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. 09/02/2010 at 12:21 am

    The House Appointments Committee has the power to challenge a Prime Minister’s nominations but I’m not sure that “over-politicization of the Lords” would be a valid reason for a challenge. This is all the more reason to move the majority of Lords’ appointments to a statutory version of the House Appointments Committee and limit the number of political appointees.

    Interestingly, Queen Anne “flooded” the Lords in support of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). A Tory led Commons would have been unable to get the treaty past a Whig dominated House of Lords. Queen Anne solved the problem by creating 12 new lords and, thereby, a Tory majority in the House of Lords.

  2. Len
    09/02/2010 at 12:32 am

    Regarding home schooling, I’m generally against the practice on the grounds you cite, and leaving it uninspected feels almost negligent. Regarding specific powers in the bill, I confess to not knowing the range of breadth of them, though I am supportive of the principle.

    As to the second question, my preferred answer would be to give the Appointments Commission power over the party appointments process, with a view to limiting appointments and maintaining the current ratio of parties/crossbenchers. Each party would give a recommendation list from which the Commission could choose the most applicable candidates using similar criteria to that of crossbench appointments. Of course, that’s not likely to happen…

    • Dave H
      09/02/2010 at 10:36 am

      Sorry Len, local authorities already have the power to intervene when they think there are good grounds for it. What is needed is for the authorities to correctly use the powers they already have, not ask for more.

      You will find that most of the people who contribute responses here who are opposed to the bill have read about the powers and consider them wholly disproportionate. If you had all the facts, I wonder if you would still be in support of it – it’s easy to agree ‘in principle’ without knowing the full story because the government media machine makes it easy for people to do that.

      A quick summary (to save everyone a few hours):

      The Government announced a rushed review (the Badman Review – Google it) of home education, despite having consulted on it several times during the lifetime of this Parliament. The slant this time was that it might be used a a cover for child abuse and forced marriage. The review found no significant evidence of this and yet put forth a draconian set of recommendations based on some dubious-looking statistics. The day the review was published, the government announced a consultation into legislation based on those recommendations. Meanwhile, home educators didn’t believe the statistics and attempted to extract the data from DCSF but were rebuffed. Freedom of Information Acts requests extracted the information from local authorities and gave a totally different picture to what was quoted in the report. The CSF Select Committee in the Commons held an Inquiry into the conduct of the review and were fairly damning on their opinion of government conduct and the quality of the evidence. The legislation was introduced to Parliament BEFORE the result of the consultation was published, that event taking place the day before the Bill’s second reading in the Commons. The Impact Assessment had to be re-published because they had errors in the figures that were used. The home education provisions of the Bill were torn to shreds by Graham Stuart MP in the Bill Scrutiny committee this week. The Government is trying to push through a large and complex bill with minimal discussion – most clauses of the Bill were not discussed by the committee. To those affected, it looks as though the Government decided what they wanted to do, rushed through a report whose conclusions supported that, wrote the legislation they wanted before the consultation had finished and gives the appearance of listening with fingers stuck firmly in ears. The consultation had over 5,000 responses and an overwhelming majority were against the proposals and yet in the Commons debate, Ed Balls claimed that the majority of home educators welcomed the proposals. So they’re trying to spend £20m (their figure, almost certainly low) setting up a bureaucracy that will achieve nothing useful and cost another £20m or more a year to run. This at a time when they’re making cuts to school budgets. As a taxpayer you should be asking whether it’s value for money. Note that other estimates consider that it could be £50m a year, solely on bureaucracy. Imagine what could be achieved if that money was spent on education.

  3. Bedd Gelert
    09/02/2010 at 12:36 am

    So what would these proposals mean to Toby Young ? I can bet they are not going to make it easier for the likes of him. And Ed Balls is in a debate Tuesday 9th February, so one can put some of these arguments to the test and question him in person.

    • sally
      10/02/2010 at 11:48 am

      Having spent quite a bit of time questioning Ed Balls, I don’t suppose this opportunity offers anything different than the usual automatic repetitions of fiction. Sadly.

  4. kizzy
    09/02/2010 at 12:37 am

    My daughter is home educated and because of this legislation has been to the House of Commons twice to talk to MP’s. The first time she went was to attend a mass lobby with 500 other home educated children. I don’t think these children have any problems socialising. They are out n the world all day, mixing with people of all ages and backgrounds. Imagine home education and think of the summer holidays. Do children not socialise in the summer holidays? of course they do. There are so many home educated children now, that there is almost something to do every day of the week.
    My daughter and I would be quite happy to meet up and tell you all about it. Feel free to email!

  5. N. Lighten
    09/02/2010 at 1:04 am

    I seriously question sometimes whether we live in the same dimension?
    Do you honestly believe that home educated children never mix with school children? Most teachers regularly tell the children to sit down and be quiet as you are not here to socialise. Home-ed children, on the other hand, can play as long as they want with their friends, more so because a bell doesn’t signal the end of socialisation and they don’t have to hand their homework in by the morning bell either.
    Sport – so school children are the only ones allowed to join football clubs, dancing classes, swimming lessons, judo, drama, singing – the list goes on and on. Most home educated children are actually allowed to join these clubs – and they have nothing whatsoever to do with school.
    Outings? Don’t make me laugh! You see, home educated children don’t have to ask for funding from their parents, 2 weeks or more, inadvance of going to a museum or a stately home or wildlife centre or farm or whereever. Most home educated parents actually respond to their children’s interests and if they want to see actual meteorites or Egyptian mummies, they all get dressed and pop off to the local museum. And while they are there, explore other sections of the museum too – and sometimes, they even get to meet other people!
    Most home educated parents take their children off for walks in the park, or local forests when they talk about the seasons or nature – to see, feel, touch, experience nature. They are not satisfied with pictures of, or a film about nature. Most home educated children who end up doing a geology degree have actually been to the river and actually handled the rocks (perhaps even met other people there too) and finding that unusual rock is what led to the initial interest in the first place. Unlike the school children I read about who managed to get an A-level in geology withour ever taking a real trip into the ‘wild’. Poor things were couped up inside, because the school possibly couldn’t afford the necessary insurance / CRB checks in order to go on an outing!
    I would love you to confirm if you have ever met a real. live home educating family – not just heard rumours of, but actually met? If the answer is no – would you like to? We do exist in the real world and would love to meet with you, we are not incarcerated in an institution.

