Wherever I go on the Internet lately, I seem to keep bumping into the same person. It’s just like real life, really. You know how it is when you see someone you know slightly while visiting the shops and then come across her the following day at the cinema and then a few days later, find yourself sitting next to her in a coffee shop? Sometimes it almost seems as though you’re being stalked. This is how I am beginning to feel about Alison Sauer. Whether I am reading the online version of the Times Educational Supplement, browsing some forum or even reading my daily paper, there she is; touting for business. The woman is indefatigable and one wonders if she prowls the streets of Barnoldswick wearing sandwich-boards and crying, ‘Get your personalised education here! Flexi-schooling, special rates!’
I most recently came across Alison while reading an article in the Daily Telegraph which was published online. It may be seen here and Alison’s comment is the twelfth down:
I followed the link to her company to see how things are developing there lately and two things struck me. The first was the testimonials from satisfied customers. The London Borough of Newham, for example, find her courses, ‘Very well facilitated - interesting, informative and food for thought’ I’m not entirely sure what they mean by ‘facilitated’, but at any rate they seem pleased with her. These recommendations put me in mind of the sort of things you see in advertisements for patent medicines or lucky charms on the back pages of certain magazines. You know the sort of thing, ‘Mrs BD of Giggleswick says, “Since I have followed Alison’s system, I am no longer troubled by litigious home educators and my health is a million times better. Thank you Alison and SC Education, you have been a life saver!”’
The other thing that struck me about the website, and I find this truly extraordinary, is Alison’s personal account of herself. She says:
Born in Yorkshire and educated in the North of England, Alison Sauer has worked for herself providing training and consultancy services to business, local authorities, educators and charities for over 20 years.
Alison is a director of The Sauer Consultancy Limited, a company which has been providing training and consultancy in home education to local authorities for more than eight years.
She has been involved in a number of consultations on home education including the consultations for the Scottish Guidance on Home Education, Children Missing from Education and most recently, the Badman Review and its subsequent analysis by the House of Commons Education Select Committee. In addition, she has advised and participated in a number of home education research projects and studies.
Alison is a member of the Centre for Personalised Education Trust (CPE-PEN), a think-tank organisation whose members include academics and teachers from both state and private schools. Working alongside CPE-PEN, one of Alison's current projects aims to improve the availability of flexischooling in state schools. This project involves networking with flexischooling headteachers, parents and local authorities, raising awareness of flexischooling, and analysing the flexischooling schemes currently operating.
In the past, she has represented voluntary organisations and been called upon as a home education expert for newspapers, radio and television. She has also written for ACE (Advisory Centre for Education) on home education issues.
Alison is a passionate believer in good organisation, communication and networking and endeavours through offering professional development workshops and courses to improve the skills of many organisations in both the public and the private sector.
What’s missing from this picture, boys and girls? Yes, that’s right; no mention at of the fact that she is herself a home educator! This is an odd omission. Of all the things that I have done in my life, I am proudest of all of having educated my daughter. When I wrote an academic book on the subject of home education, I made sure that this was mentioned in the blurb. I cannot imagine airbrushing it from my personal history in the way that Alison has done; anybody would think that she is ashamed of being a home educator! I think the explanation lies in the fact that, as I have remarked before, she likes to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds. Many local authorities are a little suspicious of home educators and if she represented herself as one, it might put the punters off. So when talking to other parents, she is happy to admit to not sending young Johannes to school. Dealing with local authorities though, he becomes an embarrassment; something to be hidden away metaphorically, like the kids in Flowers in the Attic.