- 2014 Consultation
- Groups and Meetings
The five boards closed five consultations on one document on the 27th June 2014 - a new policy they hoped to implement throughout Northern Ireland.
The policy required:
More detail on the policy and our objections can be found at http://www.hedni.org/publications (the HEdNI response to the consultation and an information pack about home education in Northern Ireland).
The legal situation in Northern Ireland is the same as the rest of the UK. All parents have a duty to provide their children with an education suitable to their age ability and aptitude, this duty can be fulfilled by registering the child with a school or directly.
The Education and Library Boards have very simple and limited duties and powers regarding children not registered with schools. These duties are entirely reactive - unless there is an external trigger they have no duty or power to take any action whatsoever. IF and only if external forces bring a concern about a child's education to their attention then they must make enquiries, if an education is not being provided then they have the power to issue a school attendance order. These powers relate ONLY to education.
On the 7th August HEdNI members Mairi Rivers and Edward Underwood met Mervyn Storey MLA with members of their families to hand over their petition. The petition asks the Minister for Education and the Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards to ensure that their policy on home education accurately reflects their legal duties and powers and respects the parent's duty to provide an education. The petition has over 3360 signatures. As well as signaturies in Northern Ireland the petition has also attracted signatures from home educators all around the globe, demonstrating that the world is watching Northern Ireland to see how it handles the recent consultation and the responses, and whether any new policy will stay within the law.
"SENAC cannot support the implementation of this draft policy for a number of reasons and as a consequence we disagree with each point in the pro forma response.
Our main concerns are:
"A DRAFT policy that aims to ensure that home educators provide an "efficient full time education" for their children ahs been described by one Fermanagh parent as "criminal" and "intrusive""... "Sean is not clear what the rationale behind the draft policy is, but he believes that its starting point is one of automatic "mistrust" of parents who choose to home educate"
Read the full article and 'day in the life' in the pdf below.
Home educating families are very concerned at the apparent disregard for the law, and for the legal rights of children in the responses by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Youth, and the Children's Law Centre.
Both state that the Board's have a duty to 'ensure' education under Schedule 13, in fact the word 'ensure' does not appear in any part of the relevant legislation and Schedule 13 creates no duty to act except if a concern arrises. The duty to provide an education is created by Section 45 and belongs to the parent, the Boards are not mentioned at all.
Further, the relevant legislation creates no powers or duties relating to welfare. If the Boards wish to annex powers and duties properly belonging to social services then they will need primary legislation to do so, a treaty unincorporated into law cannot create these powers.
We strongly suggest that the Boards and the charities set up to protect children's rights read the relevant legislation, and carefully consider whether the safety of all children is promoted by confusing education with welfare, by allowing the Boards to step outside the law and by arbitrarily labeling a group of families as a welfare risk, simply because they excercise a legally sanctioned educational choice.