Friday, 18 June 2010

Grit's new job? MAGICIAN!

I'm sure avid readers of The Independent will have read this article on Thursday writ by Richard Garner.

Now there is plenty in this article I want to argue about. Even the headline.

But mostly because it reads like Richard churned out the Ofsted press release. You see? It's not just because I am an argumentative hippy with a fat arse and a bad attitude.

Richard's article starts off with the predictable conflation of welfare and education, as if they are exactly the same thing.

Hey, Richard, do teachers spend their days talking about how Tinkertop inhales poppers? And not discussing how to drag her D-grade GCSE prediction to a C-grade before the league tables are published? Because that's for sure what happened in our department, which means I guess we school teachers were trying to focus on EDUCATION.

But strange then, how education out the school system is related uncritically as a welfare issue. Like, maybe I am mentally ill. Possibly, it's companionship. Or maybe, it's just another of my 'affairs'.*

After the tone and structure, maybe I could argue with the way Richard selected his copy-out bits. Like this:
'Now, Ofsted says: "The current legislation around home education severely hampers local authorities in fulfilling their statutory duties to safeguard children who are educated at home and ensure the suitability of their education."'
But Richard, you should know better. You're an education writer. A local authority has no statutory duty like this. Not even when Ofsted claims it. Precisely, the local authority has no duty to assess educational suitability of kids out the school system. Maybe you should go read this. Then this.

But all of that is nothing, compared to this fantastic assertion:
'A report by Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, calls for new legislation to avoid making it possible for children to 'disappear'.
I like this idea. Very much indeed. I am dreaming now about making children disappear.

I am going to mix up some magic potion and give it a go. Pfff! Magic words! There they go! GONE!

When I have made my children disappear, then I'm off to the gym. I'll eat cake, and do all the naughty things I cannot do when kids are around all day long, moaning and groaning that we never stay at home and who wants to draw a picture of the ear anyway?

Richard, the only place I can make them disappear is, in fact, school.

However I like the idea so much, I may now turn to magic as my new source of endeavour, so thanks for the tip off!

And at least this job might get me out the house, unlike the job your colleague suggested, which was prostitution.

* I am not conducting an affair, since you assume I am. I am conducting an education. However, if you are interested in an affair with Grit, you have to bring your own pigeons.


Maire said...


sharon said...

Or you could put your pricing structure in educational materials?

Seriously, a bit less money spent on OFSTED and all the other committees, inquiries,monitoring systems etc but relocated to the school system may see a reduction in the need to HE! I stress the NEED to home educate as that is what it surely is for many who withdraw their children from school. And, no, I am not saying HE shouldn't be facilitated, indeed encouraged, if that is the course you wish to follow.

Actually, with the coming cuts in public spending I fail to see how any further monitoring can be carried out anyway. Unless,of course, they cut the education budget even more. Perhaps they could follow the Chinese example and have the children put to work in an attached factory to cover costs? I cannot provide a link but do recall an explosion in a Chinese school where the children had been manufacturing fireworks on a commercial scale within the premises.

Simon Webb said...

I think that what the author of this piece was referring to was that the whole business of home education has now become entangled with the Children Act 2004 and the local authority's duty to see that all the children in its area are safe, well and have access to the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters document. These outcomes, which are legally underpinned by the Children Act are to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy and achieve, to make a positive contribution and to achieve economic wellbeing.
The passage of this act has made the situation around home education immeasurably more complicated for all concerned. Not only must local authorities check that children being educated at home are receiving a full time education suitable to their age and ability, they are now charged with ensuring that they are also healthy, safe, having a good time and not too poor! No mean feat to discover all this in the course of perhaps a one hour visit each year. And of course if the family refuse to allow an officer from the local authority even to visit, the task becomes wholly impossible.
The problem is that the local authority are responsible for seeing that all the children in their area are being given access to the five outcomes. Local authorities have yet another duty which has brought them into conflict with some home educators. An amendment to the Education Act 1996, Section 436A, laid upon all local authorities a duty to identify children missing from education. Section 437 then goes on to specify that home educated children receiving a suitable education are not to be regarded as being missing from education. So local authorities must seek out children who are not receiving a suitable education, but at the same time must not bother home educating parents who are providing their children with a suitable education. The obvious question is, 'How will local authority officers know whether a home educated child is receiving a suitable education?' From the local authority viewpoint, the answer is simple; by going and seeing the child and talking to his parents. The parents, on the other hand, often take the view that it should be assumed that children's parents are providing them with a suitable education unless there is any evidence to the contrary. No wonder that local authorities always seem to be falling out with home educating parents!

