Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Today, eat with chopsticks


Our Very Own Monitoring Policy

I have today introduced a monitoring policy for the staff at Barking and Dagenham Elective Home Education Department:





Many people make a success of holding down a job whilst also complying with the law, and make at least satisfactory provision.  However, because local authority staff are not monitored and supervised by the general public whom they serve, there is the potential for abuse of their power, and neglect to properly follow existing law and procedures, to go unnoticed.  This possibility has been thrown into sharp relief by some recent high-profile cases in which children have died due to failures by local authorities to follow proper and legal procedures.


The law gives no power or duty for members of the public to investigate any instances of people working for the Elective Home Education department which come to their attention, unless there are grounds for suspicion that a law is being broken in which case, as with all breaches of law, this can be reported to the appropriate authorities.  This is clearly an untenable position in that, without gathering information in a reasonably systematic way, the public will have little basis on which to judge. 



  • ·        There is no statutory right to see the local authority staff or to enter the place at which they work, or their home.
  • ·        Monitoring of them by the public is not required in law and it is therefore difficult to engage with elective home education staff who are resistant or resentful of the people they serve wanting to ensure they are not acting outside the law.

The above might lead a member of the public to decide not to engage with monitoring the local authority staff themselves.  However, despite clear difficulties and impediments, I will do all I can to monitor each case which comes to my attention. I view this as important in order to safeguard families to whom these public servants try to gain access. Monitoring also provides the opportunity to offer local authority staff advice on the actual law and to signpost opportunities available for either complying with the law or finding another career. This is not a statutory role for members of the public but is clearly desirable in the interests of supporting children and families in the face of local authority staff who have no clue. The vast majority of parents subscribe strongly to their responsibility to act as Champion for their Child.



Where it is necessary to point out weaknesses, we should always seek to sustain positive relationships with the staff member no matter how much they have acted outside the law to try and gain access to people's homes and families.  It is important to encourage the local authority to cooperate.  If this is not done, monitoring them may become difficult or impossible.


It may also be appropriate to discuss the elective home education team's reasons for taking up their positions.  If they are not working to support home education for philosophical reasons, it may be helpful to suggest ways of accessing a suitable and acceptable alternative career via the job centre or the opportunities section in their local newspaper.

The notion of EHE policy being based on bias towards school, erroneous conflation of education and welfare, and a complete misunderstanding of home education, is unconvincing in relation to the law.  The very existence of relevant laws implies that the local authority should work within them, not simply follow the random choices of their ultra vires policy writers.  It is probably insufficient for the local authority simply to begin with complete ignorance and, well, continue in that vein. 

If access to the EHE team's offices or homes was denied to the member of the public, the commentary should make clear the degree to which the public servant was willing to engage with the process and the nature of the interaction (ie entering their home without the support of law).

A summary judgement should be made about the degree to which the compliance with the law is suitable 

    • Positive judgements would be likely to arise from:
      • EHE staff members complying with the law
      • EHE staff members not working outside the law
      • EHE staff members not lying, either verbally or in written form, about what the law actually says
    • Negative judgements would be likely to arise from:
      • LA policies that make up the law and guidance as they go
      • LA policies that show clear bias towards school
      • LA policies that show a complete ignorance of how different types of home education work.
      • LA policies that clearly conflate education with welfare
      • LA policies that show bias against families who don't allow access to their home to random strangers who have decided they want to see your kids. I mean, really.
      • LA staff that write in green biro. (Hey, it's my policy, ok?)
Appendix 4     Record of unsuccessful attempts made to monitor Elective Home Education staff members

This form should be used to record all unsuccessful attempts to make arrangements to monitor the activities of the Elective Home Education staff in their offices and homes.  The record must be accurate since the evidence could be used in any legal action which may de decided upon. 

To summarise, although this entire policy of monitoring these public servants at their place of work and in their homes has no basis in law, could likely be seen as intrusive, and easily construed as harrassment, I'm going to implement it anyway. No arguments from EHE teams I'm assuming? Barking and Dagenham? No? After all, your sterling work is what inspired me. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Chugging along...

So in this week's news, Sprout rode a horse without a lead rein for the first time! He has a lesson every two or three weeks and enjoys it massively; he's had about five or six lessons in total and is really progressing. The pony he rides is called Sammy and has a heart on his bottom. Here's the proud boy...


It was our fifth wedding anniversary too this week so we organised a day out to the Midland Railway Centre. After getting ridiculously lost on the way we made it just in time to buy our tickets and leap on the train at Butterly Station. 



Sprout and Squidge loved how different it was to modern trains they've been on: the smoke coming past the window, all the old fashioned fittings (glass lampshades, wooden tables), the wheels and pistons.  We had a ride down to the other end of the track, then waited and watched as the engine swapped ends to take us back the other way.



  


At Swanwick Junction we hopped off to have a look at the miniature scale railways (manned by some enthusiasts!), for the boys to have a play on the railway-themed playground...


...and to have a wander round the museum where there were lots of engines and railway memorabilia. The oldest train we saw was from 1872!


I love these old suitcases!


