2014 Draft Policy

The Draft Policy

The five boards are conducting five consultations on one document- a new policy they hope to implement throughout Northern Ireland. You can download it, and also an earlier draft, which was presented as active to at least one home educator in 2013 and which we consider informative as to the intent of the drafters.

A legal challenge could be mounted were the Boards ever to try and impose such a policy. As the law stands at present, there is no power for this type of rule to be implemented by means of local consultation. These changes cannot be brought in without going through the full legislative process first. 

The Education and Library Boards do not have the power to legislate. If they wonder why we don't trust them enough to invite them into our homes they should look at the way they twist and misrepresent the law.

HEdNI believe it is important to fight this policy because of the way it could be used to bully and intimidate. This is policy, not law. However a policy covering the whole Region could have quasi-legal force, particularly in the absence of case law or guidance. The Boards appear to take the view that the interpretation of the law is up for grabs and with the weight of every Board behind their view, and a notably conservative judiciary, they might indeed be able to twist the law enough to make life very difficult. Nobody wants to be the test case that proves them wrong in the higher courts.

What is wrong with the policy?

Schoolhouse respond to the consultation

Schoolhouse respond to the consultation


"As Scotland’s national home education charity, we had considerable input to research which subsequently informed the current Scottish statutory guidance on home education, which protects the rights of home educating families while acknowledging the responsibilities of local authorities. The law in Scotland is comparable to that of other parts of the UK in that it is parents who are responsible for educating their children, not the state, and education “otherwise” or “by other means” is an equally valid and lawful alternative to schooling. Human rights legislation provides that there should be respect for, and no undue interference in, family life unless there is risk of significant harm to a particular child or children. In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, there is no duty upon local authorities to ‘monitor’ home education on a routine basis, and informal enquiries and annual updates represent an acceptable form of contact for most families.

Ministerial Answers

Ministerial Answers

Several Ministerial Questions were asked by Danny Kinehan MLA, the most interesting answer is to the last question:

whether the Assembly and the Education Committee will be given the opportunity to engage in the debate about future regulation of home education, currently subject of a consultation process carried out by the Education and Library Boards? (AQW 33476/11-15)

Letter from the Department of Education

Department of Education

The department has sent HEdNI a letter, thanking us for our comments in relation to the consultation.

They state that they must strike a balance between the rights and needs of children, and the facilitating parental preference for home education.  

They say 

"... the Minister will want to review the process following consultation and before the draft policy is finalised".

HEdNI welcomes the opening of a channel of communication but disputes that there is a tension between parental preference and the rights and needs of children.  Parents are acknowledged in National and International Law as, in almost all cases, the best advocates for their children's rights and needs.  

Our response follows;

"Thank you for your letter.  We are reassured to hear that the Minister for Education is taking an interest in this matter, and we very pleased to be able to discuss this.

There has been a certain amount of confusion over whether the consultations are separate and could therefore result in five different policies, so it is interesting to hear that the aim is, or should be, a common process. I think we can all agree that the education and wellbeing of children and young people is paramount.

Consultation Response from Dr Paula Rothermel

Consultation Response from Dr Paula Rothermel

"I find that the policy recommendations regarding mandatory monitoring and supervision of home educators in Northern Ireland are arbitrary, legally unjustified, unwarranted and open to misunderstanding."

Dr Rothermel

News Flash

The Education and Skills Authority is to be scrapped. One body to cover the whole of Northern Ireland, but with the same powers as the current boards is now planned: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27627932

Start Drafting Your Reponses...

Start Drafting Your Reponses...

We are now shifting our focus and asking people to start writing their responses.  We are assured that there is no word limit on the comments, and that people need not answer the multiple choice questions, which are very leading.

You should write your own opinions in your own words.  We don't want to send a hundred copy and paste submissions.  There will be some very thorough ones so feel free to keep your's short if you like, or indeed to go into as much depth as you feel necessary.  HEdNI will be submitting a response to all five Boards, as one of the select group of stakeholders(!).

As a very basic structure we would like to make sure people cover:

1. the most important fact - this is beyond their legal powers -http://hedni.org/files/pdfs/elbpolicy2014/Briefing.pdf

2. this scheme is intrusive and threatening in tone and structure 
       2a - any personal experience you have that you think is relevant
       2b - home visits, safeguarding monitoring, subjective judgements about the best interests of the child, usurping the parent's role, loss of the presumption of innocence - (all bad!)

3. Safeguarding is not the role of ELBs and should not be, they have a duty to refer and this is no area for them to go vigilante


The Welfare Thing - Guest Post on Dare To Know

The draft Policy on Elective Home Education in Northern Ireland is riddled with references to ‘safeguarding’ and ‘welfare’. We know from informal phone conversations that the Boards consider this a crucial element of the policy.
This is problematic on many levels.
  • The law governing the Education and Libraries Boards (Education and Libraries Order 1986) contains no duties or powers relating to welfare.

Are Homeschooled Children “At Risk”?

This article was submitted by Kelly Green, a supporter of home education in Canada, and was previously published in the US Home Education Magazine in 2012.

In my opinion, one of the most challenging issues home-educating families and groups face is the "But if it saves just one child!" argument in favor of the "regulation" of home education.

We've all run into it. People we know - relatives, friends, acquaintances - say things like, "Well, of course you are doing a great job, and your kids are fine, but what about those other parents who a) don't do anything with their kids and just let them watch TV or play video games all day; b) are well-meaning but just not doing a good enough job; c) keep their kids out of school because they are abusing them? Shouldn't there be laws to protect children in families like those?"

I have come up against these concerns time and again over the nearly twenty years that I have been homeschooling. Sometimes I have had to speak on these issues not just for myself but for other homeschooling families as well (for instance, when I was secretary of my provincial organization). More often I have come across such apprehensions in personal conversation. Most recently I have had to go over this ground in exchanges with American and British academic researchers who have chosen to study homeschooling.

Here are some questions I've been asked over the years, and responses I and others have formulated.

Why on earth wouldn't home educators cooperate with laws and authorities that are just designed to protect children? Why, if you have nothing to hide, would you not be willing to report to the government what you are doing with your children, or have a home visit so that someone can see that all kids educated at home are "safe and well"? If you have nothing to hide, surely you have nothing to fear.

An Imaginary Conversation...

The same questions and comments come up again and again, here I am talking to my imaginary contact in the ELB...

1.       YOU might think that all parents you meet have their child's best interests at heart but you don't see some of the families we deal with 

That's true and it's very sad. But hang on a minute you say you ARE already seeing these families, so surely you are referring them to the appropriate agencies or using the enforcement powers you already have? Oh right, you AREN'T? Or you tried but nobody was bothered. Well, how will this new policy fix that, I'm a bit confused...

2.       YOU might think that all parents are doing a fantastic job of home educating, but some of the families we're dealing with wouldn't ever join your groups 

It's such a pity when families don't know about our groups. Do you signpost to our groups by the way or do you have a certain image of my group as being full of people like me, so you don't bother recommending it to people you think aren't like me?  

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