Education Otherwise: the final betrayal?

Reaction has been both swift and hostile to a newly published document which purports to come from Education Otherwise and which contains a series of “recommendations” on the future of home education in England. Although it bears the national charity’s name, it was allegedly produced by a handful of individuals without reference to the group’s membership or board of trustees. Over the past few days, it has been the talk of the steamie, as we say in Scotland, not least of all because some of the contributors appear not to have approved its controversial content.

Key proposals contained within the document, regardless of who wrote it, have already caused major ripples throughout the home education community as incredulity has given way to anger. Riddled with typographical and grammatical errors, it makes recommendations which have been described as everything from “naive” and “dubious” by some through to “stitch up” and “sell out” by most. It has nevertheless been sent to Graham Badman, who is conducting the home education review, in the name of Education Otherwise when it apparently represents the personal opinions of no more than a handful of self appointed individuals who decide EO policy on the hoof without any formal accountability. Misleading, or what?

Blogland, mailing lists and social media have gone into overdrive, as opposition hardens to what is seen as an arrogant, poorly constructed and feebly argued document which says nothing new about the issues faced by home educators for decades, but claims to provide the solution to a problem fabricated by a government which has described home education as an inconvenient “anomaly”.

They have assured us that home education will remain a legal option – just not as we know it, for freedom in education will be forced to give way to the state’s obsession with surveillance and control so chillingly illustrated by the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda. We are not fools; we already know that the state craves ownership of our free range “anomalous” children, and we can see right through the sheep’s clothing to the big bad wolf beneath. What we can’t understand is why a home education organisation would serve us up for the wolf’s dinner.

Given that the law throws up too many inconvenient anomalies of its own, such as the Human Rights Act, it was obviously deemed necessary for the state to wage a dirty tricks campaign against law abiding families who do not believe in nationalising children to prepare them for a burger flipping future. From the wild and unsubstantiated allegations by a dissembling Government Minister who ranted that home education could be a cover for child abuse, forced marriage and domestic servitude, to the blatant lies peddled by the NSPCC that Victoria Climbie was home educated, the hate campaign was designed to throw as much mud, and inflict as much collateral damage, as possible on a minority group with few natural mainstream allies. They were confident that the court of public opinion would find against home educators and that Education Otherwise, which has long presented an over inflated view of its own importance, would wield sufficient influence to rubber stamp their plans if flattered with “preferred consultee” status.

Things didn’t go exactly to plan for the Government as the home education community rallied as never before against the onslaught and quickly exposed the spin as lies, lies and more lies. While Education Otherwise pretended to have influence, it was rapidly overtaken by others whose collective clout dealt blow after blow to attempts to legitimise an essentially illegitimate review process with terms of reference which resemble shifting sands.

Yet despite Education Otherwise’s poor track record, it is still difficult to imagine how a home education support organisation could have been persuaded to collude in such a blatant abuse of power and raise the white flag of surrender to Government. Speculation abounds as to its motives (and those of the document’s actual author or authors) but a consensus has quickly emerged that EO has been so compromised by this latest betrayal that it is now dead in the water as far as home educators, including many of its own members, are concerned.

The Government may well have believed that EO would be a useful spanner in its manipulator’s toolkit, but it has frankly been left looking like no more than the puppet master for a Pinocchio show without an audience. The word on the home ed high street is “Just Say No to EO!” Mr Badman, please take note.

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