Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Story Behind the Making of the ALN Bill Cartoon by Swansea Kids.

The Story Behind the Making of the ALN Bill Cartoon by Swansea Kids.  For
By Gail John
In late August/early September 2015, I was asked by a number of parents if I would work with their home-educated children.  This was after, I had home-educated  my own daughter, helping her to acquire her GCSEs against the odds, since she had developed  severe panic attacks in school and had no choice but to leave school at 15.  Therefore, after producing successful GCSE results with her, against all the odds stacked against us, a number of parents asked if I would help their children too, since educational ‘other’ options within our locality were virtually non-existent.
From September to November, in order to successfully engage these new learners, I made films with them.  The kids not only had fun making these films, but they also found that they could learn complicated concepts, difficult key vocabulary and could remember key themes from the core syllabus that we were studying. During this time, we made films about consensus and conflict theories, as well as culture, identity and socialisation, as part of the sociology syllabus.  During this process, I discovered how all the learners were incredibly creatively talented, with their own set of unique gifts and interests. One of our learners was already an experienced film maker. Others were expert actors and mimics. We had so much fun creating these digital learning tools together and our expert film-maker was able to edit some of our films, using special effects to produce films of quite a high visual quality.
One day, after some of the children had attended an ALN Bill consultation talk, we talked about how this legislation would affect generations for years to come and how important it was for the Welsh public to engage with the Welsh Government during the proposals. At the same time, we were also using cartoons as an educational tool to analyse different interpretations of the different characters within an English Literature set text which we were studying. The children and I enjoyed using the idea of a ‘chat show’ to question the different characters in order to explore dramatic irony and to experiment with different possible interpretations of the characters’ actions, grounded in context.  
This was when the idea of combining both the ALN Bill information and creating a cartoon was born.
A script was written using the information found within the Welsh Government Draft documentation, ALN Bill Consultation presentations, statistics, the personal experiences of some Welsh parents and it was set in the context of a ‘chat show’ in order to present the different perspectives.  The children did not want to be filmed live but chose a cartoon format. Our very own 15 year old film- expert set to work designing and creating a set for our cartoon ‘Chat Show’.  A 12 year old (mainstream child, who attended an ALN Consultation presentation) and two home-schooled children (16 years old and 13 years old) took on the parts of the fictional characters.  Our very own 15 year old film/cartoon expert recorded the different character voices and all adults were banned from the room, during this process, due to possible unwanted interference.  Later, our very own experienced film/cartoon expert used his gifts in special effects to complete the cartoon conveying a powerful message, completely from scratch and without adult intervention.   
This cartoon has made it onto multiple social media sites. It has also been shown to a range of stakeholders, including being sent to Welsh Government and councillors within local government.  Our 15 year old cartoon creator, along with the 13 year old youngster who was the voice behind the fictional presenter, ‘Sian Griffiths’, realised just how famous and wide-spread their ALN Bill cartoon had become, when their mum came home from work one day and stated that she had been shown it independently as part of her job.    
Well done kids. Gwaith ardderchog!


Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Sunday Papers - a response.

This previous blog post shows you what Home Education actually involves from those of us who are actually doing it  here in Wales. 

Dispelling the Myths!  - click here to be taken directly to a list of blogs written by HEs

Instead of enjoying a relaxing break, now the consultation responses for the ALN Bill were in; HE group leaders found themselves wondering how on earth we could best support our English cousins over the border this morning. A series of lurid and inaccurate press articles dominated our day. It became clear as the day rolled on, that Home Education in England is under attack in a way we just hadn't anticipated!

In an attempt to counteract some of the negativity caused by The Independent on Sunday article (and others) and the focus on radicalism, some home educators are trying to launch a campaign to spread positivity about all the normal, yet wonderful things that happen in home education. On Facebook and Twitter, we are looking to put up photos of anything we have made or done accompanied with our very own Welsh campaign hash tag #HandsUpForHomeEd and also a brand new English one #‎freedomtolearn‬. 

Please feel free to share in other HE groups, admins of the national HE FB groups will be putting up a similar message. A HE mum is also trying to get together an image for our profile photos to support us. When she's done we'll post it here of course. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

ALN BILL - Voice of the child animation.

WALES ALN BILL - responses needed!

THE VIDEO - VOICE OF THE CHILD  - watch the children's self-made animation.
Urgency - If you are a young person, parent/carer or/and a professional, please fill in the form. There are gaps in provision, which will widen unless your voice is heard by Welsh Government by 18th December, 2015.
Voices by Dylan and Enya Morgan-Beattie and another.
Created by Welsh children who wanted their voices heard (UN Rights of the Child, Article 12, 42)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

KS3 Structured Curriculum materials for newcomers to Home Education.

