Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Capitulation? No Thanks.

Two words I particularly dislike:

Pragmatism: "Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected."


Capitulation: "A military term. Capitulation refers to surrendering or giving up.

In the stock market, capitulation is associated with "giving up" any previous gains in stock price as investors sell equities in an effort to get out of the market and into less risky investments. True capitulation involves extremely high volume and sharp declines. It usually is indicated by panic selling."

Now I have been told that the reason for my dislike of these particular words is that I am an idealist, as though idealism were a bad thing; a childish fantasy; a silliness not to be entertained by proper grown up people. I disagree, obviously.

There is much talk of the war against Home Educators continuing after the election, no matter which party *wins*, because the LAs are going to keep on pushing the powers that be for more and more power over us, so we'd better brook a deal, hadn't we?


Because it's the pragmatic thing to do of course.

No. making deals with other people's freedom is wrong. We have no right to give up this fight for the sake of a bit of peace. If anyone seriously believes that we will achieve that longed for respite from the fighting by capitulating, then frankly they need their heads read. A timely reminder of the attitudes we are up against can be found here over at Douglas Carswell MP's blog.

Do you honestly believe that if these people have more power they will respect us? Treat us and our children well? Give us that longed for peace we all desire? They are incapable of using the powers they already have for goodness sake.

Those in parliament have no respect for the rule of law, let alone those who they are supposed to be there to serve. Can any of you honestly say that watching the performances in the houses of parliament - that most ancient and revered of political institutions - filled you with pride and honour? That you felt respected as sovereign beings? That your children would be safe in the hands of these twisters of words? Or did you feel like me and my family did - horrified that this was how our laws are made? That this was surely a farcical pantomime not the workings of government? That there was no way that lot are to be trusted to do what is right and just?

Once upon a time many of us would have recoiled in horror at the idea of being considered anarchists, but the truth is that more and more of us are now finding we have anarchist leanings and the government have only themselves to blame for that.

I, along with other HEing friends, eagerly tuned into Newsnight to watch Balls, Gove and Law discuss education. What a great debate that would be I thought, we might see some real discussion; some real ideas; some real movement forward. What a bloody joke. It was playground behaviour, political point scoring in the run up to the election. Well it's just not good enough. This is the education of our children they are playing silly buggers with, and bickering will not come up with a solution to the problem. If they can't get their act together how can they expect parents to blithely accept what the state provides? Why are more and more parents turning to Home Education? Because the state is failing the country's children and parents are (in the most part) hard wired to do what is best for their own children. As Heidi so brilliantly points out:

"A parent is biologically and psychologically designed, programmed, conditioned – call it what you will – to care deeply about the wellbeing of their child. If the child is threatened, or the parent’s ability to nurture the child to the best of their ability is threatened, the parent cannot help but defend themselves, their children and family. Moreover, the parent is unable to be motivated by, and give a normal response to, needs that come higher up the hierarchy until this fundamental need has been satisfied."

Our children come first. They are our main priority. We must do our damnedest to preserve and protect their freedoms, they will not thank us for capitulating. Those who think they know better, who meet behind closed doors, who value pragmatism over idealism, who think they can make deals on our behalf, ought to know that this is not acceptable. They have no more authority to do this than the LAs and the government and they will look very foolish when we all JUST SAY NO! No one says it will be easy, but we have come this far, why on earth would we back down now?

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. ~Woodrow Wilson

Monday, 8 March 2010

Yorkshire Evening Post, Tha Needs Playing Pop Wi'.

Now I'm a Yorkshire Lass, from good Yorkshire stock. Yorkshire folk are renowned for being plain speaking people, so Yorkshire Evening Post, I'll keep it simple, and tell it like it is.

This article you've written, it's a pile of rubbish. You've been duped. You are being used to propagate anti home education propaganda at a politically sensitive time.

I'm rather ashamed, I really did expect better of a Yorkshire publication; I had this romantic notion that Yorkshire folks were a bit more canny than this.

