Friday, 5 October 2012

TES and Badman: Did I get in a time machine?

I should say, before I go on, that's it's taken a fair bit of restraint to write this post with (relatively) calm and reasoned words, rather than a string of expletives that result in a blog post that pretty much looks like this : @!!!?#*%@@!&!?

Graham Badman, voice-of-ignorant-prejudice for hire, rears his nasty little head again. I'd hoped he was festering permanently in the stinking bog of the damned and discredited, but here he is, raising his claw above the bogslime to try again to drag us down. Helping him on the way, the TES and their sneaky and bigoted inclusions which immediately plant the undeserved seeds of suspicion, yet again, regarding home educators. 

Now, it's worth noting right at the start that there's nothing he says that hasn't already been disproved and rebuffed, his  'raft of unsubstantiated claims based on hearsay and vague generalisation' torn to shreds by thinking people, his (what he thinks passes for) statistics hilariously thrown out, and the whole lot generally shown for what it is: a completely ill-informed, ignorant, un-thought through, prejudiced load of steaming horse manure. But, due to comments like his being like discarded embers in the forest of the public mind, I'm going to thoroughly douse them with the fire extinguisher of truth anyway.

So first of all, "Professor Graham Badman, who chaired the official inquiry into the death of Baby P". Well that's a clumsy bit of attempted head-f***ery isn't it? Might as well flash up a not-quite-quick-enough subliminal message on the screen saying home edders kill children. The tragic case of Baby P was nothing to do with home education, nothing to do with families being monitored, and everything to do with the authorities failing in the duties they already have. Again. 

He said Welsh government proposals to monitor home educators - reported by TES last month - were "absolutely right and proper". The move, which has provoked fierce opposition from the home education lobby, would be a "key step forward" in ensuring child safety, he added. Well, I could get a minah bird to keep repeating the same things over and over again ad nauseum, but it still doesn't make them true, does it. What would be absolutely right and proper would be for Mr Badman to zip his overactive piehole if he can't produce some actual evidence that this would in any way help child safety. He's never managed it yet.The reason? Home educated children are less at risk. That's what the statistics show. And regardless of this, relevant authorities already have the necessary powers, it's just a matter of them actually using them.

Professor Badman, a former director of children's services at Kent County Council, is no stranger to conflict with home educators. Yes, because he is rather insistent on sticking his nose in where he has no knowledge or expertise, and turning this nose up at relevant knowledge when it's offered up to him on a plate. "Look at these statistics that disprove what you say!" say home educators to him. "Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!" he shouts, ramming his fingers into his ears.

In 2009 he authored a review of the issue in England, which also recommended the mandatory registration of parents who want to teach their children at home. Well yes. The government had decided that's what they wanted, so they found an 'expert' to agree with them. That's just how it works

The review was accepted by then education secretary Ed Balls (Shocker, as that was the outcome that the odious Mr Balls wanted)  but was dropped before the 2010 general election in a deal to push through other legislation. (More perspective on that here).

Professor Badman said local authorities backed his plans for greater scrutiny of home education. Well they would. These are the people that want more control after all. They don't like it when people decline their services, and what's more they don't understand.

"There is not a broad public understanding of home education: its strengths, weaknesses..."  No, they don't. And neither does he. Which is why he takes his ignorance, and uses it like a big wooden spoon to stir up other people's.

and, on rare occasions, dangers," he said. I'm sorry, no. This was the point at which my head exploded with rage. Home education does not have dangers. How am I confident making such a statement? Because it's absolutely true. Dropping the allegation that there are somehow 'dangers' to home education, as though this is fact, is the usual lazy, deceitful, inflammatory, completely unforgiveable conflation of education and welfare that we've come to expect from people like this. It's as insightful as saying, for schoolchildren, "Half term has dangers!" Some families have dangers. A big proportion of these families send their kids to school. Some don't. These kids are very visible. People *know* if you don't send your kids to school. Relevant agencies already have all the powers they need to deal with any welfare or educational concerns. I realise I've already said this, but apparently it bears repeating, because apparently Mr Badman, the Welsh Assembly Government, and any number of local authorities who keep banging on about safeguarding and monitoring just have not noticed.

