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. 

NI4Kids Article on the consultation

Read full text at NI4Kids - New Rules for Home School?

"Mervyn Storey Chairperson of the Assembly Education Committee and Education spokesperson for the DUP has called on the Education Minister to set aside the current proposals on home schooling. He said: “The current proposals upon which the five boards are consulting appear to have come into the public domain without any proper process. The Minister and his Department are denying that they have had any hand in developing these and that being so he should act to terminate the current flawed process which has caused so much concern and anxiety amongst those parents who are exercising their legal right to educate their children at home. 

“My party supports the principle of parental choice and we will ensure that there will be no change to the current practice which in any way diminishes parents’ rights as laid down in legislation. I have asked that the Education Committee receives a briefing on the issue as a matter of urgency to find out how this current consultation process came about.”"

BBC Article on the Consultation

Read full text on BBC News website.

It is interesting to see that the Children's Law Centre welcomes the changes and considers the Draft to be 'clear': 

"There is no planned change to the law to allow education and library boards the right to enter a person's home. I think the parents are wrong to worry about that."

In fact, the CLC said clearer guidelines and advice on schooling should be welcomed by families who are home educating their children."

If they are correct in their reading of the draft and we have nothing to worry about then we would be delighted.  A clear and unambigouous statement at the top of the draft stating that all provisions are entirely voluntary and non-compulsory, and that no adverse conclusions or actions would result from families declining the service would go a long way to soothing our worries.

Interesting also that the Minister said

"he regretted that the education and library board did not show him the consultation document before issuing it."

since we know from the BELB minutes that the Department agreed this with the Boards in October 2013.


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."

Where did this all come from?

An article by Edward Underwood, home educator.

Where did this come from? This was the question which parents asked the Department of Education (DE) and the Education and Library Boards (ELBs) when the Draft Elective Home Education Policy was put out for consultation. The response to this question varied from a mysterious lawsuit, where an ELB allegedly had to pay large damages to a dissatisfied Home Educated student, to a need for the boards to fulfill their statutory duty. As the draft policy was examined it became clear that it represented a huge expansion of power for the ELBs and DE but the reason for such a radical change continued to be elusive. Then MLAs and MPs began to ask the DE and the ELBs why this policy was needed and many questions were asked of the Minister of Education for Northern Ireland in the Assembly. His responses have often been unhelpful in understanding the reason for the draft policy. However, the Minister’s latest comments assert the DE has a social duty of care to all children in Home Education, implying that homes are not a safe or efficient place for learning unless validated by educational authorities. On the same day that the Minister was making these claims, a document, Appendix I of Minutes 24 Oct 2013, came to light, due to an FOI request, that presents a very different reality than the one projected by the Minister of Education in this dialogue in the Assembly of Northern Ireland just two days ago.

John O'Dowd - Minister of Education

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:

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