I honestly wonder whether or not some home educators are suffering from multiple personality disorder! That is the charitable view; the alternative would be deliberate deception. This reflection has been prompted by the latest accusations being made against the Department for Children, Schools and Families; that they are linking Education Otherwise to the British National Party. It certainly seems an implausible hypothesis. Let's see what the fuss is about.
Following the publication of the Badman Report and the outcry which followed, the DCSF opened a consultation on the subject of Home Education – registration and monitoring proposals. This ran until October 19th and 5211 responses were received. 2222 of these were from home educating parents and 436 from children who were being taught at home. The great majority of these responses were opposed to the proposed new regulations. There were also some responses from organisations, but the largest group was made up of "others", that is to say anonymous or people who did not say whether they were home educators. It is this large group which has caused the recent fuss. About them, the DCSF said;
"A further 2,390 replies fell into the “other” category including anonymous responses, those who did not specify a respondent type; and “campaign” type responses which were received after groups including the Christian Institute, Education Otherwise and the British National Party lobbied their members to reply to the consultation via their own websites"
Well I know perfectly well that the Christian Institute did encourage people to send in responses to the consultation. They suggested the sort of things people should say. For example;
"Under new proposals a government official could enter your home, and question your child about what you teach them - and all without you being present. At the moment, this is being proposed for home-schooling families. But which families will be next? Children do not belong to the state. Even if you don’t home school, tell the Government to keep families free."
Eerily similar to the letter which I quoted recently from the Market Drayton Advertiser! There is no doubt at all that the Christian Institute was behind some of the "other" responses. The BNP site said much the same thing and certainly encouraged members to respond to the consultation along the same lines. What about Education Otherwise? I think that anybody who watched the Education Otherwise and HE-UK lists carefully at that time, as did I, would find it hard to deny that a co-ordinated effort was being made to flood the DCSF with responses to this consultation. People gave each other ideas of the line to take, they posted the number of responses which had been reached; there is not the slightest doubt that a campaign was under way.
A natural result of all this was that many of the "other" responses were very similar; same phrases and expressions, same concerns, even the same sentences in some. The DCSF smelt a rat and thought it worth pointing out that this had been happening. Plus of course, staff there also visit the EO, HE-UK and BRAG lists. They already knew what was going on.
The peculiar thing is that even though the game was clearly up and it was obvious that the DCSF had twigged, many home educators indignantly denied that a campaign had been conducted at all! This extraordinary denial is still going on. I can't decide if these people, most of whom belong to the HE lists and who knew very well about the campaign being run, have genuinely forgotten what they were up to or if they are simply cold blooded liars. These can surely be the only two explanations. Freedom of Information requests have been made by individuals who were themselves involved in the campaign and have apparently forgotten about it. They are now claiming that the DCSF have maligned Education Otherwise by mentioning them in the same breath as the British National Party. I don't see this at all. The only similarity is that both co-ordinated campaigns to get people to respond to the consultation, I don't think that the DCSF were suggesting for a moment that EO have any other similarities with a neo-Nazi group.
There is something quite weird about this business, an Alice in Wonderland quality. People spend four months fighting a campaign and then erase it from their memory. It is so completely erased, that they then argue up hill and down dale that no such campaign ever took place! Decidedly odd.