Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exploring the five outcomes

For linking purposes, this extremely lengthy post combines my personal exploration into each of the ECM five outcomes, in the 2nd week of February 2009. For comments on each individual post, please follow the links below:

"Make a positive contribution" and the "Path to success"

Boiling frogs, but making them achieve economic wellbeing first

Be healthy

Enjoy and achieve

And finally: stay safe


"Make a positive contribution" and the "Path to success"

My mission here today is to try to pin down a reliable definition of that mysterious 4th item in the worryingly dictatorial list of five outcomes with which our children are apparently supposed to be complying. They're all vague, but the fourth one is perhaps the vaguest of the lot, so I thought we'd start with that. Hopefully it will get easier as we go along. (The fifth one, unfortunately, is getting clearer to understand by the month [opens pdf], and I'm planning to blog more about that over there later on. Update: here it is.)

So I'm guessing that 'Make a positive contribution' probably amounts to a bit more that donating a weekly part of your spending money towards a programme that seeks to deprive some African children of their health and liberty. It will, knowing our quaintly aspiring One World Government, have something to do with criteria and tick-boxes, and the pointless consumption of time. There will, no doubt, be some stick and carrot involved and it might be even worse than that: let's see.

My question is: make a positive contribution to what? The answer will no doubt be: "Society," - whatever that is, nowadays. How can a child make a positive contribution to society? By smiling at passing old people, maybe? Skipping around and generally spreading happiness? Is that what the government had in mind? Hmmm. What do you think?

Wish me luck. I am about to dive into the deep and murky realms of and associated areas to try and find out more. I may never return.

Well, here is a pdf chart about all five outcomes, though I can't read it without finding a zoom button. Oh, how neat! Each five outcome also has five aims! So it builds up like a little pyramid. What a surprise. The five aims of "Make a positive contribution" are:

  • Engage in decision making and support the community and environment

  • Engage in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school

  • Develop positive relationships and choose not to bully and discriminate

  • Develop self confidence and successfully deal with significant life changes and challenges

  • Develop enterprising behaviour

Right. Well, my children have cleared some snow from our road this week and we have never refused the loan of a cup of sugar to a neighbour, when asked. Does that sufficiently 'support the community'? I'm guessing not really, but I don't know for sure yet.

What's 'positive behaviour'? Another definition to track down. Ditto 'positive relationships'. And yes, of course they choose not to bully or discriminate. They also choose not to try and impose convoluted laws onto other people that transform brains into spaghetti - does that count for anything?

Number 4, check. Number five, check - they're starting their own business this month. But it can't be that easy, can it? If so, it was hardly worth bothering with legislation for.

Let's dig deeper.

The next level down the pyramid takes us into the brave new world of some things called PSAs and DSOs. National Public Service Agreements and DCSF Departmental Strategic Objectives, and the ones relating to "Make a positive contribution" are apparently as follows:

  • PSA 14 – Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success;

  • PSA 9 – Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020

  • PSA 20 – Increase long term housing supply and affordability

  • PSA 21 – Build more cohesive, empowered and active communities

  • PSA 26 – Reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism

"Supported by:"

  • DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objectives to ensure young people are participating and achieving their potential to 18 and beyond (DSO 5); and

  • keep children and young people on the path to success (DSO 6)

"Path to success" looks a bit ominous, doesn't it? It comes in for several mentions, so it must be something important. We'll find out exactly what it means soon, but the other question that springs to my mind is this: at least half of those subsections relate to action by Local Authorities, not children at all. So why are children being made to comply with them? Something doesn't quite add up, which is probably a clue to something else.

It looks like I'm going to have to read some of these PSAs and DSOs if I want to find out more.

But wait: we haven't got to the bottom levels of the pyramid yet. Here they are:

National Indicators [relating to "Make a positive achievement"]:

"Quality of life indicators":

  • NI 79 (PSA 10 / DSO 5) Achievement of a Level 2 qualification by the age of 19 – L

  • NI 80 (PSA 10 / DSO 5) Achievement of a Level 3 qualification by the age of 19 – L

  • NI 85 (PSA 4 / DSO 5) Post-16 participation in physical sciences (A Level
    Physics, Chemistry and maths) – L

  • NI 90 (DSO 5) Take up of 14–19 learning diplomas – L

  • NI 91 (DSO 5) Participation of 17 year-olds in education or training – L

  • NI 110 (PSA 14 / DSO 6) More participation in Positive Activities – L

  • NI 15 (PSA 23) Serious violent crime rate

  • NI 28 Serious knife crime rate

  • NI 29 (PSA 23) Gun Crime Rate

  • NI 174 Skills gap in the current workforce reported by employers; and

"Quality of service measures":

