Saturday, 27 February 2010

Time Table of Sordid Events

I wasn't going to blog about the Khyra Ishaq case as others have already done so far more eloquently than I ever could, but...

I've just been reading this article which includes this comment made by Gordon Brown:

"On Monday Gordon Brown paid tribute to the two girls, saying: “It is a sad and tragic situation when children so young die.
"Ed Balls and the Children's department will take very seriously any information that is given to them concerning these cases."

Now just look at the first two words of that comment. "On MONDAY". "On MONDAY". Monday was February 22nd. THREE DAYS before Ed Balls made this statement regarding the Khyra Ishaq case.

THREE DAYS before Home Educators were vilified across the national press by Balls and his henchman Badman.

Are we really expected to believe that "Ed Balls and the Children's department will take very seriously any information that is given to them concerning these cases"?

In March last year, ie nearly a whole year ago, Ed Balls stood up in parliament and promised a "root and branch shake up of child protection services."

At the beginning of October last year, Birmingham Social Services was branded "not fit for purpose." They were given THREE MORE MONTHS to sort things out, otherwise the government would intervene. They had already received the lowest rating back in 2008. That's nearly TWO YEARS ago.

Who has been head of the DCSF for those intervening years? Who has done sweet FA to sort out the horrific mess that is Birmingham children's services? Would that be one Mr Edward Balls?

I said this the other night on twitter and was rounded on by a Ballite (Ballache?!) for it, but Ed Balls should fall on his sword. Particularly now, after wilfully slandering an entire community in his desire for political point scoring over the death of a child. How poisonous can a person who heads the department of Children and Families be to knowingly blame the failings of one of his departments, knowing that more children had died on his watch who had NOTHING to do with home education, on something he despises so much - home education? No matter that he is causing real and heartfelt pain and distress for tens of thousands of those he is supposed to help and support in his role of Secretary of State for Children [schools] and Families.

I for one demand your resignation Edward Balls.

ETA This article shows just how far back Birmingham's problems go.

Friday, 26 February 2010


Here is a map for you to look at boys and girls:

I wonder what jumps out at you about those little blue pins? For me it was the interesting way that many of them are in quite obvious clusters. There are the odd few which seem isolated, but overall, there does seem to be a pattern. It could be that they are just centred around the largest cities I suppose. I wonder if it could be anything to do with local authority boundaries? I don't know if there is any relevance to be honest, but that was what first struck me.

Now, you might be wondering what all those little pins are. If you go along to this page you can hover over them and find out.

Shall I spoil it and tell you? Those blue pins are instances of child abuse by people with clean CRB checks. You know, the sort of people that dear old Ed wants so desperately to have one to one private access to our children for up to 16 hours every year.

To use the vernacular... I think Ed can go fuck himself, don't you?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

My BBC Complaint

Yes it's a rant I'm afraid.

*Home Educators have been waiting months for the grave robbing activities of the government and press to start up again, and here we have it.

Graham Badman said himself in his own report, which the government accepted in full, that he found NO EVIDENCE that home education was being used as a cover for abuse. He knew about the Ishaq case at the time he wrote the report. He is now pouring forth vitriol because he was caught out using dodgy statistics and bare faced lies in order to do his master's bidding.

Such a pity that a Great British institution is in the pockets of it's masters over at LIEbour central. More gongs for the boys no doubt.

Slandering a minority group by using a dead child, a child who died because of the lack of care of the authorities, authorities who already had the power to save her, is disgusting, and you should have your license to broadcast removed as a result."

ETA: Maire's complaint here

Debs complaint here

Firebird is keeping a Media Watch here

Jax complains here

If you'd like to make a more effective complaint than my rant (wise!) there is great advice here

Will add more as they are blogged

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

What Can We Do?

This is the question I keep asking myself at the moment. I realise it's probably not the done thing to admit to feelings of despair at our situation, but after yesterday I just can't pretend all is rosy and hopeful any more.

I can't blame this feeling of despondency totally on the shenanigans in parliament last night, more's the pity, though I'm quite sure I can blame it in it's entirety on the past (almost) 13 years of this government.

