Evidence to the Education Committee from the Education Authority

Education Authority Brief Education Committee

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".

"Clare Mangan:

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.

Baffling Evidence to the Education Committee


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.

UTV segment on home education in Northern Ireland

UTV segment on home education in Northern Ireland

The video can be viewed here:

From the UTV article linked above:

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."

And hello to the five Regions!

Playdough Monster

In answer to our questions yesterday about what the disolving of Northern Ireland's Education Administration would mean... what the future would hold and who would direct the future...

"the most important message right now is that, as far as users of our services are concerned, nothing changes in the short term"

It seems that each "Education Authority Regional Office" will be "responsible for the delivery of services according to the policies and procedures of the former [Board for that area]".  

So the change amounts to a new website and a confusion over what acronyms to use now. 

The Consultation on the Elective Home Education Draft Policy is not even listed on their 'consultations page'.

They did have a party though.

As you were.

Farewell to the Five Boards

Bye Bye

The five Education and Library Boards we have come to know, will evaporate like Cinderella’s finery at midnight tonight.  What this means for home educating families is not yet clear.

We can assume that the officials on the ground will, at least for the time being, retain their own working practices and idiosyncrasies. But which of the range of attitudes and policies regarding elective home education will shape the view of the new Board?

We could hope, if we wished for the SEELB to be listened to – their recent engagement has not made huge changes but it has been encouraging.  We have been thankful that they refer to the DCSF Guidelines on EHE in their initial contact letter, and that they take the view that a response to an inquiry does not constitute ‘satisfying’ the Board under SR ’74 no 78 putting the onus of proof on the parent.

Film by Home Educated Teens Nominated for Into Film Award


We are proud to announce that Christopher Adams and Hallie Adams (both home educated at the time) made a film last year with Cinemagic, which has been nominated for an award!

Their film 'Stalker' is in the over 13s Film category, only three films were nominated from 100s of entries!
"The Into Film Awards will take over London's Leicester Square on Tuesday 24 March, celebrating the best young filmmakers and film clubs across the UK. We're delighted to announce the nominees. 

NEELB confirm that all contact constitutes the start of legal proceedings

NEELB confirm that all contact constitutes the start of legal proceedings

We have always advised that parents should seek legal advice the moment legal proceedings are started by their Board, otherwise we have advised that peer support and their own considered opinion is sufficient.  We have always advised that home educators respond promptly and constructively to any queries from their Board. 

The NEELB has stated today that the Board treats first contact as the start of legal action.  We are therefore in the sad and rather farcical position of having to advise that legal advice should be sought before responding to any request for information at all from the NEELB (we are seeking the positions of the other Boards, and are pleased to report that the SEELB has informed us that they operate under the DCSF guidelines, which require informal contact first).  

The Boards should seek to build a relationship of trust and open communication with Home Educators.  This position destroys what little trust already exists. 
The NEELB who led the drive to implement the recent Draft Policy, and appear now to be seeking back-door ways of getting its provisions into practice.

Campaigners give broad welcome to school starting age proposals

Parents Outloud

A group of campaigners who want a more flexible approach towards the school starting age says it broadly welcomes the proposals on the issue published on the 15th December by the Department of Education, but would like them to go further.

 The Department has proposed that parents should have the right to request a year’s deferral of their child’s primary school enrolment where they believe it would be in their child’s best interests.

 However, under the proposals, parents would have to provide evidence that their child is failing to meet developmental milestones and requests would only be granted in “exceptional circumstances”.  

HEdNI supports the right of ALL parents to make the decisions necessary to fulfil their duty to provide their children with a suitable education within the meaning of the Education Order 1986.   Home Education is one legal option, but in taking up the service offered by schools parents do not entirely divest themselves of their legal responsibilities. We don’t consider that the circumstances need to be exceptional in order to warrant deferral.  Indeed it would be in dereliction of the parental duty under the Education Order to send a child to school if it would not meet their needs. 

Calling Fermanagh home educators...

A new meet up is being planned local to you, if you're interested then get in touch.

Meeting up with local home educating families is a great source of support, inspiration and fun!

Reflecting on 2014 in Home Education here in Northern Ireland

Lots going on at the North Down Co-Op Christmas Party

2014 has been a busy, extraordinary and sometimes alarming year for Home Education in Northern Ireland.  We've launched a new website, seen the birth of two new groups and our existing groups go from strength to strength.  We've tackled themes from Vikings to the International Space Station at our meet ups, visited everwhere from Museums, to Farms, Supermarkets and even Stormont!  We've welcomed babies, made friends, grown and learned and changed together.

And then the consultation!  The Draft Policy arrived on our collective desk in April this year and we were all shocked at the attitude it revealed.  Parents were horrified to see a government body attempt to go so far beyond their legal powers, and to see the Boards' attempt to smear home educating families with implications of 'hidden children' and selfishness in prioritising parents' rights over our childrens' education, without evidence of any sort.  In fact as we all know our rights are for the protection and nurture of our children - parents are almost always the best person to decide for their children because we know them best and we love them best.

The process undoubtedly made us stronger, better connected and more aware that our strength lies in our community.  Our numbers have grown as word has spread about the consultation and more parents are discovering that they don't have to accept the Education and Library Boards' word on the law. Families who have had visits and monitoring for years are relieved to discover they don't have to put their children through that any more, and to discover a community that will support them and their children in their home educating journey.

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