Category Archives: Politics

Party politics, elections and so on.

*blows dust off website*

Blimey. I think I just uncovered the Lost Cave of Blogginess. I feel like Indiana Jones. It’s like there’s a whole civilisation here, that everyone’s forgotten about.

I notice that the Twitter feed’s out of date – I do still tweet, so not sure why the website’s three weeks out of date. And comments are off. Odd. I shall have to poke Kevin for some kind of tech support.

What was the last thing I blogged? Ah, yes, I remember. It was political, wasn’t it? I was very political, then. That was all Before the Election, though. Everything has changed since then. The world feels different. I did sort of predict that it would, but the starkness of the difference has still taken my breath away.

The new government simply does not care about home educators. It’s not interested in us. And nothing could make me happier. They do not mind that they don’t know what my children are learning – they’re reasonably content that the evidence suggests they’re probably learning quite a lot. They do not need to control the minutiae of what we do on a day-to-day basis. They do not feel the need to protect my children from me, just in case I secretly hate them. They know that that’s very unlikely, and in any case, that all the existing mechanisms for protecting children from nasty parents are pretty much good enough as they are. They are not obsessed with power and control. They are, largely, obsessed with trying to make the books balance, and it’s a sufficiently challenging task that they are unlikely to give me and mine more than a second glance for some years to come.

After 18 months of anger and fear and outright paranoia, the change was quite a shock. It took me a while to settle into it. But settle into it I did. A couple of weeks ago, Ofsted produced a report that they were researching before Christmas, into home education. It was all the same yada-yada-yada as we’ve heard before – no-one is monitoring these people, anything could be happening, blah, blah, blah. It was precisely what we were all dreading, last year, when we first got wind of it. Except the wind has changed, and when I read the summary (didn’t bother to read the whole thing, it wasn’t important enough), I didn’t get angry. I laughed. I smirked as I marvelled at how far out of touch Ofsted had suddenly become. It was precisely the report that the last government wanted them to write – the government which couldn’t bear to leave us alone to get on with it, that wanted to pin down every possible deviation from the state-sanctioned norm, and legislate it out of existence. But this government didn’t want it.

I suspect that they weren’t supposed to publish it at all. A few weeks before, the Department for Education had told all the quangos and gravy trains to stop producing this stuff, until they worked out what the priorities were. But Ofsted had put a lot of time and effort into producing a report which helped to justify their existence, at a time when they’re quite afraid for that existence. And besides, these people could be doing anything – someone should be checking up on them! In any case, the response from the government has resembled the sound of tumble-weed blowing through the deserted town. So much so, this week, Diana Johnson felt the need to poke them, from her new spot on the opposition benches, to try and goad them into continuing the witch-hunt that she was so very keen on. She didn’t get very far. The response amounts to “Yeah, yeah, home educators, we’ll look at it later. Much later.”

It won’t be forever. Sooner or later, someone with the power to do something about it will say, “What do you mean, we don’t know how many there are?” and the whole silly roller-coaster will start again. But that day isn’t likely to come for a very long time – until they’ve got the books to balance, at the very least!

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.