  6. Firebird
    09/02/2010 at 1:26 am

    Good grief, is it official ‘blog about a subject you don’t know ANYTHING about and haven’t even bothered to research’ day? You clearly have NO idea what is available to home educated children and are conveniently ignoring what their time “in the company of other schoolchildren” has done to some children that caused their parents to home educate in the first place.

    Seriously, ‘outings’? HE children typically go on more outings in a month than school children manage in a year! Go out and meet some home educators, please, before repeating any more of this school is wonderful propaganda.

    BTW Home Educated children get to visit Parliament rather than have someone come to visit them.

  7. Patricia Gledhill
    09/02/2010 at 1:39 am

    Baroness Deech I wonder what leads you to believe “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 have to tell you that all these things are available to home educators, the title Home Educator is a bit of a misnomer as a lot of home educators time is not spent in the home.
    Home Educators are extremely well organized and networked and all of the above and more are available. I also think the artificial socialization that a classroom provides is not nearly as rich and diverse as the socialization experience gained by home educators.
    It is a common misconception I hear it on a regular basis what about socialization and the opportunities to socialize far outstrip the ability to join in with so many things.
    As you visit schools perhaps you would like to visit a home education group to get a more well rounded picture of Home educators

    Patricia Gledhill

  8. anastaisia
    09/02/2010 at 1:41 am

    Dear Baroness Deech

    I am sure there are plenty of Home Ed groups who would love to have a visit from a Peer to hear firsthand what you do. There are a good many home educated young people who are feeling very disillusioned with the government at the moment and would welcome the opportunity to find out how they can make a difference. It might also out your mind at rest to see that in actual fact home educated children tend to access sports, drama and other opportunities to socialise and learn in the community rather than miss out on these things.

  9. Dave H
    09/02/2010 at 2:01 am

    I’m sorry, but you have, along with many people, misunderstood the ‘home’ in ‘home education’ to mean that children are taught entirely at home. This is not generally the case, and if anything, home educated children are far more socialised than schoolchildren.

    I know that when I was at school, I was ‘there to learn’, as we were admonished by the teacher if anyone tried talking in class. On balance, that left about an hour and a half during break times to socialise, usually with a few children from the same class and same age.

    Contrast this to a typical home educated child, who is out in the world, dealing with adults and getting plenty of social time with other home educated children of all ages. My son is happy to approach other children in a friendly manner, although he often finds schoolchildren surly and uncommunicative.

    You’ve just missed the BBC Inside Out programme from 1st Feb in which my family was followed by a BBC camera crew. The programme showed a group sport session and social time at another venue. My local group has drama and language classes as well.

    The only things that are lacking are such things as science lab facilities and exam provision, both of which could be easily-provided by the government using the money that the Treasury would otherwise pass on to a school if the children attended one. Even without this, most home educators manage very well by alternative means.

    You can understand why we are unimpressed by a government that is attempting to bully us into a registration scheme, spending possibly half a billion pounds on bureaucracy. Imagine what they could do if they spent it on education instead!

  10. Naomi
    09/02/2010 at 2:02 am

    I truly despair that so called ‘educated’ people still spurt out such total rubbish. As a home educator AND having worked in mainstream primary education for many years, I can tell you that you are talking total twaddle! Sorry but you are. A child does not NEED to go to school in order to socialise or to experience drama classes etc.
    I cannot think of the amount of times I have had to repeat this to people who make the same ASSUMPTION and yet have no experience of either teaching or home education at all.
    How wrong can ,apparently well educated, people be!
    Children who are home educated are not locked away from society . They are out there in the REAL world.
    In drama classes, having swimming lessons, horse riding lessons, playing team sports , having dance classes, music lessons, going to friends birthday parties, sleepovers, libraries , in home educators clubs, family functions, shopping, having holidays abroad..meeting PEOPLE!Learning from life.

    Goodness gracious me, do you really think being in a classroom with 30 same age children is the ONLY way to socialise a child to prepare them for life? Honestly? Is it even natural? Are all your work colleagues your age?

    Please take the time to actually meet , speak and learn from home educators BEFORE you make rash comments and tar their names.

    The state school system is far from perfect, as we all know and the fact that many parents work incredibly hard and devote their lives,without funding or help from anyone ,to provide their children with a well balanced education that suits their childs individual needs ( often special educational needs) should be something to be praised.
    I am gobsmacked at the total lack of knowledge by so many in this area.

  11. Jill Harris
    09/02/2010 at 2:25 am

    I just wanted to comment on what you said here “Learning to mix, discipline, sport, drama, outings, various aspects of learning that are not available at home”. I’m assuming that you have not yet had the opportunity to meet with many home educators, as these concerns seem to be based on common assumptions about home educated children.

    My experience in 7 years of home educating is that by mixing with people of all ages, rather then just children of exactly the same age as themselves, my children seem far more articulate and sociable with babies to pensioners, and far more respectful than the children we see and hear walking to and from school each day past our gate.

    My childen do at least 1 sport 5 days a week (including team sports), and go on outings or to non-sport group activities at least 3 times a week, which would not be possible if they were in school. They are also able to immerse themselves in whatever truly inspires or confuses them without the time or subject constraints of a curriculum or timetable, and might spend days on end reading about something, making something, or in imaginative play.

    The opportunities outside of school are at least as good in all the areas you have mentioned, and I would be more than willing to further discuss with you these or any concerns that you have. Research shows that home-educated children consistently do well both academically and in employment, and that this is equally so regardless of social class, or educational approach, including using no formal teaching, which has ben shown to be surprisingly effective.

    I will endeavour to check for a response from you indicating your willingness to engage in further discussion, and to contact you by whatever you indicate as your preferred method.

