Schoolgirls

Baroness Deech

I agree with Lord Soley, not only that there may be dangers in uninspected home education, but also that children miss out on many advantages if they do not spend their time in the company of other schoolchildren. Learning to mix, discipline, sport, drama, outings, various aspects of learning that are not available at home. I was reminded of this when I went to a good girls’ school a few days ago as part of the Lords’ outreach programme. This programme sends peers to all sorts of schools all over the country to speak to older pupils about the work of the House of Lords and give them the chance to think about politics and hear firsthand what we do. My presentation covered the history of the House, its composition, its expenditure, its future, the different types of work that it does, and drew attention to some peers of whom they would have heard, to illustrate my points about expertise and diversity.

The two most interesting questions they put to me afterwards were “Will a general election end the expenses scandal?” and “How can David Cameron be prevented from appointing 100 new peers to secure a Conservative majority in the Lords?” It will take more than a general election or even a change in the voting system to remove the taint. The second question was harder to answer. I had to explain the Royal Prerogative and how it would be almost impossible for the Queen to refuse a request by the Prime Minister to create large numbers of peers. Does anyone have a better answer?

79 comments for “Schoolgirls

  1. Karen Luckhurst
    10/02/2010 at 12:28 am

    I have always been a supporter of the House of Lords believing the level of debate there to be generally more informed, honest and considered, it largely being unhampered by the need to win elections or the naked ambition that characterises the House of Commons. I am therefore, very surprised by this piece because it is so very obviously uninformed – to the point that Lady Deech astonishingly takes the ‘home’ of ‘home education’ to its literal degree.
    Surely our legislators should inform themselves of all sides of a debate before making such sweeping generalisations and assumptions. Please, Lady Deech, take up the offers here of meeting home educated families and find out more.
    I bought my six-year-old daughter to the House of Commons for the mass lobby. We stood on the spot where Charles 1 was tried and I explained to her about democracy. Unfortunately, the passage through Parliament of this bill has been anything but.

  2. edufantastic
    10/02/2010 at 12:32 am

    Please do not make the mistake of assuming that the “home” part of the term home educating means that children spend all their time at home and do not associate with other children, even schooled children. My daughter had fantastic social skills before she started school and they were bullied out of her. More than a year down the line from the decision to de-register her and she is once again confident about initiating conversation with anyone (and not just with people who happen to be born in the same 12 month period as she was), joining in games, negotiating compromise and sharing. She is six and at a recent chess club meeting her opponents were at least 10 years old and one of them was 18. Where in the restricted world of school could a six year old meet an 18 year old as an equal?

    She can knit, sew, play chess, swim, ride, play 2 musical instruments, speak a little French, play cricket, does trampolining and more than holds her own in a science class aimed at 8-12 year olds. She can also read, write and do maths!

    Yes, I am aware I am showing off a bit here (I am proud of her and of myself for facilitating her amazing development and progress since we took her out of school, but you are just wrong in your views of what home education is and it is shameful that someone with the power to make decisions that affect our lives should do so from a position of ignorance.

  3. Vanessa
    10/02/2010 at 12:59 am

    “but also that children miss out on many advantages if they do not spend their time in the company of other schoolchildren.”

    One of the most commonly-cited reasons for sending children to school is that it allows them to make friends of their own age. In reality school children are forced, to much, into the company of their peers (with all the detrimental effects that can have) and do not have sufficient contact with people of other age groups. The contact they do have with adults has the effect of alienating them from other generations because school creates a barrier between pupils and teachers.

    In comparison, children who are home educated tend not to have social problems. The circle of acquaintances they have is usually made up of a reasonable cross-section of society and includes people both older and younger than themselves.

    On a personal note, both my sons currently enjoy regular opportunities to mix with friends, family and acquaintances of varying ages and backgrounds on a practical daily basis. I also believe that the opportunities that home education offers for my sons to socialise within a broader age spectrum cannot fail to represent a positive advantage in the future workplace.

