Saturday, 16 April 2011

The ambulance chasers of home education

One of the accusations often thrown around in the world of British home education is that many of those active in doing things connected with home education are motivate purely by money. We saw this with the so-called 'secret group', who were apparently drawing up new versions of the 2007 guidelines for local authorities. A popular term of abuse thrown at such people is 'rent seekers'; as in my personal favourite; 'rent seeking vulture queen'. Why, the accusation has even been levelled against me, the suggestion being made that my book was an attempt to cash in on the Badman Review. Since I have yet to receive a penny for the thing, this particular cock won't really fight.



There are those who are making a little money out of home education and these are the consultants and advisers, a whole tribe of whom seem to have sprung up in the last year or two. Somebody commented here a few days ago that such people persuade home educating parents that they are needed by making them scared that the family courts will become involved and that they might even lose their children as a result of home educating. These are the people who benefit from the atmosphere of paranoia which is to be found on some lists, blogs and forums. Parents who were quite perky and confident come onto these places and get sucked into the fear that there is a government conspiracy to prevent them from educating their own children and that they are a persecuted minority. Some parents realise how mad this is and leave the groups fairly quickly. Others stay and buy in to this fantasy. It is upon these that some of the 'consultants' and 'advisers' prey. They offer, for a price, to come and help write an educational philosophy, to speak on behalf of parents being menaced by their local authority and things like that. A while ago, these types were openly touting for business on some lists, although this has now been discouraged. They are still contacting parents privately though, having got their details from places like the Education Otherwise list.



As I say, one person commenting here is aware of this, I wonder if anybody else has had experience of this sort of thing, that is to say parents being made frightened by advisers trying to put the wind up them about trouble with the authorities over home educating. I have the impression that this has become something of a cottage industry among home educators and former home educators recently. Has anybody else noticed this?

45 comments:

  1. 'the people who get you so afraid and suspicious of your LA that they advise you not to accept any visits to your home unless you have someone from their 'charity' to represent you when the LA official visits'

    Do you mean this comment, Simon? This is not a reference to a 'consultant', this is a reference to EO, surely?

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  2. 'Parents who were quite perky and confident come onto these places and get sucked into the fear that there is a government conspiracy to prevent them from educating their own children and that they are a persecuted minority'

    I'm a local group moderator who works very hard to ensure an atmosphere of calm and supportiveness and normality. However, after their first visit, often new HE parents write to the group describing a horrible experience which they need help in getting sorted. This is, of course, grist to the mill of those who love conflict. However, it does put off other families from ever wanting anything to do with the LA again.

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  3. I know of one EO local contact who talks about 'battle plans' and 'barricades'. Funny how he was there to allow the 20 day rule to go through in this area. His upcoming 'meetings' should be fun, they'll be funded and attended by the LA and school nurse team.

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  4. There are certinly worried home educators out there and some families who welcome support from others in tricky circumstances, but whether anyone actually needs paid support - I am not sure they do (or should do). It is true that when a newbie on certain lists mentions they have agreed to a home visit, they often get a lot of advice saying "don't do it" - which sometimes may be less than helpful, but again I don't think it is anything to do with people wanting to whip up support for a home business, it arises because some families are very anti- LA and see anyone who thinks differently as either misguided or traitors....

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  5. 'it arises because some families are very anti- LA and see anyone who thinks differently as either misguided or traitors....'

    Yes, that happens here, too. However, there are also people who expect an encouraging and supportive visit but who end up with horrendous problems, for no apparent reason, which take months to sort out. Those stories make others very cautious, with good reason.

    So, in our area, the picture is very mixed.

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  6. 'Funny how he was there to allow the 20 day rule to go through in this area.'

    Sorry to be dim, but I don't understand this comment. Could you explain a bit more?

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  7. Simon wrote,
    "Somebody commented here a few days ago that such people persuade home educating parents that they are needed by making them scared that the family courts will become involved and that they might even lose their children as a result of home educating."