  • NI 19 (PSA 23 / DSO 6) Rate of proven reoffending by young offenders

  • NI 21 (PSA 23) Dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour by the local council police

  • NI 24 Satisfaction with the way police and local council deal with anti-social behaviour

  • NI 25 Satisfaction of different groups about the way the police and local council dealt with antisocial behaviour

  • NI 27 Understanding of local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime by the local council and police

  • NI 35 (PSA 26) Building resilience to violent extremism

  • NI 43 (DSO 6) Young people within the youth justice system receiving a conviction in court are sentenced to custody

  • NI 44 (DSO 6) Ethnic composition of offenders in Youth Justice System disposals

  • NI 45 (DSO 6) Young offenders engaged in suitable education, training or employment

  • NI 46 (DSO 6) Young offenders’ access to suitable accommodation

  • NI 149 (PSA 16) Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in settled accommodation

  • NI 150 (PSA 16) Adults in contact with secondary mental health services in employment

The sheer quantity is completely off-putting, isn't it? And some of the points look quite reasonable: I can especially see why, for example, people might be concerned about anti-social behaviour by the local council and police ;-)

On the other hand, some of it looks worrying from a home educator's point of view. I don't even know what "level 2 and 3 qualifications" are. Do you?

We must not be disheartened though, and stay focused on our objectives, the first of which is to find out what is officially meant here by 'Path to success', and that, I fear, will require the reading of a PSA, or a DSO. Which do you fancy?

PSA 14 looks like a juicy one: "Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success". I'll have to Google to find it. Here it is. [Opens pdf] At first glance, it reads like the signposts in a labour ward: Vision; Measurement; Delivery Strategy; Measurement annex; and Delivery annex.

But come on, what exactly is the "path to success"? It's quite exciting to think that we might find out in a minute, don't you think?

Introduction: Five outcomes... Children's Plan (Urgh, I'd better read that too).. blah blah..

1.3 This document sets out the delivery strategy for increasing the number of children and young people on the path to success. Most young people are already on that path. They do well at school make a successful transition to adult life and go on to build successful careers and families.

Yes, but what is it?

They're not allowed to be NEET, yes, we knew that.. Oh blimey, it looks like there are "eight key priorities" coming up. These people love their little sets and bullet points, don't they?

The 'Vision' bit doesn't really say much. Lots of words: no real information. Onto 'Measurement':

The PSA measures progress in increasing successful transitions to adulthood in terms of increased participation and resilience, and tackling negative outcomes

Indicator 1: reducing NEETs.. indicator 2.. oh, here we are.

More Participation in Positive Activities

AAaaargh! Look at this!

Participating in high quality structured activities is a key element in improving the prospects of all young people

Then it goes on about extended schools etc...

This will give children and young people opportunities to
participate in diversionary activities which are both developmental and fun.

Diversionary activities..?

The Children’s Plan established a new goal that by 2020 all young people will be participating in positive activities.

All young people.

The next bit's about drugs, booze, under-age pregnancy, and breaking the law. None of which are - strangely - usually a problem in home educating families. But force all of our 'children and young people' into "high quality structured activities" and that might change.

I'm fast running out of staying power, but "Delivery Strategies" is next. It contains the word 'incentivizing', which is enough in itself to make me crave huge bars of dark chocolate with cherries in it.

Anyway, here are the "8 priority actions":

1. integrating and simplifying governance, accountability and performance management for the PSA at every level – central, regional and local;
2. tackling problems associated with individual service thresholds by, where appropriate, re-allocating available resources across service boundaries and pooling budgets which target similar groups of young people;
3. incentivising effective programmes and interventions – including those in the third sector – where there is strong evidence of impact, and supporting commissioners and the frontline to apply them more widely;
4. ensuring there is a strategy in place to invest in the development of the workforce to support young people and to deliver the ambitions of this PSA;
5. embedding and building on strategies to empower and secure the active participation of young people and their families in the commissioning, design and delivery of services – actively seeking the engagement of all groups, including the most vulnerable;
6. ensuring that the role of schools, colleges, work-based learning providers and youth support services in delivering this PSA is widely understood and acted upon;
7. ensuring that the contribution that other key public services should make to this PSA is widely understood and acted upon; and
8. ensuring there are robust systems in place for the identification of, and interventions for, young people who do not attend school.