You can view the figures that gave rise to your article here[opens PDF].

I don't have anything to say about those figures, others can and have done a better job than I, such as one commenter on the YEP article who said:

"FOIs show Leeds to have 140 home educated children, 6 with no education, 5 not suitable, 14 not co-operating, 20 not yet assessed and 34 not "full-time" which is a bit of a red herring as in the official guidance it states EHE is assumed to be full time.... I can't find any way of making 6+5 = 25% of 140....can you? I can't even get it by adding in the 14 not co-operating!"

What I will say though is that I wouldn't trust Leeds as far as I could throw them. They are not a great LA, I know people who have had problems with them. I also know that they don't like EHE parents being informed about the law, they went as far as to admit this in a consultation document a few years ago. The particular quote I was thinking of is:

"Like other LEAs, we have no idea how many parents in total are educating their children at home. We do know of 150 in Leeds. We are successful in arranging home visits with 98% of these parents largely because they see us as being helpful but also partly because a number of them are not aware that they need not agree to meet us!"

This may be irrelevant to this issue, but I do think it is important that people realise that LAs behave badly where home education is concerned. If LAs truly believe that they have HE'd children who are not receiving an education suitable to their age, apptitude, ability and any SEN, then they should be issuing SAOs. Are they doing that? I think not. If you take Plymouth LA they say that 100% of their EHE children are NOT receiving a suitable and full time education! Really? I find that a staggering *fact* quite frankly, and I'm more inclined to think that it has more to do with issues that the LA has with the idea of EHE in general, than the failings of EHE parents in the area.

What you might like to do, YEP, is have a look at this expose of the figures and then you might like to have a read of my previous blog post and think about how you have just fallen into the trap laid by government. You will see that the TES did exactly the same thing as you have, which goes to show the shoddy standard of journalism today. Shame we no longer use newspapers as chip wrappers, as it least then your article would have a use. As it stands it is neither use nor ornament.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bursting Bubbles

It's been a beautiful sunny day here, with hardly a cloud in the sky. We've had friends visit and we all made and burst giant bubbles. It was a perfect day in home ed land.

Just when we thought it couldn't get any more perfect the most beautiful poetry landed in my inbox.

Birmingham City Council's LABOUR councillors are calling for Ed Balls to launch a public inquiry into the events which lead to the death of Khyra Ishaq. Obviously there are political points to be scored against the Conservative/Lib Dem Council in the run up to the election, but this is something of an own goal for their party. The Labour councillors know that home education had nothing to do with this tragic case, and it would seem that they are angry that the council is using home education in a buck passing exercise, and bless them, they intend to bring the judge's ruling to the attention of Ed Balls himself! I don't imagine Ed is going to be very happy about that, do you? He and his henchman have worked so hard, for so long, to use this case to bring in draconian legislation which will, to all intent and purpose, kill home education as we know it, and here are people from his own party trying to put the kibosh on the peg he had been hoping to hang it all on! If that isn't poetic justice I'm not sure what is!

You could say that the bubble has burst, and what would you know? We got a picture of the exact moment it happened!

Bubble Hydrodynamics say that "after formation, a bubble rapidly accelerates to its terminal velocity." I rather like that use of language. Terminal velocity. Yep, I think you can safely say that the Ed Balls Bubble reached terminal velocity today, and now we can look and see all the chaotic little pieces that originally made up the unified whole, flying off in all directions.

An interesting thing to come out of today's newspaper report from the Birmingham Mail, is that the Judge's findings were available to the council way back in March 2009. That's a whole year to get a story worked out to save their sorry arses. You have to wonder if they thought that the judge's findings would never make it into the public arena, as her findings are so clear that home education was not the reason Khyra was failed. Surely they would have come up with a more water tight excuse if they suspected the findings would be made public?

"Mr Howell, supported by Councillor Les Lawrence, the cabinet member, and by assistant chief constable Suzette Davenport, claimed that tough laws governing the right of parents to remove their children from school and educate them at home made it impossible to gain access to the house and to check on Khyra."

