Saturday, 30 August 2014

Am I a liar?

I observe that Alison Sauer is now telling people that I am lying about her role in helping to close down free speech on this blog. Earlier today, I posted a brief account of how this was done and below will be found evidence that Alison did precisely what I have said that she did.

Perhaps readers might like to ask themselves why Cheryl Moy could possibly have wanted to know my wife's name? They might wonder why Alison really wanted to know my home address. She said that it was because Wendy might need to serve 'papers' on me, but  all I had said was that Wendy lived near Snowdonia. What  legal action would be possible for mentioning that somebody lived near a National Park? Having acquired my address, for the purpose, as she claimed, of Wendy Charles-Warner serving papers on me, why do readers suppose that she then gave it to everybody else? Was that in case they too wished to serve me with papers? Or was it perhaps to encourage people to send nuisance deliveries to my home? And why on earth did Alison only want this to be spread via private messages? Might it be that she wished to keep her role in coordinating the harassment secret?  Since Alison is telling her friends that I am making all this up, and since she is reading this blog, may we expect her to come on here and tell us all about this? Does anybody not think that this looks like a woman launching a campaign of harassment and intimidation? 

Alison Sauer launches a campaign of harassment and intimidation...

Alison Sauer

Please spread this message but ONLY by PM
Kat Brown

Far too tempting just to sign up his email address to random lists for fun.
Alison Sauer

Can anyone get me his house address? Wendy may need to serve papers on him
Chez Moy

whats his wife called?

23:22Dawn Baxendale left the conversation.
Alison Sauer

And for future reference and deliveries of manure...
Simon Webb
Chez Moy

i once did have 2 tons of manure delivered to someone :)smile
Alison Sauer

We could have a whip round...I'll put a tenner in the pot!

23:48Hellen Barnes- Kowalkowski left the conversation.

23:52Julie Thomas left the conversation.

06:14Ann-Marie Harrigan left the conversation.

07:27Tracey McPherson left the conversation.
Jai Daniels-Freestone

I appreciate the heads-up, but it strikes me that this man, vile as he is, wants attention! This is attention seeking behaviour and I'm not going to give him the satisfaction.

How to close down debate on home education; a case study

Some readers will probably be aware that I have, in one way and another, been mixed up with home education for over forty years. My views are not shared by everybody, but I am always ready to discuss home education; which was of course why I started this blog and never switched on the moderation or tried to stop anybody from saying what they pleased here. This was very annoying to some people and so one or two of them set out to put a stop to the free exchange of views here.  Let’s see how this was done, and by whom.

Two years ago, a briefing paper about the Welsh Assembly Government’s plans to alter the law on home education began to circulate. Parts of it first appeared anonymously on Mike Fortune-Wood’s site and some people, including me, thought that it had been written by Alison Sauer. After a while, the author’s name was added. This was Wendy Charles-Warner. Like a number of home educators, I had already come across the name, because Wendy had written to the Daily Telegraph about  home education and approached the BBC and various newspapers and got them to publish information about her family, along with photographs of her and her relatives. She also of course was listed in the Good Hotel Guide and various other places on the internet. I mentioned briefly on this blog that the briefing paper had not been written by Alison, but was rather the work of Wendy, who lived near Snowdonia. That was all. No address or other details; just that bare statement. Considering the sheer quantity of information that Wendy herself had caused to be placed in newspapers, the BBC and so on  about her family, I hardly thought that this was an invasion of her privacy.

I was then approached, not by Wendy herself but by Alison Sauer; which I found odd. She asked me to remove mention of the fact that Wendy lived in North Wales, as it put her in danger. Since that very week, yet another article had appeared in a newspaper at Wendy’s instigation, actually mentioning the name of the house she lived in; this struck me as absurd and I told Alison so. That night, she organised a campaign against me on Facebook. She published my home address and suggested that people make nuisance deliveries to my home. Cheryl Moy wanted to know my wife’s name, somebody else suggested sabotaging my email. Alison herself urged people to come on here to, as she put it,  ‘bomb’ this blog, with offensive messages. She told people not to debate, but just, ‘leave your smelly messages’. Clearly, she hoped that people would be as offensive as possible. This was a brilliant success, because Alison and her friends vied with each other to see who could be most inventive with personal abuse about me and my family. I removed the worst examples, which made mention of my wife, but left some of the others for people to see. Then the abuse became even cruder and some people contacted me and asked me to take down some  the messages as they were afraid that it was making home educators look like absolute maniacs. At that point, I was compelled to switch on the moderation for the first time since I had begun the blog three years earlier. Round one to Alison Sauer.