I'm stopping there. I can't go on - not today, anyway. The sun is shining, the children are waking, the snow is beckoning, breakfast is cooking.. blue skies.. those things that make us feel alive and free and sane.

But to sum up, Mr Badman hasn't been asked to review Home Education to find out whether our children can achieve those airy fairy vague five outcomes like smiling at passing old people. Of course he hasn't. His remit (and his substantial grounding in the programme of events as set out for our society for the next twelve years) is to be employed in ascertaining to what extent we can be made to fit in with the above intrinsically complicated set of criteria.

Number 8 of the last list is one that should perhaps be of particular concern to us.


Boiling frogs, but making them achieve economic wellbeing first

No, we haven't been doing bizarre science experiments. I'm referring to this:

The boiling frog story states that a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough — it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out.

The story is generally told in a figurative context, with the upshot being that people should make themselves aware of gradual change lest they suffer a catastrophic loss. Often it is used to illustrate a slippery-slope argument. For example, many civil libertarians argue that even minor increases in government authority, which may seem less noteworthy, make future increases in that authority more likely: what would once have seemed a huge power grab, the argument goes, now becomes seen as just another incremental increase, and thus appears more palatable. In the boiling-frog allegory, the frog represents the citizenry, whilst the gradual heating of the water represents the incremental encroachment of government.

So there. We are all frogs, being slowly boiled alive, without even noticing. Or at least, most of us aren't noticing. This water's getting nice and warm though, isn't it?

Back to the five outcomes. Do you have the stomach to look at another one, after yesterday? I'm not sure I do, but it needs to be done. Still, it should be quicker than yesterday now that we know something about how it all works.

Today I want to focus on the 5th one: Achieve economic wellbeing because I think it's probably one of the most dangerous of the five, if indeed any of them can be said to be less so. In yesterday's post, we saw that making a positive contribution means the compulsory attendance of 'diversionary activities' (in Extended Schools) as well as being on the 'path to success', which seems to mean the taking of specific exams. This is set out in a so-called 'Public Service Agreement' (I didn't agree - did you?) which makes it crystal clear that it means all children. No exceptions.

Hopefully we will be able to nail Achieve economic wellbeing down in the same way today, but isn't it strange that we're having to dig so deeply to find the real meanings of these outcomes? Wouldn't you think an honest government that had our best interests at heart (and didn't enjoy boiling frogs) would make it a bit easier for us to find out what was going on?

So to go back to the outcomes framework [opens pdf]. Take out your magnifying glasses, everyone...

ECM framework

The five Achieve economic wellbeing 'aims' are:

  • Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school;
  • Ready for employment;
  • Live in decent homes and sustainable communities;
  • Access to transport and material goods; and
  • Live in households free from low income.

(If you're not starting to smell a rat - or a boiling frog - yet, you perhaps didn't read this yesterday.)

The PSAs and DSOs (see yesterday's post for definitions of those) are the same as for Make a positive contribution, which seems strange in itself given that every other outcome has its own set of them. I think PSA9 might be worth a look:

PSA 9 – Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020 [opens pdf]

- though I bet it contains few surprises.

Yes, it's all about

tackling worklessness, by making work a sustainable route out poverty, and by addressing barriers to work such as availability of childcare.

It looks like it goes back to a slightly lower frog-pot temperature setting, before it was recently raised with the anti-poverty bill about which I blogged elsewhere yesterday.

Lone parents come in for a special mention:

For lone parents: the Government will continue to drive forward employment programmes to help lone parents enter and sustain employment.

- because of course it's well-established that their children do better when separated from their mothers at the earliest possible age - not. They use terms like 'drive forward' which make me think of a herdsman with his cattle.

3.7 To support parents into work, the Government will focus on: lone parents, couple parents and disabled parents.

Are there any other kind of parents? Oh yes: foster parents, who are exempt from it all - I don't know whether you're seeing an incentivization message in that or not.

3.12 Job Centre Plus is a key stakeholder in local strategic partnerships, providing a co-ordinated focus across childcare, child poverty and the Welfare to Work programme. Job Centre Plus also plays a vital co-ordinating role in the use of available funding streams to support the development of integrated Welfare to Work services tailored to the needs of the local community.

For 'Welfare to Work', read 'slave labour'. I sympathise with the argument that people shouldn't get money for nothing, but not if they're being given no alternative. Self-sufficiency, of the cash-free, 'Good Life' variety, is no longer an allowed option. And you might be disregarding all of this, thinking it doesn't apply to you because you're not a lone parent and your partner is in employment, but if you claim Child Tax Credits, then it does. If your gross income, without state help, is less than £29,000 (for a couple with two children - for other figures see here) then it does. If you are not working, then it does. ("The Government believes that every parent who could work, should do so.") If one of you is made redundant, it does and if your partner leaves you, it does. No family is immune from this, especially in the current economic climate.

