I have been reading the transcript from yesterdays House of Commons Debate on the Schools and family Bill. It begins with the debacle over sex ed forced onto primary school children, which I will try and cover in a later post.
Then some Labour bloke called McShane admits that there is some concerns over clause 26 of the bill which he said was about “home teaching”. I have to say that while he was cautiously asking for “flexibility” because of the concerns, I wasn’t impressed. First of all, what kind of flexibility does he think there can be over removing family rights? Secondly I would like to think that those debating a bill, especially the more contentious parts-and baring in mind they take home a pretty good wage for doing so- would have at least read it and know the difference between home teaching and home education. But I realise that will never be the case.
Balls dig at the Tories for not wanting to support the Bill was interesting. He was making out that in not supporting this poorly put together and in places (clause 26 for example) downright nasty Bill was a vote against children getting an education.
Now before I talk about EHE lets take a look at one of the other areas this bill is supposed to cover; special educational needs and statementing.
Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): The Secretary of State is aware of the battle that many parents have to go through to get their children statemented-a battle that middle-class articulate parents often succeed in.
This quote (end of column 432) just about says it all.
Once upon a time I worked as a volunteer classroom assistant for deaf children in a Deaf Unit attached to a mainstream primary school. Back then, 1982-1985 it was shockingly difficult for parents to get their children a statement of educational need. Some time later I studied for an Advanced Diploma in Special Educational Needs with the Open University; can’t remember the exact dates and can’t be bothered to hunt out the cert but it was around 1996ish. One of the major issues we covered in the modules was just how difficult it was for parents, especially the less legal savvy or articulate ones, to get proper educational provision or a statement for their child. The other thing I remember from that Diploma is some other students who were teachers were paying to do the course themselves as heads would not train SENCOs and they complained that often the worst teacher was removed from classroom duties and made SENCO as a way of getting her out of the way!
All I can say is I am grateful the SENCO for my children in primary school was excellent and committed.
Then around 2000 to 2002 I worked as an integration assistant with a deaf child. Did he have a statement? Of course not. Although he was deaf all day he could only have me for two hours a day. The rules had changed so a child like him who had been due for a statement was considered a Level 5 need which didn’t entitle him to nearly as much help.
The fact is that while the Tories are utterly culpable for their time in power and their insistence on closing as many special schools and units as possible without due care for the children-Labour have had the chance over 12 years to put some things right; statements would have been a start. Not only have they not done so, but while my own children were on special needs Labour kept changing the rules about what they were allowed and what constituted ‘special’. While the kids needs didn’t change, the rules about what they were allowed did; and you can bet it was never for the better.
How on earth can Balls and his mates be so smug about all this. The very fact the question about lack of statements for children who require then is still being asked shows they are abject failures.
We also heard this:
Daniel Kawczynski: The biggest problem is the huge difference in funding across the United Kingdom. The average Shropshire child receives about £3,300 per annum for his or her education, whereas in other parts of the country the figure can be as high as £9,000, £10,0000 or £11,000. What is there in the Bill to redress that huge difference in funding levels?
And how much per child does a home educating parent receive for their education? NOTHING not a penny. In fact we have paid tax and still do for an education this Government can’t and wont provide.
Balls of course couldn’t answer the question properly. Instead he said the Tories would cut the schools budget. Of course they would. In case dear old Balls hasn’t noticed the country is up to its eyes in debt. The amount of waste that must be happening where PER CHILD £10 or £11 k is being handed over must be ridiculous.
Meanwhile those of us home educating even children with some special needs get harassment and threats, but no actual useful support.
I wish I believed the Tories would do anything about this, but I have lived and worked through their regime too and I haven’t forgotten (or forgiven) the appalling way Mrs Thatcher treated vulnerable children and adults. There was no excuse then, and there is no excuse now.