Sunday, 10 November 2013
Prevailing ideology; the closely interwoven connections of home educators and their organisations
Commenting here last night, somebody accused me of quoting a person on, ‘the extreme edge’ of the home educating community and then representing her ideas to be a significant strand in the world of British home education. This is a fair point, although it leads me to suppose that the person making it knows little about the situation today among home educators in this country.
When something like the Badman Report happens or attempts are made to abolish flexi-schooling, there is at once the appearance of protests by large numbers of individuals and also various unrelated organisations and groups. We hear, for example, that Home Education UK says something about the new proposals, as does the Centre for Personalised Education, Action on Rights for Children, and Education Otherwise, along with individuals like Roland Meighan, psychologist Paula Rothermel, barrister Ian Dowty and businesswoman Alison Sauer. What most people do not apparently realise is that all these groups and people are almost incestuously interconnected and share a common ideology. If I might be permitted the use of a vernacular, if somewhat vulgar expression; they all piss in the same pot. It would take too long to detail all the ways that these people, and of course Leslie Barson, are associated with each other. I’ll point out some of the major links though.
The Educational Heretics Press, a small publishing company run by Roland Meighan is one nexus in the world of British home education. They also run a charity called the Centre for Personalised Education. The Educational Heretics Press published Jan Fortune-Wood's early books, one of which was co-authored with Terri Dowty; wife of barrister Ian Dowty. The Dowtys were both directors of a rather mysterious limited company whose registered office is their home in Leytonstone; Action on Rights for Children or ARCH. Jan Fortune-Wood’s former husband, Mike Fortune-Wood, runs the Home Education UK website and Yahoo list HE-UK; an internet support group for home educating parents. The Centre for Personalised Education is a registered charity and for some time, they were paying Mike Fortune-Wood to undertake research and write a report on home education in this country. One of the trustees of this charity is Alison Sauer.
There is nothing sinister about any of this, except it will have been noticed that these various people often try to pretend that they do not have anything to do with each other. For instance, when Alison Sauer was trying to persuade MP Graham Stuart to help her introduce her own guidelines on home education, many people denied that they knew anything about it. Mike Fortune-Wood was one of these who categorically stated that he had no dealings with Alison Sauer over the guidelines, even though this was a complete lie and he was reading the drafts and offering her advice all through the process.
Leslie Barson is one of these people who is known to an awful lot of the others. She is a chum of Paula Rothermel and was until two years ago a trustee of Education Otherwise. Paula Rothermel is a mate of Mike Fortune-Woods, they are on first name terms and he allows her to be a member of the HE-UK list. More than one member of that list has been surprised to receive an unexpected email from Dr Rothermel, who reads all that is posted on the list. I think that this is what passes for her research in the field these days! Needless to say, Mike Fortune-Wood does not tell parents that their posts are being scrutinised by a non-home educating psychologist in this way. Ian Dowty is another friend of Mike Fortune-Wood's and they are both chums of Roland Meighan.
I think it would be fair to say that those parents who join internet groups about home education or read almost any book on the subject, will have come into contact with the prevailing ideology of this network. Briefly, this may be stated as being opposed to compulsory education, in favour of child-centred or autonomous education and very strongly against oversight of home education by the state. To suggest that Leslie Barson somehow holds extreme views about this is absurd; this is the mainstream ideology of all the influential groups and individuals in British home education today.