  4. The Sewist
    10/02/2010 at 2:59 am

    Today was bright, sunny and very chilly. My daughters put on their coats and boots after lunch and we went out for a walk. We saw a dog so white that he would be hard to see if he got lost in snow; vivid yellow lichens, fresh green mosses; birds roosting in the trees and a fat, fluffed up pigeon napping on a branch.

    We saw other walkers on the path I could tell from their faces that they were happy to see such happy children.

    If they had been in school they would not have had this adventure or shared their thoughts with each other and with me. I see the wonder in their eyes when they see new and exciting things and I share their excitement when they want to venture off the path and go down a smaller track to see where it leads.

    School robs our children of this wonder and this closeness with their family. I saw this happen to my daughter which is why we chose to home educate her. She is now free and happy and flourishing. She will be a very different person as a result of being home educated and I believe that she would have lost a great part of her self and her strength had she been forced to stay at school.

    Come and visit us one day next week and see where we go after lunch.

    • Gareth Howell
      10/02/2010 at 3:45 pm

      “vivid yellow lichens, fresh green mosses; birds roosting”

      And Sewist can they tell me which species,family and class the lichens belonged to; the same for the Mosses and the same for the birds?

      You LOOKED and said

      “Isn’t it pretty? what a lovely day!”,

      but did you learn or enquire about anything at all afterwards?

      Tell me now, children!

      There are 8 year olds in school who could tell me.

      The most instructive feature of this thread is the imagination of the screen names!

      • Kellyi
        10/02/2010 at 11:11 pm

        “There are 8 year olds in school who could tell me.”

        Really? 8 year olds who can classify lichens and moss?

        Prove it.

      • anastaisia
        10/02/2010 at 11:28 pm

        Gareth,
        I went to school(within the past 10 years, just) and I can’t tell you anything about the different species of lichen, mosses and birds. NOTHING.

        Funnily enough I have A and A* GCSE results in 3 separate sciences too.

  5. sarah
    10/02/2010 at 6:13 am

    I’d like to give you an extensive response, but I’m too tired after spending all day out with my homeschooled daughter as she went to her usual drama and sports activities. We were late home because we got caught up with talking to other people.

    Perhaps I should not comment at all, however. I live in a country where the government has given up inspecting home educating families because it is a waste of resources, since we do so well and our children succeed so greatly.

  6. ZAROVE
    10/02/2010 at 7:38 am

    As for Hoime Schooling, If the intrustion is not too great, I have no problem with monitoring and agree that it would be ueful to ensure abusing parents arent simply using the Home Schooling route to conceal their mistreatments.

    That said, I dont think anyone these days would like how I’d solve the problems in the Lords, bu here goes…

    1: Limit the number of Political Appointees. Make it 3 per every Decade.

    2: Restore the Hereditary Peers to their proper palce, and dont replace the existing remainign Hereditary Peers when they die with Life Peers or Elected Peers. Instead rpelace them with their Children.

    3: Create a new Commission that creates Life Peers based soleley on Accomplishments and that is internally driven. The Queen woudl Ratify the CHoices.

    4: Yes I know this is the Age of Democracy and the above is bad enough but, lets let the Queen have real power. IF she says “No” then let it stand as No, and dont threaten a Republic or whathaveyou base don it. Repsect her choices.

    5: Grant the House of Lords Autonomy from the COmmons. Why shoudl the Lower Hosue be De Facto Upper House anyway?

    6: Restore the Real Power to revise, Amend, or Reject Legistaltion the House had prior to 1914. Add a provision that if Legislation is returned to the House of Commons, a Two-Thirds majority vote could overrule them.But let the Lords be able to veto legeslation or greatly amend it.

    That shoudl pretty well end all of the above.

  7. Janine O'Rourke
    10/02/2010 at 8:55 am

    I agree entirely that home educated children miss out on acquiring certain skills in school that parents fail to teach them. In only two terms at primary school my five year old learnt how to punch, kick, spit and swear – all skills that his dreadfully neglectful mummy had failed to teach him.