    Is this the one who failed to provide any evidence for this claim when asked? Please can someone, anyone, provide evidence that this is happening? The name of a list and relevant message numbers avoids the risk of breaking confidentiality.

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  8. 'Sorry to be dim....'
    This is part of a very nasty game that started a long time ago, around the time that the lists were being developed and drafts of books were being written.
    The area has been fought over regularly for around about as long, currently with a male EO local contact who's fighting rather dirty for dominance by bullying women. I'm aware of several incidents.
    His involvement in local Home Ed politics is all going down on his business plan or C.V, he's already trained LA staff for free...He has made claims that he used to be a parent governor too, when his children were at school. Wow.. just what any prospective client or employer would want or ever need.

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  9. Anon said..
    'it arises because some families are very anti -LA and see anyone who thinks differently as either misguided or traitors'

    They're called militants, and it appears that it's a group that seems to have emerged from within EO and from the pages of HEUK..

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  10. "They're called militants, and it appears that it's a group that seems to have emerged from within EO and from the pages of HEUK.. "

    LOL, you clearly know little about HE history.

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  11. Do they still whip up the fervour and stir the zealots at HESFES..
    Always seemed to be the same group of people that were involved in moving the masses, in the early days they resembled timid hellfire and brimstone preachers or snakeoil salesmen. I'll bet that they've really perfected their spiel by now.
    Didn't trust them back then and I wouldn't/do not trust them now.
    I know of one who's divorced, so much for TCS eh?

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  12. Anon said...
    'Lol, you clearly know little about HE history.'

    Only 20+ years of it.

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  13. "'it arises because some families are very anti -LA and see anyone who thinks differently as either misguided or traitors'"

    Or they are families who have suffered at the hands of their LA and want to warn others of the dangers? Even a good LA can change, something I've seen quite often over the years on the internet and experienced once myself.

    If people take a few simple precautions they are largely protected from harm if this should happen to them. If they are careful and polite, there is no reason why good LA relations should be damaged. Wouldn't those who experience these problems be negligent if they did not warn others? It would be a bit like seeing that the bridge over the river is down, but not bothering to warn other motorists.

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  14. Funny that you've never questioned why EO had no black or Asian trustees or council members.

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  15. 'Funny how he was there to allow the 20 day rule to go through in this area.'

    Sorry, but I still don't understand this bit. Are you saying that this person approved of the introduction of the 20 day rule? I'm not sure how it can have gone through in one area and not nationally.

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  16. "Only 20+ years of it."

    Obviously not in the right places then or you wouldn't have claimed that militants emerged from HEUK. They were around long before that list existed.

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  17. Funny that no one ever gives a sh!t that they've blown the money, and can't account for where it went.
    Or wouldn't submit the books.

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  18. "I know of one who's divorced, so much for TCS eh?"

    LOL, so now TCS is supposed to result in perfect marriages? That's a new one on me. Who is making such a miraculous claim? Not.

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  19. "Funny that no one ever gives a sh!t that they've blown the money, and can't account for where it went."

    You've obviously not seen various 'militants' querying this over the years, where have you been? But then, you don't like militants, so presumably you wouldn't bother reading their emails which might explain your ignorance.

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  20. 'Obviously not in the right places...'
    Ooooh, do tell us which are the right places in your opinion?

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  21. Do you really not know of internet forums/email lists that are older than HEUK?

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  22. How many years have you' militants' been querying this?

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  23. "How many years have you' militants' been querying this?"

    I haven't, I'm not a militant, and I can't be bothered to do your research for you. I do remember various people over the years asking EO why accounts hadn't been submitted and various people also made enquiries with the Charities Commission, asking why they were not chasing EO up over their accounts. If I'm remembering correctly, complaints were also made.

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  24. 'TCS is supposed to result in perfect marriages'

    Hardly Taking the Children Seriously.

    I'll bet their home ed was fun, watching Mum and Dad simmer and fight.

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  25. You haven't...
    Says it all really.

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  26. "'Obviously not in the right places...'
    Ooooh, do tell us which are the right places in your opinion?"

