Friday, 12 June 2009

“Where’s your plan?”says Mr Badman...

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to the Badman report. Why don’t we want to be registered? Why don’t we want to open our homes to local authority officials or allow them to interview our children alone? Many people will, I know, be blogging their opinions on these – as we probably will. But this blog post is going to be about this recommendation:

“At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.”

I can give you a statement of our family’s educational approach, if you want. We’ve done this for our local authority back in 2004 when we started home educating. It was an explanation of the philosophy on which we base our children’s education. At its heart were two terms – child-led and autonomous.

I don’t believe that Graham Badman has never heard these two terms. So I can only assume that he wants to outlaw an educational approach based on them. How so? Well, the crucial point is that we don’t have “planned outcomes for the child.”

Perhaps this is a surprise to some people. Our son was four when we started home educating. Surely we decided on an approach to literacy, and set about teaching him to read? Well, no, actually, we didn’t. So, can he read? Erm, yes... How did that happen? Well, that would be another blog post in itself, but let’s just say that it was an unplanned, efficient, empowering voyage of discovery.

Now I know that teachers in schools are compelled to do a huge amount of planning. I work in a university and see the kind of detailed plans that education students on placement must produce for a literacy hour with a class of four/five year olds. OK. If that’s the system that the govt decrees and the teachers, parents and children comply with – then that’s up to them.

The state education system is a top down model. The govt decides the curriculum, the teachers design the lessons and the students consume them. In such a model you’ll find planning – and lots of it! But our whole approach to education is based on our children’s intrinsic desire to learn. They are in the driving seat. If they want to make plans (which they often do, actually, being the children of parents who love a plan!) then they do. They are not answerable to us should the plan not come off, or should they choose to change the plan. Indeed, we believe that practising these planning skills is a wonderful learning opportunity in itself.

More than anything, I want our children to remain free to discover. I believe that their enthusiasm for learning is precious. I will not see them robbed of it by an official who wants to hold us to some list of ‘outcomes’. I will not have their education (which I believe to be their right and their property) reduced to a list of tick boxes on a sheet. I won’t have that sheet held over us all. We don’t all share your obsession with measuring...

Graham Badman would have the govt believe that people who educate as we do are carrying out some kind of ‘unproven’ experiment on our children. "Where are the studies that show it works?" Well, to that I can only, politely, ask him to look at state schooling. Does that work? Really? For all the children? In every way? We are not cranks attempting to keep our children in ignorance. There is still some John Holt on the reading lists for trainee teachers, isn’t there? Look him up, Mr Badman. Look him up, Mr Balls.

Mr Badman and Mr Balls. You couldn’t make it up, could you?! They are surely some characters from a lesser known Roald Dahl book?

BTW, while I have been typing this my children’s unplanned activities (i.e. I had no idea they would happen last year!) have been:

Walking over to Dani’s workplace to photocopy a hand-made zine. P has been making this for the last week or so. It’s a zine of lists. She has been inspired by some sessions on zine making that we allowed her to take in the company of a self-confessed Anarchist, no less... Oh dear, is this helping our case?

L has been making short films of action figures with the video camera. Some of these are shop bought figures and some home-made aliens made out of Fimo.

Discovering a “way cool” caterpillar in the garden. This was L again. He took the camera out to record the event.

Scooting off to a local community association meeting to do some work for our approaching community festival day. We had no idea our twelve year old would decide to attend planning meetings for this year’s event. She’s done lots of work – delivering things, selling plants to fundraise, etc.

Reading me some snippets from First News. This was L again. He thought I should know something important about the mother of the person who won last year’s “Britain’s Got Talent”. Now I do.

Varnishing a stone from the garden that looks like an alien egg. Yes, this was Leo too.

Writing some X-Files case notes with a dipping pen and ink. Leo likes to use many different things to write.

Outcomes? Hold on, I’ll just pull their heads open and have a look...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Call to action

Imagine a world where...

  • All vegetarians* are required to register with their local authorities, and inform the authorities whenever they move house.
  • Vegetarians must be visited annually by an inspector (usually a former employee of the meat industry), who will assess their dietary plans for the coming year against government standards.
  • Inspectors have the right to interview children in vegetarian families, without their parents present, in order to find out whether the children are safe and well, and ask them if they are happy to be living on a vegetarian diet.

No need to use your imagination - this is reality.

These are measures actually being proposed by the British government, not for vegetarians but for people in England who make the lawful choice to educate their children outside the school system.

The proposed heavy-handed system of registration, monitoring and inspection will cost millions of pounds to implement. Money which will be diverted from providing services for families who actually need and want help. If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, don't make the haystack bigger!

If home educators can be treated this way, who will be next?

Would you be happy for your child to be questioned alone by a government official they do not know, when there is no reason to suppose any crime has been committed?

Do you trust the government to keep safe the personal data of thousands of families?

To bring in this system, the government is proposing to change the law. We have a short time in which to raise our voices and object.

What you can do:

*or people who don't drive/people who use homeopathy/smokers/people who don't have a television/any other group of people exercising their lawful right to make a minority choice

Monday, 8 June 2009


I am appalled that the BNP has two MEPs heading for Europe. It is shocking to me that this party of fascist thuggery is able to attract the votes of nearly one million voters in this country. It makes my blood run cold.

On a happier note, I am glad of this - from the Green Party website.

"Party leader Caroline Lucas was re-elected comfortably, with the South East Green Party vote up by half, from 8% to 12%, finishing ahead of Labour. Dr Lucas's bid for election to the Westminster Parliament received a huge boost from a vote of 33.7% in Brighton and Hove. The Greens came first in Brighton and Hove, almost 6,000 votes ahead of the Conservatives, and with more than double Labour's vote across three parliamentary constituencies. Caroline Lucas will be contesting the Brighton Pavilion seat in the general election."

I think it could really happen next time. A Green MP for me, I hope.