Saturday, 14 November 2009

Education Otherwise - still jockeying for position

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."


  1. Simon -now you are in danger of sounding like a conspiracy theorist! I am not convinced this is any sort of EO plot -more that Fiona and Anne are particularly hard working, saw an opportunity and went for it.
    Inevitably anything that appears to have an EO label gets pilloried by many home educators; but perhaps EO in this instance are merely operating within the real world - one can hardly expect the petition to say "down with Badman" - the wording is wrapped up in acceptable political language.
    I am not an EO member but cannot understand the opposition to this petition - it probably won't make any difference but seems a laudable attempt. Some home educators seem destined to make life very complicated - it was the rebuttal of EO's views to Badman which I am sure made our plight worse in the first place. I am someone who replied to the email asking for clarification as to why so many home educators had written to Badman to say they didn't agree with the EO response - no wonder he was bewildered - and protesting about this now will make MP's feel the same.
    I suppose the interesting bit will be to see what actually is in the Queen's Speech..

  2. " it was the rebuttal of EO's views to Badman which I am sure made our plight worse in the first place."

    I think this is very true, together with the complete antagony with which GB was received.

  3. Julie, I'm not at all opposed or antagonistic towards EO. It is just that on the day of the select committee all the the other witnesses turned up quietly and individually. Education Otherwise came along mob-handed and, as I said above, swarmed round Graham Stuart. They practically trampled the woman from AIM to death in the process! It was plain to me then that they were very keen to capture Graham Stuart. Now I see this mysterious new group crop up and Graham Stuart seems to be embedded in the whole affair, along with Ann Newstead's husband! I don't think one needs to be a conspiracy theorist to see a connection between these events! As you say, it will be interested to see what the Queen's speech actually says about home education and whether the governemetn have time to get any new bill through before the election.

  4. GB was not received with complete antagony. Many people tried very hard to show him how it could and should be. And he took their words and rewrote them in his report turning them into something on his own agenda. A number of people barely recognised the notes from their own meetings with him.

    The tide turned for me, up until then hopeful, as I read the report with increasing horror as I turned each page - the report was based on prejudice. It was rushed, badly written, and discriminatory. Quotes were highly selective and facts sparse if not non-existant. I could go on but it would probably be pointless.

    And Graham Stuart is NOT persuaded that EO are EHE in this country - he speaks to a great number of people, not just them.

  5. By the way Simon, with regards to your comment "there is actually going to be a change in the legal position as regards home education" I am interested to know where you purchased your crystal ball? I quite fancy one myself, could be useful. Or is it a Tardis? So you can travel in time ? Because quite frankly no bill has yet been put before parliament let alone had its three readings in each house and scrutiny by the committee so we do not yet know whether legislation is going to change, do we?

  6. I don't need a crystal ball, GoodWife. I only need a good memory. Think of an activity which has been widely described in the newspapers over the last decade or so as being "wholly unregulated". Almost invariably, this statement is coupled with calls for legal controls. Whether it is the keeping of certain breeds of dog or going canooing with children, legislation follows almost as a matter of course. I'm not a betting man, but I would put money on this one. Even if a new law is not enacted before next June, a Conservative government will take some sort of action on its own account on one pretext or another.

  7. Are you suggesting that home education is wholly unregulated, or just that the papers are claiming this?

  8. I am suggesting that when any activity starts being described in newspapers as "wholly unregulated" that the implication is that there is something dodgy or dangerous about it. It is sign that the writing is definitely on the wall and that the next step is a rushed law.

  9. Can you point me in the direction of these news articles because I've been unable to find them.