A problem with the new guidelines.....

As I am sure most readers are aware, a small group of home educators and former home educators are currently putting together guidelines on home education which, it is hoped, will be adopted by the Department for Children. These may replace the 2007 guidelines which at the moment tell local authorities how they should behave towards home educators. There is of course a little more to it than this. There has also been some talk of including something drawn up by this group in a forthcoming White Paper on education. This raises the possibility that some of what they are doing could eventually find its way onto the statute book. There is a problem at the heart of this whole process, a problem which is now becoming apparent to others. It is this. When Graham Badman was given the job of looking at elective home education in this country and making any recommendations for change that he found to be necessary, there was an announcement to the press. It was on the BBC news, in the newspapers and so on. The reaction of Education Otherwise and other groups was also in the newspapers. It was a public affair. That has very definitely not been the case with the present 'consultation'.

The situation currently is that a small group of unknown people are formulating some sort of document, at whose nature we can only guess. The only member of this group whose name we know is of course Tania Berlow. Judging by the way that she is weighing into the debate, it is a fair guess that Ali Edgley is also involved in the business. She of course has not been a home educating parent for some years now. Alison Sauer is also connected with the thing, as is Imran Shah. Betsy Anderson, an American lawyer is not directly involved, but gives the odd bit of advice. What's wrong with this picture? What is wrong is that unless one were to join up to various Internet lists and make a deliberate effort to find out about this, nobody would even know that it was happening. Most of those Internet lists have only a few hundred members, which means that the vast majority of the eighty thousand or so home educating parents in this country have absolutely no idea at all that this is happening. Which of course means that even when the guidelines have been written and others are invited to contribute, the overwhelming majority of home educators simply will not hear about them. Tania Berlow's chosen list for discussing all this is the Badman Review Action Group, which only has about seven hundred members, not all of whom are home educating parents.

With the Badman review of elective home education, we knew who instigated the thing; the Secretary of State for Education, Ed Balls. We knew the terms of reference for the enquiry. Everybody who wished was free to contact Graham Badman and contribute their views. It was a transparent and open democratic process. This is very far from being the case here. Who instigated the present 'consultation'? What are the terms of reference? Is the aim simply to produce new guidelines and if so, will these definitely replace the 2007 guidelines? Have the Department for Education asked for this to be done or is it simply a private project of Graham Stuart's? What is all this about putting stuff in a White Paper? Why are we not given the names of those working on the guidelines? Who chose them? Why was no announcement made that this was happening and why has it been necessary to engage in detective work to find out about the thing? Is this an official activity and if so, who authorised it?

Until we know a good deal more about what is going on with these secret negotiations with Graham Stuart and the Department for Education, I think that home educating parents are right to feel a little wary about this. When the document is finished and others are invited for their views, how will this be done? Will an attempt be made to publicise the chance to contribute, publicised beyond a casual message on a small Internet list? Here is something which could affect every home educator in the country, now and for years to come. That it is being conducted on the quiet, with every bit of information having to be extracted by guesswork and cloak and dagger means, is absolutely incredible. It is time that this was opened up by means of a public announcement; telling all home educators who is involved, what is being done, what is planned to be done and how they can become involved themselves. Of considerable concern is the fact that some of those involved are not themselves home educating parents. They are, in effect, drawing up rules which will not affect them in the least. For many parents, this is unacceptable. At the very least, anybody concerned in this should be a genuine home educator.