"If the (Westminster) government were to reconsider, of course there are issues around curriculum, resources and attainment." Yes, that home education outstrips school on all of these. 

"But they would, in my view, have to consider safeguarding issues first and foremost." At least he's said it this time, "in my view." It's just his own ill-informed and doggedly-stuck-to bias. He's like the old man at the end of the bar, pint of mild in hand, grumbling on about immigrants (apologies for the analogy to any real-life elderly mild-drinking gentlemen who positively welcome a multi cultural society).

Professor Badman's comments come as the Commons Education Select Committee is again investigating home education... Hmmm, well if that's not deliberately misleading then I'm a snowman named Bert. (I'm not, by the way.) The phrase 'investigating home education' insinuates some wrongdoing, that something sinister is being looked into. Burglaries are investigated. Murders are investigated. What the Select Committee is looking into is the support that is offered to home educators by councils. 

...including the duties of local authorities and whether the Westminster government needs to change its approach to supporting home educators. Ok, now it could just be me being over sensitive, but based on the tone of the rest of the article I think it's warranted: This sounds like it's suggesting that the government is currently supportive of home education, and this Select Committee is looking into whether they need to stop being supportive. So either the journalist isn't very good at using words to say what he means, or he's very good at using them to say what he means but is biased. Either way, #JournoFail

Education Select Committee members in the last Parliament described Professor Badman's 2009 report as "flawed" and "badly handled". But, despite the fallout, he is still keen to see his recommendations enacted. How very Veruca Salt of him. "My report was roundly discredited but I want it, I want it, I WANT IT!!!" *stamps foot*

The Labour government in Cardiff Bay is consulting on a similar set of plans, after recent figures suggested that the number of home-educated children is on the rise in Wales, from 722 in 2009-10 to 986 in 2011-12. You'd think a rise in people declining their services would prompt them to look at *improving* their services, but I guess this is government we're talking about, so best get licencing those pesky people hey.

Education minister Leighton Andrews said current legislation has "shortcomings" because there is no legal duty on a parent to tell their local authority their child is being home educated. Or shop at Next, or eat broccoli, or have blankets instead of duvets, or like Enid Blyton...

Professor Badman said there would probably be "relatively muted responses from local authorities and strong responses from home educators"No really? Strong responses from those people whom you're smearing yet again? Strong reponses from those people whose lives would be affected? Strong responses from those people whose children's lives you want to take control of?

"The government need to balance that against what they are trying to achieve. The rights of all children should be foremost in their minds," he added. Yes. They need to get a big set of balancing scales, set what they're trying to achieve on one end, and drop the weight of response from home educators onto the other, flinging their damn agenda into oblivion once and for all. If the rights of children were really foremost in their minds, they would understand that the majority of parents want the absolute best for their children; they wouldn't seek to make the state the overidingly important part of every child's life; they would use the powers that they already have to help the children that really are at risk, instead of hounding the ones that decline their services.

Home educators in Wales have reacted angrily to the plans and have already gathered more than 900 signatures on a petition. Mike Fortune-Wood, who edits the journal Home Education, has called the Welsh government's plans a "retrograde step" that would change the relationship between parents, children and the state. Indeed. The petition is here for anyone else that wants to support it (every signature helps!).

Professor Badman said he understood the concerns. "I think it's this notion of the state intruding on something they hold to be deeply private," he said. "I don't think registration is about that. It's about safety and receiving a suitable education." Oh for goodness sake. Is he really not getting tired of this? For safety, see here, here, here, here and above, and for education, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, hereherehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here... well, you get the idea, yes?

"I'm not saying home education doesn't work; in many cases it does. There are many examples of home-educated children who have thrived. This is about minimising risk." Rhetoric, blah, ignorance, blah, the cry of the man with no evidence because there is none blah blah blah.

He added that the Welsh government must ensure suitable support for home educators, and understand how home education differs from regular schooling. 

Here's a difference for you. Schooling is something to do with the government, home education really isn't. So like I said the other day: Butt out. (I did say *relatively* calm and reasoned :) )

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