Increasing take-up of formal childcare
3.13 To help parents enter and sustain work, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will work with delivery partners to continue implementing the National Childcare Strategy. Work will continue to stimulate demand for formal childcare by improving information for parents about the benefits, choices and financial help available. The Government will ensure that increased demand for childcare is met through new duties on local authorities and the roll out of Children’s Centres and Extended Schools. The Government will also invest £35m to improve the provision of childcare for families with disabled children.7 This will start in 10 pilot local authorities, with best practice rolled out in 2010-11.

Your child will attend a Children's Centre and/or Extended School programme. Remember from yesterday's post?

The Children’s Plan established a new goal that by 2020 all young people will be participating in positive activities.

Now we know what 'positive activities' are. Also known as 'diversionary' (in Extended Schools). All young people. No exceptions.

Job Centre Plus will be incentivised by new Job Outcome Targets to place parents into work.

3.19 The Government is determined to ensure that parents are able to choose childcare provision which best meets their needs and those of their children.

- but not if this choice entails them bringing up their children themselves.

Mr Graham Badman has been chosen to lead this review because of his deep understanding of the Every Child Matters programme. In his previous incarnation as Managing Director for Children, Families and Education at Kent County Council (*note: children and families need managing and directing..) he received a 'good to outstanding' Ofsted performance assessment [opens pdf] for compliance with the Framework [opens pdf].

His current remit is to ascertain whether and how home educating families can also be made to comply. I think that we might be the awkward frogs. ;-)


Be healthy

I think we know by now, after looking at 'Make a positive contribution' and 'Achieve economic wellbeing' that 'Be healthy' isn't going to have an awful lot to do with, well - actually being healthy.

If it did, then like the rest of the five outcomes, it wouldn't really bear close inspection. As a passing thought, it sounds like quite a laudable aim: of course, everyone wants to be healthy, don't they? The government is just being helpful and caring. This is what you're supposed to think.

But - as many home educating parents have pointed out - what about those children who, for whatever reason, can't be healthy? Do sick children somehow fail the test? As soon as you start thinking about these five outcomes, what passes for the logic in them starts to fall apart.

From the Framework [opens pdf] we can see that the five aims of 'Be healthy' are:

  • Physically healthy;
  • Mentally and emotionally healthy;
  • Sexually healthy;
  • Healthy lifestyles; and
  • Choose not to take illegal drugs.

(Don't get me started on the risks of taking legal drugs! But obviously doing so would be classed as being 'healthy' in ECM Wonderland.)

And of course, none of that says what it actually means. To find that out, we have to go down at least one more level of the pyramid and read some other documents. Down we go..

  • PSA 12 – Improve the health and well-being of children and young people
  • PSA 22 – Deliver a successful Olympic and Paralympics games with a sustainable legacy and get more children and young people taking part in high quality PE and sport
  • PSA 25 – Reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drugs
  • Supported by: DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objective to secure the well-being and health of children and young people (DSO 1)

You thought the Olymics had nothing to do with your child's health? Think again.

Onto PSA 12. Let's see what's in there..

Here it is [opens pdf].

1.3 Children and young people are healthier now than ever but inequalities persist. There has been a sharp increase in child obesity and rates of mental health disorders remain worryingly high.

And they seriously wonder why?

The PSA will be delivered only by looking at all aspects of the child’s
life in the round by making strong links to a number of the Government’s other PSAs.

This is how it works. I'm starting to think that recent events like that UNICEF report were part of this frog-boiling process. It certainly highlighted a 'problem' in need of a 'solution'. When it was published, I said: "If all this report does is increase investment in forced education systems to the age of 19 and sanction governments' planned further incursions into peaceful family life then I think it can only damage children's genuine well-being," and I certainly still stand by that in the light of what we're finding out now.

1.5 Getting the right help at the right time is key – from health visiting, midwifery teams, general practitioners and others. With greater co-location, Sure Start Children’s Centres have a key role in delivering this support, including guidance, health protection, promotion and surveillance to all children and families, including those at risk of becoming obese.

What does 'co-location' mean? They're building more of them? They're moving families closer to the ones they've already built? I don't want to get my parenting support from a government-sponsored Children's Centre. I want to get it from my friends, my family and my neighbours please. I prefer bonds to bridges. Is that choice still mine to make?