Structured HE - some learning resources just to get you started.

Please don't go spending a fortune at first, it takes a while to suss your child's preferred learning style. We think the real burning need for text books only comes when you hit the exam syllabus stage; and that until then most stuff can actually be gleaned for free or very low cost. Start with the free stuff and only make purchases when you are sure you actually need them. This will mean that hopefully you will have the funds available for any really critical things you may find your child needs further down the line such as private therapies. 

The Home Education community often negotiates group discounts on things like specialist dyslexia software etc. So do ask in our Face Book group, before splurging out on items like this. For most things someone, somewhere will have found a way of accessing it more cheaply.
Some ideas - We've included paid for resources but have a definite leaning towards totally free when possible. 


At 11 I would stick with this course for maths as its free, until you need a specific exam board textbook later on. That keeps the costs down for one core subject.


For science I really do love this range at KS3. very visual, fun & with an accompanying CD

Do check out

A couple of great courses coming up in the next term or so we'd recommend

- basic science experiments

- the science of nutrition

Khan Academy is great for Science and maths.


For languages - the bookpeople have a sale on at the moment with complete MFL courses inc audio reduced from over £100 to just £22. Language Boxes in the main European languages - here
The bbc and duolingo also offer a range of free MFL resources. 

English - Free again!
This is a fab structured resource. Most of the literary texts are available totally free through the site too. Gives a really solid grounding in English language and literacy. Incorporates History in a lovely way too - wonderful to read about how people really lived as its all interconnected so nicely. 
Amazon often do second hand textbooks for as little as a penny. You just pay £2.80 postage and 9 times out of ten the books are in near perfect condition. We've often had great success finding CGP textbooks this way.
Abesbooks is another place to find standard textbooks much cheaper than the RRP.

Need a FREE KS3 Poetry Course? We love this one from NI. Huge poetry teaching PDF for ages 12yrs plus. (Key stage 3 in Northern Ireland). This is a brilliant resource for older children and uses computer skills, research, poetry and reading comprehension. Really good.

English - reading comprehension and analysis!
Very good resource!
Book review reports, reading comprehension templates, critical analysis templates.

A common crisis - when Transition to secondary doesn't go as hoped.

Our stance

Children are sometimes withdrawn from the school system at crisis point, after failing to get the support needed to remain there. Parents are then left to cope unaided, with helping their children recover their mental health. Opting out of school does not mean opting out of health care too, yet as the referral route is unadvertised families are at risk of being left isolated as things stand.
School refusal, anxiety disorders and child mental health generally is a very complex area, and a burden parents should not have to shoulder alone. Nor should teachers, themselves not medically qualified to do so, be expected to perform mental health triage services to decide upon who is worthy of a rationed referral slot. As a first step the situation could be greatly improved if professionals & parents could work together to make the GP the first point of contact with the authority to refer children for expert support. Where children are unable to return to school, their educational needs including the ability to sit public exams should still be a key consideration of all involved. There are a huge variety of options available to choose from, from parental elective home education, thru LA home tutoring and online live teaching. We need to ensure parents are fully aware of all the options available, and that professionals fully engage with and listen to the child's own preferences, allowing that they may well change over time, if with support the child's mental health improves

What to do? 

The Transition to Year 7 is sadly when for many children with ALN it all starts to fall apart. Poor advance planning, lack of a statement as the previous Primary was coping, or just the sheer scale of the average comprehensive being too overwhelming means that this is a common time for folks to join us in the Home Ed community.

If this is your current situation here's a few pointers:-

1. Do not rush to de-register without first taking expert legal advice. Once electively home educating, in practice it can be very hard to arrange the support needed for a return to school should family circumstances dictate. We've listed a few of the places you can go to ask for help here:-

2. If after decent advice you still feel Home Education is the right way forward then come and talk to us on Face Book, and we'll support you through deregistration, help you find your local Home Education Group & generally offer moral support throughout those scary, early days and beyond. You'll also find lots of free or low cost specialist ALN learning resources listed in the files section of the group. This is a handy reference section when needed.

3. Your child's mental health is always more important than grades, so spend those first few precious weeks or months at home focusing on reengaging your child with that natural love of learning for the sheer fun of learning that all young children begin with. Take time to allow any emotional wounds to heal. Carefully observe your child and note what their preferred learning style is, and how they might enjoy learning best.

