Saturday, 9 October 2010

Graham Stuart and his helpers

I never quite took to Graham Stuart. He always struck me as a vain opportunist who found in home education an obscure topic about which he could swiftly become Parliament's expert. After the select committee hearing, when the various teenage offspring of members of Education Otherwise approached him, he gave the impression that he saw himself as some matinee idol being mobbed by his fans. One could imagine his saying, 'Oh shucks, you guys! You want to talk to me and ask for my help? Why, I'm just a regular guy, but I'll surely help is I can'. He put me in mind of a Tory version of Robert Kilroy-Silk.

Something which I noticed at the select committee was that although I turned up alone, as did Jane Lowe, Carole Rutherford and Zena Hodges, Education Otherwise arrived mob-handed, accompanied by a contingent of amiable but persistent teenagers. These were the same bunch of youngsters for whom Ann Newstead's husband put together a website which for a while posed as the voice of home educated youth, being allegedly completely separate from Education Otherwise. It will be remembered that during the Badman enquiry the idea of adopting something like the Tasmanian system for home education was briefly floated. I don't know who suggested this to Badman. Paula Rothermel was wandering the world following a series of personal misfortunes and she fetched up in Tasmania for a while. Perhaps she gave him the idea. But at any rate, nobody showed any interest in this except of course for Education Otherwise. For the 'Tasmanian Model' to have been a real proposition, the Department for Children, Schools and Families would have needed a partner from the home educating community. Since for many who are not actually home educators, Education Otherwise is home education in this country, they were seen as the logical candidates. After all, anybody wanting to know about home education always goes to them first, whether it is a newspaper reporter or a government enquiry.

During the select committee hearing itself, one of the members wanted to know if home educators would be in favour of a simple registration scheme, whereby the location and educational setting of every child in the country would be known to their local authority. I was of course in favour; Zena Hodges, Carole Rutherford and Jane Lowe were not. What was Education Otherwise's position on this point? We will never know, which struck me then as very strange. The Chair tried sympathetically to extract an opinion from Fiona Nicholson, who was representing Education otherwise, but to no avail. In the end, he said in exasperation, 'Okay, that's a don't know'. I wonder if anybody else finds it odd that after all the preparation, the moment that we have all been waiting for, for home educators to have a say about Badman's proposals, and Education Otherwise don't even know if they are against one of the key points?

Graham Stuart kept in touch with Education Otherwise after the select committee hearing and formed quite a good relationship with various individual members. Even after the defeat of Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill, he still seemed to have time for them; there was no question of just shaking hands and a parting of the ways. I was therefore curious to learn of the rumour going the rounds that he has been working with certain home educators to draw up new guidelines for home education in England. Now since Education Otherwise were quite keen on the Tasmanian idea and bearing in mind that they did not know whether or not they were in favour of compulsory registration, some people are convinced that it is they who have been working with Graham Stuart. What is curious is that Graham Stuart has already claimed that things cannot remain as they are with regard to home education. As Chair of the Children, Schools and Families select committee, we should take note of what he says on this subject.

I freely admit that all this is based upon nothing more than rumour and speculation, but nevertheless it seems to me that something is in the wind and that the chances are that Education Otherwise has a hand in it. The problem would be of course that something of this sort which might affect thousands of home educators should not be undertaken in a hole and corner fashion, but out in the open. Graham Stuart has said that he is not in favour of monitoring and inspection, but I note with interest that he has carefully avoided mentioning compulsory registration. Since Education Otherwise also have an ambivalent attitude towards this, one wonders what might be hatched up if they are indeed working with him.

For my own part, I am of course quite agreeable to the idea of registration. It is however a controversial idea for some home educators and I feel that any such moves should always take place in the public eye and not as a result of meetings conducted on the quiet. For this reason, I would like to know a little more about what Graham Stuart is up to. It would be unfortunate if some new scheme were produced and included in the forthcoming White Paper on education. Anything of this sort needs to be thrashed out openly among all interested parties and not given some dubious legitimacy on the grounds that it has Education Otherwise's seal of approval.

