Others have noticed that in the last week or so three questions about home education have been asked in Parliament by Tory MPs. Two of the questions were identical;
'To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on home education; and if he will make a statement'
A third concerned the A levels and GCSEs passed by home educated children. There are two possible explanations for this flurry of interest in home education. One is that individual MPs are taking an interest in the topic of home education because their constituents are expressing concerns about it. The other and more likely explanation is that these questions have been 'planted' by government whips in order to suggest that people are worried about home education. The planted question of this kind is of course a very popular device in Westminster. If this is the case, then it suggests strongly that the Coalition is intending to do something about home education. The questions is, what are they going to do?
This brings us back to the only activity involving home education which we know is connected with Parliament; the famous new guidelines. Before we go any further, I would like to make it clear that I have no reason at all to doubt that all those dealing with Graham Stuart are doing so for the best of motives. I am sure that they genuinely believe that what they are doing will be for the best interests of home educating parents. This does not of course mean that they are right, nor that they are not being used unwittingly as fall guys or patsies. How could this be?
Here is what seems to me a very plausible scenario. Michael Gove, because of cases like Khyra Ishaq and the Riggi children in Edinburgh, wishes to introduce as a bare minimum compulsory registration for home educators. He is strengthened in this view by the fact that every report and almost all education professionals are in favour of such a move. He encourages, via Nick Gibb and Graham Stuart, a dialogue with various prominent home educators. ideas are generated and provisional rules drawn up. Then registration is included in a White Paper on education, with the intention of making it law. Michael Gove can then claim that a number of MPs have expressed anxiety about home education (via the planted questions) and that home educators themselves have been helping with the process of framing new legislation. Any resultant outrage will be largely limited to the Internet lists and so invisible to the general public. It will be all but impossible to ever establish what the members of the secret group did and did not agree to, because of course everything has been done on the quiet. I doubt whether newspapers are going to bother cooperating with another campaign by home educators against regulation as they did last year.
In order to see whether or not the above scenario is likely, it would help if we had the answers to one or two questions. I know that the people who are actually involved with Graham Stuart are reading this and so they could, if the wished, comment anonymously and reassure those who are worried that this is an undemocratic process likely to have a substantial impact upon home educating parents. The sort of questions that we need to ask are as follows.
Did the initiative for drawing up these guidelines come directly from Graham Stuart or was he encouraged to start this by Michael Gove or Nick Gibb?
Is there any intention, as Tania Berlow has hinted at on the BRAG list, of including anything about home education in a White Paper on education?
Has Graham Stuart given any written assurance that the law on home education will not change as a result of anything currently being done?
Graham Stuart has said that 'leaving things as they are is not an option'. What grounds did he have for saying this? What has he heard about government intentions in the area of home education?
These are four very simple and straightforward questions which could be answered in a dozen words. If the initiative for the guidelines came from Nick Gibb and there is an intention to include something about home education in a White Paper, then the chances are that new legislation is on the cards. Mike Fortune-Wood recently mentioned that he has held training sessions for local authorities and advised them soundly upon the law. They then go off and draw up procedures whish he has advised against and said were not lawful. A similar thing could very easily take place with these present discussions unless they have written minutes of meetings and a clear and unambiguous mandate.
I said in yesterday's post, 'Betsy Anderson, an American lawyer is not directly involved, but gives the odd bit of advice.' This is perfectly true. Without going into any details, Betsy Anderson has suffered something of a disaster which has effectively rendered her homeless. She according has little time to concern herself with these guidelines. She has not had any contact with Alison Sauer for months. Nevertheless, some of those involved with the guidelines have asked her opinion on specific points which are troubling them and she has replied. This is all that I meant and I am happy to clarify this.