Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Wolves and the Frugal Spender: A Play in Two Acts

First off, let me lay out the absolute ideal way, in my mind, that this morning's Select Committee oral evidence hearing could have gone...

Graham Stuart: Welcome to this session, which was due to look at support for home education. However, as we parliamentarians discussed this over an expenses-covered hot chocolate last night (we have the receipts!), we realised what a complete nonsense the concept of compulsory education is, and abolished it. So all you taxpayer-funded state-approved home-ed hangers on, thanks for coming this morning, but bye! Ok, moving on from that... as we chatted away into last night, we went on to realise the illegitimacy of forced government, and abolished that too; Everyone's born free and we're going to stop trying to control them. So, huzzah!
*Fry's chocolate creams then began to rain from the sky across the country in a sudden climate change that the pro/anti global warming theory groups had never anticipated. *

So, that didn't happen.

In the absence of my ideal situation, what I want from these people currently is to leave me and other HEors alone to live our lives, so that's the basis on which I was watching this today.


Three wolves, dressed unconvincingly in shepherds' clothing

Sir Stuart, a seemingly rag tag member of parliament/knight in well-pressed armour, who, while having good intentions and glowing under the warmth of many home educators' esteem, is under a magic spell called 'job' which keeps him forever as a cog in the government machine, with all that entails, including in-crowd snipes to the other cogs.

Ebenezer Truss, a public servant under the impression that she gives the public their freedoms

The First Act, where three people who make their living from pretending they have a duty to monitor home educators, went as expected. I burnt my mouth on my coffee just trying to keep up with their BS on my bingo card. The whole thing can easily be summarised by imagining three wily wolves desperately straightening their shepherd costumes as they discuss how they lovingly care for the wild sheep population. (A far more detailed overview can be found here.) It doesn't take a master of counter-espionage to see through the shepherd costumes, even for those not accustomed to duplicitous council ways. We had wolf number one, from Leicester, whose policy document is eye-opening to say the least (not really surprising considering she said she taught herself how to do her job from going on a Staffordshire forum, at which I'm told people from councils went to learn from other people from councils, i.e. the blind leading the blind). Wolf two, from Croydon, whose policy document I couldn't even be bothered reading because they lie about the law in the first sentence of their webpage. And finally wolf number three, who assured us that, "The home educators we've got, within Warrington, as I said I have a positive relationship with them." What, even once they've seen this document listing them all completely erroneously as pupils vulnerable to poor educational outcomes? Wow, that's a really strange definition of 'positive relationship'.
Tempting as it is to pick apart pretty much everything the three wolves said, it's all been picked apart a million times before, so it seems kind of redundant. Instead, let's move on to the next Act... 

The Second Act, slightly better. Ebenezer Truss, while not having any noble intentions, only financial restrictions, made it clear over and over that she was not willing to look at policy change while no evidence for it existed. And, despite several people clearly having no clue on the law (and Graham Stuart squarely pointing out that HEors have no such difficulty), she was also clear on the fact that councils should not be contacting home ed families without reason to believe an education is not taking place.

What will come of today? I don't know. Long term, it's unrealistic to expect no more attempts to control home ed, sadly. Other governments will have no qualms about spending the money without evidence (they have people to create that, after all). But for this government, in England, for now, I'm hopeful we might have some respite (although we'll see what the final report says). With luck, it will leave all the more energy to continue the fight in Wales.