Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Is this the Level of Courtesy Children can Expect when they contact Maggie Atkinson in her role as Children's Commissioner?

She certainly didn't show any to this home educating parent who's email to her and reply from her are copied below.

She seems unconcerned by her own ignorance of the law around education, has no respect for the general public and feels no need to be in anyway answerable to the ordinary citizen. 

This woman is already a Group Director Learning and Children and Director of Children's Services, but she seems to be under an illusion that she is not an employee of the public but is answerable only to her political sponsor bully boy Balls and her own career path.

Her email and address might make you consider sharing your opinion and feelings about her, don't let me stop you.

From: M Atkinson [mailto:MAtkinson@Gateshead.Gov.UK
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 1:30 PM
To: Anita Dowson
Cc: Mike Fortune Wood

Subject: RE: Home Education - Select committee interview

Thankyou for this message. As I do not take up the post of Children's Commissioner until 1st March 2010 having formally been confirmed in the appointment last week, I have referred this commentary and your offer of a meeting to staff at 11 Milion for reference and any action. I note, but have no intention of responding now or in future to, your commentary on either your dismay, or what in your personal opinion are my shortcomings.

Anita please send this email chain in fulll to 11 Million, for their advice as to whether such a meeting falls within the remit, and any subsequent action.

Many thanks

Dr. Maggie Atkinson

Group Director Learning and Children and Director of Children's Services
Gateshead Council
Civic Centre
Regent Street
Gateshead
NE8 1HH

tel: 0191 433 2700
fax: 0191 478 3875

From: Mike Fortune Wood
Sent: 25 October 2009 08:49

To: Maggie Atkinson

Subject: Home Education - Select committee interview

Dear Ms Atkinson

I have just read some of the evidence offered by your self to the Education select committee regarding your future appointment as children's commissioner. I was particularly interested in your comments regarding home education. You are quoted as saying: "I will take you back, if I may, to when I was an adviser in Birmingham city council, where there were quite large numbers of home-educated children-it is getting on for 20 years now since I worked in Birmingham. At that time, as an adviser I had a right and a duty not only to knock on the doors of people who were choosing electively to educate their children at home, but simply to go into their premises and, on the most headline of bases, to look at whether the environment was right, whether there were age-appropriate materials in use, and whether the children seemed okay. They were never interviewed on their own, they were never taken on one side, they were never taken away from their parents and there was never any really intrusive work that I did as an adviser from Birmingham city council. I felt it was entirely appropriate, and it was within the bounds of reason. In the last two to three years, the regulations are such that I can go no further than the doorstep. I have absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of families who choose electively to educate their children at home are doing so for entirely right reasons, for entirely honourable, fair, just, creative and admirable reasons. But I would give you two words, and they are the first and second names of the child who died-Khyra Ishaq. I do not think that it is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut simply to be able to go across the doorstep of the home where a child is being electively home educated. Not to interfere, not to insist, not to direct, but simply to check that they are as safe as you need them to be. Khyra Ishaq was electively home educated and withdrawn from the roll of her school in Birmingham, and within 10 weeks she had starved to death.  That may be an extreme case, and horrible and dreadful, and it happens very, very, very rarely indeed. None the less, it happened."

 I would like to highlight several issues with respect to this comment.

 1) The law WRT home education has not changed since 1996 when parents no longer needed permission to withdraw their children from school. It has in fact never been the case that an inspector had the right to doorstep parents, gain entry to the home or sight of the child without good cause any more than the authorities have a right of access to the home for children between the ages of 0-5 years (other than one visit following a birth). (This is a misunderstanding, they must offer but cannot insist) my words.

Good cause being that there is evidence or good reason to believe that a child or vulnerable person was in immediate risk of significant harm.

There has never been any statutory guidance on this subject. Such guidance as there has been was simply guidance.

 It may be a surprise to you but quite often it is the children themselves who refuse to see or have contact with officials from education departments.  Frequently children leave the school system traumatised by the experience and for them to be perused into their own home by the self same people who failed to protect them in school from bullying or stress is as unacceptable to the children as it is to the parents.

2) Khyra Ishaq was known by social services who had prior concerns about the child and the family. They therefore had due cause and good reason to require sight of the child and therefore they had a right of access to the child. It is clear from reports on this child's death that it had nothing whatsoever to do with home education and was everything to do with failures in Birmingham social services department.

Your attempt to blame home educators for the death of this unfortunate child has been seen by home educators as a blatant attack on the rights of families to bring up their children in their own way and does not bode well for the future of home educators or their children should you eventually take up post as children's commissioner.

I am frankly dismayed that as head of children's services in a large department and a prospective candidate to the post of children's commissioner you are unaware of the current legal situation concerning home education as a consequence of which you misled members of a committee about to consider the issue of home education.

I am certain that members of the home education community would be willing to meet with you to assist you in understanding our concerns regarding the Badman review and its recommendations.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Best wishes

Mike Fortune Wood
The term I like best for the quality of Maggie Atkinson's reply is snotogram a term used by a poster to one of the HE lists. 

19 comments:

Law-abiding citizen said...

Dear Ms Atkinson,
Please take note that my family have no intention of responding to or otherwise taking any notice of whatsoever, any and all pronouncements, commentaries, edicts or decrees pertaining to the private lives of members of this family, issued by Ed Balls' unelected tame laptog who apparently could use a decent dictionary of the English language with which to look up the meaning of words such as "public servant", "accountability" and "democracy".
Yours sincerely

Baz said...

I would have been more impressed with her if her reply had simply said:

"Whatevs!"

Dave H said...

Wow, the battle lines are drawn. Definitely the Child Catcher, not commissioner.

I hope the home educating parent concerned copies the exchange to Graham Stuart and Douglas Carswell, or gives permission for someone else to. Definitely worth bringing to the attention of the select committee.

