey !!!

    Economic crisis meant the other one got rendered into glue for the back of the stamps. )=

    How about I send the Bureaucratic Flexibility Mule too and you take turns on the grumpiest one ?

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  34. Dani said...
    'Betsy Anderson has clearly said that she is not involved at all.'

    Simon Webb said: "I am aware of what she has said. As I say, she is not directly involved but limits herself to giving the odd bit of advice by telephone and email to those who are actually working upon the guidelines."

    This is fabrication. I am not involved, I am not giving advice by phone, email or any other means. You have simply made up a statement, trying to make yourself sound like you have inside information about my phone records?? Stunning, really.

    Betsy

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  35. Others do help on the phone/ emails though Simon. I do not even know Betsy's phone number since I lost my mobile in the summer and dropped the landline hone in the bath! Seeing as people are beginning to give some support on BRAG and a few here on your blog, who knows how many are now 'giving advice' on phone or email and seeing as even those who say they are against the idea do come up with interesting remarks too it is possible that their comments will could also be construed as 'giving advice'.

    Hope you are doing well Betsy.

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  36. Well, I assume that Betsy knows what she is or isn't doing; I am not sure that all this speculation helps anyone. Yes, it would be a good thing if those who are involved came out and said so (well it would at least stop Simon speculating) but actually some home educators are overkeen to attack anyone who doesn't totally agree with their point of view (even on trivial matters) so it is hardly surprising!

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  37. We're in the period where all the movie trailers show, aren't we. Various bits of entertainment, trying to get everyone hooked. I'm not going to get worked up about anything until the stuff is published - to me that's the start of the formal process, at the moment it's someone's pet project. I put together a bunch of amendments to the CSF Bill because no one else seemed interested, so it was my pet project. I published it at the end and invited comments, and I did notice that some of the Opposition amendments bore some resemblance to what I'd written so I wasn't too far off.

    The real battle commences if a set of pro-HE guidelines ever make it into the formal process. At that point the LAs and vested interests will fight to prevent it, an interesting contrast to when we were fighting against what they wanted. This time, central government seems sympathetic to our side, especially if we can highlight how giving us what we want will save them money.

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  38. 'This is fabrication. I am not involved, I am not giving advice by phone, email or any other means. You have simply made up a statement, trying to make yourself sound like you have inside information about my phone records?? Stunning, really.'

    I have no inside information on your phone records, Betsy! I know that you have been too busy with your domestic crisis to become properly involved in the new guidelines. I am also aware that you have not been in touch with Alison Sauer lately. Two people have told me that you have answered questions which they asked you about aspects of the new guidelines and this is all I meant when I said that you gave the odd piece of advice.

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  39. I didn't know this was all still going on. Still, with Enfield running at a shortage of 300 school places, I can't say I'm particularly worried.

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