Policy and Law

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.

Ministerial Oral Answer

Ministerial Oral Answer

Ministerial Answer at 2mins: niassembly.gov.uk/.../Education-02-June-2014

Elective Home Education

2. Mr Attwood asked the Minister of Education to outline the reasons for the draft policy on elective home education giving greater power to education and library boards than is currently the case under section 13 of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986. (AQO 6217/11-15)

Schoolhouse respond to the consultation

Schoolhouse respond to the consultation


"As Scotland’s national home education charity, we had considerable input to research which subsequently informed the current Scottish statutory guidance on home education, which protects the rights of home educating families while acknowledging the responsibilities of local authorities. The law in Scotland is comparable to that of other parts of the UK in that it is parents who are responsible for educating their children, not the state, and education “otherwise” or “by other means” is an equally valid and lawful alternative to schooling. Human rights legislation provides that there should be respect for, and no undue interference in, family life unless there is risk of significant harm to a particular child or children. In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, there is no duty upon local authorities to ‘monitor’ home education on a routine basis, and informal enquiries and annual updates represent an acceptable form of contact for most families.

Ministerial Answers

Ministerial Answers

Several Ministerial Questions were asked by Danny Kinehan MLA, the most interesting answer is to the last question:

whether the Assembly and the Education Committee will be given the opportunity to engage in the debate about future regulation of home education, currently subject of a consultation process carried out by the Education and Library Boards? (AQW 33476/11-15)

Letter from the Department of Education

Department of Education

The department has sent HEdNI a letter, thanking us for our comments in relation to the consultation.

They state that they must strike a balance between the rights and needs of children, and the facilitating parental preference for home education.  

They say 

"... the Minister will want to review the process following consultation and before the draft policy is finalised".

HEdNI welcomes the opening of a channel of communication but disputes that there is a tension between parental preference and the rights and needs of children.  Parents are acknowledged in National and International Law as, in almost all cases, the best advocates for their children's rights and needs.  

Our response follows;

"Thank you for your letter.  We are reassured to hear that the Minister for Education is taking an interest in this matter, and we very pleased to be able to discuss this.

There has been a certain amount of confusion over whether the consultations are separate and could therefore result in five different policies, so it is interesting to hear that the aim is, or should be, a common process. I think we can all agree that the education and wellbeing of children and young people is paramount.

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