Following the Annual General Meeting of education Otherwise, a new set of trustees are in charge. I thought that it might be helpful to provide a little information about them, in order that people could be able to have some idea of the direction which the charity might take in the future.
Fiona Nicholson is still in. She was one of the group who more or less seized control of Education Otherwise three years ago. Fiona lives in Sheffield with her seventeen year-old autonomously educated son, who has never been to school or college. It will be remembered that she provided much innocent amusement during the select committee hearing last October, when she found herself quite unable to decide whether or not she was in favour of the compulsory registration of home educated children. Still, actions speak louder than words and it was observed that Fiona never felt any inclination to notify her own local authority of her intention to home educate her son, only taking this step when the child's father was threatening to do it for her. Annette Taberner, another of the old trustees who has not resigned, also lives in Sheffield and with Fiona is part of the Northern mafia who have exercised such influence on EO for years. For a while, it was thought that Fiona's best friend in Education Otherwise was Ann Newstead, but they do not seem to be as chummy as once they were. This is rumoured to be because Fiona did not share Ann's gung-ho approach to chucking EOs money around on expensive litigation and various other profligate activities which are not really in keeping with the charity's aims. Both Ann Newstead and her husband Alexander Roarke are no longer trustees. Fiona is a great fan of the Molesworth and William books, which must surely show that she is fundamentally sound.
Shena Deuchars is a copy editor who lives in Swindon. Her daughter managed to get a place at Exeter University to study law without having any GCSEs or A levels. The whole thing was achieved by Open University courses, which is encouraging for others. Shena is a very honest and decent person who cannot fail to have a wholesome effect upon EO.
Celia McDonagh remains as a trustee. This surprised some people, who thought that she would resign along with Jo Berry. She was very involved with the Jo Berry business, allegedly passing on emails to her about internal matters at Education Otherwise. This led to threats of libel action and her resignation was demanded. She was forced out at an Extraordinary General meeting in 2006, but returned a short time later.
Some people expected that the trustees who had presided over what looked like the decline and fall of Education Otherwise would stand down en masse, but this has not happened. In fact after the AGM on Saturday, seven of the existing trustees are still around. It remains to be seen whether the reforming zeal of people like Shena Deuchars and Heidi de Wet will be able to change the organisation and bring it back to life.
There has been some talk about the accounts not being approved at the AGM, but this does not really signify. After all, they have already gone to the Charity Commission. There were discrepancies between the amounts listed in the 2008 and 2009 accounts, but this sort of thing does happen sometimes. It will be recalled that EO sacked their last auditor because they were not satisfied with how the financial position was presented in the accounts. The Charity Commission will put the accounts up on their website in due course; they have had them since September.