Friday, 9 October 2009

Ed Balls plays mind games with Squirrels

Look, Grit wants to post a picture of Squirrel, up a tree.

That is the best Squirrel I have ever seen up a tree. But I can't just post that.

Because the situation I am going to describe is a bit like mama Grit catching that cute Squirrel in a bag and saying to the wriggling Squirrel, Hey Squirrel! What is the answer to 6x7? Squirrel, being highly intelligent, might brightly say 42! Then hope she can escape and scamper off to play.

But mama Grit can't have heard. She repeats, Hey Squirrel! What is the answer to 6x7? Squirrel might be puzzled. She shouts 42!

Mummy Grit, who must have liquid for brains, says again, Hey Squirrel! What is the answer to 6x7?

You can fantasize about what happens next, like Squirrel takes out her assault rifle, or explodes in a blazing glory of angst, or just becomes plain rude and insulting. You might even say Mummy Grit asked for that response, because it is clear, is it not, that mummy Grit is now an evil sod playing mind games?

This pretty much describes a situation for the huge population of citizens up and down this country whom Ed Balls is trying to hold in a sack.

Perhaps, like mummy Grit, Ed has liquid for brains or perhaps he thinks he must be gifted in the art of educational maintenance and feels this special quality must be shared with the nation.

Because Ed Balls and the DCSF announce they are now cooperatively working with all parents involved in all forms of education, so much in fact, that they are to commission another review, this time into what constitutes an efficient and suitable education.

The BBC reports that this relates only to home educated children. But surely that is wrong? Here is the law. The words efficient and suitable apply equally to home educators and to all schools, if you choose to send your child there.

This is the law for England and Wales, as stated in The Education Act, 1996, Section 7. And if you are a parent, this law is for you:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable
a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
But this government is pretty desperate about something. Look at all the stuff poured out the back end of the DCSF over the past few years! How many consultations, reviews, more reviews and justacouplemorereviews must we all wade through before he's done!

And most answers to all the reviews pumped out the DCSF over the last few years, particularly into home education, have concluded:


Ed may have hearing difficulties, so I put that in shouty letters. but I don't think it will make any difference.

If Ed is trying to pin down home educators, he'll affect all parents. The words efficient and suitable are in the law which binds us all.
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable
a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Perhaps I can help Ed now, just like the puzzled Squirrel, who thinks mummy Grit might have gone a bit funny in the head with all that liquid.

Wasn't this a curious word to use? Doesn't efficient mean to get a result in the most cost-effective way possible, expending the least amount of time and effort. Doesn't that make you feel good, all you school choosing people? Knowing your child is educated with the least amount of time and energy!

I think in legal cases when some poor sod of a home educator has been dragged before the beak, it's already been defined as something like 'that it achieves what it set out to achieve'. Those smart home educators will let me know.

At this point, I'll let you into a secret, but don't tell the Old Bill. We already ignore the law here. We don't bother with 'efficient'. In fact, we expend mountains of time, effort and energy pursuing our educational lifestyle. And spontaneous. Like, see the Aztecs at the British Museum? We'll have to go. I might desire the effect to be a working knowledge of the Aztecs. But if Tiger takes up on the tiny mosaics used on those death masks and comes away with a renewed interest in mosaic making, then I'm afraid my education was very inefficient, wasn't it? But it might have been suitable.

In home education terms, suitable is what I say it is. We have no obligation to follow the National Curriculum, we have no requirement to exclude particular subjects from our learning, and we have no requirement to include particular subjects.

So because I decide what is suitable, and not some ex-Etonian in Westminster, our definition of suitability probably differs from schools in quite a few ways.

Like, marine biology and oceanography. Shark is interested in those topics, and they're hers, until she changes her mind or wakes up one morning to find she has turned into a dugong.

Then geology. We like rockwatching. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger take to those English fields with enthusiastic people who know what rocks to watch and not just mummy Grit who loses her glasses and falls into ditches.

Sport! All the gritlets have at some time another completed courses in ice skating, trampoline, horsedoing, sailing, kayaking. They're not on our local primary list. Someone in government might say they're not suitable. So we'd have to ignore the law there too.

And then there's sex education.

I'll admit that Tiger once emerged at the top of the stairs waving a packet of tampons in her hand and shouting in a voice that sounded like And can I paint a picture of a horse with these? No I bloody well cannot! and then flung them down the stairs at Shark. That moment was probably not her need to discover the delights of the menstrual cycle, Ed, more the outrage of a six year old who couldn't find her new paint set.

So you see, the primary curriculum and Grit's curriculum are totally different. Mine is suitable for the people we live with and the interests we express. And that's how we define suitable.

But we have a situation here where lots of people have given the government these answers. And they just keep asking the questions.

I feel a bit like Squirrel, and I just cannot figure out the motives of that person who keeps asking What is the answer to 6x7?

If Ed is trying to pin down home education, he's embarking on a route to pin everyone down. If he's doing this, he wants you all to do something.

Does he want you all to home educate? But clearly not in a way which some home educators do, i.e. autonomously.

Does he want you all to take your local authority to court, because they failed to deliver an efficient or suitable education for your child?

Does he want you all to be legally obliged to 'deliver' various state approved aspects of education in your home? Homework must form a big part of your lives, you parents out there. Will it form bigger?

Imagine the government defined or amended the words efficient, suitable and, let's go for the triple whammy, full time.

What would you be happy to have these words mean, and what would be the impact on you?
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable
a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.


Potty Mummy said...

Tried to reply on the BMB post but as I'm not a home educator I didn't manage it. What I would say though is that of all the words I would like to apply to my children's education, 'efficient' is not one of them. It makes the children sound like they are cars coming off a production line.

Grit said...

hi pm! thanks for persisting and replying here! of course i forgot you have to be a member of the group (duh!); i agree, it's a strange word to use, but perhaps in the context of a mainstream system, where there are limited specialist teachers and lots of children, then maybe it's not so strange.

i am interested in how people who choose school might want this word to be defined; i guess they would want it to have a positive definition, instead of the current 'cost effective' connotation.

sharon said...

Perhaps the answer is 7x6, or 2x21 or even 42x1. Education is NOT one size fits all and 'efficiency' would surely dictate that it never can be. As for 'suitable' well, to each his/her own I think is the way to go. My boys went to school but I never abrogated responsibility for their education and supplemented it where appropriate to their individual needs. Judging by what I have read here (and elsewhere), if I was starting out with a young family now, then HE would probably be my choice. There is not enough commitment, cash or care put into actually teaching as opposed to feeding the system these days.

kellyi said...

We have been offered to opportunity to emigrate to the USA. I am seriously considering it because I HATE the UK government so much.

GoodWife said...

And there was me thinking 42 was the answer to life, the universe and everything.....