Maybe they all just thought that with Home Educators having been so nicely stitched up in the press, that they would be safe to continue to abuse the death of a child and castigate a community of loving, caring parents in the name of protecting their rather hefty pay packets, regardless of the evidence.

Thankfully the Birmingham Mail is not letting them get away with it:

"Today, the Mail can expose Mr Howell and Coun Lawrence’s pathetic excuses for what they are – weasel words designed to protect the self-serving interests of two public servants who know that a department under their control must carry a huge responsibility for Khyra’s death."

The thing is though, I don't think it's just the Birmingham Councillors, social services and police who are at fault here. The whole twisted system needs to be exposed and made accountable for its despicable use of the death of a child to smear an entire community of families, who, for whatever reason, they just don't think should be allowed to carry on going about their loving and lawful business.

Khyra died in May, 2008.

In March 2008, Maggie Atkinson was appointed president of ADCS - the Association of Directors of Children's Services. We'll come back to Maggie again in a little while.

The heads of all the chairs of local safeguarding children's boards as at March, 2008 are listed here. Judging by the contents of this report, it would seem that these people are extremely influential in both local and national government. Indeed, John Harris says on page 16 of this newsletter:

"I can tell you from first hand experience that the partnership with DCSF and other government departments is better than it has ever been. Local authorities are actively engaged in developing national policy, through formal working groups but also with informal contacts with key civil servants and Ministers."

There are 4 names which immediately jump out at me from that list and they are:

Graham Badman
Tony Howell
Jo Grills
Sue Berelowitz

Graham Badman, well not much needs saying about him does it? Presided over the biggest stitch up of Home Educators to date, largely discredited, but still there flogging his dead horse, presumably trying to salvage the knighthood that Ed Balls must have promised him for services rendered. Or did Ed just Balls up again when he said: "I have asked Sir Graham Badman to produce a report" (Find it here, directly above column 174.)

Moving on to Tony Howell; he's our man in Birmingham, the same guy who hired a PR expert to spin the Khyra story, to the tune of £800 a day.

Moving along then to Jo Grills. Now us home educators have long memories, and Jo is something of a blast from the past. Jo was the woman in Gloucestershire at the time of the Eunice Spry case. She tried to pull off the same trick as Tony Howell by blaming the failings of her department on Home Education. Unfortunately for Jo, the then Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes did not agree as this reply shows:

"I appreciate you writing to me with your concerns about the case of Eunice Spry. The Serious Case Review found that although Gloucestershire was judged to be serving most children well, in the case of Eunice Spry there were shortcomings in the services the children received as looked after children. The Commission of Social Care Inspection felt that this was the most significant factor in this case, rather than the fact that they were home educated."

That's pretty clear I think, although if you've only read the latest article about the Spry case, you'd never know it. This social worker's perspective is more objective.

Moving on to Sue Berelowitz. Hand picked by Graham Badman to be one of the *expert panel* for the HE Review, in her capacity as chief executive of 11 Million AKA the office of the children's commissioner. In her submission to the Select Committee she says of 11 Million:

"We support these proposals coupled with the recommendation that designated local authority officers should have the right of access to the home and to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate. These are basic measures which will assist officers in satisfying themselves that the child is safe and well."

Singing from the *right* song sheet there then. Now this business about interviewing the child alone is interesting, lets have a look at the ADCS submission to the Select Committee. Oh and here we go, that same song sheet again:

"4.3.1 The local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place, and two weeks notice of this visit should enable parents to be engaged in this process. Regular visits by the local authority to premises and interviews with the child would enable safeguarding issues to be addressed."

Hmm. And yet, the same ADCS, regarding Laming's proposals that ALL children referred to social services should be seen, said:

"the Loughborough research indicated that prescribing an initial assessment for all referrals would divert resources away from the most vulnerable children."

Which is precisely the point that home educators have been making regarding the Badman proposals contained within the CSF Bill.

