My thinking on the NSPCC/EHE meeting: FAQ
A few people have been asking me about the meeting that took place between some home educators and the NSPCC on Friday, since I have expressed my dissatisfaction with it. I'm therefore formulating this post as a link to send people to, to explain my thinking all at once.
1. Why was there a meeting between some home educators and the NSPCC on Friday and how did it come about?
A petition was raised to ask the NSPCC to withdraw its report: Children not in schools: learning from case reviews which was critiqued on this blog in October 2014. The meeting was organised in response to the petition.
2. Why are you unhappy that the meeting took place?
Because it was a private meeting, following an agenda set by the NSPCC and shrouded in secrecy. Indeed, there was great panic when the agenda and attendees were published online the day before the meeting. As the NSPCC itself might say, if it has nothing to hide, what does it have to fear from, for example, filming the whole thing and posting it online? The House of Commons manages it: I don't see why the NSPCC can't. Also some of the names on the list of attendees worried me.
3. If it had been a public meeting, would you be happier about it?
Yes, because it would have been more about protest and less about negotiating. We can't negotiate with aggressors, as the NSPCC has shown itself to be against home education time and time again. Much less, behind closed doors and in secret. The whole thing smacks of appeasement and risks seriously weakening our position for no good reason.
4. What is it about some of the attendees that worries you?
At least two of the attendees were involved in developing this draft guidance from government to local authorities (intended to replace the excellent EHEGLA) which would have been disastrous for freedom in education. One attendee has in the past suggested an official traffic light system for grading home educating families in terms of the likely level of concern they would/should generate from authorities. Another attendee refused to take a position on whether compulsory registration would be a good or bad thing when asked by the Commons Select Committee in 2009 [Questions 55 and 56 in the hyperlinked transcript.] Another has presumably jokingly, but still worryingly, classified home educating parents in private in very unflattering ways.
This all adds up to a picture of amateur incompetence at best, and some questionable political views at worst. These people put themselves forward as our representatives. They are saying otherwise ("We just wrote to the NSPCC to protest! Anyone could have done that...") but the organisations listed after some of their names, coupled with the NSPCC's stated: consultation with some representatives from the home education community tell a different story.
5. What do you think the outcome of such a meeting might be and why?
Given the already subordinate position of entering secret negotiations based on the other party's agenda, I fear the outcome cannot be good. Home education representatives were presumably requesting understanding and leniency. What was the NSPCC asking for in return? Because it is run by professionals who do know how to negotiate properly and how to develop a 'third way' position based on compromise. And yet I see no reason for us to yield ground on the issue of registration or safeguarding when the current legal position is already sufficient.
6. There's been a suggestion that you and others might just be feeling envious that you weren't invited to the meeting and that this is secretly the real reason you are complaining about it. Is it true?
No, and it's utterly illogical. If I wanted to talk to the NSPCC what would be to stop me framing an email to them myself, getting invited along to secret meetings and so on? This does not take any special skill or talent that those of us who are in disagreement with the negotiations are somehow lacking. We did not contact the NSPCC over its report because we did not wish to strike a deal with them - end of. There is nothing we are willing to trade in return for an end to their aggressive attacks.
I will close with the words of my good friend Ali Preuss and happily confirm that jelly and ice cream is really not to my taste.
It's pretty obvious what the NSPCC tactics are as their MO never changes. Throw a few crumbs to self selecting 'community leaders' who are desperate to bag a seat at the top table with jelly and ice cream (maybe even a paper hat and party bag each) and flatter them into believing they can 'make a difference' when in reality they are simply useful idiots being set up. I know what happens next as I have seen it time and time again in different contexts. It never ends well. Talking to a toxic outfit like the NSPCC is self defeating and a complete diversion as they can so easily be called out on their serial lies and fabrication without having to try too hard. All that was required was for them to remove their offensive document and publish a formal apology for their smear campaign (which, incidentally, is not limited to HE).
PS: The offensive document has still not been removed. If that was the aim of the meeting, it has so far failed.