  12. dawn
    09/02/2010 at 4:03 am

    “Learning to mix, discipline, sport, drama, outings, various aspects of learning that are not available at home. ”

    Do you not realise that home educated children mix with a varied collection of friends and colleagues at days out, workshops, social gatherings, sports clubs etc.
    Our children have local friends and friends the know from the home ed community aswell as friends who get shut in school all day. Our home ed children mix with interest groups, mix with familiy and friends of all ages and in a healthy eclectic selection of settings and situations, we encourage them to develop as active members out in the real community.
    They mix with friends of all ages and nationalities and beliefs, not in unnatural contrived groups organised by nothing more than age as they do in school. – we don’t coop our children up in institutions where everything is learned from books and pretend situations and activities to represent the real world.
    Poor school children, how do they learn cope with the world? Deprived of regular interaction in the community they make do with a mock up of the world inside the school gates. School is cruel.

  13. isolde
    09/02/2010 at 4:49 am

    “children miss out on many advantages if they do not spend their time in the company of other schoolchildren” ? therein lies some insane notion that homeschooled children are somehow segregated. this is of course nonsense.

    what i witness with my own (home-schooled) daughter, is that she has far more energy & enthusiasm when she takes part in (what are to school-children)extra-curricular activities.

    no responsible parent – and after all what is more responsible than taking responsibiity for your child’s education, rather than entrust it to a heuristically- challenged, who-knows-what, bored, disaffected, disenchanted set of strangers, slavishly bound to rules and regulations, with little or no interest in your child as an individual- would consider leaving their child to flounder in the world unsocialised and without a broad range of experiences.

    instead, we do without for ourselves and send our children to enjoy a broad range of interests, often with limited resources. when there is a gap in their hectic social lives, home-schoolers meet up with each other.

    it is foolish to patronise us and assume we don’t meet our children’s needs. everything we stand for is involved with doing just that!

  14. Mark Morton
    09/02/2010 at 7:49 am

    Why do you automatically assume that none of these ‘advantages’ to children who are home educated? Surely having siblings and friends help children mix?

    There are many excellent home educators, in exactly the same way that there are many failing schools, schools that don’t provide a rounded and engaging education to their pupils. Now you’ve visited a good girls’ school, please go and visit a failing inner-city comprehensive. Then ask yourself that if you were a parent was able to home educate, why you wouldn’t do so? Home educating can give a child a great start in life, away from failing schools, bullying by pupils and staff, and poorly-trained and incapable teachers.

  15. Roxy Featherstone
    09/02/2010 at 8:17 am

    Dear Lady Deech,

    I hope it would be possible for me to enlighten you somewhat (out of school) on the realities of education out of school.

    Your anxieties about home education are not well-founded. For example, home educated children mix extensively, not just with a small number of people of their own age, but with the whole of the rest of the world. They mix with school children out of hours, they go to groups run by home educators, they go to after school classes, they see other HE friends and their families all the time.

    Further, since these children do not have to conform to a rigid hierachy where a child is always required to defer to the leader of a group, ie: the teacher, HE children often learn sophisticated skills of group participation and management.

    They also learn to co-operate well across the age groups. At one of our recent HE meetings that was led by two ex-school heads, both men remarked on the exceptional kindness that the older children demonstrated to the younger ones.

    At this same group, we play hockey, do athletics, rounders, football and other team games. We have done some drama activities and plenty of HE children attend things like Stage Coach and other local drama groups.

    Since HE children are able to make far more decisions for themselves than most schooled children, they often end up doing things the parents themselves would never have dreamt of doing. I must admit to a significant fear of both horses and heights yet my own children love climbing, trapeze and horse riding.

    In the course of defending our rights, many HE children have visited the House of Commons and I know of at least one who has already visited the Lords. Many have spoken to their MPs and even more have had long discussions on the relative merits of education law with their parents and friends. My 7 year old has been far more involved in the democratic process than I ever was as a young person, and I attended one of the most prestigious and academic public schools in the country.

    My own education at school was extremely limited compared to that of my children. The internet of course, makes access to information so much easier, but it is not simply this. It is also that the children are able to pursue that which genuinely interests them, and since we have the whole world available to us, we can tailor the education to fit their needs.

    Personalised education means that it can look vastly different from a school-based education. For example, my son didn’t even try to learn to read until he was eight and yet was a fluent and motivated adult-level reader by the age of ten. I look back and thank goodness that I didn’t have to suffer the inspection scheme which is currently proposed in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, since (despite Diana Johnson’s entirely false assurances to the contrary) this will mean that rather than tailoring the education to fit the child, we will be required to tailor it to fit the prejudices of a Local Authority inspector. I am quite sure that had my son been forced to do phonics from the age of 4, he would have turned away from learning,and would most likely be more like most of his school friends who are not interested in reading.

    I honestly feel genuinely desperate at the prospect of losing the freedoms we currently enjoy to help our home educated children determine how they will live their lives.

    Our local authority inspector says she understands autonomous learning, but then presents us with a form to fill in which makes it quite clear that she either has no real idea at all, or expects you to lie. I do not want to have to have to be forced to live a lie and yet with the greater powers to withdraw the right to home educate that will be delivered to LA inspectors in the proposed Children, Schools and Families bill, either I will be required to do so, or I will have to destroy the education upon which my children currently thrive.

    And it should be noted that I would rather not have to lie. I do not want to have to descend to the level of Ofsted in it’s reports about schools. Our local school is reported by Ofsted to have a good disciplinary level. Fights in which blood is drawn are routine in the playground. Children push each other down stairs, slam their fingers in the loo doors, deal hard drugs, form gangs and smash each others heads against the loo mirrors. This is the reality there.

    But to return to the problem of LA inspection: it should be understood that the current proposals in the CSF bill are completely disproportionate and deliver FAR too much power to LAs and that this will result in damage to previously perfectly well-functioning families as they try to tailor the education to fit the LA inspector rather than to the child.

    In the effort to discover the very rare abusive family, the government must not destroy what is so valuable about home education. We need legislation to reflect the balance that must be struck. LAs do already have the power to intervene where they have concerns.

    It should also be noted that Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families bill will not actually solve the problem of severe abuse as truly abusive families will not come forward to register as they will have nothing to lose by not doing so. Only well-functioning families will have to put themselves on the line. The CSF bill will not solve the probably mis-perceived problem of hidden abuse.

