Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Who wrote the briefing paper which Education Otherwise is circulating to Welsh Assembly Members?
In September, a series of documents began to be put up on the Home Education UK site about the new legislation being discussed in Wales; that relating to the regulation of home education. Eventually, they were all melded together into one document, which bore the name of Wendy Charles-Warner. It may be found here:
On October 13th, Alison Sauer introduced this briefing paper to the Education Otherwise site, uploading it to their files. She said:
This is the Briefing Document from the Wales Facebook Group with Welsh intro and summary added. Most is in English.
It was at once greeted as her own work. Edwina Theunissen, a trustee of Education Otherwise living in Wales, said;
Thanks Alison, for this. It's the most impressive doc I've seen so far and should be a great help to home edders in Wales. It must have taken a great deal of time and effort so congrats to you and whomsoever your collaborators are.
Alison Sauer did not react by disclaiming responsibility for writing the thing, merely accepted the congratulations as her due. At this point, most people assumed that Alison Sauer was the prime mover behind the briefing paper. A day or two later of course, she initiated a campaign of harassment against me via Facebook; getting people to bombard me with silly emails and publicising my address and urging people to arrange for nuisance deliveries to be made to it. Her supposed grounds for doing this were that she did not feel it right that Wendy Charles-Warner, the supposed author of the briefing paper, should be mentioned publicly in connection with it. It is interesting to see what Alison was saying at this time. In emails to me she uses the expression ‘we’ a lot, which suggests strongly that she was something to do with both the briefing paper and also Mrs Charles-Warner. For example, speaking of Wendy Charles-Warner, she said;
we do try to keep her whereabouts confidential
The newspaper and BBC articles were not supposed to be published online and we do not draw attention to them on purpose.
Whom do readers suppose that Alison Sauer means by this mysterious ‘we’? We, as in ‘me and Wendy Charles-Warner’? Or perhaps, in light of later developments, 'me and Education Otherwise'? In any case, it is clear that Alison has a stake in the briefing paper and is in some way very involved in it. As we have seen, trustees at Education Otherwise thought that she had written it and were dealing with it on that basis.
Four days later, on October 18th, Education Otherwise made a surprising announcement. This may be found here:
It will be observed that the briefing paper is now being unambiguously attributed to Wendy Charles-Warner and that she has been appointed Education Otherwise’s official representative in Wales, a role previously held, incidentally, by Edwina Theunnisen. The briefing paper has been officially adopted and is now being printed and sent to all Welsh Assembly Members.
I have not room in this post for a detailed criticism of the paper. It is pretty dreadful and contains many errors and inaccuracies. That is nothing to the purpose here, except to mention that the style is unmistakably Alison Sauer’s. We have seen that it was accepted as such when first it appeared and also that she was using the term ‘we’ when referring, apparently, to she and Mrs Charles-Warner.
What would Education Otherwise’s motive have been for misleading people in this way as to the authorship? There are two good reasons for concealing publicly the fact that Alison Sauer had a hand in this document. For one thing, her name on the cover would have discredited it at once as far as many home educators were concerned. After the fiasco of the abortive attempt to introduce new guidelines for local authorities about home education, anything with ‘Alison Sauer’ on the cover would be damned in the eyes of many. There is a more serious objection to using her name openly in connection with the briefing paper. Welsh Assembly Members are likely to look more favourably upon such a document if supposedly written by a Welsh home educator than they would if it had been produced by an English businesswoman. Some of them are already getting a little ticked off at the fact that most of the opposition to the proposed Bill is coming from England, rather than Wales.
As if that is not enough, there would be a horrible suspicion, were Alison Sauer to be seen as involved with the briefing document, that she was not completely unbiased and that there was a clear conflict of interest. As readers know, Alison runs an outfit known as SC Education:
This company is working hard to encourage the spread of the flexischooling model of education. Indeed, according to her company website, Alison Sauer is ' currently liaising with the DfE to promote flexischooling as a recognised and credible system.' One of the alternatives advocated by the briefing document, instead of the compulsory registration and monitoring of home education, is of course an expansion of flexischooling. If shown to be the author of this document, the unfortunate impression might be created that a commercial opportunity was being exploited here by Alison Sauer; that by pushing for an increase in flexischooling in Wales, she would be creating future work for her own company. Another benefit of the system that the briefing paper recommends is, ' Investment in training for LA staff in the law and their duties'. By an uncanny coincidence, training LA staff in the law and their duties is something else which Alison Sauer provides.
I shall in another post examine the briefing paper itself in detail, but for now I wonder if Education Otherwise would like to explain in a little more detail the precise provenance of the thing? For some, it is beginning to look rather as though Alison Sauer now has her feet firmly under the table at Education Otherwise; a development which is unlikely to be universally welcomed!