The country is in tatters, spirits are low, people have had enough of every single little aspect of life being a constant struggle. My children have known nothing but a Liebour government, their lives have been blighted because of it, and the only comfort I can take is that neither myself nor my husband have ever voted red. Even my MIL, a dyed in the wool labour party member jumped ship a few years ago. And yet, still there are seemingly intelligent people out there, even YOUNG people (although I suppose they know no better) who will argue for the benefits of another liebour government. It never ceases to amaze me. Do these people inhabit the same country as me?

Yesterday I was told by some automaton on the NHS Summary Care Record Helpline, that it is not up to parents to decide if their children may be opted out of the online database of health records, no, it is up to the GP to decide if it is *in the best interests of the child*. Yes, there we have it, parents are no longer able to make informed choices on behalf of their children. This disgusts me perhaps even more than the insult that is the CSF Bill. Does it surprise me though? Of course not, it's par for the course for this paranoid, control freak government which shows its utter disrespect and contempt for its citizens. Parents are the scapegoats for all of societies ills, and yet how can we be when we are having all say in the lives of our children removed from us? Twisted, perverse, despicable - but it is not us, the parents, who are these things it is YOU the government of lies and spin and bullying who are all of those things, and I hope that all decent, free thinking, responsible, intelligent people will vote with their feet whenever the election finally comes, because if they don't, England will be forever a wasteland.

Old Holborn posted a round up of the legacy this government has left us with the other day, he's a prolific blogger, so I am going to copy it here and include a link also:

Just to remind us what 13 years of power can do (cut out and keep edition):

Ballot Boxes are interfered with

Voting registers go missing

The Police can kill innocent people and get away with it

The state can kill people and get away with it

You can be put in prison for 42 days on pure suspicion

You can be put in prison indefinitely on the word of a politician

The State can torture people

Your children are monitored at School by Political Officers

Their behaviour is logged on a State database for their entire lives

Your innocent fingerprints, iris scans and biometrics are held by the State

You do not have the right to remain silent

You are watched on 4 million CCTV cameras

You may not photograph the Police

The media is controlled by the State

You do not have the right to protest peacefully

Curfews exist for entire communities

Your travel movements are logged and monitored

Who you vote for is logged and monitored

Your shopping habits are studied and logged by the State

Your emails and telephone conversations are recorded by the State

Your passport can be withdrawn at the whim of the State

Government agencies can use lie detector tests on you.

- £22,500 of debt for every child born in Britain- 111 tax rises from a government that promised no tax rises at all- The longest national tax code in the world- 100,000 million pounds drained from British pension funds- Gun crime up 57%- Violent crime up 70%- The highest proportion of children living in workless households anywhere in Europe- The number of pensioners living in poverty up by 100,000- The lowest level of social mobility in the developed world- The only G7 country with no growth this year- One in six young people neither earning nor learning- 5 million people on out-of-work benefits- Missing the target of halving child poverty... - Child poverty rising in each of the last three years instead- Cancer survival rates among the worst in Europe- Hospital-acquired infections killing nearly three times as many people as are killed on the roads- Falling from 4th to 13th in the world competitiveness league- Falling from 8th to 24th in the world education rankings in maths- Falling from 7th to 17th in the rankings in literacy- The police spending more time on paperwork than on the beat- Fatal stabbings at an all-time high- Prisoners released without serving their sentences- Foreign prisoners released and never deported- 7 million people without an NHS dentist- Small business taxes going up- Business taxes raised from among the lowest to among the highest in Europe- Tax rises for working people set for after the election- The 10p tax rate abolished- The ludicrous promise to have ended boom and bust- Our gold reserves sold for a quarter of their worth- Our armed forces overstretched and under-supplied- Profitable post offices closed against their will- One of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe- The ‘Golden Rule’ on borrowing abandoned because it didn’t fit- Police inspectors in 10 Downing Street- Dossiers that were dodgy- Mandelson resigning the first time- Mandelson resigning the second time- Mandelson coming back for a third time- Bad news buried- Personal details lost- An election bottled- A referendum denied.
New Labour. Stamping on the faces of the many, not just the few. Forever.

PS “A future fair for all” is an anagram of “Our fearful fat liar”

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Handing the Floor to Gatto

Take Back Your Education

By John Taylor Gatto

09 February, 2010
Yes Magazine

More and more people across America are waking up to the mismatch between what is taught in schools and what common sense tells us we need to know. What can you do about it?