This phase is sometimes referred to as "de-schooling" in Home Ed circles, although a more proper term would be a "period of adjustment". It definitely does not mean that no learning is taking place. It would be much better to see it described as a critical phase of adjustment, to a whole new lifestyle and mode of learning for the child. It is fine to experiment during this phase with different pedagogues and approaches until you find the exact combination of methods, strategies and techniques that best suit your individual child's needs.

4. Take a look at our previous blog post "Dispelling the Myths" where a variety of real life home educators of children with additional learning needs have described how they approach home education. There are several Autonomous Education Blogs listed for those for whom that approach appeals.

5. For those who feel that a more structured approach might suit, we've put together a Skeleton KS3 Curriculum and some hints and tips for you just to get you started.  This will be our next post.

Author - Steph Shobiye.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Many children in Wales are now educated outside the traditional school environment. This group was set up in direct response to the ALN BIll Wales Consultation, which opened on 6th July 2015. This is in order to help parents ensure that the needs of those children who are not in school are considered properly in the upcoming legislative changes. We offer information help, and support to families across Wales.This legislation will impact 22% Welsh children with special or additional learning needs from birth till age 25. (A rise from 2.7% currently).

We are currently working on several initiatives within this remit, and the following posts will tell you a little about those. 

We've set up a Face Book Group - here

We hope the group will become a safe space to share our hopes, dreams and fears as we rise to the challenge of educating our special needs children here in Wales. We accept all families who EHE a child with Additional Learning Needs, whether diagnosed or not. Those who are very seriously considering HE will find us a safe place to ask all those tricky questions. We also invite those families who are designated EOTAS to join us.

In order to keep this a safe space for open debate and discussion, around what can be sensitive topics - we do ask that posts are not shared outside the group. Members who feel unable to comply with this rule, will be removed. 

The group membership is made of families & some professionals. These experts are carefully selected to be HE sympathetic in order to help us get the best possible deal from the proposed changes to a very complex area of law

Dispelling the Myths - What exactly is it that Home Educators do all day?

Dispelling the myths
– please find a list of blogs and web links produced by a variety of real life families who home educate. We hope that you’ll take a look and that it will help inform you as to what actually happens on a day to day basis in our homes, lives and communities. Home Education offers the incredible opportunity to truly differentiate and tailor make the education to suit a child's interests, while supporting their additional learning needs.

Please do note all opinions expressed are those of the authors, and they do not attempt to represent anyone but themselves.
Hey everyone! As some of you already know...I don't go to school! And I get…

Agi "Since I was 8 I have been making a yearly documentary about my relationship with My Little Sister Magdalena, who happens to have Down's syndrome. You can see the first episode for free here"
(for anyone who wants you can purchase the other 7 episodes).

Our bravest Autonomous Home Educator! Follow her trip across Africa with her autistic daughter.  

Four children with additional needs educated at home.  

Sharing creative ideas for other parents

Home educating with a large slice of autism

The Home education adventures of Bastian
ABA in Scotland.


A year 6 Autumn in Swansea

Ten reasons why we should not be forcibly registered.

A new twitter page about Home educating a child with additional needs
Logical Incrementalism - here

Funded Home - Help4Joss programme

 Living, running a business & home educating 2 boys on the spectrum
The trials and smiles of a home schooling mum as she shares her secrets on educating her autistic and…

And the Twitter for it is: @LifeOfStarGirl


ALN Bill Consultation Events across Wales.

Running list of all the opportunities for face to face engagements we know of so far.

SNAP Cymru: Pembrokeshire
23rd November 2015, 9:00am - 1:00pm
The Picton Centre, Haverfordwest SA61 1UG

WAG stakeholder events
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
24 November 2015, 9.00-13.00

WAG Stakeholder events
City Hall, Cardiff
30 November 2015, 9.00-13.00 - NOW FULL
Sinclairs Legal Firm with Mike Charles - to be confirmed.
Cardiff City Stadium 25th November 6pm.
SNAP Cymru/SHED: Swansea
7th December 1.00 - 3.00pm
Penlan Children's Centre, Swansea SA5 7AZ

BHEC & WAG Brigend - date/venue to be confirmed

Please do share the relevant details to your local HE groups. We also need to urgently get the word out that WRITTEN wag responses directly to the WAG consultation on their website are the only way to be sure that the voice of the EHE child or young person is heard.
The appallingly low (153) response rate to the EHE consultation earlier this year, is something that we MUST improve upon.
There is strength in numbers and we must utilise that!

More details of these meetings can be found as per usual in our Face Book group here