    It’s terribly easy for home educated children to find children to play with during the day – we just go to our local park and play with all the school children who are bunking off.

  8. Sally lloyd
    10/02/2010 at 10:46 am

    Good morning. I think your first paragraph indicates that Lords should extend their outreach to the home educated community. I am entirely secure that your misconceptions about home education would be dispelled. It is difficult to pronounce accurately about a practice of which you have no personal experience. The next best thing would be to interact with the community who you are critiquing.
    You are more than welcome to contact me and I am sure to be able to put you in contact with a network of home educators in your vacinity who would be happy to reassure you.
    This is especially important as the first reading of the CSF Bill will take place in the Lords in the next month. Clauses 26 and 27 and schedule 1 of the bill would mean (in fact) that we would have more legal protection and greater rights if we abused our children, and comparatively less if we do not choose to delegate our children’s education because of our concerns about schooling.

    There will soon be a meeting for the Lords, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Home Education. I’m happy to keep you posted if that would be useful.

    Respectfully
    Sally Lloyd

  9. Jo
    10/02/2010 at 11:40 am

    You may look at all these commenys and say this is all well and good but what about the working class families who can’t afford trips to the Yemen etc.
    Well this is where one of the surprising aspects of home education comes inrto its own.
    Research into home education also shows that children do well whatever the parents socio-economic background or personal level of education. This is not true in schooled children where those from low socio-economic backgrounds or who have parents with a poor edcuation generally fare dramatically worse than their peers from middle class backgrounds and with well educated parents.
    I would guess that this is because the parents feel responsibility and involvement with their child’s education rather than disenfrancisement from it.
    In almost all home educating families I know the parents’ education expands alongside their childs, reinforcing and modelling research and study skills. This is very different to the teacher authority in schools and has much value
    Daniel Goleman (who has done much research into the factors, other than IQ,which predict future success in adult life) suggests that children learn better with adults as co-learners than they do from adult “experts”.
    Home educating parents take the raising of their children very seriously and take reponsibility for it. Research shows that this pays of both academically and socially.

    • Dave H
      10/02/2010 at 1:52 pm

      I can confirm that thanks to home education, my own knowledge has been improved. In the past year, I’ve learned more than I ever expected about how Parliament works, with readings, committees and reports, and how easy it is for a government to ignore the views of the people

    • Twm O'r Nant
      10/02/2010 at 3:54 pm

      ” parents’ education expands alongside their childs, reinforcing and modelling research and study skills. This is very different to the teacher authority in schools and has much value
      Daniel Goleman (who has done much research into the factors, other than IQ,which predict future success in adult life) suggests that children learn better with adults as co-learners than they do from adult “experts”.”

      Indeed this is such a valuable comment from Jo, it is worth repeating. How few teachers succeed in being co-learners in state school, or at school at all? Some do.

      Parents’ education may well expand but there may be just as many who enter in to a destructive psychological relationship, with the excuse of Home learning.

      In that sense the Baroness’ suggestions re
      more effective supervision of it, are worthwhile.

      Philip Harris, the School equipment makers provide excellent learning tools for chemistry, physics, and discipline requiring microscopy and the visualization of the hidden world at out finger tips.

      How many Home educators here use their services?

      • Roxy Featherstone
        10/02/2010 at 6:06 pm

        “Parents’ education may well expand but there may be just as many who enter in to a destructive psychological relationship, with the excuse of Home learning.

        In that sense the Baroness’ suggestions re
        more effective supervision of it, are worthwhile.”

        Hi Twm,

        The trouble is, the current proposals before parliament will not solve the problem either of abuse of children, since abusive families will not register, nor will it solve the problem of how to leave perfectly well-functioning families be.

        In fact, Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families bill is highly likely to be extremely damaging to the education of children, as I think I have already explained in comments.

        Sadly home educators already have plenty of experience of the damage that misinformed LA officers can do and this under the current legislative regime which at least attempts a more proportionate approach.