Maire said...

I wuv Graham too : )

emma said...

@Simon - are you sure that's how the ECM thingummy works? I am vaguely remembering, from a series of posts on Sometimes its Peaceful a year or two ago, that it's not that LAs have a duty to ensure all children are meeting the five outcomes (because obviously they'd fail) but that LAs have a duty to ensure that the services they are offering are not getting in the way of anyone achieving the 5 outcomes. If they offer no services to EHEed children; they have no duty towards them vis a vis the 5 outcomes. Am I wrong?

Simon Webb said...

Emma, the local authority has a responsibility for all children in its area. This is to avoid children falling through the cracks as it were. It was made this way so that various agencies could not claim that it was somebody else's responsibility. Every child is covered by this and every child must have access to the five outcomes. Some local authorities are worried that if home educated children are not getting access to the five outcomes, then they will be held to account. Personally, I'm not sure how much business it is of the LA, but there it is!

Grit said...

Thank you Maire! We aim to brighten your day!

I think you have it Sharon. The cost of restructuring would be huge. Worth it imo, but huge, and not likely to be a priority right now. Your observation about the economic 'achievement' of children could open up one enormous discussion.

Hello Simon. This was a post about a news item in which the ECM agenda was not mentioned. But I'll make a couple of points, the arguments of which I'm sure you already know!

There is no legal requirement on the LA to ensure every child achieves the five outcomes. That would be impossible. Emma is right: Children act 2004, summary & background, point 7: 'the Act places a duty on local authorities to make arrangements through which key agencies co-operate...' (

Further, if local authorities are not involved in the education of home educated children, then there is no requirement for them to visit parents to check whether the five outcomes are being applied.

As for the 'missing in education' bit, you supply the response: the children are not to be assumed to be missing an education.

On the issue of providing information: if the LA ask for information from a home educating parent, then I believe that means of providing information should be for the home educating family to decide. I do not believe it should be of the LA choosing and certainly not the automatic right to enter a home. If we go down that argument ultimately we can get back to that question of who should be responsible for the child: the state or the parent.

The conflation of safeguarding and education is a strategic route which I believe is ideologically driven; I'm sure you're familiar with the huge track-back of that agenda researched by Gill (

I might be a dreamer for wanting this, but I would very much like to see positive working between local authorities and parents. That would go hand in hand with much more variation and flexibility in our educational landscape. Having taught in schools with some wonderfully unique kids, it is blindingly obvious that one size can never fit all. I would like to see more flexi-schooling, schools as exam centres, open learning options, drop in centres, parent-led initiatives, part-school, part-home, and yes, understanding and respect for autonomous education.

I also think that the needs of families and children change over time. Autonomy can turn into structure and structure into autonomy. We need provision in place that allows for this. I want to see parents feel able to educate their local authorities on the types of provision their child needs, and I want to see LAs respond without judgement but with imaginative solutions. Local authorities and parents working together. I am not against that.

What I am against is the way that local authorities seem to routinely use their position to threaten parents and to force families to fit into existing structures for their administrative convenience. They should be more open minded, more aware of learning styles, able to learn directly from children and families, and be looking to create new structures that last into the future and are of positive benefit.

I think if we had a more flexible range of options in place, we wouldn't get the us/them approaches that put up barriers in the first place.

You can probably take all of this as clear proof that I am an irredeemable old hippie and probably sitting here now with a daffodil in my hair.

Simon Webb said...

Sorry Grit, I was looking at this bit of your post;

The current legislation around home education severely hampers local authorities in fulfilling their statutory duties to safeguard children who are educated at home and ensure the suitability of their education."'
But Richard, you should know better. You're an education writer. A local authority has no statutory duty like this.

I was assuming that the author of the piece in the Indpendent was talking about the 2004 Act

Deb said...

I think you all need to be less concerned with the law, and more concerned with helping the Do-Good-Meddling Government Morons justify their existence. How ever will those poor people make a living if they are not allowed to insert themselves into the private lives of citizens?

You're all just plain selfish, that's what.

Grit said...

simon, then i guess the writer of the piece needs to write clearly.

debs, you are absolutely right in that i am selfish for my own genetic stock! whether the LA has a role to play in the lives of people who don't want them, well that is for those to decide whether to take up their services, i guess. that would be a preferable situation to the one where we have atm which is the imposition and expectation that we will have those services, whether we want them or not.

but generally i suppose the question could be asked about the role of a local authority and what is their function - as an agent of central government or a body that is responsive to the local community?

i am regretting now, never taking ppe.