Some people are wondering whether the launch of the new petition to parliament by the hitherto unknown group "Freedom for Family Education" is a sign that Education Otherwise is finally ready to show its hand. Several things about this petition give one pause for thought. The first thing is of course that people have to sign up and give their names before they are even allowed to know what the petition says! This is a truly extraordinary state of affairs and I have never seen such a thing before. The big clue about who is behind the petition is that Ann Newstead's partner designed the website and set the whole thing up. It seems pretty certain that Education Otherwise has organised this and tried to obscure the fact by naming other groups as being involved. Some of those groups, AHE for example, are hopping mad to see their name hijacked in this way. The overall impression is that the people behind "Freedom for Family Education" are trying to lend it legitimacy by brandishing a few other organisations and claiming that they too are involved.
Why is Education Otherwise behaving in such a furtive way? It may partly be a matter of pragmatism; that is to say they realise two things clearly and are acting upon how things are, rather than how they would like them to be. Firstly, like many of us, they know that the Conservatives are the party to get in with. This is perhaps why they are playing kiss-in-the-ring with the ghastly Graham Stuart. After the meeting of the select committee in October, various Education Otherwise big hitters such as Fiona Nicholson and Ann Newstead surrounded Graham Stuart and were clearly determined to get him on their side. It seems that they have succeeded. The second fact of life that Education Otherwise have come to terms with is that there is actually going to be a change in the legal position as regards home education. I think that they are now doing their best to make the most of the situation.
The fact that Education Otherwise have more or less persuaded Graham Stuart that they are home education in this country suggests to me that there is also a little empire building going on here. Combined with recent moves to allow some of the leaders to draw salaries, assuming that funding becomes available, makes me think that they might be trying to strike a deal of some sort, whereby they become the official representatives of home education in Britain. They would thus negotiate with a new Conservative administration on behalf of other home educators, perhaps end up forming a quango like that which supervises home education in Tasmania. It must be an alluring prospect and I watch future developments with great interest. The only flies in the ointment are some of the other home education organisations who are miffed that they were not as quick off the mark as Education Otherwise. To them, I would say, "Come on guys, nobody likes a bad loser! Education Otherwise have won this by a mile. There's no point getting ratty now, just because you didn't know a good opportunity when you saw it."