Category Archives: Politics

Party politics, elections and so on.

It’s over!

“Not content!” shouted a handful of Peers in the House of Lords, and there it disappeared, like a mist in the sunlight. Clause 26 is no longer a part of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. Actually, by the end of the night, there’s going to be very little of the Bill left – a good three-quarters of it has been dropped, in the interests of getting anything at all through before Parliament dissolves at the end of the week.

Of course, it’s not really over. Ed Balls has stated, today, that he has every intention of being re-elected, and entirely recreating the Bill in the new Parliament, and there is a belief abroad that Something Must Be Done about home education, even amongst the politicians who have fought on our behalf against the proposals that have been killed off, tonight. This battle will have to be fought again. But I’m optimistic – even if Labour do get back in, the world will be a very different place on May 7th. Their majority, if they have one, will be tiny, and they won’t have a chance of railroading such controversial legislation through again. In addition, there is NO MONEY. Have you heard? We have no money. All the money’s gone. There is likely to be very little stomach in the other two parties for the spending of millions on a problem which has never been proven to exist. On the theoretical possibility of a problem which could one day arise, maybe.

But tonight, there is reason to celebrate, because, Ding Dong, the Wicked Bill is Dead!

A fairer tax system for all? Don’t see why not.

So we got a letter from Louise Ellman again this week:

“RE: A fair tax system for all

Thank you for your email regarding a new tax system.

I have made representations on your behalf to the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I will contact you when I receive a response”

It’s very good of Louise to do this on our behalf, as we really can’t  say we are in favour of an unfair tax system; that just doesn’t sound right. The fact that we’ve never contacted Louise about an unfair tax system makes her response a little strange, though.

Maybe, based on the meeting we had with her a few months back, where we talked about our strong desire for her to stop the legislation on unfair treatment of home educating families, she has surmised that we are against all forms of unfairness?

It looks very likely that our beloved MP’s filing system has gone a bit potty, which is not something you really want when you are 8 weeks out from an [supposed] election date.

Whilst it might be true that we are against unfairness, tax systems or not, I would much rather she made representations on our behalf about home education, rather than tax, at this time. I’m quite willing for her to make these representations to the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP instead of Ed Balls, though. You never know, we might get a better response than we have in the past.

I hate this

It makes me feel dirty. I’ve already posted one link to Facebook, and balked at posting another, because I hate it, and it makes me feel dirty.

But if I don’t, then I’m standing by and letting liars and bullies have the last word about what happened to the poor child, and I’m letting them tar me with their slanderous, defamatory brush, and I’m letting them abuse her memory almost as badly as her body was abused in life. Insult added to injury, when injury was horriffic enough.

You need to know that Khyra Ishaq was not home educated. Many news articles have implied that she was, over the last nine months or so, though I am relieved to note that most of them have dropped that angle, when it became apparent that she wasn’t. The BBC, however, are still touting the line of the Labour machine, that she was home educated, that there was nothing the authorities could do, that the only thing that could have saved her was the introduction of the faltering legislation that has this week been signed off by the Commons, and moved on to the Lords.

Guess what, folks? It isn’t true. So much of it isn’t true, it’s difficult to know where to start, but let’s start with “Was Khyra home educated?”

When a child is registered to a school, and the parents wish to end that arrangement, there is a set procedure. It is laid down in law, it is neither difficult nor complicated, but it is necessary. The parents must write to the school, stating clearly that the child is to be taken off the roll, since s/he will, from that point forward, be recieving their education at home.

It has to be a letter. It doesn’t have to be recorded delivery, though some would recommend that it should be, as protection from accusations of truancy amid claims that letter did not arrive. It just has to be a letter, and it has to be sent to the school.

On receipt of the letter, the head has a legal responsibility to notify the local authority. What the LA choose to do with the information does vary from area to area, but generally speaking, parents are likely to hear from them within a few weeks, with a request for some reassurance that education is taking place.

As far as I can gather, from the various things I have read, including this FOI request, that letter was not sent. But guess what? The local authority didn’t know their own legal procedures, and deregistered her anyway. The school, at one point, had a telephone conversation in which the parents told them of their intention to home educate, but that does not make for a deregistration. The local authority, later, recieved a letter of deregistration, but the local authority CAN’T deregister a child – only the school can. They all muddled their own procedures, and behaved as if she were home educated, but she was not.

For months and months, Khyra was, or should have been, on the roll of her school, but was not attending. She hadn’t gone anywhere, they knew where she was. Teaching staff went to her house to try and see her, but failed. The school, who were actually very worried about her, reported her to social services, who by all accounts, went to the house once, got no answer, and never tried again. The neighbours knew that odd things were going on, including leaving Khyra outside in winter in her underwear, but did not see fit to play the merry hell with social services that really should have been played.

That child was let down – not so much by the school, though some training issues appear to have arisen there, too, but certainly by social services, by her community, and most importantly, BY HER PARENTS.

