A man of influence
For several years, the idea floated around some sections of the British home educating community that I was a man of great and malign influence; that I had the ear of Graham Badman, was able to muscle my way into giving evidence to select committees and I don’t know what else. Such rumours were sedulously spread by the likes of Maire Stafford and Mike Fortune-Wood. Somebody commented here to this effect only a few days ago. Alas, it is not true, but today I want to look at a man who really does have such influence, somebody able to send civil servants at the Department for Education scuttling off to do his bidding. He is a modest man, too modest and retiring perhaps, and I feel that his role in manipulating things behind the scenes has not been sufficiently celebrated. Step forward our very own Mike Fortune-Wood. What? You laugh? You doubt my word? Mike Fortune-Wood, the scourge of the educational establishment, playing kiss-in-the-ring with the Department for Education? Let us see.
When the ‘new guidelines’ for home education were being drawn up in 2010 and 2011, nobody would admit to being involved. One story was that they were a solo production of Alison Sauer’s; no more than a money making dodge by her. Mike Fortune-Wood in particular, denied flatly that he had anything at all to do with them. He said this several times on the HE-UK list. In fact of course, as he has recently admitted, he was up to his ears in the business. He and a group of other well known home educators, both here and abroad, were busily engaged in trying to frame a document which would have had a profound effect on every home educating parent in the country. Mike Fortune-Wood’s reticence was understandable. He wished to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds. If the enterprise was favourably received, he would bashfully step forward and receive the plaudits. In the event, it was roundly condemned by most home educators and so he was able to disown it and pretend he had had no part in it. This is known as ‘plausible deniability’; a way of oiling out of responsibility for one’s actions.
The legend arose that only rough drafts were made and that the document would have been put out to consultation with all home educating parents before it was finalised. This was untrue. Have a look again at what it has been alleged was merely a rough draft:
Clearly, it is nothing of the sort. Alison Sauer, Mike Fortune-Wood and so on put a good deal of work into this and the fact that it was regarded not as a rough draft but a finished product may readily be seen by looking at the notes in red on pages 69, 70 and 87. These notes indicate the only sections on which work still needed to be done.
The comments are addressed to Graham Stuart, Chair of the Education Committee, and they are staggering in their implications. On page 69, we read:
This section needs completing by someone in the DfE with more knowledge than I have of the process
So the members of the group producing these guidelines felt confident enough to direct that civil servants should work on this draft and follow their instructions? On page 87, we see that Alison Sauer, Tania Berlow, Kelly Green and Mike Fortune-Wood have run out of energy and hope to pass the final stages on to others; again to civil servants from the Department for Education. We read:
I’m sure you can find someone to do this one Graham!
Someone? A friend of Graham Stuart’s? A member of his family? No, a civil servant of course, you fool!
It is not to be wondered at that Mike Fortune-Wood was not overly keen to have all this come to light. For years he represented himself as the mortal foe of local authorities and government departments dealing with education and now we find him on perfectly amiable terms with them and expecting civil servants to do his research for him! I have been fortunate enough to be forwarded an archive of the work undertaken on the so-called ‘new guidelines’, which show in detail the involvement of all concerned. I may, in the public interest, put this up here in the future. In the meantime, a big round of applause for Mike Fortune-Wood; a true man of influence in the places that really matter, such as the Department for Education.