        Unfortunately, this sad situation would only worsen should Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill be implemented.

        Whilst I usually try to resist the “tu quoque” argument, I find myself irresistably drawn to saying that I think there are likely to be proportionately far more schooling parents who simply either abandon their children to the school system or who pressure them so harshly to perform within it, than there are damaged HE parents, and that it is therefore highly likely that there are proportionately many more schooled children who are hugely damaged by their parents psychological deficiences, than there are HE children who are similarly damaged.

        A perhaps unstated point here so far is that most HEors respect and understand children’s rights FAR more than most schooling parents are ever motivated or can ever afford to do.

      • Thecountrysfinished
        11/02/2010 at 8:07 pm

        Sorry bud. They are too expensive. Home educators know the most cost effective places to obtain scientific equipment and other paraphernalia necessary. Oh and our children get to do it rather than being “protected” by all the health and safety nonsense. School closed because of snow. HAA HAA. School open but not allowed out. HAA HAA. My home “school” remained open throughout, and they went sledging as well.

  10. Lord Helpus
    10/02/2010 at 2:14 pm

    Your comments and notions on and of Home Ed simply confirm how out of touch and ill informed our ‘Lords’ are. Pleases please step out of the over crowded class room and spend time with, talk to, join in with children educated at home. Your notions of isolated, idle children are so far removed from reality they would perhaps in other circumstance be mildly amusing. Unfortunately when these beliefs are held by those able to make/change laws and legislation it becomes less funny.
    Please take your job/role seriously and find out the truth and reality of Home Ed.

    • Bill Frenzee
      11/02/2010 at 9:54 am

      Some of the posts on this are hilarious.

      One comes from a radical reactionary, right back to 1914! Even the laws that have just come on to the statute!

      Abolish all laws made since 1914….. and try to carry on!

  11. Realist
    11/02/2010 at 6:07 pm

    I can’t agree with your statement that my child may “miss out on many advantages if they do not spend their time in the company of other schoolchildren”. Why should such advantages be only the preserve of schoolchildren? Don’t children learn to mix with others outside of school? Can’t they join sports teams? Drama clubs? Orchestras? My daughter has a far fuller social life now that the highly artificial social space of school is out of the equation. And she is now much more able to enjoy what would (within a school setting) be her extra-curricular activities. While still finding the time to excel academically, she is rarely out of the company of other children in one arena or another.

    Frankly, I worry that you have lost the historical perspective that demonstrates that for many millennia human beings were perfectly able to function in society without the “advantages” provided by schooling.

  12. Senex
    14/02/2010 at 9:35 pm

    Baroness Deech: Is there a philosophical or legal argument to be made concerning the use of Royal Prerogative powers by government caused by the present inability of the House of Lords to have any formal role in their use?

    To quote from the introduction in the pdf link below:

    “These powers derive from arrangements which preceded the 1689 Declaration of Rights and have been accumulated by the government without Parliament or the people having a say.”

    The point is that post 1689, the House of Lords was able to use these powers because governance was blurred in that a peer could be a Prime Minister and that there was no clear demarcation between the two houses, governance was simply governance.

    The report and its origins in various Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) publications make constant reference to the word ‘Parliament’ in the use of prerogative powers when the government knows full well that after the 911 Parliament Act the House of Lords no longer had any say in their use.

    We must conclude from this that Parliament is the Commons and the Commons is the ‘Monarchy’ which the 1689 Declaration of Rights Act sought to tame. In this respect the House of Lords is irrelevant.

    This is surely unconstitutional as the original arrangements by long standing custom and practice involved the House of Lords in the exercise of these prerogative powers; the 1911 Parliament Act in effect removed what was a constitutional freedom enjoyed by the House of Lords over many centuries.

    In the 2002-2003 PASC19 report it makes an observation that seems to have gone missing from the final report: “the King (and Queen) can do no wrong (for example the Queen cannot be prosecuted in her own courts)” An oversight in the final report?