Guess what, folks? It was her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, who killed her. Nobody else. It was them. They did it. Nobody stopped them, and plenty of people could have at least tried, but ultimately, their contribution would not have been required if those two people had fulfilled their legal and moral obligation to feed her. To FEED HER, for crying out loud! The blame lies with them.

Where the blame does not lie, is with me. Khyra had a whole community around her, and that community failed to save her. Her father failed to save her. I, however, am not a part of that community. I did not know Khyra. I wasn’t there. There was nothing I could do. It is not my fault.

The thing is, even if Khyra HAD been home educated, and it’s perfectly possible, given a slightly more robust investigation of the procedure by her parents, and even if Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill had been enacted into law, SHE WOULD STILL HAVE DIED. Schedule 1 allows for two days a year spent with the family – less, by the time travelling time, report writing, and so on, are factored in – and Khyra was starved in five months. Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill is about giving local authorities carte blanche to arbitrarily reject the provision that home educators are making for their children’s learning, on the basis of a wide range of equally spurious reasons. It is about taking responsibility for the education of children away from parents, and handing it to bureaucracies. It is about, incidentally, setting the legal precedent for YOU, oh school-using friends who think this doesn’t affect you, to be unable to choose the school that is right for your child, that fits your belief system, or even that accepts your cheques.

Being enrolled at school did not save Khyra. Being a long-term truant certainly didn’t save her, since no-one quite noticed. Serving up the education of my children on a platter, in the wake of an unjustified, unsubstantiated, just plain incorrect moral panic over children being “seen” certainly wouldn’t have saved her. It won’t save anyone.

Vindictive legislation – really, is this what we’ve come to?

So, it’s all gone a bit quiet at theJumps, hasn’t it? I expect you’ll be wondering what’s been going on.

Well, on the domestic front, we’ve just been pottering about. Seeing friends, learning about World War II (Daisy’s very interested, we talked about evacuees, this morning), visiting museums and galleries and whatnot, grabbing opportunities to get into the soft play cheaply, going to Gymbobs and Rainbows… you know, just stuff. Daisy’s in a very Resistant to Formal Education place, but I figure she’s five, she’d (hopefully) be spending most of her time playing even if she was in school, at this age, and the Formal Ed stuff is only to make me feel better, anyway. All the real learning around here goes on when I’m not looking.

On the political front – well, the government have published their education Bill, on the back of this week’s Queen’s Speech, and it represents an unmitigated catastrophe for home education. To summarize:-

  • It demands that local authorities maintain a register of home educated children, then lists a comprehensive selection of ways to refuse to put people’s names on it. The Bill lays no duty on the parents to notify the authority that they are home educating (if, for example, their children have never been to school and they are therefore unknown to them), but if they discover you, they can hold it against you (that bit is here). It specifically says that whether or not the education being provided is suitable, should not be considered. The important thing is that you didn’t tell us.
  • Similarly, it demands a detailed twelve month plan of how you plan to educate your child at home, to be submitted to the authority and accepted by them. If you deviate from the plan, then you will be judged, not on what you actually taught the child, but on the fact it was different to what you were permitted to teach them. Never mind if you quickly realised that your particular child needed something different – you will be punished for claiming the slightest degree of autonomy, for not taking your rightful place beneath our boots.
  • If you have already been refused a place on the register, or had your registration revoked, then that in itself can be used as a reason to deny a reapplication. Once you’re off, you’re off for good.
  • One of the reasons allowed for, for denying a child a place on the home education register, is “if the authority consider that it would be harmful to the child’s welfare for the child to become a home-educated child, or[…] to continue to be a home-educated child”. The subjectivity of this question is vast. Since there are local authority officials who believe that all home education is bad, and all children should be in school, then they could make this declaration about anyone. That single clause, there, has the potential to entirely outlaw all home education in England, irrespective of how good it might be. It’s almost enough to make you throw in the towel, isn’t it? For good measure, there are also officials who will see welfare issues for home educating disabled parents, unemployed parents, parents educated to a lower level than they would like, black parents, asian parents, gay parents, religious parents, etc, etc, etc…
  • Ed Balls has stated in the House, this week, that there is no compulsory interview alone with the child, but he neglects to mention that the Bill specifically allows for authorities to deny registration if you object. So, I guess he means there’s no criminal come-back, but you don’t get to home educate.
  • They have included the line about the child’s “wishes and feelings” about being home educated, both as an excuse to get them alone and ask, and as a BLATANT removal from parents the right to make unpopular decisions on their children’s behalf. How many children would rather not have to go to school every day?! I don’t see the DCSF enshrining THEIR right to over-ride their parents decision in law, do you?

All in all, it’s a very nasty piece of work. The thing I object to most, is the vindictiveness. It’s the idea that the education the child receives is of no importance, because we will use that child to punish you for not conforming to our absurdly convoluted and pointless bureaucracy. Home educators kicked up a fuss, and the Secretary of State appears to have responded by saying “I’ll teach you to argue with me”. Who was it who called him a bully? That’s exactly what violent partners do. They hit you round the head until you’ll agree with anything to make them stop.

Democracy is collapsing around our ears, people. I’m begging you – get up and do something to stop it.