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Authors in revolt against plans to vet them for school visits

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Old 07-19-2009, 01:12 AM
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Default Authors in revolt against plans to vet them for school visits


http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009...-school-visits

Authors in revolt against plans to vet them for school visits

Philip Pullman condemns 'outrageous, demeaning' scheme, and says it will stop him going into schools


Philip Pullman. Photograph: Bex Singleton

Philip Pullman has led a chorus of protest from prominent children's authors over a new scheme that will require them to be vetted before they can visit schools. He called the plans "outrageous, demeaning and insulting" and said he wouldn't be appearing in schools again because of it.
Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of 64. Pullman compared the scheme to the notorious piece of legislation section 28, which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools and for which David Cameron offered a public apology last week.
"It seems to be fuelled by the same combination of prurience, sexual fear and cold political calculation," the author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy said today. "When you go into a school as an author or an illustrator you talk to a class at a time or else to the whole school. How on earth how on earth how in the world is anybody going to rape or assault a child in those circumstances? It's preposterous."
The Carnegie medal-winning author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce agreed with Pullman. "As an author you're never alone with a class," he said. "There's no possible reason for this, unless it's a revenue-raising scam."
Both Pullman and former children's laureate Anne Fine said the legislation would mean that they would not speak in a school again. "I refuse having spoken in schools without incident for 32 years, I refuse to undergo such a demeaning process," said Fine. "It's all part of a very unhealthy situation that we've got ourselves into where all people who are close to children are almost seen as potential paedophiles."
"If someone says we won't have you in our school, of course I'm not going to," agreed Pullman. "It'd be a great shame for me but I'm not going to under these circumstances. I went into a primary school in Oxford earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a very enjoyable thing I can do occasionally I don't have to do it very often because fortunately I can earn enough from my writing. But other authors depend on the income it brings in. For them the crowning insult is to have to pay to clear their name from something they haven't done." He believes the legislation will also have a longer-term effect. "It damages in a much deeper way the trust and social cohesion we ought to be able to rely on," he said. "You ought to be able to trust people, so to say to a child that you're having someone to talk to you but don't worry, we've checked him out and he's not a paedophile, implies that everybody who isn't checked is."
Children's author Adele Geras called the scheme "lunatic". "They ought to be able to refine this legislation to make exceptions for people who see huge groups together," she said. "One is never alone with a single child one is never alone with a vast number of children. The smallest number would be 32, and there are always two to three teachers."
But Geras said she would be prepared to register and pay the 64 in order to continue speaking in schools. "I would love to take a principled stand but I enjoy doing it," she said. "And there are an awful lot of people who'll feel more strongly that I do who can't afford to take a principled stand because school visits will be the bread and butter of their work." She suggested that the money being spent on establishing the scheme should instead be used to buy some more books for schools.
A statement from the Home Office confirmed that the ISA scheme would apply to authors visiting schools, but made no comment on the authors' concerns.


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Old 07-19-2009, 02:42 AM
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I can see the point that Pullman makes, but on the flip side, there are those authors of childrens books that can't afford his righteous indignation. It's unfortunate for all those concerned. The worst of it is the children that might not get involved if they had the opportunity to hear the author speak about his or her books.
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Old 07-19-2009, 08:06 AM
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Thing is, these authors aren't left alone with the children when they visit schools, so there is no threat. It's just another example of our government enacting new laws where none is needed. They single out some case that has attracted a lot of media attention, then concoct some knee-jerk legislation to prove to the electorate that they are doing something useful. Pah. There were a couple of high-profile child abuse cases that had nothing to do with home education, but Brown & co (not being known for their common sense) are using them to bring in draconian laws effecting home edders. It's just disgraceful. The saddest part is that it's always the children who lose out in the end. Grrr.
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Old 07-19-2009, 08:37 AM
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Absurd.
Do they "vet" priests? Policemen? Any given guy coming in for "career day" presentation?

What does the "vetting" consist of? That seems pretty pertinent.

I'm hoping they manage to ram this weirdness up the bureaucratic asses.
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:09 AM
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The new register will require anyone that may enter a school to be on it. Firema that come in to tak to children, policemen, plumbers, electricians. They have to pay to prove they don't pose a threat to children. These people are never left alone with children.

I work for a company that acts as an agency for writers in the Northwest if this goes through it could cripple the free lancers that rely on our bookings, because schools get scared and children suffer.
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Old 07-19-2009, 11:57 AM
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Not to mention the implications of educating tomorrows population in an environment where adults are perceived as a threat.
Like Q said, they are never alone with the kids. It's a fund raiser, pure and simple.
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Old 07-19-2009, 12:24 PM
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Authors should boycott the thing and talk to a (sympathetic) press saying they'd LIKE to help make the brats more literate, but the schools are obstructing it. Get some kids quotes about how they really like hearing from people who write the books they have to read.
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Old 07-19-2009, 12:29 PM
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What you mean get active? People? Not likely.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:05 PM
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Wow, and that's why we're all getting fucked over. I'm already in talks with the council to get a meeting to publically tell them to shove it.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:12 PM
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One thing I don't understand, Kal. The schools don't pay the authors to come, right? But you're talking about loss of income.
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Old 07-19-2009, 02:42 PM
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Schools do pay authors to come, and a pretty penny as well.
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Old 07-19-2009, 03:10 PM
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Wow. Well, in that case, I guess writers could end up putting up with the "vet" charge.

It's not really as bad as the crap you put up with publishers.

Still, it seems shabby and anti-intellectual.
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:25 AM
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This is just so wrong because it assumes guilt over innocence. In order to prove you are decent enough to be around children, you have to be vetted and pay to be placed on a register of approved visitors. At what point will Brown & co start vetting parents to see whether we are suitable for purpose? As far as action, I think my home ed organisation is considering getting in touch with some of these authors since the government is also seeking to place us all on registers (so it can 'monitor' us and make sure we aren't really abusing our children when we say we home educate).
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Old 07-20-2009, 05:37 AM
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Parents will have to go on this list too, to accompany children in classrooms and on trips.

My main problem isn't for the writers. I think it's horrific that this is being implemented and children will suffer.
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Old 07-20-2009, 06:09 AM
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Then write to your MP. We have a voice, and if enough of us complain, the government will have to listen.

A lot of home edders are already contacting and meeting with local MPs to complain about the compulsory registration scheme the government wants to bring in, and we are finding allies in Parliament. The more fuss we make, the less likely it will be that the government can rush a bill through before the next general election. In the same vein, if people join the authors in their protest, the government may have to reconsider this piece of stupidity.
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