Of course, Michael Gove might feel a bit silly about introducing an actual new law about home education so soon after the CSF Bill debacle. It is more likely that what is happening is that statutory guidelines are being drafted which would tell local authorities how to interpret the current law. According to one cagy source, somebody who does not even live in this country is involved in all this. Could this be a coded reference to Paula Rothermel in Switzerland?


  1. "Tory version of Robert Kilroy-Silk"

    What a hideous thought!

    I just wish whoever is doing whatever would come forward because all this silly, secret drama is really getting on my nerves!

  2. Has this blog turned into a gossip column? It reads a bit like one of those celeb mags you see in the hairdressers' now. I'm surprised you didn't post photos of disshevelled Fiona going to the shops for a bottle of milk. And Paula in a swimsuit.

    No problem if it has. I'm sure people go for that sort of thing. I just won't check in as often.

    Reply: 'Come now, Mrs Anon. Where's your sense of humour? I was merely pointing out that a change in the guidelines is quite likely.'

    Mrs Anon

  3. LOL! Mrs Anon, you have certainly not lost your sense of humour!

  4. Don't put ideas into his head, Mrs Anon!

  5. Graham Stuart has said on his facebook page this-
    come up with will be the primacy of parents in determining their child's education and a complete rejection of compulsory registration and all the other "licensing" facets of the last government's approach

  6. ' I'm surprised you didn't post photos of disshevelled Fiona going to the shops for a bottle of milk.'

    I don't think that it was exactly a secret that Fiona Nicholson gave evidence at the select committee hearing. I also think that it is worth pointing out that she was not opposed to compulsory registration of home edcuated children. Since this was apparently the official Education Otherwise position, I also consider that interesting. Are you saying Mrs Anon, that there is something distasteful about discussing what was said at the select committee? I cannot quite agree with you about that. When people express views on home education publicly, whether it is Graham Badman, Ed Balls, me or Fiona Nicolson, then I think it quite right and proper to examine those views and see what we can make of them.

  7. I think what Mrs Anon was drawing attention to is not what has been said, but what you are inferring from what has *not* been said, Simon. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the type of magazines Mrs Anon has encountered courtesy of her hairdresser.

  8. 'I think what Mrs Anon was drawing attention to is not what has been said, but what you are inferring from what has *not* been said, Simon.'

    I have no idea what I might have been implying, or what anybody thought I was implying. If it was supposed that I was hinting that Fiona Nicholson is involved in this thing with Graham Stuart, then I think it very unlikely. A friend of hers has been asking about this in various places, which she would not have to do is Fiona were mixed up in the thing. I mentioned Fiona simply to indicate Education Otherwise's stand on the matter of compulsory registration.

  9. 'Are you saying Mrs Anon, that there is something distasteful about discussing what was said at the select committee?'

    No, you said very little about the Select Committee.

    Most of the post seemed to me to be summed up by this comment of yours:

    'I freely admit that all this is based upon nothing more than rumour and speculation, but nevertheless it seems to me that something is in the wind '

    (I hear Jordan's marriage may be on the rocks.)

    'Paula Rothermel was wandering the world following a series of personal misfortunes and she fetched up in Tasmania for a while.'

    What a picture that conjures up. No need for photos! LOL!

    Mrs Anon
    Pssstt!!!!Apparently, and I have this on good authority, someone in EO said something about someone's thing...{gasp!} Hold the headlines!

  10. Registration with no monitoring or inspection would seem to me to be the best way forward.

    The government would not then have to worry about not knowing where the children are and the home ed community would stand a better chance of being left in peace for a while.

    Lets cut a deal with the Coalition now, otherwise we may find worse around the corner with the next Labour government.

    This is the line that Ian Dowty was talking about at Hesfes this year, I agree 100 %

    Darren E

  11. Given the behaviour of several LAs, I find it hard to believe that they would manage to collect registration data and not use it. The nanny state culture means they feel obliged to interfere.

    There's also the point that if they're only collecting registration data, what's the point? It just costs money to collect, maintain and store.

