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:

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.

Consultation Response from Alison Sauer - The Centre for Personalised Education

the centre for personalised education

"The document is hastily put together, intimates without foundation that children become more at risk of harm when home educated, does not recognise current home educating practice or the success of those practices, invents procedures not supported in law, misinterprets legislation and has no recognition whatsoever that a large portion of home educated children do not deregister as they have never attended school.

The policy is badly conceived, badly written, badly formatted, convoluted and not fit for purpose. "

The full document is linked at the bottom, other responses can be found here.

One Week to Submission Deadline

One Week to Submission Deadline

You've got just under a week to get your thoughts on paper - tell the Boards and the Department of Education what you think of the Draft Policy.

There are information and links to download the forms here.

Please give this a moment.  

A brief statement in your own words, explaining that the Boards should act within their legal powers and that they have no duty or power to monitor the education provided.  

Tell them that Home Education is a legally permitted option and not a cause for any concerns; educational or welfare related.

Tell them in a paragraph or so why you feel this is important to you, tell them why you are better placed than a stranger to judge what is best for your child.

If you have time to write more, or you want some inspiration then take a look here.

Please help with Education Otherwise's Survey

Please help by filling in this survey.

The local contact for Education Otherwise is co-ordinating two surveys to gather opinions relating to home education and the monitoring proposed in the current draft.

This is a chance for us to make our voices heard, and especially for those young people who don't intend to submit a response of their own.

Complete a new survey for each respondent.

Time is short, in order to have time to analyse results and formulate Education Otherwise's response. 

It will take only a few minutes (depending on how much you write) so please help; the more responses the better.

Please share widely within Northern Ireland and complete by the 20th- next Friday.

About the UNCRC - addressing the 'balance' between the rights of the child and parental choice

The Right of the Child to have a Green Tongue

The Minister and the Boards have referred to striking a ‘balance between ensuring that the rights and needs of children themselves are appropriately protected and facilitating parental preference for home education’. This assumes conflict between the interests of parents and children, when it is acknowledged in law at every level from local to international that parents are, prima facie, the most appropriate judge of (and advocate for) their child’s best interest. Only in exceptional circumstances should the state take over this essential parental role. There is therefore no such balance to be struck in normal circumstances, given that the parental preference should be assumed to be in the interests of their child – whatever style or form of education they favour. 

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