It has often been remarked that getting home educators to agree on anything, let alone come together as any recognised movement, is a bit like herding cats. However, following the UK Government’s announcement in January of its latest review of elective home education in England, a monumental shift appears to have taken place which has seen home educators come together as never before in common cause.
In the face of such a serious threat, the old ‘representative’ organisations have largely been dispensed with (except by the Government which likes to claim it has consulted ‘home educators’) in favour of exploiting the information sharing and networking opportunities presented by social media which allow for fast and furious collective action. Facebook and Twitter have become the new weapons of mass instruction for campaigners, along with the now burgeoning blogging community which has played a significant part in getting the word out and galvanising this new movement. Meanwhile, the traditional media have been relegated to dinosaur status, most having been written off by home educators as government mouthpieces.
Having seriously misjudged the mood of home educators, the NSPCC was one of the first propagandists to ‘feel the force’ in the wake of its irresponsible and entirely fabricated comments linking Victoria Climbie’s tragic death to home education and its subsequent refusal to issue a public apology or censure its spokesperson. The scurrilous remarks, described by one home educating commentator as tantamount to ‘grave robbing’, led to the Victoria Climbie Foundation itself issuing a rebuttal statement, and there have been calls for a full investigation by Godfrey Bloom MEP and hundreds of members of the public.The NSPCC has meanwhile failed to respond appropriately to any of the complaints received and has now resorted to good old fashioned censorship by deleting home educators’ comments from its own facebook group.
Members of the campaign group Action for Home Education (AHEd) have also been diligent in their investigations and have unearthed (and published on their action wiki) some very interesting information about the ‘concerns’ cited by the Government and NSPCC as having been raised by Local Authorities, most notably that home education may be used as ‘a cover for child abuse, forced marriage and domestic servitude’. The truth is they made them up and released them in true Chinese whisper style via the now defunct London Safeguarding Network. AHEd has the evidence to prove it, and this thread on our own forums summarises the case against the Government’s spurious allegations.
A Freedom of Information request to the DCSF may (or may not) provide details of the amount of public money being spent on the third investigation of elective home education in England in four years to pursue concerns for which no hard evidence has ever been forthcoming.
As well as setting up the now 1600-strong Stop the Government Stigmatising Home Educators Facebook group, home educators have also helped swell the responses to the review to more than 2000. Their petition to the Prime Minister has already attracted more than 2500 signatures and currently ranks as 43rd most popular. Home educators have also been collecting from Local Authorities (via FOI requests when faced with resistance) their official responses to the ‘review’ and have questioned the independence of the team led by Graham Badman, who, as a retired schools official, has no experience of home education and who, from perusing the questionnaire to Local Authorities, has failed even to grasp the basics of how it works.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though, as home educators have also been engaged in humorous and satirical efforts to raise awareness of the ridiculousness of the latest state sponsored smear campaign. A piece on News Biscuit with the headline Home Educators Eat Babies was quickly voted into the top 10 submissions, home educators announced their own review of state schooling in a news release published on these forums, and ‘concerns’ were even raised about parenthood being used as a cover for abuse.
It is undoubtedly an exciting and challenging time for home educators across the UK as they are face up to threats from Government and allied ‘rent seekers’ on an increasingly regular basis. While cats may be difficult to herd, they will still come out fighting when cornered; and the biggest cats of all, the lions, live in ‘prides’ and will savage interlopers who threaten their young. As a home educator once remarked: “Home educators make difficult and dangerous prey”. The UK Government and its NSPCC henchmen would do well to heed that warning.