Nobody gives you an education. If you want one, you have to take it.

Only you can educate you—and you can’t do it by memorizing. You have to find out who you are by experience and by risk-taking, then pursue your own nature intensely. School routines are set up to discourage you from self-discovery. People who know who they are make trouble for schools.

To know yourself, you have to keep track of your random choices, figure out your patterns, and use this knowledge to dominate your own mind. It’s the only way that free will can grow. If you avoid this, other minds will manipulate and control you lifelong.

One method people use to find out who they are becoming, before others do, is to keep a journal, where they log what attracts their attention, along with some commentary. In this way, you get to listen to yourself instead of listening only to others.

Another path to self-discovery that seems to have atrophied through schooling lies in finding a mentor. People aren’t the only mentors. Books can serve as mentors if you learn to read intensely, with every sense alert to nuances. Books can change your life, as mentors do.

I experienced precious little of such thinking in 30 years of teaching in the public junior high schools of Manhattan’s ultra-progressive Upper West Side. I was by turns amused, disgusted, and disbelieving when confronted with the curriculum—endless drills of fractions and decimals, reading assignments of science fiction, Jack London, and one or two Shakespeare plays for which the language had been simplified. The strategy was to kill time and stave off the worst kinds of boredom that can lead to trouble—the trouble that comes from being made aware that you are trapped in irrelevancy and powerless to escape.

Institutionalized schooling, I gradually realized, is about obedience in exchange for favors and advantages: Sit where I tell you, speak when I allow it, memorize what I’ve told you to memorize. Do these things, and I’ll take care to put you above your classmates.

Wouldn’t you think everyone could figure out that school “achievement tests” measure no achievement that common sense would recognize? The surrender required of students meets the primary duty of bureaucratic establishment: to protect established order.

It wasn’t always this way. Classical schooling—the kind I was lucky enough to have growing up—teaches independent thought, appreciation for great works, and an experience of the world not found within the confines of a classroom. It was an education that is missing in public schools today but still exists in many private schools—and can for you and your children, too, if you take time to learn how to learn.

On the Wrong Side of the Tracks

In the fall of 2009, a documentary film will be released by a resident of my hometown of Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Laura Magone’s film, “One Extraordinary Street,” centers on a two-mile-long road that parallels polluted Pigeon Creek. Park Avenue, as it’s called, is on the wrong side of the tracks in this little-known coal-mining burg of 4,500 souls.

So far Park Avenue has produced an Army chief of staff, the founder of the Disney Channel, the inventor of the Nerf football, the only professional baseball player to ever strike out all 27 enemy batsmen in a nine-inning game, a winner of the National Book Award, a respected cardiologist, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, and the writer whose words you’re reading.

Did the education Monongahela offered make all these miracles possible? I don’t know. It was an education filled with hands-on experience, including cooking the school meals, serving them individually (not cafeteria-style) on tablecloths, and cleaning up afterward. Students handled the daily maintenance, including basic repairs. If you weren’t earning money and adding value to the town by the age of seven, you were considered a jerk. I swept out a printing office daily, sold newspapers, shoveled snow, cut grass, and sold lemonade.

Classical schooling isn’t psychologically driven. The ancient Greeks discovered thousands of years ago that rules and ironclad procedures, when taken too seriously, burn out imagination, stifle courage, and wipe the leadership clean of resourcefulness. Greek education was much more like play, with studies undertaken for their own sake, to satisfy curiosity. It assumed that sane children want to grow up and recognized that childhood ends much earlier than modern society typically allows.

We read Caesar’s Gallic Wars—in translation between fifth and seventh grades and, for those who wanted, in Latin in ninth and tenth grades. Caesar was offered to us not as some historical relic but as a workshop in dividing and conquering superior enemies. We read The Odyssey as an aid to thinking about the role of family in a good life, as the beating heart of meaning.

Monongahela’s education integrated students, from first grade on, into the intimate life and culture of the town. Its classrooms were free of the familiar tools of official pedagogy—dumbed-down textbooks, massively irrelevant standardized tests, insanely slowed-down sequences. It was an education rich in relationships, tradition, and respect for the best that’s been written. It was a growing-up that demanded real achievement.