1.7 Adolescence brings new challenges with increased exposure to risky health behaviour. The Government’s PSA 14 to increase the number of children and young people on the path to success, aims to help young people make healthy choices as they grow up to become adults and, potentially, parents themselves.

Oh yes, that's the one about making them all attend school between 8am and 6pm isn't it? 'Diversionary activities' etc. But my teenaged children made healthy choices just from being allowed to think for themselves. Is that option still open to us?

Emotional health and wellbeing will be measured through the annual ‘TellUs’ survey of children and young people from 2008.

What's the ‘TellUs’ survey? Oh. It's this [opens pdf], if you've the stomach for it.

Back to PSA12.

3.1 The delivery strategy for this PSA focuses on:
• prevention – helping children and families lead healthy lifestyles;
• early intervention – identifying risks and difficulties early and offering help promptly; and
• effective support from practitioners.

Call me paranoid, but it's words like 'offering' and 'help' that really worry me, coming from government. What was it Reagan said? "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." And that's before we get started on 'early intervention'.

• review the levers of health and children’s services reform to ensure they support an increased focus on the health and wellbeing of children and young people;
• develop a national coalition of interests with statutory and third sector partners who need to work together to drive progress;

Ohh they're talking about driving things again, like the herdsman with his cattle. And: levers of services? And all that 'third sector' stuff is definitely fishy, though I haven't explored it enough to work out exactly why yet. When I do, I might start somewhere like here.

• develop effective communication with children, young people, mothers and fathers so that they understand: the importance of health and wellbeing to their lives; where to get advice and support; and how they can influence the design and delivery of services.

Is "Leave us alone please," still an option? Is this still going to be a two-way communication?

3.6 Ultimately, the key to success will be empowering children and families to meet their own health goals.

If we consider that we've met them, can we then be left alone?

Improving health for individuals involves changing behaviour in some way, which in turn means understanding what a healthy choice is and being motivated to make that choice when there are less healthy options. Using the knowledge gained from past successful experience and an understanding of how individuals can be motivated to make personal change, services will support children, young people and their parents to:
• make informed choices about eating healthily, making breastfeeding the norm, keeping fit and avoiding risky behaviour such as smoking, unprotected sex, and substance misuse;
• influence the services they want to support them, for example, in how they want to access health advice and information, help transform school food, access and help design play facilities, or shape local services for disabled children and young people.

I guess not.

3.11 The single most important factor in delivering aspirations for children is a world class workforce..

Yawn.. surprise surprise.. Oh wait, they're not kidding:

The DCSF has set out what has already been achieved and commitments over the next three years in Building Brighter Futures: next steps for the Children’s Workforce.9 It also describes the challenges that still need to be addressed.

Another pdf to read? Has the government got a strategy for active interevention of the prevention of death by pdf??? Probably.

The following chills me to the bone. Does it you?

3.14 Support during pregnancy and the first years is particularly important – this is a significant window of opportunity where mothers, fathers and carers are receptive to help and where the neurological development of children is most rapid and vulnerable. To ensure it is underpinned by the right skills and expertise, training and clinical governance, DH will review its standard for the CHPP and publish commissioning guidance that updates the programme in the light of new knowledge, integrates parenting support and offers support for all and more help for those who need it most.

A 'window of opportunity' when parents are receptive and children are vulnerable. I don't know. If you're happy about the mainstream medical industry and you like the idea of the state taking care of everyone's health, then you probably won't see a problem with this. If you're slightly more cynical, or have different views or experiences, you will.

• promoting the social and emotional skills of children and young people to improve their personal resilience;

I do that myself, just by natural parenting. Am I still allowed to, or is it to be out of my hands now?

• offering a varied menu of activities and childcare between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm, including sports activities, play and other recreational activities;

Thanks, but are we allowed to opt out of this without ringing any alarm bells? It's just that I want to actually know my children as they're growing up, which means spending some time with them myself.

• offering parenting support including structured parenting programmes, information sessions, for example, encouraging healthy lifestyles;

What is the point of offering structured parenting programmes when the children are to be hardly ever at home or actually with their parents?

We're missing something here, though, aren't we? "With rights come responsibilities"? "Parents have a duty to take up the services offered.."? I wonder when we're getting onto that.

3.42 Delivering against the five priorities in this agreement will also require specific action by Government and delivery partners, ensuring at national, regional and local level that the views of children, young people, mothers and fathers shape the way support is designed and provided. This will ensure that they are empowered to make informed choices about their health, and have real influence on the services they want to support them.

