Tuesday, 4 October 2011

'How can there be a law that allows these sad, grey children to be kept at home?'

Today finds me oscillating. One minute laughing with pleasure and the next, ripping the heads off puppies.

Thanks to the TES. Or, more accurately, thanks to Dickens and Tiny Tim.

Okay, you don't know what I'm on.

It starts with an article in the Times Educational Supplement.

The TES is a newspaper wot celebrates school. It is writ for people who maybe are not much interested in life past the walls of any institutionalised system; it is not writ for visionary world edukators like wot Grit is.

So I accept I am not the target audience, not for this.

The comedy-loving TES bit of me adored it. I thought it was brilliantly written. Dickens was a tutor here, was he not? I especially like the way the drama built up, and up, reaching rhetorical magnificence with It is we.

Then, breathtaking, the brave and noble souls, those precious few, crossing the boundaries for the unsanctionable offence, revealing the unwritten law, the moment of truth, the reason for all, love.

Once you lay aside the brilliant emotional writing, it's arse. If Jamie has a social worker, then he is already under a regime of protection which, I guess, the care industry would argue comes with certain securities, stabilities, and attentions to his and his family's needs.

Well, social care for children may or may not work as we all would like; and whether it actually protects the Jamies of this world or not, would need us to inquire into social work proceedings.

Children would not be helped by denying them and their parents the option of learning outside the school system. Would bullied children, school-refusing children, all be 'helped' by forcing them daily into a place they feared?

Anyway, I read this story to my own 'sad, grey children', Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, who, as every fule no, are home edukated.

Their response was a shocked silence. Then Squirrel said, Jamie? He was lucky. We're not allowed a puppy.


sharon said...

Personally I consider that article to be a complete work of fiction. It makes very little sense when looked at closely and is just yet another clumsy attempt to denigrate Home Education.

And for the record young Gritlets, my children weren't allowed a puppy either - and they had to go to school ;-)

Allie said...

Well, I used to assume all such stories were exaggeration and fabrication and believe that social services would do what might be needed for a child in that situation. Now I don't. I can't really go into why, which means it's a pointless discussion to have... But, I don't.

Grit said...

i can't help but wonder about this one sharon; the kids pulled holes in it (the car? home alone? where's the sibling? puppy? when are teachers doing this? etc etc). and i have a cold-blooded streak in my veins on anything that seeks to manipulate me by text, especially something that makes an illogical leap from one idea to another: social services cannot meet the need therefore we look to the law on home ed. really?!

hi allie. i completely agree; social services have limits on what they can do without removing the child which is not the first choice unless things are irredeemably bad.

schools are places of refuge for some kids, i have gone through some of the loops here. however, i cannot transfer the weaknesses of a social care system to the law pertaining to education. limiting freedom on education does not solve the problem with kids who basically are not wanted.

it's a can of worms, right?

Allie said...

Yes, a can of worms, indeed. I think there are teachers who are simply doing their best to be some sort of positive influence in the lives of desperately needy children. Maybe it isn't enough and maybe they've tried their best to get social services to take more action and failed. I imagine that an over-stretched social services department could get pretty riled with a teacher being a 'nuisance' and so the teacher might back off. If that teacher then realises that the child is not going to be at school any more then it's not surprising that they'll worry. I would. As you say, it doesn't make much sense to look to a change in education law to solve flaws in social services. But, in the real world, I can understand why teachers might want to.

I don't think it is the way to go - for lots of reasons - but I do think that home edders need to hear the concerns of teachers without always thinking that the aim is to 'get at' us. I suspect that many concerned teachers would laugh at the notion that their concerns are anything to do with warm, stimulated, thriving children with tummies full of houmous (like mine!).

Deb said...

What a heartbreaking story (if it's true). However, I agree with all the commentors at the TES article - Homeschooling is completely tangiential to the abuse and if the authorities are aware of it, then WTH are they doing wasting time crying when they should be intervening?

Deb said...

Oh, and it is my most fervent desire to remain pet free for as long as humanly possible. No puppies or kittens, and most of all NO RODENTS!

Grit said...

I agree, Allie; many teachers know they have a child who needs help in their class, and those children don't seem to be getting the help they need.

What can a teacher do? Yes, they can provide a safe, understanding place. The classroom is a place to go, for all that is good and bad about it. And no, a teacher cannot interfere in social care business, unless they are called for a specific reason. They may be actively told to back off, yes.

As an ordinary member of joe public, I would want to be reassured that if a child is already subject to social care, and is withdrawn from school, then social care will focus very clearly and promptly on that child's circumstances.

From an educational perspective, I would expect the children who fall into this category to form a tiny percentage of all school deregistrations. That is not to understate the enormity of each child's experiences; it is to look at the whole system and calculate the numbers as would be required for effective management of resources.

I don't see how it can help, as the author calls for a change in the law regarding home education. It is like asking to presume guilt on behalf of *all* parents seeking to withdraw children from school. This would therefore require all children withdrawn from school to be monitored by social care staff. How does this help focus resources?

I do not think this single article, in the equivalent of a trade newspaper, written by an anonymous and wordsmithing writer, is a covert plan to lay the emotional ground before the public in preparation for changes to the law - I'm not a conspiracist for this one. It's the TES after all, and it has a specific target audience and advertising.

But I do think that readers who know little about an area can be emotionally manipulated on a drip-feed basis, and that if the news feed is kept up, unchallenged, in many places, then eventually it can lead to the 'right answer' in someone's interests. I think those interests will not coincide with mine.

Grit said...

Deb, even if it is fiction, there are truths in it; I am told that is part of the point of fiction.

I think that is why I find articles like this so dangerous and infuriating. They convey truths, but a) you can make up your own truths and b) the article and the writer have no accountability.

and hamsters rock. have you seen how CUTE THEY ARE.