The admissions director at Harvard College told The New York Times a few years ago that Harvard admits only students with a record of distinctive accomplishment. I instantly thought of the Orwellian newspeak at my own Manhattan school where achievement tests were the order of the day. What achievement? Like the noisy royalty who intimidated Alice until her head cleared and she realized they were only a pack of cards, school achievement is just a pack of words.

A Deliberate Saboteur

As a schoolteacher, I was determined to act as a deliberate saboteur, and so for 30 years I woke up committed to making the system hurt in some small way and to changing the destiny of children in my orbit in a large way.

Without the eclectic grounding in classical training that I had partially absorbed, neither goal would have been possible. I set out to use the classical emphasis on qualities and specific powers. I collected from every kid a list of three powers they felt they already possessed and three weaknesses they might like to remedy in the course of the school year.

I pledged to them that I’d do my level best inside the limitations the institution imposed to make time, advice, and support available toward everyone’s private goals. There would be group lessons as worthwhile as I could come up with, but my priorities were the opportunities outside the room, outside the school, even outside the city, to strengthen a power or work on a weakness.

I let a 13-year-old boy who dreamed of being a comic-book writer spend a week in the public library—with the assistance of the librarian—to learn the tricks of graphic storytelling. I sent a shy 13-year-old girl in the company of a loudmouth classmate to the state capitol—she to speak to her local legislator, he to teach her how to be fearless. Today, that shy girl is a trial attorney.

If you understand where a kid wants to go—the kid has to understand that first—it isn’t hard to devise exercises, complete with academics, that can take them there.

But school often acts as an obstacle to success. To go from the confinement of early childhood to the confinement of the classroom to the confinement of homework, working to amass a record entitling you to a “good” college, where the radical reduction of your spirit will continue, isn’t likely to build character or prepare you for a good life.

I quit teaching in 1991 and set out to discover where this destructive institution had come from, why it had taken the shape it had, how it managed to beat back its many critics for a century while growing bigger and more intrusive, and what we might do about it.

School does exactly what it was created to do: It solves, or at least mitigates, the problem of a restless, ambitious labor pool, so deadly for capitalist economies; and it confronts democracy’s other deadly problem—that ordinary people might one day learn to un-divide themselves, band together in the common interest, and take control of the institutions that shape their lives.

The present system of institutionalized schooling is a product of two or three centuries of economic and political thinking that spread primarily from a militaristic state in the disunited Germanies known as Prussia. That philosophy destroyed classical training for the common people, reserving it for those who were expected to become leaders. Education, in the words of famous economists (such as William Playfair), captains of industry (Andrew Carnegie), and even a man who would be president (Woodrow Wilson), was a means of keeping the middle and lower classes in line and of keeping the engines of capitalism running.

In a 1909 address to New York City teachers, Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said, “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity to forgo the privilege of a liberal education.”

My job isn’t to indict Woodrow or anyone else, only to show you how inevitable the schools you hate must be in the economy and social order we’re stuck with. Liberal education served the ancient Greeks well until they got too rich to allow it, just as it served America the same way until we got too rich to allow it.

What Can You Do About All This? A lot.

You can make the system an offer it can’t refuse by doing small things, individually.

You can publicly oppose—in writing, in speech, in actions—anything that will perpetuate the institution as it is. The accumulated weight of your resistance and disapproval, together with that of thousands more, will erode the energy of any bureaucracy.

You can calmly refuse to take standardized tests. Follow the lead of Melville’s moral genius in Bartleby, the Scrivener, and ask everyone, politely, to write: “I prefer not to take this test” on the face of the test packet.

You can, of course, homeschool or unschool. You can inform your kids that bad grades won’t hurt them at all in life, if they actually learn to master valuable skills and put them on offer to the world at large. And you can begin to free yourself from the conditioned fear that not being accepted at a “good” college will preclude you from a comfortable life. If the lack of a college degree didn’t stop Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Michael Dell (Dell Computer), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA), Warren Avis (Avis Rent-a-Car), Ted Turner (CNN), and so many others, then it shouldn’t be too hard for you to see that you’ve been bamboozled, flummoxed, played for a sap by the propaganda mills of schooling. Get rid of your assumptions.