Now let's go back to Maggie, or *Two Words Atkinson* as we home educators like to call her. Why? Well, Maggie was in front of the Select Committee for a job interview, the position being Children's Commissioner (11 Million...) At the end of her interview Paul Holmes MP asked:

"What do you think we should be saying as a Committee regarding the legislative process and the Badman report, and whether it is protecting children's interests or trampling all over the interests of home-educated children?".

and Maggie replied:

"I would give you two words, and they are the first and second names of the child who died — Khyra Ishaq"

Consider that the case was sub judice, consider that this means that it is "considered inappropriate to comment publicly on such cases, and that it can be considered an offence which can lead to contempt of court proceedings." Consider that Maggie uttered her infamous *two words* immediately prior to the Select Committee hearing evidence in its inquiry into the Badman Review. Naughty, very naughty. One has to wonder if it was calculated, particularly as Balls, Badman and Atkinson had met just prior to the announcement of the review, back in January 2009 at:

"a 24-hour session with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and partners about the Children's Plan. Ed Balls introduces. The event is excellent with a great sense of opportunity and shared commitment. My co-president John Freeman and directors Maggie Atkinson and Graham Badman fly the ADCS flag".

The interview with the select committee didn't go so well for Maggie, they had this to say:

"While we are satisfied that Maggie Atkinson demonstrated a high degree of professional competence, we feel unable to endorse her appointment, as we would like to have seen more sign of determination to assert the independence of the role, to challenge the status quo on children’s behalf, and to stretch the remit of the post, in particular by championing children’s rights."

But, no worries, Ed was on the case:

"he rejected the verdict, declaring that Ms Atkinson's evidence in fact showed she would be a "strong, effective and independent voice for the children and young people of our country".

ADCS held a conference in July 2008, chances are high that many if not all of our little list above attended, networked, talked about "the big case". I couldn't possibly say that they hatched a plan, but it makes you wonder, particularly as this newsletter (page 16), published in July 2008 says of the Ishaq case:

"I therefore contacted Maggie Atkinson (DCS - Gateshead), who is the ADCS President,to discuss how ADCS should respond. In fact, Maggie Atkinson did appear on the Radio 4 bulletin to discuss Lord Laming's comments. ADCS has since prepared a position statement that is going to be shared with key officials at DCSF, the Children's Commissioner, Local Government Association, and the British Association of Social Workers."

Strangely the DCSF deny any knowledge of this position statement.

These people really do not like Home Education or Home Educators as was made clear to Douglas Carswell MP only last month:

"The unyeilding, arrogant, we-know-what's-best-for-your-child attitude I encountered today makes me realise that mums and dads who fear what these proposals could mean are right to be fearful."

It's taken a long time for people to start to see the institutional prejudice we have had to put up with for too many years. Back in 2007 we had hearsay written up into a document and passed around authorities to help them fill in their consultation responses:

"It was minuted that Ms Kuhn's draft had indeed been helpful in assisting individual local authorities in writing their own submissions. The document had formed the basis of a London Regional Partnership response and other Regional Partnerships had used it as a basis for their's, so there had been a good "cascade effect " from the work."

Even dear old Aunty (The BBC) get in on the act. Their coverage of the Kyhra Ishaq trial judgement was nothing short of propaganda for Ed Balls. I can't link to the 6 o'clock news, but I have it on good authority that it was the Badman and Balls show.

The TES trumpeted Badman's discredited statistics in a scandalous headline:

"Officials at Leeds City Council said many home-educating parents "hide behind the law" and some children are "never seen" after being taken out of school. Others use it as a way to avoid being prosecuted for truancy, according to Brian Hogg, who is responsible for "education other than at school" services for Education Leeds."

Can you blame us for believing that the entire review was engineered around the Kyhra Ishaq case? That it was only the unfortunately illness of a juror which prevented the Government from getting away with it? They would have too, if it wasn't for those pesky home educators.

