- 2014 Consultation
- Groups and Meetings
As we've all seen on the news the election is on the way and our politicians are gearing up to talk to us about what we care about.
We are working now with the Education Authority to produce guidance on home education which we hope will be both legally accurate and constructive, but there is always the possibility that we may need the support of politicians - individually or as a community - one day in the future.
It is always worth educating and informing our MLAs about home education, and so we offer this sheet for your use on your doorstep.
We have seen a real explosion recently in exciting groups, classes and opportunities for home educated children all over Northern Ireland. From weekly themed meet ups, two swimming classes, drama, ice skating and parkour to museum trips, workshops and living history... and so much more. Take a look at the events listed here!
Home education in Northern Ireland went through a difficult period in 2014 with the release of that ill-conceived draft policy and the worry and distrust that it stirred up... but we have come out of it stronger and closer and we are now reaping the rewards of having such an active and friendly community.
With work on the new guidance continuting in the Working Group we are hopeful that we will now be entering into a brighter period where our energies can go towards creating these amazing opportunities for our children, and providing them with an excellent education. Good Guidance from the Education Authority will help to create a strong basis for trust and respect for home education in Northern Ireland.
We welcome the changes made to the guidance on Co-operating to Safeguard Young People, and the way in which our concerns have clearly been heard and addressed.
The new guidance can be found here: https://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/dhssps/co-o...
The section on home education now reads
"Elective Home Education is the term used when a parent chooses to provide education for their child at home instead of enrolling them in school as provided for under Article 45 of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. There is currently no legal requirement for parents to notify the Education Authority (EA) of their intention to home educate. However, in accordance with the Registration and Attendance of Pupils Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1974, the EA must be notified by a school when a child of compulsory school age who has been enrolled in a school has been deregistered to be Electively Home Educated.
The EA is currently developing new procedures and arrangements to help parents who home educate and to encourage them to seek support. These procedures are being informed by a consultation exercise that took place during 2014. The procedures will be set within the existing legislative framework.
As with children enrolled as pupils in a school, if any safeguarding concerns become evident, they must be referred to the appropriate authorities. "
We believe that accurate and clear guidance within the law will help professionals in working with those young people who are in need of their assistance.
Many congratulations to Benji for doing so well at the Ulster School's Chess Championships. Benji is home educated and has discovered a real passion for chess, we are very proud of him.
When the draft policy first emerged last April as (apparently) a single local consultation under the NEELB we had little sense of how long and hard we would have to work to prevent the damage it promised... and there’s no end in sight yet! Over the last year and a half we have been encouraged and touched by the open-mindedness, interest and support of so many people and organisations - to them we give our most heartfelt thanks.
We are pleased to be told that the Education Authority 'do not intend to progress this draft' and we have been told that they would like us to be involved in the working group for the next round... what we haven't yet seen is a formal announcement that the draft is no longer under consideration, or a statement that they do not actively seek a similar scheme for the future.
We do not hope for an apology, or want someone to be scapegoated for the dreadful errors in that draft, but we do need some sort of assurance that lessons have been learned from the experience. It is essential that we move towards a better relationship with the Authority from a firm evidential and legal basis, and we cannot do that while we suspect that they hope to correct the procedural errors of the consultation process, rather than the fundamental problems with the project.
This new group was created for those who consider themselves Christians ( of all denominations or none at all ) who are already or have an interest in Home Educating their children. It has been set up for friendship, support and to arrange meet ups and activities together. "We are not here to judge or persuade other of our way of thinking but just to encourage each other as we do our best to bring up our children in faith."
Four home educating parents from HEdNI gave an oral briefing to the Education Committee on the 11th of November. You can watch here: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/committees/education/meetings/11-november-2015/ from around 30:15 minutes.
We are encouraged to hear that the Committee intend to seek answers from the Education Authority and also clarification from the DHSSPSNI regarding recent draft guidance.
You can watch the rather strange evidence presented to the Education Committee on the first of July here from around 2hrs28, as one Committee Member comments it is "bizarre".
Those who have never been registered, we cannot draft a policy in relation to them because currently the legislation that exists in Northern Ireland does not apply to that group.
So the only children and young people that are affected at this stage by the Draft Policy that has been presented are those children who were originally registered in school for whom their parents now have decided to home educate, so it is the deregister group for whom this policy applies.
Today, in evidence to the Education Committee, the Education Authority representative stated several times that the Draft Policy ONLY applies to children previously registered with a school.
Further, that they have no power in law to take any action unless the child was previously registered with a school, or 'formally' registered as home educated.
This is a truly baffling assertion!
The Authority is claiming that they have NO duty to children unless they have at some time been to school, but on the other hand they claim to have a right to oversee 'curriculum and welfare' on a regular basis of all ex-school children - duty far beyond that given to them by law.
On the one hand complete abrogation of responsibility, on the other excessive and ongoing intrusion. Neither with legal basis.
As a Committee Member said, the mistake would be to register! We would have thought the EA would wish to encourage families to engage, not attach penalties...
The full transcript should be out next week.
The video can be viewed here:
Deciding to home educate a child is legal and anyone can do it.
No particular syllabus or curriculum must be followed.
The only requirement, by law, is that you provide an education "suitable to your child's age, ability and aptitude or any special educational needs they may have".
They receive no financial help from the government.
And just as you are free to remove your child from school, so too can they re-enter the system at any stage.
Katy Graham is a qualified teacher and recently decided to take her five-year-old son out of school to teach him herself.
She told UTV: "We have a very structured routine in the morning, just over breakfast.
"We cover the basics like reading, writing and number work.
"That’s done pretty quickly and then throughout the day we have different activities planned like trips to the library and trips with the home-education group which encompasses history, geography, science and all sorts of things."
However, some home educators are becoming concerned over plans by the new Education Authority to regulate them.
Sarah Dickinson is mum to three young boys.
She knew from the outset she would teach her children herself and runs a website to offer support to other parents like her.
On how home-educated children are perceived, Sarah said: "I think people, mostly, haven’t knowingly met home-educated kids.
"It’s the great unknown for them.
"If they only ever thought that children just do go to school and that’s what normal childhood is, then it’s very easy to perceive anything different as strange or dangerous in some way.
"But when people meet home-educated kids, they see just how well socialised and friendly and well-adjusted they are."