    Please do reconsider. In haste and unedited. Apologies – we lead busy lives.

  16. Sue
    09/02/2010 at 8:42 am

    Dear Baroness Deech,

    With all due respect, I think you are grossly misinformed with regard to home education! Our children do socialise, they do mix with other children and they do learn to mix with a variety of people. It is only in school that you have this artificial group of peers who are exactly the same age as you. Once you move on to post secondary education, you are mixing with a variety of people from all walks of life, and different ages. When I was 18 and in university, I was in classes with people who were retirement age! When I worked outside of the home it was the same, there were people who were younger, people who were older and never anyone the same age as me!

    My daughter, who is home educated, has more of a social life than I do! Home educators do not keep their children at home all day long, day in and day out! We are more free to take them to social activities and do so during term time and don’t have to wait in monstrously long queues because of the school kids who are on term breaks.

    I am part of a vibrant home education community and provide a balanced education for my daughter. She receives academic education from me every morning and then we go out to social activities with other home educators in the afternoon, or we do field trips in lieu of an academic program.

    She did go to school, and I can categorically tell you that she her social skills went out the window. She had excellent table manners. After being at school for a short time, her table manners turned into stable manners. She would shout and yell to talk at the table, she would slouch over her food and then she would chew with her mouth wide open! Before going to school she sat up properly, chewed with her mouth closed AND quietly and talked in an appropriate volume level for being 2 feet away from someone.

    This kind of social education we can do without thank you very much! I challenge you to make an appeal to local home education groups in the area where you are, and perhaps, if your social etiquette is good enough, they may let you attend one of their outings and you will see for yourself that we do provide a much more balanced education than children in school receive.

    My daughter was an alert child, then she went to school! After being in school she became so aloof, and in fact didn’t notice a moving car coming toward her and she opened her car door into the path of this car! How can you not see a large black moving object in broad daylight? She had a glazed over tired look to her all the time. Now she is alert and aware of her surroundings, and this is after one month of home education!

    I suggest that you should look at fixing the state education system and leave the parents who choose the perfectly legal option to look after their children’s education (which according to the Education Act of 1997 section 7) which is their legal responsibility! Section 1 clauses 26 and 27 of this proposed bill (Children Schools and Families Bill) seek to remove this from parents and turn it over to the state. Why do I need a licence and have to ask permission from my LA to teach my child at home? I can and do offer a much better education at home.

    Did you know that in school they have lowered standards so much that the children only need to score a 63% on their Year 6 SATs to be assessed as performing at a secondary school level? I am sorry, but where I come from, 63% can either be a failure, as 65% is the passing grade, or barely a pass, or average!

    The education system in this day and age has been dumbed down to the point of ridiculous! Children are not taught the standard three R’s anymore. The teachers feel it is more important to teach the 21st century three R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle. They also feel it is more important to have them do projects and speeches on this and on anti-smoking campaigns than to make sure the know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that they aren’t teaching them to go out and smoke, but, I think that teaching about sex, drugs and smoking should be the parents’ responsibility and not the state’s!

    You went to a school for girls and for the time that you were there, they were on their best behaviour, both staff and pupils alike and you saw the cream of the crop so to speak. I can tell you first hand that it is not always like that when you are not there and the children who struggle I bet did not get a chance to ‘perform’ for you! They weren’t asked to read something or make a speech or show you their work that they have done.

    You have openly admitted to political infiltration in the school system! You went to a school and talked about the House of Lords! Then you go on to talk about David Cameron in a negative light in this blog post, did you talk about him like that there? I expect that when you were there, you talked about your own party leader in a positive light!

    This is why I don’t want my child in the school system. I give her a balanced education outside of the school system AND I give her ample opportunities for socialising. She goes to two dance classes weekly, two other groups one which is weekly and the other which is bi-weekly, swimming (on the night she doesn’t have the bi-weekly group so she alternates between swimming and this other group), and she gets together with other home educated children when she wants. In fact, a local art gallery is putting on a weekly event for home educators. Would this be an option if she were in school? No!

    Now you have been to school and I challenge you to go to a group of Home Educators so that you can make a balanced and informed statement about us! How can you say what we do or don’t do when you have clearly never socialised with us?


    A Home Educating Parent

  17. Fiona Nicholson, Education Otherwise
    09/02/2010 at 8:49 am

    Consideration in the Commons will be February 23rd. We expect Second Reading of the Bill some time around March 8th. The home education clause of the Bill had more amendments in Committee than any other clause and this area of the Bill has been described as unworkable, deeply unpopular and a pig’s ear. We look forward to a line by line examination in the Lords for which there was not time in Committee.

    Fiona Nicholson, Trustee Education Otherwise

  18. Jeremy
    09/02/2010 at 9:02 am

    Your remarks about education stem from an entirely wrong assumption that it involves confinement within the home.

    I’m sure you would be welcome if you wished to attend one of the many home-education groups around the country that offer the opportunities you assume are denied to home-educated children. It would be educational for both the home-educating families and for you. Educating yourself on the subject seems particularly important at a time when you are forming and publishing opinions on it and in a position to influence the passage of a bill concerning the same through parliament.

  19. Julie Ridley
    09/02/2010 at 10:10 am

    The problem with this point of view is that a judgement is being made about the choice to home educate rather than any family’s home education provision. The opinion being expressed suggests that home education is in itself inferior to schooled education. That is a distressing thing to read as a home educator who is counting on lawmakers to attend to this issue with objectivity and sensibility.

    It also shows that there is a lack of adequate information and experience being made available to Baroness Deech about how education otherwise than at school is conducted. Does she really think that we do not allow our children to mix with their peers? Does she really think that home educators are unable to access gymnasia or local sports teams? Are we really deemed incapable of taking our children to theatre groups? Do we really spend all day in the home refusing to go on outings?

    The question of paramount importance to families in this proposed legislation is whether or not this government will give the state power to intervene in our parenting choices and family lives. It is not up to the state to approve of our choices. Education otherwise than at school is currentely equal in statute to education at school. That government is considering further legislation while holding the opinion that home education is inferior, does not bode well for us who choose this option.