And if the answer is still "Leave us alone, please. We feel perfectly healthy,"?

This document was obviously written by very different people than the others I've read in the past few days. There isn't much talk of stick and carrot, but perhaps it isn't perceived as being necessary in the field of Health, or perhaps I'm reading the wrong document. I can't read any more today: there isn't time.

But to try to tease out what Mr Badman might be looking for, in ascertaining how home educating families can be made to fit with this part of the ECM pyramid, well he'll perhaps be considering factors like NI 57 (PSA 22 / DSO 1): "The percentage of 5-16 year olds participating in at least 2 hours per week of high-quality PE and sport at school and the percentage of 5-19 year olds participating in at least further hours per week of sporting opportunities," in which the use of the words 'at school' might present a problem, even if the "2 hours per week of high- quality PE and sport" doesn't.

My Local Authority provides local home educators with a free sports hall for two hours every week. Does yours? If not, or if you might wish to exercise your freedom to choose not to avail yourself of it, what other activities count as "high-quality PE and sport"? Should we even be trying to comply with this stuff?


Enjoy and achieve

After learning something about what 'be healthy', 'achieve economic wellbeing', and 'Make a positive contribution' really mean, I have a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach about 'enjoy and achieve'. Something tells me it's going to be the worst one of the lot. That word 'enjoy', in a government document like this, is just so Orwellian, isn't it? It makes me think of the Ministry of Love. On the other hand, I am curious to find out exactly how they intend to enforce this 'enjoyment'.

Ha! I've just looked at its five aims on the Framework [opens pdf] and already I hate it. Get this:

  • Ready for school;
  • Attend and enjoy school;
  • Achieve stretching national educational standards at primary school;
  • Achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation; and
  • Achieve stretching national educational standards at secondary school.

Yes, I think home educating families might have some slight difficulty in meeting one or two of those, don't you? I take it we weren't in the forefront of the minds of its authors.

Or perhaps we were.

Associated PSAs and DSOs are as follows:

  • PSA 10 – Raise the educational achievement of all children and young people;
  • PSA 11 – Narrow the gap in educational achievement between children from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers
  • PSA 2 – Improve the skills of the population, on the way to ensuring a worldclass skills base by 2020
  • PSA 4 – Promote world class science and innovation in the UK
  • PSA 15 – Address the disadvantage that individuals experience because of their gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief
  • Supported by: DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objectives to achieve world class standards in education (DSO 3) and
  • close the gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged backgrounds (DSO4)

So we're spoilt for choice. I think I'll have a look at PSA 10 and possibly DSO 3 if there's time to do both before the children wake up.

Well, I've just spent half an hour looking for PSA 10 and can't find it. Can anyone else? I've found plenty of references to it, including one for 'stakeholders' (which turns out to have a slightly different meaning to the one I had in mind) and this:

PSA 10

- which doesn't tell us much, and certainly doesn't relate to home educators.

Let's try DSO 3. Hmm - I'm not having much luck this morning. I can't find that either. I've got sidetracked into a load of stuff about eCAF and other fact sheets, but not even a search on the DCFS's publications page ("What you need, when you need it") will yield a result.

I'll look for the other PSAs and DSOs mentioned in the list and see if I can find anything interesting there instead.

PSA 15 is here - it seems that the Treasury is pretty good at publicising its PSAs (PSA 10 comes from DCFS, who apparently isn't) - but I don't think that contains anything particularly relevant for us.

I'm going to have to try to get to grips with this outcome from another angle, I think. Typing "Enjoy and achieve" into Google led me to this page on the QCA website, which states:

Enjoyment and achievement tend to go hand in hand. If children enjoy learning, enjoy good, supportive relationships with their teachers and peers, enjoy a rich variety of learning experiences and enjoy their leisure time, they are more likely to engage and achieve high standards.

Enjoyment is not just about having fun - it is also about looking back at a 'job well done'; a mission accomplished. Every child has gifts and talents to be uncovered and developed. The challenge for schools is to ensure that all young people see themselves as successful learners and are able to live fulfilling lives.

Pupils need to learn:
  • how to work imaginatively and creatively to develop new ideas, insights and ways of doing things
  • how to assess their skills, achievements and potential in order to set personal goals and achieve their best
  • the joy to be gained from successful learning.

This demands a curriculum full of surprise and challenge. If children are to enjoy learning they need to investigate deeply and widely, build on their own interests and aptitudes, confront the big ideas that shape the world and have the chance to make a difference and take on responsibility.

