The world of British home education is often swept by conspiracy theories, in which the simple and obvious explanations for things are thought to conceal deeper and more sinister motives. I have written of such ideas on here several times. I quite often receive emails from home educators which offer me information or advice; much of it about my personal character and disposition. A number of readers have contacted me, for example, to point out that I am a complete fuckwit. This assessment of my mental abilities, although doubtless meant kindly, is superfluous; my family already remind me regularly of this aspect of my personality. I am nevertheless grateful for all such feedback. On other occasions, people contact me to draw my attention to things that they think I should know about and mention in my blog. Recently, I have had three emails, all suggesting the same thing. Two were from fairly well known names on the home educating scene and so I thought that I would set out the theory they propound and see what others make of it.
I have written before about the strange business of the new guidelines which were being prepared and which were apparently intended to replace the existing 2007 guidelines to local authorities on dealing with home education. Alison Sauer was involved with this project, as were Imran Shah and Tania Berlow. The whole thing was supposedly being done in cooperation with Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Commons select committee on families and children, who had received the go-ahead from Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister. We were told at the end of last year that a first draft would be ready after Christmas and that we would all be able then to offer our criticism. While this was happening, Alison Sauer and Imran Shah, stopped posting on the various lists and forums, presumably, as it was widely suggested, to avoid answering questions about this business. They then reappeared and nothing was ever said about the new guidelines. That was three months ago and we have heard nothing since. It is assumed that the thing is dead in the water.
A week or so ago, it came to light that the Department for Education intends to implement one of the recommendations of the Badman report, something which was included in Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill; the bit about children's names being retained on the school register for twenty days after their parents have de-registered them.
What my correspondents say is that these two events are linked in some way. The idea seems to be that the story about the new guidelines was a red herring and that while home educating parents were occupied with this, behind the scenes civil servants at the DfE were actually drawing up plans to implement Badman's ideas piecemeal. The hint is being made that either Alison Sauer and her friends knew about this and are hoping for well paid jobs in connection with some new monitoring regime, or that they have been used as fall guys and tricked by Nick Gibb, who all along intended to introduce new monitoring requirements for home education. So in one version of the theory, those working with Graham Stuart are dupes and in the other villains who are selling out other home educators in order to obtain jobs with the DfE. Nick Gibb and Graham Stuart emerge as Machiavellian conspirators, whose plots are of such Byzantine complexity as to bewilder a Borgia.
I can believe that Nick Gibb intends and has always intended to bring in new regulations around home education, but I am not so sure about Graham Stuart, Alison Sauer et al. It would help allay any such suspicions if these people would explain openly what was actually going on last year and what has happened since. In the meantime, I shall keep readers posted of any new developments of which I hear.