    Ref: Ministry of Justice: The Governance of Britain
    Review of the Executive Royal Prerogative Powers: Final Report
    http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/docs/royal-prerogative.pdf
    Public Administration Select Committee: PASC19; A-4
    http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/public_administration_select_committee/pasc_19.cfm

  13. jenniS
    18/02/2010 at 9:34 pm

    It’s you who needs to get out more!

    You need to get out and meet some of the people whose lives you try to talk about but appear to have very little knowledge of.

  14. Jay
    23/02/2010 at 9:30 pm

    Baroness
    You are very much exposing your disappointing lack of knowledge of home education here in your comments. I have one child who is home educated and one at a school so I have experience of both worlds from a parent’s perspective. I work part time as a teacher myself so know the system from the inside too. I also went to one of the top private schools (academically) in this country followed by a degree at Oxford University so know a thing or two about “good” girls’ schools as well. In my experience, home educated children are far more sociable than their counterparts in school who often have to “mask” their real personalities in order to survive/fit in. Home educated children are generally much more open, honest and inclusive with other children, regardless of any differences between them such as age, social status etc, and their parents are extremely dedicated, loving, non-materialistic individuals. There has been some long term research carried out I believe in Canada which shows that home educated individuals tend to be higher achievers than the average academically, are far less likely to become unemployed when adults, and are more sociable as adults. With regard to outings/sports, my HE child has regular tennis coaching, skating lessons, (plays 3 instruments, 2 of which are at advanced level)is a member of a jazz band, social band and 2 orchestras, rock climbs, is a member of St John Ambulance, rides horses and has ridden competitively at national level, this week alone went to Warwick Castle and Go Ape on “outings”…This is all on top of fitting in a few GCSE’s (one of which incidentally, is being taken this summer at the age of 13 with a prediction of an A star). Plus…my HE child is very much happier and more confident now than when at school where they were regularly bullied because of a medical condition.

    We get no financial help from the government to do any of these activities/tuition like schools do, but we choose to go without in order that our child can have a good education at home.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to carry out some research of your own into home educating families, before posting further on the subject…I know that I wish I had been lucky enough to have been educated at home…

  15. jacque
    09/03/2010 at 1:14 pm

    There is something ironic about a blog which includes the word ‘diversity’ that is in fact very much against the idea! Diversity does not mean ‘diverse as long as you are like me’ does it?

    As the blogger well knows (I am assuming you do actually know something about home ed but are just pursuing your own political agenda) home educated children have large circles of friends and their parents throw themselves into ensuring they have fantastic social lives. I am not quite sure how leaving your child with the same group of children and tiny handful of adults, day in, day out for 6 years at a time amounts to mixing with a wide range of children. Do elaborate. In fact what is your optimum number of people with whom to associate regularly? You clearly have a figure in mind. Perhaps you can make that figure known and you can back it up with a piece of research and then we can all ensure that our children have that identical socical experience.

    Would you say that the only way to learn about the House of Lords was to have a visit from you? Rather worrying, both in terms of what it says about the institution and indeed your view of how one learns about anything.

    The fact is – and I do wish the labour party would be honest for once about this – Ed Balls and his ilk KNOW this is a way out of a failing school system for many people. You can’t argue with the hard left though. They will lie and lie and lie to get their own ends.

    There are people in this country who are criminals but we don’t insist on searching the homes of every family lest they are concealing stolen goods.

    There are many people (some in the House of Lords if the stats are realistic) whohave a sexual interest in children but we don’t police everyone’s homes.

    If we were able to investigate everyone’s computer we would catch many paedophiles. As a home educator, I would agree to that – so come on – would all MPs agree to do the same? I bet not.

  16. Ronnie Somerville
    11/06/2010 at 8:33 am

    Imagine being in the House of Lords, all day every day, attendance being compulsory. Unauthorised absence means you going to prison. You have hardly any opportunity to talk to anyone else outwith the chamber. You get hours of work to do at home and at weekends. You are talked at not to. You have been stripped of your powers to affect legislation and have NO influence over what the agenda.

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