    HEUK has only been running since 2002, where were you before then if you've been involved 20+ years? The internet became useful to home educator from about 1996ish.

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  27. Anon at 6.42 said

    "Or they are families who have suffered at the hands of their LA and want to warn others of the dangers?"

    I have no issue with people making sure that everyone is aware of the risks/benefits ratio of things like home visits. I do have more of a problem with those who use words which imply that those who do choose to have a home visit are somehow traitors to the cause - I have certainly read things over the years which imply that.

    In addition there are also some who "advise" families who are already in difficulty with the LA (or social services) to buckle down the hatches and repel any further contacts - which seems to alarm the authorities even more and so can have much more dramatic consequences. I have been personally involved with a few such cases, a couple of which ended up with children on the CPR or in court, when a little gritting of teeth and smiling nicely would have resolved the issues at a much earlier stage. In one of those cases the family was poorly advised (by both home educators on a national level and also organisations like FASSIT)- the outcome was that the family were whipped up into a state of hysteria and things got completely out of hand. One only has to read some of the outcomes of similar cases to realise that things like this don't end well.....

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  28. "In addition there are also some who "advise" families who are already in difficulty with the LA (or social services) to buckle down the hatches and repel any further contacts - which seems to alarm the authorities even more and so can have much more dramatic consequences."

    I agree it's possible to go too far, it's never a good idea to close down against social services, for instance, but some people seem to want to throw the baby out with the bath water and dislike/want to stop any mention of problems with LAs. Those were the comments I meant.

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  29. "I'll bet their home ed was fun, watching Mum and Dad simmer and fight."

    It comes to something when you have to start picking on people's personal lives to this extent to make a point. You are talking about people going through hard times. If you are who I think you are, you should be the last person to hit someone when they're down. I though better of you.

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  30. "You haven't...
    Says it all really."

    I didn't, but plenty of others did, something you claim didn't happen. I told you that others had questioned it in answer statement that nobody had, now you treat my answer as though you had asked me if I'd queried it in person. Way to move the goal posts.

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  31. 1996ish...
    we were meeting HEing families face to face, it was towards the end of the real physical world before everthing had to go 'virtual' and the rumourmill started to grind away truth and integrity.

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  32. 'If you're who I think you are'

    And if you're who I think you are you know the truth.
    But hey, come and see me we can discuss old times and more recent ones.

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  33. Would it be possible for you anonymouses to allocate numbers to yourselves and make this easier to read?

    At 06:24, one anonymous said, "a male EO local contact who's fighting rather dirty for dominance by bullying women". If you have a complaint against an EO local contact, please contact the local contacts co-ordinator or one of the other trustees. The trustees' names are not yet linked to email addresses (we are hoping to put a new website live within the next two weeks) but they are generally formed by the first initial and the surname. For example, mine is SDeuchars@educationotherwise.org. I can also be reached by phone on the Media number. Initial contact can be made in confidence.

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  34. "1996ish...
    we were meeting HEing families face to face, it was towards the end of the real physical world before everthing had to go 'virtual' and the rumourmill started to grind away truth and integrity."

    Yep, I was doing the same, and did so for many years after also joining the 'Internet world'. The real physical world was there then and is still there now and and exactly the same conversations went on in that world before the Internet as take place now on the internet. Maybe you just weren't interested in those issues at that time, but I can assure you that little has changed apart from the location.

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  35. "And if you're who I think you are you know the truth."

    I know nothing more than has been discussed on email lists in public, so I suspect I'm not who you think I am!

    "But hey, come and see me we can discuss old times and more recent ones."

    Well I'm not 100% sure you're who I think you are and don't even know where you are if you are that person so that would be difficult. Privacy makes life complicated, doesn't it?

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  36. Julie wrote,
    "In addition there are also some who "advise" families who are already in difficulty with the LA (or social services) to buckle down the hatches and repel any further contacts - which seems to alarm the authorities even more and so can have much more dramatic consequences."

