A statement of educational intent

Somebody commented here about yesterday's piece. I had mentioned that there had been opposition from some parents to the idea contained in the Badman review about providing a plan of education for the coming year. The person said;

'I hope, after providing you with some information about how autonomous education actually works, you now understand why a plan of education is such a difficult thing for AEors to provide.'

Well no, I don't understand this at all. In fact to put the case in the vernacular, it seems completely potty to me to oppose such a thing! Perhaps we should look first at what Graham Badman actually suggested in his report. This is to be found in the eighth bullet point of Recommendation 1. He says;

'At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.'

What are we to make of this? The idea behind this recommendation is pretty straightforward. It is to focus the parent's mind upon what she hopes might be achieved in the coming year. Writing such a statement would get the parent to stop for a moment and think about what her child was currently doing and what she hoped that he might be able to do in a year's time. As far as I am able to understand, autonomous educators objected to this idea because their children might do other things as well in the course of the next year, surprising and unexpected things which they would be unable to predict. The individual who made the comment quoted above gave the example of her child becoming interested in music and taking up the playing of an instrument.

I simply do not see that this has anything at all to do with the case! I had perhaps a clearer vision of what I hoped that my daughter would achieve in the coming year than most home educating parents. I never had any problem discussing these plans, either with my local authority or anybody else who would listen! Nor did I have a problem with committing these plans to paper. Even so, my daughter took some very surprising directions which I could never have foreseen. Take the year that she decided to take up bell ringing, by which I mean church bells. I could not have guessed that she would take this up when she was eleven, nor that she would go on to take part in various competitions and ringing quarter peels and so on across Essex and East London. Although unexpected developments like this occurred with her life and interests, as indeed they do with all children, this did not mean that she abandoned any other aspect of her education. Why would she? Plenty of children take up hobbies and other interests without it preventing them from studying science or history at the same time. So the argument that somebody's child became an accomplished musician and that this came as a surprise to the mother, does not seem to me to have any bearing on the matter. This sort of thing happens to all children, whether in school, being taught at home in a structured way or autonomously educated. It's what children do.

When all's said and done, what would the statement of education have required? Well, parents would have been required to give some idea of their educational approach. That would not have presented a problem surely for autonomous educators? Their educational approach is autonomous. They would not object to telling their local authority that, it is what they already say in the educational philosophies any way, so this should not be controversial. What about their 'intent' and 'desired outcomes'? These two should not really present any sort of difficulty either. If one has a child who is unable to read at the age of ten, I rather think that a 'desired outcome' in the coming year for any parent would be that the child started reading independently. I would be surprised to hear of any parent of a ten year old who did not have this as a desired outcome for the coming year. What would be the problem with writing this down on paper? In fact we all have hopes for what our children might be doing and achieving in the next twelve months.

Of course, autonomous educators are quite right when they say that it is impossible to predict entirely what a child will be doing and learning over the coming year. All children take up interests and want to find out about things that their parents could not have guessed in advance. A child at school might have a sudden enthusiasm for some sport or finding out about dinosaurs. This is perfectly normal and does not mean that that the kid abandons mathematics or history. These childish passions can sit easily alongside a curriculum; they do not usually replace it!

I find it hard to imagine any parent who does not have hopes and wishes for her child's future development. All parents want their children to grow and learn. I am sure that this is also the case with autonomous parents. Perhaps their hopes do not centre around strictly academic achievement. The mother of a child with severe learning difficulties might hope that her child increases his command of Makaton signs or becomes able to go to the shop alone. Whatever the child and no matter the age, all parents have such hopes. It is a reluctance to write down these hopes and share them with others which seems to be at the root of the opposition to providing a statement of educational intent.