  20. 09/02/2010 at 10:50 am

    Many other home educators have given a general view of home education. I would like to be more specific. I am the coach of a team of home-educated children who take part in an international LEGO robotics competition (see

    Over 20 young people have been involved in the past five years. We have won major awards in the UK Final in each of four years. In April, we will attend an international competition in Istanbul. The team visited Eindhoven, NL, in 2006 and Tokyo in 2008. In Tokyo, we were the only non-Japanese team to have Japanese supporters and we appeared in the Japan Times. Before going, the team appeared on BBC Points West. They have also participated in a number of exhibitions in a local museum and at a government conference.

    Baroness Deech (and other Lords) would be very welcome to talk to the team members. Some of them also went to the EHE mass lobby in London and they are more than happy to educate the legislature before it passes unnecessary laws affecting their lives.

  21. Bedd Gelert
    09/02/2010 at 10:59 am

    “Good grief, is it official ‘blog about a subject you don’t know ANYTHING about and haven’t even bothered to research’ day? ”

    Oh, Firebird, EVERY day is like that on the wonderful world wide web ! Why do you think we are here ?

    “HE children typically go on more outings in a month than school children manage in a year! ”

    Ah, that’s fine for the boys, but what about the SHE children – don’t want the girls to feel left out, now do we ? [sorry]

  22. Janet Ford
    09/02/2010 at 11:23 am

    I do wish you could see my daughter’s schedule before you make such comments. This week – Monday – skating with the home ed group (she got asked out by a school kid there, who thought it appropriate to follow her round shouting he wanted to bang her), followed by a French lesson with her Grandad (they are really enjoying learning the language together in spite of a 66 year age gap), Tuesday – English GCSE oral (two years early),but would usually be the weekly home ed meeting where she meets up with 80 or so other kids, Wednesday GCSE English Oral, but would usually be her Japanese lesson followed by a dancing session with the home ed group, Thursday – trampolining, followed by a talk on healthy eating followed by swimming (the home ed group has had to organise 3 groups to run concurrently at the leisure centre as over 70 kids signed up to this), Friday – meeting with friends to go shopping in town, Saturday – lunch with family and friends, Sunday – meeting with friends to go to the cinema. She is actually at home this weekend, usually she is booked up for sleepovers with her schooled friends who are not available during the week, poor things.

    Incidentally, even though she didn’t decide to do a GCSE English and English lit until very late, and so had to do her 18 months worth of coursework within 6 weeks, we just got her marks for the coursework, A for English Lang and A* for English Lit, so her hectic social schedule doesn’t seem to be affecting her marks 🙂

    We would love to meet some of you people who have the power to completely change our lives and the way we educate our children, and as you have this power, it does seem only fair that you should at least make the attempt to understand how it can affect us. It is very easy to make judgements and pass laws without understanding the devastating effect this could have.

    In our case, as we educate autonomously, with very little written evidence, using conversation, exploration, hands on experience and experimentation rather than workbooks, so anyone judging the content of our education would probably decide our children were not doing enough – yet our daughter has been tested by the school that is hosting her GCSE work, and got the highest score of any child they had ever tested, and our son was the youngest ever entrant on a PhD course at Manchester school of medicine. This is why we object to having people coming into our homes to make judgments on the content of our educational provision, who don’t have any knowledge of the methods used, as autonomous home education looks nothing like conventional school education, and yet it works exceptionally well.

  23. 09/02/2010 at 11:41 am

    I am very disappointed that you felt able to write this piece as though it is factual. A better approach surely would have been to ask what the real situation is with home education.
    It is better surely to form an opinion based on what acutally happens and not make up assumptions about what other people do!

    You would be welcome to visit our group or family and see what acutally happens.
    We are rehearsing for our Summer Show at the moment.

    In my experience it is schooled children who miss out on great opportunities being stuck in the institution all day and stuck at home all evening with homework because the schools are not capable of teaching what needs to be done in the day.
    At least my children can attend all the outings and sport events they are interested in without fear.

  24. Croft
    09/02/2010 at 12:15 pm

    Well haven’t you stirred up a hornets nest with those remarks, though I’m not sure that you didn’t bring it on yourself with comments that don’t seem to be aware of the variety of home schooling.

    It was traditionally considered a personal prerogative to grant mass creations (think of the election called before the King would agree to consider such a threat in 1911) Today that restraint seems to have been abandoned and everything is nodded though.

  25. Gareth Howell
    09/02/2010 at 12:18 pm

    Will a general election end the expenses scandal?

    Accountability and transparency will end it.
    The Lib dem manifesto makes clear what should be done by each and every member who claims
    parliamentary expenses, and always should have done, but for the corruption of the institution.

    Bills, receipts, accounts, for every penny claimed as an expense, also made available to the Constituencies at the general meeting for inspection.

    Secondly the old 1944 Education act was quite sufficient, in its wording to provide for Home Education.

    The words were “or Otherwise”.

    Quite enough said. Get on with it.

  26. 09/02/2010 at 12:25 pm

    Socialisation? Sports? Outings?

    Wot? Like education at castles, museums, theatres, Royal Institution, French lessons, drama lessons, Mad Science, dance, sailing, riding; workshops in history, geology, art, more science; outings to sewage plant, Parliament, farms, art gallery, sea life centres, zoos; parties at Pizza Express, swimming pools, ice rinks, cinemas; group walks in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Somerset, Leicestershire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northumberland; trips to Spain, Yemen, UAE, Hong Kong, Australia; team games at army assault course, tennis courts, climbing walls, canoe sessions; visits to Wales, Cheshire, Shropshire, Northamptonshire; explorations in Tin mines, neolithic caves, quarries, archaeology sites; science festivals at Cambridge, Oxford, Southampton; religions study at Buddhist temple, Benedictine abbey, gurdwara, synagogue, mosque. Then, fields… lots and lots and lots, of fields.

    Now don’t get me started on the home ed timetable for March.

  27. Roxy Featherstone
    09/02/2010 at 1:31 pm


    If you were to read some of the previous comments, you would see that concerns about limited socialisation and range of educational opportunities for home educated children are entirely unfounded and seem to result from ignorance of the reality of home education.

