Saturday, 12 February 2011

Graham Stuart and home education

I received an email a few days ago from somebody claiming to be on the fringe of the group who were drawing up the new guidelines on how local authorities should deal with home education. These, it will be remembered, were going to replace the 2007 guidelines. According to this person, the process has stalled because Graham Stuart has become increasingly disenchanted with the world of home education and is no longer as keen on acting as a conduit to Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister.

I remember clearly the occasion when Graham Stuart became embroiled with home education. He was a member of the Children, Schools and Families select committee and when I gave evidence in October 2009, it was clear that Ann Newstead and Fiona Nicholson had brought along a party of very fresh-faced and engaging young teenagers who had been home educated. I wondered at the time what the purpose of this was. After the session had finished, these amiable young folk all converged on Graham Stuart and love-bombed him with smiles and appeals for support. He is a vain man and was flattered by this attention. It was a shrewd move; I doubt if he would have responded as positively to a crowd of some of the angry parents one encounters on lists like HE-UK!

From then on, Graham Stuart seemed to cast himself in the role of the friend of home education. The fool! He did not seem to realise that the people with whom he was treating were a tiny sub-section of home educators. This often happens when a politician deludes himself that he is on good terms with some 'community' or other, whether it is Muslims, Caribbeans, home educators or any other minority. He clearly did not realise that in the world of British home education, as soon as you make friends with one faction, you automatically alienate ten others! He was apparently quite shocked to realise that a large number of home educators did not buy his act and that the people whom he supposed to be representing home educators were really only representing their own interests.

An even more serious difficulty for Graham Stuart is emerging, one which has caused him to withdraw a bit from the whole home education business. It is all very well being the friend of some persecuted minority. This plays well both in the press and also in Parliament. You become the man whom others seek out when they wish to find out about this subject. It boosts your standing to be an expert on something like this, especially when it is in the news a lot. Newspapers listen to what you have to say and it raises your profile. However, the signs are that what people are more concerned with lately is children missing from education. I am told that this has put the wind up Graham Stuart and made him wish to distance himself a little from home education. I drew attention recently to the stream of questions from MPs on both sides of the house about the numbers of children being home educated. The intention of these questions was to get Michael Gove to admit that nobody had any idea of the number of children not at school. Now we find the Times Educational Supplement making a Freedom of Information request about children missing from education. They have been joined in this enterprise by people like Barnado's and the Children's Society. The danger for Graham Stuart now is that if he is not careful, he will find himself cast not as 'The Friend of Home educators', but rather as 'The Friend of Abusers and Cruel People who are denying their Children an Education'. He is understandably anxious to avoid this.

I have an idea that just as home education was being portrayed a couple of years ago as a cover for forced marriage and so on, it is now about to be depicted as a place where ' the most marginalised children having the most complex needs', to quote the Policy Direct of the Children's Society, are being denied an education. If I were graham Stuart, I too would run a mile from being seen anywhere near this scenario!


  1. I find it quite extraordinary that you are prepared to publicly describe the Chair of the Commons Select Committee for Education as a fool and a vain man. You'll have the serjeant-at-arms after you if you aren't careful.

  2. 'suzyg said...
    I find it quite extraordinary that you are prepared to publicly describe the Chair of the Commons Select Committee for Education as a fool and a vain man. You'll have the serjeant-at-arms after you if you aren't careful.'

    Your contention being, presumably, that this cut-price, Robert Kilroy-Silk lookalike is neither vain nor foolish? An interesting and controversial take on the man.

  3. What's he done that's either vain or foolish?

  4. We got what we wanted out of Graham he helped block the old Children bill and sent it down the drain! thanks Graham for all you help!

  5. Clearly no evidence for these allegations...

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