Action-packed day today. E and H were signed up for their first ever swimming lessons, and were both absolutely fantastic going in to their groups on their own. They have a lesson every day this week, then I’ve promised them we are taking B with us at the weekend to show him everything they’ve learned. They’re both really looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson – phew!
We went straight from that to a 2 hr art and craft session. We invited a few neighbours along as it is the holidays, but man, it was hard work! Complete mayhem! We’ve run a similar session a few times, but mainly with other Home Edders, or close friends. It was all a bit messy, and took an age to clear up. Plus, it didn’t help I was in a hurry as I had been invited to meet Ed Balls, Labour Education Secretary, man who stated that if Labour get back in this election, he will ensure that Clause 26 of the Education Bill, that got chucked out of parliament last week, will be revisited and brought in: every Home Ed family must register or face criminal charges, in order for them to be regularly inspected to ensure they are not abusing their children, as of course there are no other opportunities for these children to be assessed or seen by any other of the goverments systems: health visitors, doctors, social services??
We got out of the car just as he was arriving…at that point I realised that E had 2 smears of yellow paint across her forehead, I had paint up both arms, and H looked like she’d had a fight with a palette, and the palette had won. L also had a fetching blob of purple paint in his hair. I was just burrowing in the car for some wipes, when I heard myself being introduced…not good! My MP (Labour) had decided that it would be ‘interesting’ for Mr Balls to meet our family…a little sadistic?! B is generally a lot more eloquent with his words/arguments than I am, but he couldn’t get out of work, so had nominated me to go along and make him squirm for a few minutes.
After the initial introduction, I went in and attempted to find a corner for me and 3 kids to hide in. Unfortunately it turned out to be a sit in and ask questions thing, and where did Ed Balls decide to plonk himself? Next to me! He also put his huge and mega heavy case on my foot – ouch! And I was wearing my new, shiny red shoes – what was he thinking?! There was also a table covered in cakes and crisps just beyond him, out of our reach!
We sat through his spiel on Labour for the election, and run through of their main policies, then our MP had lined up questions from a few people around the room, on all sorts of school/educationy things. The kids were so good, as it all went on for an age, all trapped in there! E kept asking me to get her a cake, L was trying to make a break for freedom, rattling the blinds, rattling my car keys – all in EB’s ear while he was trying to do his question and answer session! He kept winking at H, who wasn’t impressed at all, and was holding L’s hand in a bid to distract him…I was a little unnerved by this, considering I was psyching myself up to confronting EB!
Then just as I thought it was all over, I heard PD (our MP) ask if there were any other points, then realised he was looking pointedly at me Wibble.
I started by saying I was interested in the Home Ed parts of the Education Bill that had just been chucked out, and his statement that he intended, on re-election, to bring it all back in again. I pointed out that it felt like being accused of abuse, and made no sense as there were other systems already in place that don’t seem to work, why bring in another one? He started to become a little defensive, stating the Khyra Ishaq case, but although she was pulled out of school to apparently be Home Educated, she was known to the school system and social services. EB said essentially that he felt very strongly that since people from the school couldn’t get access to the home, and social services couldn’t, that HE assessors (these would be educational assessors, mainly former-teachers, not social workers?!) were necessary to gain access…?
I am still very confused by this, as it makes no sense whatsoever! I said as much, and at this point his face was turning a little puce, and he said that he had never had so much vitriol from any one group in his whole career as he has from the Home Ed community!! I had to grin with pride – I think the campaigns and continual work that Home Ed families across the UK have put into getting our message across to the government about this Education Bill has had some effect! Though, he does appear to be determined to get his way. Surely he would have taken the hint by now?! He also said that a small proportion of the Home Ed community seem to be determined that they should keep their right to go unaccounted for, and left alone to do their own thing…and that he couldn’t understand why the Home Ed community was so against being assessed in reference to abuse, I pointed out that he was targeting a parent’s right to protect their child (from strangers),and the feeling of being suspected of abuse of their own children, so they were bound to react strongly! EB said the usual, that if you have nothing to hide there is nothing to be concerned about. Easy to say!
Things were being drawn to a close, and L chose that moment to scream the place down. EB sprung to the rescue stating that his donald duck impression should do the trick…to be fair to him L did stop crying, mostly to give him a very concerned and puzzled look!