In America, it is the social workers who get put under greater scrutiny when a child starves to death. Yes, that is definitely needed, but let's remember that it is those at the top of the food chain, making the policies that fail the staff on the ground, that need to be answerable.

Indeed, their own policies demand it of them:

"In 2003 the Every Child Matters Green Paper announced the creation of the DCS role as follows; ”We are proposing a range of measures to reform and improve children’s care – crucially, for the first time ever requiring local authorities to bring together in one place under one person services for children.

Not in the sense of directly managing every service, of course, but being accountable for the outcomes of every child in an area.

And as the responsibilities of local authorities are clarified and Children’s Trusts are increasingly empowered to drive the system forward, so your accountability for those outcomes comes into even sharper relief."

This responsibility and accountability was something Peter Traves was well aware of, and admitted to the select committee that it was all about arse covering:

"We have seen recently what happens recently to directors of children' services when things go seriously wrong - it is not only sacking, it is public humiliation and it is a very serious matter."

Well I'm afraid the protection of your arse is not my problem, nor is it my children's, and we WILL NOT be forced into abusive relationships with those who have been deemed to have power over us by nature of their daily work. We certainly will not be letting strangers with pieces of paper take our children to one side, alone.

What is more we demand public apologies, we expect accountability and resignations - and yes, that includes you too Ed - and we will not roll over and allow any of these despicable human beings to carry on treating us as cattle.

Remember, when it looks as though the bubble will engulf you, it is about to reach terminal velocity, and it will burst into a million tiny fragments of slime.

I would of course have included Ed Balls' statement via the DCSF, but something very strange has happened to the link. I shall be checking in the morning to see if it is back as it should be!

With heartfelt gratitude to EK for supplying the material for this post.

ETA: Well, well, well. Ed's statement on the DCSF website is still a mass of error codes, so if anyone cached it I would be grateful if you could let me have a copy, and now he bleats to the Birmingham Mail:

“I want to see the Serious Case Review on my desk as soon as possible explaining what happened and why, identifying the right lessons to be learned and setting out what needs to improve in Birmingham.

“I expect a full, thorough executive summary to be published so everyone can see what happened and the action being taken as a result."

Is Ed about to do a U-Turn? One thing's for certain, it looks as though he is going to try to cover his own sorry arse and lay the blame at the door of Birmingham social services. Sorry, Ed, but the buck stops with you as I seem to remember saying the other day:

"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."

I wonder if that original statement, blaming Home Ed, has disappeared down the memory hole on purpose?

But look, in the space of a few minutes fabulous HEers have found the original in a google cache:

Secretary of State's response to verdicts in the Khyra Ishaq case

25 February 2010

Regarding the verdicts in the Khyra Ishaq case, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said:

What happened to Khyra Ishaq and the other children involved in this case was tragic and will shock and appal everyone who reads or hears about her terrible death. It is very hard for any of us to understand how adults could do this to children in their care.

There are clearly serious questions to be answered about what local services and professionals were doing in the months before this tragedy took place. As the trial has shown, it is now clear that concerns about these children were not acted upon effectively and it is right that a Serious Case Review has been carried out.

The Local Safeguarding Children Board will report shortly - I expect it to publish a full and detailed Serious Case Review (SCR) executive summary that is clear about what happened and what action is being taken as a result. The Government has already taken decisive action to intervene in Birmingham’s children's services, following Ofsted's judgement in December 2008 that their services were inadequate in terms of safeguarding. If we think there is more to do, we will.

The trial has demonstrated, and statements today from the police confirm, that home education was a factor in this case. It shows why we do need a system in place to make sure that when children are home educated or removed from school, they not only get a good education but are safe. That is why I asked Graham Badman to review home education and home educated children’s safety and welfare.

I am now taking forward Graham Badman’s recommendations that every local authority should have access to any home educating family and that all home educating parents must register with the local authority. We will do all we can to ensure the safety of children, in Birmingham and elsewhere, including using statutory powers where it is right to do so."

Monday, 1 March 2010

Map Pins

Sharing this picture - apparently it's banned on face ache!