    If you do have any other outstanding concerns, please do let us know as we are receptive to criticism in the HE community, and will act on it, if it has merit.

    As it stands, the proposed law at Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill is entirely misconceived, will serve no useful function and instead will damage the education of thousands of home educated children.

    It will also be a massive waste of public money, since it will only result in the unproductive and often damaging inspections of thousands of otherwise satisfactory families, whilst children genuinely at risk continue to languish at the bottom of some overworked social worker’s “to do” list.

    Schedule 1 is entirely about the DCSF being seen to be doing something, rather than actually doing anything useful.

    From an informed perspective, it is enfuriating to think that the law of the land may be constructed on a basis of prejudice and ignorance of the facts.

  28. Jem
    09/02/2010 at 2:20 pm

    To underline what others have said here, home education provides far more diverse and natural socialisation for children than school does. In what way is forcing children to be together, whatever their preference, for hours of the day, excluded from mixing with children of other ages, or from having normal interactions with adults, in any way normal?

    My wife taught at primary level for many years and it was only when we began home educating our own children that she realised how little she knew, despite a Bachelor of Education degree and years of experience in school, of how children learn and how unrealistic their view of the world is if kept segregated in this way.

    In school, whilst there may be some small amount of mixing between ages, most children will choose all of their friends from within their own class and therefore age group.

    Now, I look at the home educated children I know (probably around 100 that I know well, and several times that number that I have passing contact with) and without exception they have friends and interactions with children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers.

    As well as this they have a far more healthy attitude to adults, seeing them as interesting fellow human beings, with all the flaws and assets that this entails, rather than as de facto authority figures to be admired or scorned, avoided merely by reason of their age. In short, the socialisation that comes from home education is one that teaches the value of all people of all ages.

    I would also allege that schooled children, because of their ghettoisation by age and to some extent social class, are far more at risk from the dangers of peer pressure, and its consequences of drug or alcohol use; immature sexualisation; submission to commercial (trends and fashions) pressures; and the general feeling prevalent amongst the school children I know that learning is boring and something to be complained about and avoided if possible.

    Please talk to the children of the HEYC (Home Educated Youth Council: and tell us again how bad their socialisation is. For that matter, come along to any home education group meeting and look for the children who are lacking in social interaction.

    I am not one to ‘school-bash’ but really, uninformed ideas voiced in an insulting way have to be responded to. To look at a few headlines from the last 12 months: Sixteen children a year commit suicide through pressures of bullying IN SCHOOL. 450,000 SCHOOL children are bullied every year. Around a million children play truant each year from SCHOOL. 70% of 14-17 year old SCHOOL children questioned said they found their education boring and irrelevant. Drug use by SCHOOL children on the increase. Half of all teachers say they cannot deal with the violence in their SCHOOLS. 360,000 children are injured every year in SCHOOL…

    Thank you, but I think I’ll leave your idea of the ‘benefits’ of school to you.

  29. Concerned Home Edder
    09/02/2010 at 2:29 pm

    Dear Baroness Deech,

    Your comments are very similar to what I thought about Home Education when I first heard about it. However, after I kept meeting lots of Home Educators, I discovered that it a brilliant way of educating children and contrary to my initial belief that children suffer or are disadvantaged with it, in fact the opposite is true. I now look at school children and feel sorry for them for the poor education they are getting.

    I now Home Educate my children and they have many friends and enjoy learning. I live in the catchment area for the top state secondary school, which gets better GCSE results than Eton. But I would not like to see my children go to that school because all they will be taught is how to pass exams and not the life skills and tools they need to live in the world.

    Please take up the opportunity to meet with Home Educators, it will be an education for you! You will then see why we are against this Bill and how it will cause thousands of children to suffer.

  30. ben
    09/02/2010 at 3:05 pm

    have you been CRB checked if not I believe that you have violated the bill yourself by visiting schools without being checked

  31. Jem
    09/02/2010 at 3:24 pm

    I see that in the above comments are some by much respected and enthusiastic home educating parents who run their own home educating blogs.

    Please please please take a few minutes to browse them and get a little insight into what being a home educated child really means. I can think of no better way to understand the depth and positivity of home education than to read the words of Grit (, Mum6kids (, and others like Sunny Day Today Mama (, The Chicken Shed (, Patch of Puddles (, Wise Little Acorn (, We Are Here ( and any and all of the other Home Ed blogs that link from them.

    If you love kids and education you will find the time reading passes quickly and happily.

  32. Jem
    09/02/2010 at 4:07 pm

    Roxy Featherstone said:
    “It will also be a massive waste of public money, since it will only result in the unproductive and often damaging inspections of thousands of otherwise satisfactory families, whilst children genuinely at risk continue to languish at the bottom of some overworked social worker’s “to do” list.”

    To quote one home education officer for my Local Authority, if the proposals in the Bill are passed, the increased workload will mean that she would need a team of ten instead of the current three in order to cover it. There is of course no funding proposed to hire and train seven extra officers, so she will be unable to implement the proposals. The result will be that she will have to abandon her currently registered families in order to chase after the non-registered ones. Non-registered families who until now have been in the community, attending home ed meetings and such, will retreat for fear of being found and forcibly registered and hence the Bill will result in less children being ‘seen’ than ever before.


    What is the alternative? Well, it’s not as quick and easy as slapping another bit of legislation together. It is to actually promote a culture of trust and support amongst home educators and Local Authorities. A radical idea I know, thinking that properly trained education officers, providing actual, non-judgemental support when it is asked for, following the guidelines which they have ignored for the past two years, intervening in families only when they have reasonable suspicion of a problem – a social SERVICE if you will – might be of benefit to families and the state alike, not to mention society as a whole.

    There were models for the beginnings of such a system, before the indelicate way the Badman Review was introduced and run destroyed them. But as I say, such a situation would take many years of work to accomplish, which is no good to quick-fix politicians who have no concept of the long term good.

  33. Gareth Howell
    09/02/2010 at 5:42 pm


    “Giving examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education, Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations in fluid informal arrangements”

    This a classic example of how Ivan Illich’s educational wisdom should be applied, but I do’t suppose a single person has mentioned him.