If you are interested in education, I’ve tried to show you a little about how that’s done, and I have faith you can learn the rest on your own. Schooling operates out of an assumption that ordinary people are biologically or psychologically or politically inferior; education assumes that individuals are sovereign spirits. Societies that don’t know that need to be changed or broken.

Once you take responsibility for your own education, you’ll join a growing army of men and women all across America who are waking up to the mismatch schools inflict on the young—a mismatch between what common sense tells you they’ll need to know, and what is actually taught. You’ll have the exquisite luxury of being able to adapt to conditions, to opportunities, to the particular spirits of your kids. With you as educational czar or czarina, feedback becomes your friend and guide.

I’ve traveled 3 million miles to every corner of this country and 12 others, and believe me, people everywhere are gradually waking up and striking out in new directions. Don’t wait for the government to say it’s OK, just come on in—the water’s fine.

John Taylor Gatto wrote this article for Learn as You Go, the Fall 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Gatto was a New York State Teacher of the Year. An advocate for school reform, Gatto’s books include Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Thursday, 4 February 2010


Call me a glutton for punishment, but today I watched the final sitting of the CSF Bill Committee.

I'm rather glad that I did because it confirmed something that I have always asserted: Local Authority Officers make prejudicial assessments of Home Educating families based on their own value systems.

Caroline Flint stood up and spoke about a report, written about a home educating family's educational provision, in which the officer saw fit to note that the family burned incense.

She went on to comment that perhaps the officer saw the family as a bit *brown rice and sandals* but that such personal prejudice had no place in a report into educational provision, and that this is the type of thing that Home Educators experience across the country. [I am paraphrasing the gist of her speech, and will add links in to the relevant sections of Hansard when they are available.]

I have always warned families against accepting home visits from LA officers precisely because of this kind of personal prejudice. Our homes are, by definition, incredibly personal spaces. People have very individual tastes and preferences, which is precisely as it should be. When we invite people into our homes we should not expect to be judged on our belongings or whether we use plug in air freshners or incense to fragrance our private spaces.

Human beings make judgements incredibly quickly:

“We know from carefully controlled laboratory studies that we form opinions very rapidly and dramatically based on appearance,” says Alexander Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. “In only about 100 milliseconds, a person will determine whether they like or don’t like another person based on their face.”

If a human being can make an arbitrary judgement so quickly, based merely on a person's face, then imagine what judgements they could jump to when allowed into the home of a stranger. The scope for all kinds of personal value judgements is enormous. What if they have an aversion to the colour red and your front room is painted red? What if they have bad memories associated with the smell of lemons and you have just cleaned your home with a lemon scented product? What if they have deep seated anxieties about large dogs and you own a couple of great danes?

Previously people would laugh at the idea that someone in a position of power would act in such an unprofessional manner as to allow such things to influence their decisions, but we now have it as a matter of public record (or we will when the Hansard entry has been published) that this is exactly the kind of thing that *professionals* do. Currently such things are irritating but generally not a huge cause for concern, however if the CSF Bill becomes law, these are the kinds of personal prejudices that many home educators will have to face, and I am in no doubt that many perfectly good home educators will have their license refused because of such prejudices.

ETA: Caroline Flint's speech can be read here at column 493.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


That is how I feel about the political shenanigans over home ed. I've been watching bits of the committee meetings and it just strikes me as utterly farcical. The opposition are outnumbered, the labour members have clearly been whipped to take the party line in all votes, and so each amendment gets voted down. Quelle surprise.

So what is the point of it all? All those hours spent poring over documents, helping to come up with amendments that are just steam rolled by the control freaks that are NuLiebour? As far as I'm concerned, there is no point, because no matter the outcome, we will not be bound by it.

The pathetic, nasty, undemocratic workings of those who would govern us have been laid out for all to see, and this family is not remotely impressed.

Why should we be bound to follow rules and laws created by people with no honour? People who feel it is ok to use their positions of power to lie and cheat those that they work for?

Ultimately we have to follow our consciences, and mine is shouting out very loudly that I will not submit to things that I KNOW will damage my children, just because someone who sits in a palace in London says I have to.

What some of these people might find scary is that I'm not the only one that feels like this.