On Friday January 8th 2016 I attended a round table discussion with the NSPCC on the subject of keeping children safe in home education.
I received an invitation, which was the same as this https://www.change.org/p/peter-wanless-ceo-nspcc-please-withdraw-your-report-children-not-educated-in-school-learning-from-case-reviews/u/14554802 . I presume it was in response to my writing an open letter.
Someone at the meeting stipulated that the NSPCC should write it up. I am allowed to report this because the person in question has already revealed it himself. There was an agreement that we would wait for the NSPCC notes, that we would agree them, and then we would share.
There was no mention of the Chatham House Rule this time, which is where participants can reveal what THEY said and also what was said by others BUT nothing should be done to identify, either explicitly or implicitly, who said what.
Opinions differ as to what precisely the other promises were. It remains my understanding that nothing was to be shared BEFORE the agreed NSPCC notes were released but that this did not bind us AFTER the notes were released, although I am aware that this is NOT a view shared by everyone.
It doesn’t really matter either way now though, because three months after the NSPCC meeting there is a stalemate. We received the second set of notes from the NSPCC on February 17th and some people weren’t happy. I can report this without constraint because it has been posted already on the petition site.
For a few days after February 17th it appeared that there might be a way to resolve the situation with a third set of notes but this quickly turned out not to be the case.
Just to be clear, the third set of notes would NOT be anything written by me.
I did say in a couple of places that I was scribbling a lot down at the meeting and subsequently that I was writing up my notes. I also said that once I’d got the second set of NSPCC notes, I’d asked if I could share my notes as well. The majority view was that the ONLY notes allowed were the notes issued by the NSPCC, although the NSPCC itself has not taken a position on this.
I did turn down suggestions that my notes should be adopted by the NSPCC in place of their own notes, partly because I felt it would have been weird and a bit insulting after making the NSPCC go to all the trouble of writing up the meeting twice themselves, only to end up saying “just ditch your version and use this instead” and also because in some ways I actually prefer the NSPCC notes since my official write-up was very circumspect.
In the run-up to the meeting I was very worried. I’d seen the invitation on the petition site and my main concern was that “home education representatives” would be asked for suggestions on how best to update the thematic briefing on home education in serious case reviews (because that’s what the invitation implied to me) and that any subsequent briefing would include some phrase such as “following discussions with some representatives from the home education community…”
To my surprise and initial relief, this isn’t what happened at the meeting. I can’t report what we DID talk about but we DIDN’T talk about a new version or update, and I did want to let people know this. I think the meeting was primarily envisaged as opening a channel of communication which would be more positive and constructive although in light of the above I am not sure how that stands right now.
So what exactly was discussed \ decided that you can share – other than everyone wrote notes but no one can see the official version?
It is a little frustrating for those of us on the sidelines who have a sort of interest – only as these things have a habit of coming back in the future with a “Oh but everyone agreed at the time that there would be new legislation” sort of thing. I know this is not actually the case – but the NSPCC is tricky to deal with and nothing would surprise me from that organisation
Hi Jaki, I don’t know that everyone wrote notes. And I don’t think there is anything I am allowed to share. The thing now is that it hasn’t been possible to reach agreement on what should or shouldn’t be in the official version. So it’s all ground to a halt.
Usually the truth about a meeting – and conclusions reached [or not] are generally more benign than the uncertainty of not knowing what happened or what was discussed and what may – or may not – might appear in the future
It is quite usual for folks not to agree – after all Home Educators rarely do – but surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility to say “This was proposed – X people disagreed – Further discussion needed” sort of thing.
Far less scary than a blanket silence on the whole proceedings
Hey ho – Secrecy rules
My conclusion from all this, and I’m not asking you to confirm or deny, is that the NSPCC notes put a slant on things which one or more “home education representative” was not willing to accept precisely because of the “following discussions with some representatives from the home education community…” problem. I wouldn’t personally trust the NSPCC as far as I could comfortably spit a rat.
So in essence although you can’t tell us what you talked about, it wasn’t too sinister. However by not releasing an official version of the notes, everybody’s brains will be going into overdrive thinking the worst. NSPCC have already built a considerable mistrust within the home education community and this is certainly not doing them any favours.
Personally Fiona we would prefer you went to these things so we are eventually forewarned of future problems, not all of us can get to these sort of meetings
Hi Janet, yes that’s about it.
I hope you aren’t implying anything negative about rats! I have always been extremely fond of all the pet rats we have had over the years.
You’re aware that I didn’t object to what the NSPCC wrote in their notes of the meeting?
Hi again Jaki,
I’m replying to your comment where you said “Usually the truth about a meeting – and conclusions reached [or not] are generally more benign than the uncertainty of not knowing what happened or what was discussed and what may – or may not – might appear in the future
It is quite usual for folks not to agree – after all Home Educators rarely do – but surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility to say “This was proposed – X people disagreed – Further discussion needed” sort of thing. Far less scary than a blanket silence on the whole proceedings”
I entirely agree with you. It’s horrible if there’s been a discussion and you weren’t there and you’re on tenterhooks because you don’t know how it went or what was decided.
It appears that there HASN’T been a blanket silence though because there are references here to people in closed groups having had access to the minutes for a long time and to notes being “out there”.
As you probably know, it wasn’t a formal meeting, it was more of an informal discussion or chat, which is why there weren’t going to be formal minutes anyway, but notes of the discussion.
In my experience it’s really really hard to write up that kind of discussion, particularly when it involves home educators. I’ve been to chat-type home ed meetings with LAs and home educators where I basically have to write EVERYTHING down in a frenzied scribble because while it’s actually happening I can’t tell in the flow of conversation what will turn out to have been relevant or significant when it feels like people are “just chatting”. Someone may not exactly catch what someone said, or not pick up on a reference or allusion, or get the wrong idea about what they THOUGHT the person was saying.
Afterwards I have to pick my way painstakingly through my notes and replay the video in my head where I can visualise who sat where, and what I clocked at the time in terms of other people’s reactions while someone was speaking and how I interpreted that.
Official notes on the other hand are usually very brief.
The note taker has either not had training in taking notes or else is trying to make the notes fit into a standard format of a meeting with “Item Heading” “Summary Discussion” “Action Points with names for follow-through” etc which is not going to be much use at all in this context. When I watch an official note-taker at a chat-type meeting, I see them writing lots at the beginning but less and less as the meeting unfolds.
Both drafts from the NSPCC were longer than I expected.
I’m not able to tell you what the problem was with the NSPCC notes because I don’t have permission to disclose the material from private emails, but you will be aware that Graeme has publicly referred to a “twisted version” and “misrepresentations”. This is Graeme’s summary from February 19th
“The draft issued by NSPCC on 29 Jan was woefully inadequate in that it left out a summary of the substantial part of the meeting where we discussed the NSPCC report and the case reviews it was based on. Additions and corrections to the 29 Jan draft were submitted by me on 2 Feb to the NSPCC that addressed those inadequacies. The version provided on 17 Feb has ignored those additions and corrections and instead presented a twisted version of what was discussed.”
(See https://www.change.org/p/peter-wanless-ceo-nspcc-please-withdraw-your-report-children-not-educated-in-school-learning-from-case-reviews/u/15502482 + comments from Graeme)