Anonymous said...

I object to my tax money being paid to a person who is so wholly in contempt of the law and the people who she is supposed to be accountable to. I think her post should remain vacant until the Tories eradicate it. She is not worthy!

Ruth said...

Arrogant, self serving bitch.

Dippyness. said...

I'd have let the bloody dogs loose on her if she'd barged into my house.
She's a bully being backed by an even bigger bully.
Ignorant harpy.

Anonymous said...

An email exchange worthy of Private Eye surely?

Elaine said...

Khyra last attended school December 19th 2007
Khyra died May 17th 2008

That is 22 weeks

Maggie's testimony to the select committee
''Khyra Ishaq was electively home educated and withdrawn from the roll of her school in Birmingham, and within 10 weeks she had starved to death. ''

That means (as was said in Court) that Khyra was deregistered in MARCH 2008, 3 months after she last attended school. 3 months when she was missing from education and her teachers were expressing their concerns, 3 months !!
Khyra's death had nothing to do with home education and everything to do with her carers failing her .

Maire said...

It is very worrying that these people seem to be so immoral that they are willing to use their own tragic and abysmal failings to pilory us. It is even more worrying that they seem to be quite confident of getting away with it.

Lisa G said...

What a complete load of crap from Maggie Atkinson, it sounds like she is making things up! Home educating parents in England have every right to expect her to be answerable for spouting this rubbish!

Grit said...

i read mfw's email as largely referring to the basis of legal fact and rather gracious in the offer of a meeting, considering the circumstances. But my goodness! Mrs Snippysnip reply! ouch!

Sally said...

Am I glad she never came to visit me! I can imagine her running her finger over the mantle, checking for an accumulation of dust that indicates my children are being abused and not receiving an education. She gives me mind of a deputy head at my secondary school who confided in me that she doesn't drink tea when she visits students at home because of the tendency to uncleanliness. She thought she was dealing with someone of her 'class' (as I had a 'posh' accent) ... but if she'd ever drunk tea at our house she'd have got the 'hated visitor' cup ... the one that was naturally brown inside, and thus of dubious cleanliness!
She's got school-teacher attitude to parents! It's a misguided, arrogant, us'n'them attitude I came across a lot as a teacher.
She makes me shiver!

Michelle, Nottingham said...

Do these people have any accountability when they are found to be lying to the Select Committee? Her lies about Khyra Ishaq, (dates for leaving school, relevance to HE) show at best; ignorance, at worst; a deliberate attempt to mislead the committee. The child's neighbours, teachers, natural father and other family members all raised urgent concerns with the SS and they failed to address the issue properly ultimately failing poor Khyra who paid with her life.

It seems to me that the obscene amounts of money it has, no doubt, cost and is costing to fund bogus reviews of HE, Select Committees to oversee said reviews and a poorly qualified "Childrens' Commissioner" would be better spent on training the SS to implement the existing laws of the land!

Juno said...

Is she allowed to copy MFW's email to someone else and then request it be copied further?

In my voluntary work, that would be a breach of our email policy - and whether she must abide by a similar policy or not, it's certainly rude not to request MFW's permission before doing so.

Maire said...

My councillor has just done this to me, seems public office makes people above common courtesy.

Dave H said...

Is she allowed to copy MFW's email to someone else and then request it be copied further?

Well, we could return the courtesy and copy her reply to other people, who would be interested in knowing her attitude to the people who will be paying her wages.

mum6kids said...

Ye GODS and LITTLE FISHES!! (or other non printable words to that effect) HOW rude this woman is! What an arrogant bully.
At least we can be absolutely sure that children's well being isn't on her agenda. I can't wait for the role of Child Catcher to be scrapped and will remind the Tory's of that promise on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Atkinson

I have just read a document written by Mike Fortune Wood to you on the 25th October 2009. I completely agree with him. When Graham Badman's recommendations especially the recommendation about forced home visits and interviewing the child on its own I was extremely angry for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that forced visits are an intrusion into family privacy. Also LA officers do not understand at all and so they would look at home education in a school based view (Just like the way you are looking at it). I do not like the way you refer to the home as a premises. A house is not an object it is a place where people should be able to relax and spend time with their family. You said that when you worked Birmingham you had a right to enter the premises . There never has been a right to enter someone's house. Only the police can do that and even they have to have evidence. You also said that you would check to see whether the environment was safe and whether there were age appropriate materials in use. What exactly is age appropriate? Can a 14 year-old use a pair of scissors or is it better for him to use plastic safety scissors that don't cut anything? It is impossible to eliminate all risks. As I am typing I could receive an electric shock from a power surge. But does that mean you never type anything? Could you explain meaning of safe to me. There is no way to make everything safe, let me know if you figure one out.

You also attempted to blame home educators for Khyra Ishaq's death. Khyra Ishaq was well known to social services before she was withdrawn. Her death was not home educators fault but Social Services fault. Social services has the power to enter the house if they have solid evidence of concerns of a child's safety. They did in this case yet they failed to take action why is that? It seems to me that Social Services need to have a lot of extra training.

Graham Badman, Ed Balls, and you to name a few seem to want to do a huge checkup on all home educators. The police don't inspect everyone just because somebody has stolen goods. They do targeted intelligence which is faster and more efficient.


You are going to be the new children's commissioner so why won't you listen to home educated children. I would happily meet with you to discuss this further. Surely there must be a possible time.

SuchSmallHands said...

Hi

I've just spotted this reply now, I certainly didn't get any CC to me from anyone, let alone the new children's Commissioner.
Frankly I've come to expect this from such people, it seems that the more you are paid as a servant of the people the less you have to take notice of their concerns.

Mike Fortune-Wood

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