    It's clear that Anon at 6.42 meant to exclude extreme reactions when the said:
    "If people take a few simple precautions they are largely protected from harm if this should happen to them. If they are careful and polite, there is no reason why good LA relations should be damaged."

    Not sure how you went from that to buckling down the hatches and repelling further contacts!

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  37. To anon at 16.29...

    I also said "I have no issue with people making sure that everyone is aware of the risks/benefits ratio of things like home visits."

    I am certainly not coming out in support of all families having home visits or anything else- (in fact I have recently advised a couple of families to avoid them at all costs, for various reasons!)...my original comments were directed about the attitudes of some whose " advice" seems less than helpful towards families who have already agreed to a visit, or who have had a visit and then have problems. (Wasn't that the context of Simon's original post? I don't think there are many "professional ambulance chasers" around - or what ever Simon wants to call them, but there are certainly those whose response to anyone who even admits in passing they are having/have had a visit which can be unhelpful or extremist.

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  38. "my original comments were directed about the attitudes of some whose " advice" seems less than helpful towards families who have already agreed to a visit"

    So do you think it's wrong to warn these people of the possible risks of a visit (without scaremongering)? As you acknowledge, in some cases visits are clearly a bad idea. If the possible risks are not discussed on lists, how will those reading (who have maybe not posting at all or not giving full details of their situation), be aware of the occasions when visits are not a good idea?

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  39. 'If the possible risks are not discussed on lists, how will those reading (who have maybe not posting at all or not giving full details of their situation), be aware of the occasions when visits are not a good idea?'

    I don't think that Julie was suggesting that the possible risks should not be discussed at all. If her experience is anything like mine, what happens is that people are so very free with their advice that they ignore the real risks of NOT co-operating to a few people.

    Some people are already in a precarious postion re social services and the last thing they need to be told categorically that visits are wrong and they're a traitor to the HE 'goodly cause' if they allow one.

    There's a balance, isn't there?

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  40. "Some people are already in a precarious postion re social services and the last thing they need to be told categorically that visits are wrong and they're a traitor to the HE 'goodly cause' if they allow one.

    There's a balance, isn't there?"

    Obviously. But that was made in response to Julie's comment; "my original comments were directed about the attitudes of some whose "advice" seems less than helpful towards families who have already agreed to a visit". Just a visit, not contact with social services or anything like that. I've never disputed the need to behave differently in that type of situation and agree that the 'batten down the hatches', or 'flee the country' type approach are the last thing we should do or advise others to do.

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  41. "and they're a traitor to the HE 'goodly cause' if they allow one."

    And BTW, I've never seen the word, 'traitor' used and hope it's rare. However, it may be worth discussing the idea that if the majority automatically accept visits without question it will impact negatively on the minority that refuse them. Not sure where it leaves us because I would not like to prevent people choosing visits as an option, especially since I've had them in the past myself. But it is still an issue.

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  42. ' However, it may be worth discussing the idea that if the majority automatically accept visits without question it will impact negatively on the minority that refuse them.'

    Oh believe me, that's ENDLESSLY discussed in our area, leaving the majority who opt for visits being forced to keep very quiet about it now.

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  43. "Oh believe me, that's ENDLESSLY discussed in our area, leaving the majority who opt for visits being forced to keep very quiet about it now."

    So you have a tyranny of the majority by a minority in your group! Don't let them get away with it. I don't have visits these days, but fully understand why other would choose to. Other options for those who want visits and also want to support those who don't is to make it clear to the LA that they are aware visits are optional. Also, the group could work with the LA to ensure any letters reflect the law correctly. Putting pressure on home educators to avoid visits is as bad as putting pressure on them to have visits (and we've had this pressure from home educators).

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  44. "Putting pressure on home educators to avoid visits is as bad as putting pressure on them to have visits (and we've had this pressure from home educators)."

    Ahh yes, the familiar, 'we don't mind visits so why don't you have them and stop rocking the boat? If you make a fuss they'll change the law so that you have to have visits and we'll all be worse off'. I've had that one too.

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