After a while, I turned off the moderation, only to find a new problem starting. Industrial quantities of spam began to appear; hundreds of advertisements for things like rubbish disposal turning up in the comments every day. I had never encountered anything like this before and it only began in earnest after Alison  had launched her campaign of harassment. One of Alison's chums, Kat Brown, had already suggested sabotaging my email and so I assumed that this was a variation of that theme. Because I didn’t have time to go through every post and all the comments to remove this stuff, I was compelled once again to switch on the moderation. Round two to Alison and her friends.

None of this made me feel very well disposed towards Alison and Wendy and so I posted a few questions here, asking what on earth was going on. Quite a few people answered in the comments, giving their own views on the subject. The general opinion was not favourable towards Alison and Wendy. Then I received a letter from Wendy, threatening  to sue me for defamation. She objected to forty three things which had been said about her on this blog. The clever bit about this was that almost none of these things had been said by me. Forty of the things she complained about had been remarks  made anonymously in comments here. Wendy pointed out that I was legally liable for these comments, even though I hand't made them myself; it was my blog.  If I allowed them to continue, she would take me to court. Game set and match to Wendy and Alison. The moderation has been switched on here ever since and because I don’t have the time to come here every five minutes to check the comments and allow publication  of those which are acceptable to Wendy, I no longer bother with this blog. My wife was also alarmed about the threats, especially about our home address being publicised and Alison's friends trying to find out her name. She too put pressure on me to stop blogging.

This same method has been used to close down debate on home education in other places as well.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Can you imagine?

To show readers how things have changed in the home educating scene in this country over the last five years or so, I invite you all to conduct a little thought experiment, which involves former trustees of Education Otherwise. Can anybody imagine Fiona Nicholson threatening to have somebody's daughter raped? What about Shena Deuchars ringing the police and having somebody arrested for criticising something she had written?  Can anybody believe for a moment that Annette Taberner would incite people to make nuisance deliveries to the home of somebody who annoyed her? 

Put like this, the whole thing sounds utterly grotesque. Five years ago, those who were well-known or high profile home educators would never in a million years have got up to such tricks. The fact that we now have a bunch of people who regularly engage in  activities of this kind  and that those people are trying to exert influence  over Education Otherwise  tells us how much things have changed for the worse.

Why does any of this matter to me?

Three people contacted me yesterday and asked why I was bothering with this business about Education Otherwise. After all, I’m no longer a home educator; why should I care? The reason is simple. I am very strongly opposed to censorship and am very much in favour of free speech.  What I have seen happening in home education in this country over the last five years or so, is the emergence of a group who are committed to quite the opposite point of view. They wish to suppress debate and prevent others from expressing their opinions. This is awful, both in the abstract sense of being a bad thing, and also in the practical sense of being unhealthy for home education.

Readers with long memories will perhaps recall that I was at one time widely hated by many other home educators. This didn’t particularly bother me. Those who felt that I was a fool or a rogue could say what they wished about me; why should I object? This was so, even when they told lies, such as that I was a relative or employee of Graham Badman. It didn’t occur to me for a moment to try and stop them speaking. What I did find a little disturbing was that I was thrown off all the home education lists to which I belonged, so that I was unable to explain my views. Even more alarming was that anybody who supported me or even said that I might have a point, was also shouted down and thrown off various groups. This was back in 2009 and in retrospect, was a warning of how things were developing in the world of British home education.

After I was chucked off the various lists, such as the one run by Education Otherwise and Mike Fortune-Wood’s HE-UK, I started this blog. The aim was always to allow people to come here and debate. I never operated any moderation, although of course that has now changed. The reason that comments are now moderated is that a small group of home educators and former home educators cannot bear others to exercise free speech. Some of you might remember that there were pretty lively debates on here, with anybody being able to say anything at all. I was widely insulted and in return, expressed my own views freely. It was a forum where anybody could come and say what he or she pleased. Not any more.

As time passed after I was thrown off those internet groups, I realised that others were suffering the same fate. Sometimes they would be removed, at others, their comments would be removed or they would be placed on moderation. Slowly but surely,  free debate about home education was strangled. This became so bad that people started a face book group where they could discuss things relating to home education freely. This was called Right to Reply. It no longer exists, although there is a second incarnation; Right to Reply 2. 

The fate of this blog and the Right to Reply facebook groups are very similar. They were both targeted by Alison Sauer and her friends. Threats were made, involving both legal action and more direct, physical harm; such as the rape of family members, nuisance deliveries to people‘s homes and the sabotage of email accounts. The police were called, arrests were made and writs issued. The consequence of all this was that I had to start moderating and deleting comments on this blog; which had the effect of preventing free discussion. The Right to Reply group was closed down and on the on the new version, posts are copied and sent to the police, as well as a writ being issued. All this has had the effect of preventing free discussion there as well.