    It’s radical. The House of lords opinions on education are not. They want to perpetuate the monopoly of state schooling, which has everything to do with the state and precious little to do with learning for an ever increasing number of people.

    DESCHOOL SOCIETY! (Ivan Illich)

  34. Louisa Southey
    09/02/2010 at 6:05 pm

    I think you must have missed the 17 year old home educated young lady who spoke with such eloquence and confidence as the bill went through the committee stage. Your opinions are riddled with misconceptions and prejudice, I think it is you that have missed out on education.

  35. Outdoors Allday
    09/02/2010 at 6:40 pm

    Dear Baroness,
    I home educate my three children. We have recently spent a month in the Far East where my children continued their Chinese studies.
    While we were there, my children were lucky enough to have swimming lessons everyday in an olympic sized swimming pool.
    Now you tell me who’s missing out on outings, sport, socialising and a childhood where the possibilities are endless.

  36. Jenny
    09/02/2010 at 8:08 pm

    Baroness Deech,

    To what potential dangers do you refer? I suspect you don’t even know. Perhaps it is the high suicide rate due to bulling? Oh no, that’s schooled kids. Is it the high illiteracy rate? On no, that’s school kids too. You must be thinking of the Victoria Climbie’s of this world. Oh, but she wasn’t home schooled. Maybe it’s the Baby Peter’s but he wasn’t home educated either. It’ must be the Edlington boys. No again I’m afraid they were in school and the ‘net of safety’ for something like NINE YEARS! Oh, I know, it’s all the forced marriages and slave labour. Sorry no luck their either; even the Badman himself was unable to uncover any ‘evidence’ to support this ridiculous assertion. I despair.

    You apparently chose to support the view that parents can not be trusted and the state knows best. Never mind, your in good company, Hitler and the current German government believe as you do as well.

  37. Merry
    09/02/2010 at 8:09 pm

    “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”

    Oh for heavens sake. What about assuming in the first instance that we are parents who take our responsibilities seriously, consider all the pros and cons and make informed choices?

    My 4 daughters attend gym, dancing, drama club, Brownies, Taekwondo, home ed groups and more – over 10 hours of social activity and sport a week each, all things freely available to people in our town and used by schooling and home educating parents alike to provide EXACTLY what you talk about. If all the needs of school children were met in schools, there would be no school children at any of those things.

    We are thinking, walking, talking humans you know – we don’t go into this blindly; we look at what we want for our children and then we think outside the box to make sure we provide it for them. it really is time people judging us started to think outside the box too – being incarcerated in a school is not the only way to learn social skills, in fact, looking at the social skills of many school children i see, i’m not remotely sure it is the place to learn those sort of skills at all.

  38. Carole Rutherford
    09/02/2010 at 8:18 pm

    My 12 year old autistic son who has been home educated since the age of 5 is playing outside my front door right now with his 6 Neuro-typical friends, all of whom go to school. While my son was attending school he was referred to as ‘the autistic kid’ by his peer group. He was force fed grass seeds and told that he would grow a beautiful garden in his tummy by his peers. As a literal thinker he spent the next month terrified that he was growing flowers in his tummy. When I made a complaint to the school, I was their Chair of Governors at that time, I was told that the other children were too young to understand what they were doing. How are attitudes like that going to help discipline children? My son does know right from wrong and having being told that it was wrong to hit, kick and bit other children by his school felt impelled to tell his teachers when he saw another child breaking the school rules. Their response to my son was to go away and to stop telling tales.

    Diversity is something that many schools still have very little understanding of. Many children with autism are being made to fit into the system as opposed to the system celebrating their diversity.

    My son is a member of our local gym. He swims with his friends, has been a member of St John’s Ambulance Brigade from being 5 years 7 years old. My son has learnt to mix with other children because he we took him out of a school environment and not because we forced him to remain in it.

    My son has a keen interest in politics and we often have group discussions about political issues with his friends, who are always keen to join in with our discussions because they find them interesting and informative. Our group discussions began last summer in our back garden when our son was talking about Gordon Brown and was the only one of his six friends who knew who Gordon Brown was and what he did.

    My son has been the House of Commons on several occasions now because of the work that my husband and I do regarding both autism and home education.

  39. Ria
    09/02/2010 at 8:40 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me when people in positions of influence form opinions about something they know nothing about.

    I find it to be one of the most unflattering traits and one that speaks highly of character. Why? Because surely those whose voices are heard more loudly than others, should perhaps do a little ‘hands on’ research, before they form such hardened opinions and voice them from their soap boxes.

    I would love to ask you to speak at our home ed group, but I fear you may just not know what you are talking about if this blog is anything to go by.

    Perhaps it is time to step out of the green house and into the forest.

  40. 09/02/2010 at 9:10 pm

    I’m afraid i don’t recognise your description of home education. As a semi-autonomous father involved in educating children otherwise than at school (home education implies that they are educated solely in the home, which is absurd), my children have regular contact with other children, both those who go to school and those who don’t. If there is a problem with socialisation, the issue is that they lack the time to prioritise formal learning above socialising on occasions. They mix with other children through out of school clubs, church, drama, sport and music groups, youth clubs, relatives, as friends, as part of youth groups such as guides and scouts and in countless other ways, like most other “home educated” children. I believe you may have been misled by the term “home” education. With the possible exception of parents whose children are in care, absent parents and those whose children are at boarding school, practically all parents are home educators. The difference between us and families whose children attend school is simply that the latter do not engage in full-time parenting, possibly because of pressure of paid work. We are as much in the community as any other group, and we are not outsiders. We’re just normal families like anyone else, but have the good fortune of being aware that we can educate independently without costing the state an extra penny, and we generally achieve better results academically than groups matched for background and income, as the well-known recent Canadian study demonstrated. Adults who were home educated as children are more likely to contribute to the community through voluntary work, less likely to commit criminal offences, have higher incomes and therefore contribute more to the economy and the taxation system, and are more innovative and happier. All this without costing the DCSF any money at all. Concerning physical facilities, these exist already in the community in many cases or are shared by families.

    I honestly think you aren’t well-informed on this matter.

  41. 09/02/2010 at 9:15 pm

    I feel quite strongly that your missing out on the point of education, in the UK.