Schools need to consider the specific needs of all their pupils before designing appropriate learning experiences across every aspect of the curriculum.

The thing is, I think home educators probably do all that much better than schools can.

This lack of relevant documents is very frustrating. What, for example, does "ready for school" mean? I'll try just Googling that and see what comes up. Oh my. A whole 'ready for school' website, that's what. Here is all the stuff we need to buy and do to get our children 'ready for school'. The list of five (another list of five!) necessary skills includes 'Following Direction'. 'Nuff said.

I'll tell you what I did find on my extensive travels this morning though. This little nugget, in here [opens pdf]

1.6 Parents are the best judges of their family’s needs.


And finally: stay safe

In the past four days of studying the ECM five outcomes in a little more detail, we've learned that:

So, does anyone want to hazard a guess at what 'Stay safe' actually means? Let's see..

According to the Framework, 'stay safe's five aims are:

  • Safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation;
  • Safe from accidental injury and death;
  • Safe from bullying and discrimination;
  • Safe from crime and anti-social behaviour in and out of school; and
  • Have security, stability and are cared for.

Well, again, at first glance it looks like home education encompasses all those aims far more successfully than school ever could. But we know by now that it's not likely to be as simple as that.

I hope I have more success than yesterday in locating the relevant PSAs and DSOs for this one, which are as follows:

  • PSA 13 – Improve children and young people’s safety;
  • PSA 16 – Increase the proportion of socially excluded adults in settled accommodation and employment, education or training;
  • PSA 21 – Build more cohesive, empowered and active communities;
  • PSA 23 – Make communities safer;
  • Supported by: DCSF’s Departmental Strategic Objective to safeguard the young and vulnerable (DSO 2)

'Socially excluded adults' is code for anyone accepting any kind of state help with their income, or on a low enough income to be able to, so straight away we know that PSA 16 is all about this without needing to read it. I'd quite like (dread) to know what constitutes a 'cohesive, empowered and active community', other than one that contains a SureStart Centre. (Are there any left that don't?) But I think we probably need to start with PSA 13, if I can find it.

Yes, it's a Treasury one, so it's here [opens pdf]. (Because safety is obviously a Treasury issue..!)

Children cannot enjoy their childhoods or achieve their full potential unless they are safe.

Remember when you thought you were enjoying yourself climbing trees, or racing your go-cart? I hope you know now how mistaken you were about that.

Improving children’s safety means tackling a wide range of
issues – abuse and neglect..

Oh yeah, hence the workfare thing. Bad parents, to neglect your children's need for the latest Nike trainers! well as ensuring a stable home environment

- for the waking half-hour a day that they're allowed to be there.

Government has a role to play in supporting parents to strike the right balance between protecting their children and allowing them to learn and explore new situations safely.

You really can't be trusted to make these decisions by yourselves. And your children certainly can't.

However, this is not solely the responsibility of parents, or of local or national government. Helping children and young people to stay safe should be everyone’s responsibility.

Code: we're going to bribe your neighbour, your doctor and any other passing stranger to snitch on you if you dare to have any unauthorised fun. Then we're going to eCAF [opens pdf] the life out of you, like the Dementors from Azkaban.

Indicator 1: Percentage of children who have experienced bullying

In home education? Probably zero, or close.

Indicator 2: Percentage of children referred to children’s social care who received an initial assessment within 7 working days

That's the eCAF [opens pdf]. Soul-suckers.

(Dementors sense and feed on the positive emotions, happiness and good memories of human beings to move around, forcing them to relive their worst memories. The very presence of a Dementor makes the surrounding atmosphere grow cold and dark, and the effects are cumulative with the number of Dementors present. In addition to feeding on positive emotions, Dementors can perform the Dementor's Kiss, where the Dementor latches its mouth onto a victim's and sucks out the person's soul.

Sorry. We've been reading Harry Potter again..)

Indicator 3: Emergency hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries to children and young people

Do people still dare to take their children to hospital?

the Centre for Economics of Education will be carrying out an 18 month project looking at the Every Child Matters outcomes, including a specific focus on safety.

What has safety got to do with economics? Is this about safety, or about cutting back on NHS resources? Why is this a Treasury paper, when PSA 10, about 'enjoy and achieve' is a DCSF one?

Oh look, the other departments are being given something to do:

DCSF and DH are jointly funding the Safeguarding Research Initiative, which aims to improve knowledge of effective practice across a range of child safety issues, including neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) work.