The same, small group of people is behind all these actions. This group includes Alison Sauer, Mike Fortune-Wood, Katya Lamb and Cheryl Moy. It is some of these people, who have caused so much harm to free speech and open debate, who are now involved in the attempts to acquire influence or control over the largest home education group in the United Kingdom. That is why I am concerned and it is why I have started blogging again for a while.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

More about Education Otherwise

The charity Education Otherwise would be a great prize for anybody hoping to make a business out of home education in this country. It is very well known and almost every local authority in the country mentions or recommends it to home educating parents. Yesterday we looked at what Mike Fortune-Wood's plans would entail for EO. To summarise, he has had trustees of Education Otherwise to tea and put forward the notion that EO should raise  £100,000 or more and then spend at least part of this money   on salaries and expenses for paid workers. He doesn't say what the rest of it should be spent on and so we must think a little about this.  Realistically, you will not be able to get £100,000 from having a whip-round among the existing members of the organisation and so this would mean approaching large charities and asking for their help. I explained yesterday how profitable this strategy can be, by giving the example of Ian Dowty and his company, which raised over £70,000 in this way between 2006 and 2008.

Assuming that this is how Mike Fortune-Wood and Alison Sauer want to get the funding for Education Otherwise, and I can think of no other way that they could do so, how will they then go about spending the money? Some will perhaps go on paying people to go and help set up home educating groups. It has been suggested that this might become a new incarnation of the group,  HE Angels, which Alison and Cheryl Moy used to run. This might bring in pocket money for a few individuals, but it would hardly be a full-time job. For that, you would need another approach and  this may be where Alison's new company, Heatherside Education Consultants Limited, might fit into the picture. I have an idea that if £100,000 was collected by Education Otherwise and then paid to Alison and her chums as wages, then people might well raise their eyebrows! A far better scheme would be this. Wait until you have a majority of the trustees of Education Otherwise on board, people who will let you use the charity for fundraising purposes. Then go to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, for instance, and say that your charity wishes to carry out a 'scoping exercise' on home education in this country. This will cost around £30,000 and you propose to engage an outside agency to conduct the work for you.  All done at arm's length, you see, with no financial benefit to either you or any of the trustees of your charity. Who will you ask to carry out this work? Why, what about Heatherside Education Consultants Limited; an independent company working in that field? You could then do the same thing with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and one or two others. In next to no time, you'll have your £100,000.

It goes without saying that I might be quite wrong about all this, but the fact that Alison Sauer set up this new company at the time that she was pressing the trustees of Education Otherwise to bring Mike Fortune-Wood on board, can't help but make one wonder. It would also explain why she and her fellow director were so furious at having attention drawn to their involvement in the new company that they had a solicitor's letter sent to me and then also rang the police. Clearly, nobody wanted  publicity for this company, which is in itself odd for a new business.

 Of course none of the possibilities which I have outlined above are  criminal or even unethical. Those who work with charities see activity of this kind all the time; one lot of people creating jobs for their friends who, at a later stage, will return the favour. Trustees and employees often engage in a game of musical chairs, where people will be trustees or directors of one charity, while working for another. Indeed, it would be surprising if this kind of thing were not to be going on in a national charity like Education Otherwise!  I think however that we should, at the very least, know who is involved in any such schemes and what they might possibly be up to.

Several questions remain, which I shall have to make the subject of further posts. We will need to look a little harder at Heatherside Education Consultants Limited and also ask ourselves what Mike Fortune-Wood would get from all this?   This will entail looking at another charity, called Personalised Education Now.

Before finishing here, I should perhaps mention that half the trustees at Education Otherwise are fairly well disposed towards these plans at the moment. The Treasurer, Julie Arnold, is a chum of Alison Sauer's and has in the past tried to set up her own commercial business involving home education.  Fe Mukwamba-Sendall is also a close friend of Alison's. Edwina Theunnison will probably go along with them on this; it was she and Fe Mukwamba-Sendall who went to Mike Fortune-Wood's house to talk the thing over.

A poisonous home educator from Doncaster…

No, not that home educator, you fools! I’m referring not to Cheryl Moy but rather to her friend; Katya Lamb. I had heard vaguely of Katya Lamb, but had no personal dealings with her until this year. She contacted me out of the blue, in a very friendly fashion, in order to tell me that Maire Stafford had bought special computer software to analyse comments on her blog, to see if they were being made by me. Yes, I thought it sounded pretty mad as well. Then, a month or two later, I had another brief exchange with Katya; but this time the mood was very different. Instead of being chatty and amiable and suggesting that we exchange stories, as she had in her first message, she threatened my family. This threat was so explicit and awful, that I think  it deserves to be widely known.

After claiming to be a friend of Wendy Charles-Warner, on whose behalf she was evidently speaking, Katya said;

What if, to get back at you and your obnoxious attitude, someone put your daughters photo, profile and home address on a rape fantasy website and invited undesirables to break into her house and fulfil her fantasy? How would you feel? 

Any further comment would be superfluous!