    Children go to school in order to be taught, and educated. However as our children have become often brighter than the educators, and the class sizes bigger, many teachers can no longer provide the children with an education based on the individual child’s needs.

    Education otherwise… ie home educating allows this. This week alone my five year old has played with over 60 children of mixed age ranges, been swimming in the local swimming pool, been to the library twice. to pick up books reserved, fed the ducks at a local park, twice and played on public swings, three times – different venues.
    She has been to two local cafe’s and even been to Tescos and Morrisons with us to do the shopping! Where all the staff know here and talk to her…

    My child is not isolated, or at risk. She is sociable, and know in our village. She even gets to go on the “library bus” and reserve books on that every month I wonder how many school children get that chance!!

    She has also been to the local bird reserve in the last week, and will be meeting up with another 30 plus home educated and schooled children tomorrow, for her home education group followed by woodcraft folk. Home schooled children can do two groups a day 7 days a week if they want, as they don’t have the leave the house at 7.30 for the school bus!!!

  42. Carolyn
    09/02/2010 at 10:15 pm

    It is a shame that people do not do some research into the differences between home educated and school educated children, perhaps they do not want to do this for fear of being proven wrong. If we look at the prison population (for example) as a whole, what percentage were home educated? The same with unemployment, teenage pregnancies, drug addiction, binge drinking etc. Sweeping statements by ‘intelligent’ people should not be made without there first being research completed and evidence presented.
    Another thing – when children leave education and get a job are they put into a room with everyone of the same age? – of course not! How is that schools are supposedly institutions preparing children for the real world and yet they do not reflect the real world?
    Why is it that this government the EU, UN and UNICEF would love to see the role of the family being blindly handed over to the state. It is insulting to caring parents to say that the state knows more than them. We are no better than Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR or Mao’s China when we say that the state should have total control over our children.

  43. Kellyi
    09/02/2010 at 10:16 pm

    I would like to ask how many home educated children Baroness Deech has met, spoken to and/ or observed.

    My children are home educated. They also attend Guides, Scouts and Boys Brigade, Athletics and other activities. They have only one day a week that they aren’t socialising.

    I am disappointed that some one with so much power could be so ill informed.

    I also have to ask, a girls school? How do these girls learn to mix with the opposite sex? On the basis of your view of home education, surely all schools should be co-ed, to ensure proper “socialisation”.

  44. Joolz SavilleHippely
    09/02/2010 at 10:26 pm

    How wonderful to read the responses from all those people supporting and practicing home education!

    My daughters have never been to school. In a typical week they attend drama classes, TaeKwon-do, gymnastics, ice skating, Woodcraft Folk and swimming. My eldest also studies English & Maths in a small tutor group. We visit museums, galleries, parks and friends houses. They also find time for art and crafts, both with friends and at home. They go to TKD Camps in the school holidays and love sleepovers with their friends, both schooled and un-schooled. Every summer they take part in the South London Home-Ed Sports Day. 70 friends came to my daughter’s 8th birthday party!

    They are happy, well-adjusted and are learning to mix with people of all ages and to manage a lot of their own time. As are the other 100-or-so homeschooled kids we know in South London!

  45. Joolz SavilleHippely
    09/02/2010 at 10:31 pm

    “Schools have not necessarily much to do with education… they are mainly institutions of control, where basic habits must be inculcated in the young. Education is quite different and has little place in school.”
    Sir Winston Churchill

  46. Kathy Berry
    09/02/2010 at 11:02 pm

    I would like to reply to two of your points. “I agree with Lord Soley, not only that there may be dangers in uninspected home education,” There are dangers in violent or emotionally abusive people spending time with children. These people may be parents, teachers, clergy, neighbours, strangers… No group or class of people can consider themselves free of bad apples. We cannot ensure a child is always safe, but only that reports from the child or others are taken seriously and acted on where appropriate. The law already provides for social workers to take action when there are concerns a child may be at risk. It is widely acknowledged that social workers are underfunded and overstretched and often cannot adequately monitor the children they already know to be at risk. How is spending millions of pounds keeping a register of home educated children going to do anything but divert money that could be spent on children and families we already know need help?
    You also say “but also that children miss out on many advantages if they do not spend their time in the company of other schoolchildren.”
    I would agree that a child that did not ever spend time in the company of other children would have a rather deficient experience. But do they really need to spend 30 hours + a week with the same 29 children? Is this even advisable? I would say, no, and no. My son is home educated. He is extremely sociable when he wants to be and likes his own company a lot of the time. This is his personality. Some children like being in large groups, some do not. This range of preferences is reflected in adults, too.
    Come and meet us and other home educators, and you will see that this proposed legislation is a vast unecessary expense at a time when Britain could really spend her money more wisely.

    • Carolyn
      12/02/2010 at 7:31 pm

      Well said!!

  47. Garry
    10/02/2010 at 12:09 am

    Another example of the occupational habit [sic] of politicians: interfering in things they know absolutely NOTHING about! Do your homework, Madam; you abuse your position …

    And, please, answer the question previously asked: Have you ever actually met a home-educating family? Clearly the answer is No! So how dare you presume to pontificate about it?

  48. Ken Moore
    10/02/2010 at 12:11 am

    When Baroness Deech wrote this blog, she was clearly in need of the instruction about home education that has followed in the comments. Does she also need to be educated about the facts of the state education system? The impact statement for the CSF Bill has been written on the false assumption that imposing on home educators the sort of rigid schedule that the schools have to follow will result in an improved education for the estimated (= guessed) 20% of home educated children who (they allege without evidence) are currently not being adequately educated. Home educators fear, with impeccable logic, that it will at best achieve the same results as the state system, in which at least 25% of children receive an education which is inadequate for them, and either fails to give them by the age of 11 the numerical and literacy skills that they need to follow the secondary curriculum or fails to stimulate their curiosity or ambition because they effortlessly achieve the current downgraded benchmarks.

    Since many home educated children have been withdrawn from school because their special educational needs were not being met, a true impact statement would include the costs of their education being ruined, either by a return to the ineffectual methods used by the schools or, for some particularly vulnerable children, by the mere presence of an intrusive stranger in their home.

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