Consultation Responses

SENAC Response

"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:

Disappointment at consultation responses from CLC and NICCY

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.

Education Otherwise Response

Anne Rix, Chair of Education Otherwise Assocation, submitted their reponse to the consultation:

"We ask ELBs to consider the nature of their relationships with families carefully throughout the policy.  Engagement between Boards and home educating families is and should be based on trust and mutual respect.  The development of policies which undermine these principles will set the Boards at odds with home educators from day one.  As a consequence, the legality of the policies will inevitably be challenged in court, resulting in an instant breakdown of relationships at a practical level.

It is worthwhile highlighting at this juncture that there is a significant and growing body of legal opinion that contends that policies such as these comprehensively and demonstrably breach the existing legal framework throughout the UK.  EO firmly agrees with this opinion and hereby requests visibility of the Boards' own legal advice so that we may address the issue directly

...

The ELBs appear to be seeking covertly to avoid pursuing primary legislation and a national consultation by running local consultations without the rigour and review of an established process."

Full text in document below

Two extraordinary personal responses

Take a look at these two responses, from which I quote briefly below:

The first is a narative based on Shevaun's experiences helping people who call the Education Otherwise Helpline:
"I have created a composite story from difficult events which I know have happened to a significant number of children and families in N Ireland under the present policies of the various ELBs. I know the original stories from my experience as a long time volunteer at branch level with Autism NI and also as volunteer telephone support for home educators in N. Ireland with Education Otherwise. It also includes my own story with my son so I am speaking from personal experience. Although the story is mostly about children who have been in school before moving to home education it is still relevant to the decisions made by parents who have never school educated and who oppose these proposals because they are very aware of the very real dangers of ELB involvement which are portrayed by this story."

...and the second is by her son who has ASD:

Harriet Pattison, Researcher, Response

"Since 2006 I have been a research associate of the Institute of Education, University of London specialising in home education practices and philosophy.  Research undertaken by myself and in collaboration with Dr Alan Thomas, Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Education, has encompassed a number of European countries (including the UK and Ireland) as well as Australia, USA, New Zealand and Canada.  I hold a PhD from the University of Birmingham in alternative education and literacy. 

HSDLA Response

"If implemented, it would violate international law and hte fundamental human rights of the parents and their children.  The proposed policy grants unreasonable access into the home, violating hte right of privacy guaranteed in the Convention and other European treaties.  The policy interferes with families by permitting unnecessary and invasive questioning of children by government agents.  The policy would implement an lengthy and bureacratic process of approval and curriculum review.  The policy would implement a tracking system database program that would also violate the fundamental right to privacy of families and children.  The proposed annual monitoring is unnecessarily invasive."

Response from Fiona Nicholson - Ed Yourself

Fiona Nicholson, Ed Yourself, has submitted a response to the consultation.

 

"The law is quite straightforward and I can't understand why the draft policy makes such a half-hearted attempt at explaining it. Children have a right to be home educated, including where the child has a statement of SEN. It is parents who are responsible for their child's education, not the board, and it is parents - not the board - who are responsible for the outcome. Schools must delete the child's name from the register following notification from parents. The duty of the board is reactive not proactive, ie the law provides for the board to step in if and only if it appears that parents are failing in their duty. Any welfare or safeguarding concerns should be referred to the appropriate agencies for follow-up.

The draft policy has cut and pasted various gobbets of law which purport to justify the process set out in the document, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,xxii the 1986 Education and Libraries Orderxxiii and the Children Order 1995xxiv. It is hard to single out the most striking error, but nowhere does the law say that boards have a statutory duty to ensure that all children in their area are receiving efficient full time education. Furthermore, it is astounding that anyone could believe the UNCRCxxv offers any justification whatsoever for the board's monitoring home education or interviewing home educated children."

Full text in document below

Response from the Family Education Trust

An excellent submission from the Family Education Trust

A short quote, the full text can be found in the pdf below:

"The principle of not requiring any intervention on the part of the authorities except ‘where it appears’ to a local authority that parents are failing to fulfil their responsibilities is not a legal loophole as some have characterised it, but a provision that conforms to three key principles at the heart of UK and European law:  

• the responsibility of parents for their children’s education (The Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986, Article 45), 

• respect for parental wishes and parental religious and philosophical convictions (The Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986, Article 44; European Convention on Human Rights, Article 2, Protocol 1), and

• the right to a private and family life (European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8)."

Response to the Consultation - Educational Freedom

Educational Freedom


Comments from the Educational Freedom response.

"The ELB draft policy on EHE does not fit with existing law, it is ultra vires.

The interpretation of the almost identical law that exists in England and Wales has been altered to suit what the draft policy seeks to achieve. It appears that the policy is attempting to set down rules and regulations without going through (due) parliamentary process. It selects parts of law that supports its aim and ignores other parts that disagree:

HEdNI Response

"An effective home education policy should foster co-operation between the education authorities and home educating families, supporting them to provide an excellent education for their children. HEdNI believes that such a relationship is possible but only if built on the firm foundations of an accurate view of the legal powers and duties of the Boards, a flexible and responsive system to support such a policy, and an acknowledgement of the parent as prime advocate for their children.

This draft policy cannot legally be enforced, and to attempt to implement it would encourage the intimidation and bullying of new or otherwise vulnerable home educating families. " 

The full document is linked at the bottom, and may be edited before final submission, other responses can be found here.

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