- though I don't think there's much room for improvement in their practice of emotional abuse, do you?

3.12 The Government will continue current work to make the child protection process more responsive, which includes:
• implementing guidance on Working Together to Safeguard Children and What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused

- that's the NICE consultation we were discussing a couple of weeks ago, isn't it?

• improve appropriate referrals to social care by health professionals – the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will publish guidelines for health professionals in 2009 on the identification of children with suspected abuse.

Oh. Yes, it is then. Make your child wear a coat; ruthlessly tear that slightly-too-small favourite dress from her screaming grasp, etc. You know it's in her best interests.

3.13 To further build on this existing work the Government will also:
• take forward actions to tackle recruitment and retention and to accelerate the pace of workforce re-modelling in social work. The Children’s Workforce Development Council will be a key delivery partner for this work, details of which are covered in their business plan for 2008-2011;

I wonder if the workfare plans have got anything to do with this new 'Children's Workforce'? Blackmailing us to police each other sounds like fairly standard 'control of the masses' technique, doesn't it? You don't need a degree in Social Work to carry out an eCAF [opens pdf].

• in addition, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will respond to the recommendations of the Byron Review, which has looked at how to help parents and children get the best from technologies while protecting them from harmful content on the internet or in video games.

Urgh, another one [opens pdf] to add to the reading list. 226 pages! Though I suspect it will all be leading to this.

Intervention projects should adopt a ‘think family’ approach – recognising the links and taking action where service users are parents and acting to safeguard children;

I'm not even going to comment on this. No, I am. They have deliberately dismantled the informal networks we had in place to deal with this stuff, and are now replacing them with their own increasingly intricate tangled webs of formal procedure: a souless and austere 'system' of faux care, policed by stick and carrot - but mostly stick. And they thought we wouldn't notice. Here it is, spelled out:

• universal services including schools, early years providers, extended school services, school health services, further education colleges, training providers working with 14 to 19-year-olds, housing services, local authority planners, parks/green spaces managers and road safety officers will work to create a safe environment for children and young people, educate children and young people about how to keep themselves safe, and refer any concerns about children’s safety to the relevant local agency.

• third sector organisations provide a range of preventative services relating to accidental and deliberate harm, including helplines, ensuring the safety
of those working with children, promoting the road safety of children and providing information and resources about accident prevention.

Those 'voluntary' organisations which, until the gullible public's money ran out, were pretending to be independent of government. It was a good system, when we still needed to be convinced that all of this was happening 'for our own good', but no longer necessary now that it's all pretty much legally in place.

I'm just reading through the rest of it to check that we're not all going to have to have our homes checked for safety (though I suppose that's part of the eCAF [opens pdf] isn't it?)

Something called the Staying Safe: Action Plan [opens pdf] is referred to a lot, so I suppose I'd better read that too. It includes the following:

This is being achieved in local areas around the country by different services working together as a Team Around the Child (TAC), using the Common Assessment Framework and sharing information where necessary about children at risk of harm.

- which, along with everything else I've read this morning, is starting to make me think that 'stay safe' might really mean 'be eCAFed' [opens pdf].

Oh and there's a little diagram too:

Stay safe

Spot the parents. We're in that tiny yellow strip over there on the right hand side, separated from the children by the thick grey bar that says: CAF and Contactpoint.

Enough of this. Let's reclaim our stake in reality, shall we? Here we go:

  1. It is parental instinct to keep children safe. Left to our own devices, we do this very well.
  2. To keep this instinct strong, we need to spend a lot of time with our children. It is possible for families to both provide for their needs (when they're not being screwed by the banks and public utility companies, aided and abetted by their own government) and take care of their own children without government intervention. Indeed, this is the most sensible and healthy (and safe) way for family life to be conducted.
  3. Being the subject of an eCAF [opens pdf] assessment is likely to be an extremely traumatic, emotionally abusive experience for children. This should not be made normal practice, because it is unnecessarily invasive and intrusive.
  4. Children learn to manage their own risks by enjoying a degree of freedom to make their own choices. Wholesale removal of that freedom will result in an unsafe society.
  5. Safety has nothing to do with money: it has more to do with choices. Unharassed people make better choices. "Act for the people's benefit. Trust them; leave them alone." - Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching. c.500BC

I'm planning to spend my next few blogging sessions on looking at the legitimacy of this ECM regime, before trying to guess what areas of the law might be changed to jemmy home educating families into it.

Meanwhile, do stay safe, won't you? *Rolls eyes*


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