Sprout and Squidge weighing themselves on some luggage scales, and asking me to convert it from kg into stone.


Finn loved this post carriage, and caught this episode of Come Outside this morning which he was excited about.


They both loved getting a close up look at the old fashioned engine here.


And they finished the day with a (bargainous 20p) ride on this little engine :)


Both boys are really into Skylanders again at the moment so they spent the evening pooling their figures to complete missions together and do battle against each other.

Once they were asleep I finally managed to get this Minecraft mod working so Sprout was very excited this morning to be able to get married and have a baby in his Minecraft world. He also discovered Bane of Arthropods today, which prompted a brief conversation about what an arthropod is.

He's now in the middle of making tiffin with Gruff, it's one of our favourite sweet treats...

Crush about 150g of biscuits, and mix a good handful of raisins in. Melt about 100g of butter with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of golden syrup and a heaped tablespoon of cocoa. Mix the melted mixture into the biscuits/raisins, and press the whole lot into a small loose-bottomed foil-lined cake tin. Melt about 250-300g of chocolate and pour onto the top. Refrigerate for an hour or so, then try to get some before the kids eat it all ;)



Friday, 22 June 2012

Back to normal...

So back from Center Parcs and it's back into normal life this week.

Squidge, Moppet and I had a lovely visit to Shugborough Hall on our first day back. Squidge enjoyed the playground and the olde worlde sweetshop, and bought some sheep fleece to leave out for the birds at home around nesting time. I was also *very* excited to find a blacksmith with a working forge who says he'll be happy to talk to Sprout about how pickaxes are made, so that's my quest from here almost fulfilled!

There were also ice lollies (naturally!)...

...and a ride on possibly the world's bumpiest land train :D
Squidge was also very excited about the rabbits in Shugborough's farmyard, which led to a post-trip trip to the pet shop to purchase (*drumroll*)...

Babbit the Rabbit!

Squidge has been exceedingly nervous of animals in recent months so I'm really excited that already he's progressed from stroking Babbit to holding him!

Following Sprout's interest in the beach art of Pete Donelly we bought a nice new rake and took a drive to Formby.

Work in progress...


...and part of the finished 'eye' design (which was a lot bigger than you can tell from this pic!).


While Sprout was engrossed in his design, I spent some lovely time lying alongside this wee lady...

...and looking up at this :)

There was also Squidge's mission to bury Sprout in the sand...

...and a few intervals of me chasing the pair of them across the beach :)

Intermingled between everything else this week Sprout has dome a fair bit of Minecrafting. His favourite thing at the moment is trying out lots of different mods, so my role has been trying to get as many of the ones he likes as possible working at the same time, sometimes with more success than others. I resorted to reinstalling it all again this morning so I could put some new ones on for him as it had got to the point where, more often than not, a new mod was crashing the game. Out go Mario, More Creeps and Weirdos, and Craftable Spawners, in favour of the ones he's most excited about this week which are Minecraft Comes Alive, Minions, and Quidditch, so it looks like I still have a busy evening ahead!

Center Parcs, Elveden Forest

We were lucky enough to have another weekend at Elveden Forest Center Parcs where Sprout and Squidge tried out loads of activities and are still full of energy, and Gruff and I are, well, pooped!
There were slushes...

...the biggest doughnuts I've *ever* seen...

...snuggly time watching Fly Me to the Moon, which I'd never heard of but completely loved...

...hovercrafting with favourite uncle :) ...

...woodland explorations...

...squirrels that break and enter in their quest for nuts...

...adventure playgrounds...

...soft play...

...cuddly brothers and teddy bear ice creams...

...adrenaline-filled simulating...

...pirate golf...

...walks of bravery...

...first time rollerskating...


...a happy Moppet...

...loving brother moments...

...glow bowling...

...duck spotting...

...rabbit watching...

...Mario Karting (at which Finn completely kicked ass!!)...

...pedaloing...

...and crown-making for baby sister :)

We've booked to go back on our own next year - can't wait!

Busy busy! Cosford RAF Museum

I usually keep photos and memories on Facebook of all the stuff we do, but it's getting increasingly difficult to go back and find specific things, so I thought I'd start popping some things on here so I can come back and enjoy them as and when!

We've had a pretty busy couple of weeks with trips out and weekends away. We had a day at Cosford RAF Museum with some other Home Educators. Sprout and Squidge both love it there and have been quite a few times, and to top it off it's free!

Ice creams...


...aerodynamics...

...flight plans...

...electronics (one of Finn's favourites so I'm on the lookout for a kit!)...

...plane control...

...payload dropping (a firm favourite where they spend most of their time every visit!)...

...wind speed...

...the Bernoulli effect (for which Snibston also has a good interactive activity)...

...picnics...

...and huuuuge picnicphile rooks!

The hands-on area is fantastic (and has left us with plans to make one of these this coming week), plus there are an enormous number of planes and other military vehicles to look at, and a great Space Race media pod that the boys are both entranced by every time we visit. Squidge is looking at these photos as I type and is asking to go back again soon, so looks like another trip is in the offing!