  12. The point of collecting the data is that LAs can say that they know where the children are as they seem most upset at the moment that they dont.
    This might keep them happy and off our backs.
    It doesnt make sense - but since when was that a problem for government bureaucrats?
    They are not interested in logic - just what looks good for them politically.

    Darren E

  13. I am surprised at your vision of EO, Simon. I know the views of at least 4 of the most influential people at EO at the mo, and they couldn't be more ardently opposed to registration.

  14. 'I am surprised at your vision of EO, Simon. I know the views of at least 4 of the most influential people at EO at the mo, and they couldn't be more ardently opposed to registration. '

    This may well be the case now. I was making the point that at the select committee hearing EO were not opposed to registration. Giving evidence, Fiona Nicholson said when asked about registration, , 'I am not taking a position on whether I think it is a good thing or a bad thing'. It is quite possible that their opinion has changed sicne then.

  15. Regarding Goves comment after Ishaq case where he Gove said he'd 'see what changes need to be made to the existing arrangements”.' Graham Stuart answered-
    I think you (the blogger commenting) have made a mistake by being so unnecessarily alarmist. There is no evidence to justify your headline – certainly not in the Secretary of State’s quote. He is right to see what changes should be made to existing arrangements. He could start by issuing new guidance to local authorities on EHE clarifying their responsibilities and powers and then ensuring that all social workers understand the difference between EHE work and welfare responsibilities through their training. Lots of good changes could be made so as to make the whole invasive licensing programme a non starter even for another Labour government. I hope this government does look at home ed and provides a lasting reinforcement of the lead role for parents rather than the state in determining how their children are educated. It’s always right to be watchful and suspicious of government but it’s best to avoid leaping to conclusions and scaring people without proper justification.

    Just governmental ignorance I'm afraid.

  16. 29 July at 22:34 · Like
    "I’m hoping new guidance from central government to local authorities might be sufficient to tackle this issue without any change in primary legislation. I’d be interested to know what others think."

    The CME guidance superseded the EHE guidance so I don't see any reason, in principle, why the same shouldn't happen in reverse. The way LAs are behaving now just reinforces my belief that we need a new settlement that reasserts the right... of families to be left in peace - whether we'll need primary legislation or not I'm not sure. I'm sorry I haven't got the time at the moment to participate fully in all the discussions but I am trying to read them when I get a chance.

    Take the initiative is my answer. I reckon we can get a settlement that is both much better than the current situation (in which LAs routinely overstate their powers and intimidate parents) and stop something even worse coming roun...d the corner later. Some people think we're better sitting tight but I don't. Whether new guidance alone will be enough (see all the discussion over Children Missing Education guidelines) or we'll need primary legislation I don't know. Hopefully guidance will do and the HE community can hone and rework any initial draft into something we could usefully present to government with a reasonable degree of consensus. If not we can always drop the idea and sit tight or think of another approach to stop current abuses and head off future threats.

    In response to poster- <>

    Graham Stuart says ''I agree''

    in response to poster who had EWO dooorstep- I don't think the Council was breaking the law - after all anyone can knock on your door. It's all too typical, however, of councils treating home educators as potential criminals instead of loving parents. I look forward to seeing your com...plaint. This sort of thing is one of the reasons why we need new guidance so as to put councils back in their place and get them to treat people supportively and with respect. If they came with the humility and helpfulness of health visitors (and the same legal rights of entry - namely, none) then EHE staff from councils would rebuild trust and would be more welcome precisely because they didn't constitute a threat against parents doing the best for their children.See more

    08 October

    I think we can get new guidance which emphasises that LAs have a duty to support parents (where they want it) and that spells out the limits of the LAs' responsibilities so that they stop hankering after more powers. Just leaving it isn't an option. I want a stake put through the heart of the whole monitoring/licensing approach so that it doesn't ever get resurrected.

    From what I've read and observed Clive Soley is immune to all reasonable argument on the subject. I guess we should never stop trying, however, so I'll ask him to have a coffee and a chat with me. Thanks for the prompt.

    I've had coffee with Clive Soley and tried my best. Damascene conversion there was not but I hope I may have caused him to question some of his certainties.