Home educators reserve a special kind of loathing and detestation for those home educating parents whom they see as betraying them by playing footsy with our legislators; some of whom wish to introduce new restrictions on home education. The present writer knows this to his cost!
The fact that Alison Sauer, who is a member of all the main HE lists, has not come forward to deny the rumours circulating about her involvement with Graham Stuart and his new guidelines, makes it a racing certainty that she is, as she has told her friends, tasked with writing them. She has not been doing so unaided. Fiona Nicholson's name has also been mentioned and it is true that she was the first person whom I thought of in this connection. I find it unlikely now. I had quite an amicable relationship with one home educating mother, exchanging emails regularly, until I was unwise enough to crack a light hearted joke about Fiona on this blog. Whereupon my pen-pal was furious, because she was a good friend of Fiona's. This same person has now been asking questions on Graham Stuart's facebook wall. She would hardly be asking about these new guidelines if Fiona Nicholson were mixed up in them. I have been assured by an anonymous person here that Education Otherwise deny having anything to do with this business. This may be so, but if it is then it is odd that they have not issued a public denial, especially in view of the feverish interest in this matter. I can't somehow see EO being sidelined in this way.
There are two points of view about this whole question. The first is a feeling that after the Badman review and the collapse of Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill due to the calling of the election, the government has no appetite for a fight with home educators. They have been warned off by the great opposition which was witnessed and are happy to leave things as they are, at least for the next few years. The other point of view, expressed by Graham Stuart, is that civil servants in the Department for Education are still intriguing for a change in the legal situation. He claims that in order to fight this, he is producing a set of guidelines which will prevent any new moves regarding registration, monitoring and so on. This line does not really add up. The ink on the 2007 guidelines wasn't dry before the agitation started for new legislation. There was barely eighteen months between the publication of the guidelines and the launching of the Badman review. How can Graham Stuart assure anybody that this will not happen with his new, improved guidelines?
This affair is opening up cracks in the home educating community already, before these guidelines have even been seen. Mike Fortune-Wood, whose own Internet list receives only half a dozen comments a day now, is irritated that the Badman Review Action Group list is becoming popular. He has suggested that it is time for this to close down, presumably so that everybody will hang out on HE-UK instead. Some people though are agitating to make the BRAG list the focal point for anything happening about Alison Sauer's guidelines. And as I said above, Education Otherwise has still to say anything at all about this, which is very strange. If, as is claimed, they are nothing to do with it, have they no opinion on the matter?
I suspect that when we see them, these guidelines are likely to prove shocking to some people. I say this for the following reason. The 2007 guidelines are perfectly clear and easy to understand. Home educating parents were very happy with them and they made the legal situation very plain. Since the law has not changed, what is the need for a new set of guidelines? There is only one answer. Under the pretext of averting an even worse outcome, these guidelines will move in the direction of more local authority involvement with home educators. if this were not the case, then there would be no need to draw up new guidelines in the first place; the 2007 ones are perfectly adequate. I am surprised that so many home educators went off into the woods with Graham Stuart. My own feeling is that anybody who would place their trust in this fellow must really bear the consequences. I cannot resist ending with a famous old limerick;
There was an old woman of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the woman inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
I feel that those who have gone off for a ride with Graham Stuart in this way might very well find that the smile is on his face when they return!