I’ve been trying to get a chance to blog about the whole issue of child protection, partly because of some training which we’ve just done at the Council and partly because of the home education issue (with the publication of the Badman Review).
First, the training we have all had to go through at the Council recently, involved the safeguarding of vunerable groups, in this case it was about children. The social worker running the group works as a free-lance just involved with training but he’s worked in local government for most of his career. Given that it was roughly 3 hours, I came out of it with a different view of things.
It was very interesting, even if it wasn’t directly job-related, but a real eye-opener. There were two bits which i’ll probably remember for a while. We had to do some group stuff, which can be a bit awkward, but the first bit involved standing in a circle (group of about 30 people) and throwing soft toys around and seeing who dropped them and how many we could keep going etc.
Once we’d done that for a bit, he then told us about some stats for his profession. He said that any social worker is recommended to only hold 12 cases at any one time, given the complexity and seriousness of each case. He said the average in this country is 40-50 cases. This is more than 3 times the level they recommend.
The interesting bit was then to do the exercise again, but this time, he said, each toy represented a child life! This made huge difference to the way people took part! Much slower, very deliberate, but the problem was, as he started throwing more toys in, mistakes started to happen, but the toys had to be left on the ground.
Scary stuff really. He was also talking about who is ‘responsible’ for that childs death/injury etc, and who is ‘accountable’. The actual person harming the child would be responsible, but the hard bit for the social worker is that they would be held accountable for it, especially by the media/general public.
This whole idea can also be linked to the rules and regs governing the protection of children in schools, public places and at home. Given we had to have this training, it seems that there has been some kind of increased focus on the issue from on high.
Right after this, Claire started telling me about the Badman Review (see p.25 – summary of recommendations), which is the report by Graham Badman on the home education system.
Part of the issue seems to be setting up a system of regulation for home schooling and exactly how this will operate. This would involve more ‘interfereance’ in our lives and apparently reduce our civil liberties. As you might expect, there are many and varied viewpoints on the subject. The civil liberties debate will run and run and as with most issues humans tend to discuss/ debate/argue over, there is no right or wrong answer, only a very wide grey spectrum of colours. What will work for one group/person may not for another etc. I am naturally suspicious of people who claim to have the ‘right’ answer, unles of course they are a maths teacher!
Overall, I generally try to set out the ideas in terms of principles, just as in my urban design job. Rather than looking at details to start with, looking at the bigger picture is essential.
The very first cover letter page of the report uses the term ‘safeguarding’, which links directly with our training. It seems the main issue is about making sure children are adequately protected, when they are taken away from the more public (but not always safer) school environment.
Page 1 of the main report shows a quote, which I would agree sums up the whole issue:
“The need to choose, to sacrifice some ultimate values to others, turns out to be a permanent characteristic of the human predicament.” Isiah Berlin
The report states that there may be as many as 80,000 children in home education and from all the info i’ve absorbed, this is meant to be rising fast. Badman’s point about legislation essentially being adopted to cover a minority of children is a well-known idea and to be perfectly honest, I would agree with it.
Another issue is that of access to children, to see if they are indeed getting educated and not getting harmed. As a principle, this is completely logical. This is not to say the same overseeing arrangements are applicable to home educated kids as for school educated kids – they aren’t, but some kind of monitoring will help to protect a section of these kids, it’s just how far do you go along this route?
The case law stated in the report is also highly vague and unspecific and gives a lot of scope to the parents. There are however a fair few policies that those in power must consider: United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) articles 12 & 28, general case law, The Education Act 1996, local authority requirements, European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 2.
I would argue that if you have made a reasoned decision to home educate, you will know more about the laws and systems than most of the other parents who send their kids to school (most of whom would not even have considered there are other options).
In my limited experience to date of parents who choose to home educate their kids, they are generally an intelligent and educated bunch, who are quite capable of working with the system and defending thier chosen lifestyle.
Ok, this is getting to be a bit of a rambling essay but it’s very relevant to our own, and others situations.
The Badman report concludes each section with a recommendation. I’m in the process of looking at these and will post again once i’ve read them – this post is already too long!!