Friday, 30 January 2009

Not one of the best days

Dear diary, I'd only like to record the drive to Sheffield with Dig and the kids. I wish driving up the motorway to our arrival at the Jury's Inn Hotel was the only significant event today.

Oh well, let's get it out the way. We made quite an optimistic start. The journey was fine. After we arrived, it all went downhill. Children and hotel evening catering do not mix. We ended up here.

As you can see, at separate tables, because Tiger and Squirrel aren't talking to Shark. Anyway, we obviously don't eat the burgers. Just the chips and pizza.

I thought I would record this, because after visiting the chip shop in Bradford last year we then read about it in the Independent. Someone drove a car through it. Our presence there followed by disaster might be coincidence. But let's just say over the next few weeks I'll be keeping a close eye on the fortunes of this particular bistro.

But that wasn't the most significant event of the day. No. It was being approached and stopped by the police and an educational welfare officer on a truancy sweep while shopping in Tesco for fruity buns to see us through the journey.

I would like to say that I presented myself as businesslike in dealing with the intrusive questioning and the suspicion I faced from these two people just doing their job. But I didn't. I became argumentative, awkward, difficult, challenging, and refused to comply with any line of questioning until I thought Hey up Grit! If you continue like this you'll be charged with obstruction.

And what forced me to comply, giving up my name and address - although I doubt I am legally obliged to provide either unless I am suspected of a crime - was the thought that here I am standing in Tesco arguing with the police, and in front of Squirrel. And really, I don't want her to see the police as the untrustworthy enemy collecting details for yet another database. We don't home educate to this end. But neither do we home educate to be the target of suspicion.


Kitty said...

:-O The Police stopped you and asked about truancy? 'Kinnell ... I didn't know they did things like that. I'm not a home educator, but I think I'd have been tempted to tell them to mind their own beeswax! x

cosmic seed said...

In Tesco's FFS!! I struggle to believe that Tesco can be an authorised truancy sweep area.

Katherine said...

Oh my goodness...!
What happened to Trust?
As in: 'Let's Trust parents to want the best for their children.' Well, it's clearly gone.
Or, as in the reason I no longer am a teacher:
'Let's Trust teachers to teach well. Let's not give them a zillion pieces of paper to fill out at the end of each day to prove they did.'

Ruth said...

You are right Grit, they have NO RIGHT to demand your name and address.

EWOs have no right to ask you anything, that's why they have to bring a police officer along. The PO can ask you to account for yourself (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) but they CANNOT insist on you providing your name and address, cannot detain you for declining to provide that information and in fact as of Jan 1st this year they shouldn't even ask!

"This Circular informs changes to the recording and reporting processes under Code of Practice A issued under Section 60(1) (a) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

2. From 1 January 2009, a police officer or member of police staff conducting an encounter under paragraphs 4.11 – 4.20 of Code A will be required to record only the ethnicity of the person. Whilst the change removes the form filling process, it maintains the important requirement to record the ethnic classification of the person and to provide the person with a receipt of the encounter."

Of course they can CLAIM that they have welfare concerns and demand more details based on that but that doesn't get the PO out of giving you that receipt which provides you with the opportunity to formally complain about their behaviour.

In the end the EWO will push for your details and probably lie through their teeth because they are the ones who want you on their database, but the PO if they have any sense at all will not want to take it further because they are the ones with something to loose career-wise.

Dani said...

Aargh! How vexing. Sorry you had to put up with that. Truancy sweeps are unspeakably awful, and not just for home educators mistakenly caught up in them. How dare they claim to be concerned about our children's welfare when they have to send the police out to drag school pupils back to school when they manage to escape?!

Mr Farty said...


Print off a copy of Ruth's document, laminate it and carry it with you. It should come in handy next time, and you just know there'll be a next time.


sharon said...

Do you know I actually thought you were joking at first until I re-read the first couple of sentences re the Tesco trip. In my innocence I thought Truancy Officers would only be interested in checking out unaccompanied children, not those with their mother! Things have surely changed a lot since we left the UK, the Nanny State is obviously progressing in leaps and bounds what with the CCTV cameras everywhere as well. Big Brother IS watching! Scary....I think you should seriously consider emigrating to a less intrusive society (if you had a Tardis, Stalin's USSR even begins to sound almost benign). In the meantime all Home Educators should definitely laminate the article Ruth has included in her comment and carry it with you constantly.

Still shaking my head in horror and disbelief....

Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth said...

It's pretty amazing really, if you read the Act itself and the notes that go with it you will find it's all about terrorism, firearms offences, knives, poaching even! All offences for which you can be arrested, no mention of truancy patrols or anything similar. So using it in that way is clearly not what the power was created for.

OTOH because it was created to cover situations where they needed to tread very carefully they built in a bunch of safeguards to protect the civil rights of people being stopped and questioned and/or searched.

The police themselves have some handy documents here

although it doesn't look like they've updated them yet.

Qalballah said...

Well it's just a bloody good job you weren't wearing a headscarf Grit or you'd prolly be in HMP Peterborough by now on anti terrorist chrages.

Grit said...

kitty, it was horrible!

hi cosmic seed... tesco, the swimming pool, playgrounds, these are all targets, so i am told.

i agree, katherine. and i feel so sad about this.

THANK YOU RUTH! two things made me give up my details. one was that by this i could make it stop and i was painfully aware that squirrel was with me and seeing all this (as well as the tesco shelf stockers who suddenly had a lot of shelves to stock nearby!), and the second was that i felt i was right in not giving up my details but was not 100% sure whether anything in law had changed. when we started home edding the kids age 5 i knew the law inside out, but not having been stopped for 4 years, i dropped guard! so this info is very useful, thank you!

hi dani, i agree; 'welfare' is laughable. as part of my incoherent argue-everything approach i gave the welfare officer a long list of the school welfare issues she should spend her time on! i can only hope i wasted enough of their time that they wished they hadn't stopped me.

you are right, mr farty, sadly i think there is a change, and things will become more unpleasant for us.

sharon, we are popping over to hong kong and aus soon, just for a look, mind you ...

qalballah, i am thanking you for the laughter!

Potty Mummy said...

I. Don't. Believe. It.

Well - actually I do.


Grit said...

hi potty mummy! there is a lot of discussion in the home ed community about the increasing involvement of government in all aspects of early years - i really do believe the issues raised from the home ed community are applicable to all parents. anyway, on that, i post later. now, cup of tea.

Qalballah said...

Dude.I wasn't joking :|

Borax = ebay

Katherine said...

Grit! You are going to Aussie!? What about coming over 'the ditch' to New Zealand!