Below is the text of an email to Sian Gwenllian, Shadow Minister for Education and Welsh Language, following up on the Children’s Commissioner’s appearance before the Children, Young People and Education Committee on 6 November.
From: Protecting Home Education Wales
Sent: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 2:33 pm
To: Gwenllian, Siân (Aelod Cynulliad | Assembly Member)
Subject: Re: Home Education
Dear Sian Gwenllian
Thank you for your email and raising the legal concerns on the EHE draft Guidance with the Children’s Commissioner.
There are a few points that we would like to raise and beg you bring to the attention of the Children, Young People and Education Committee:
1. It was suggested in the meeting with the Commissioner that primary legislation would be the answer to the legal issues raised in the legal advice. That is not the case.
The main concerns with the draft guidance are the unlawful encroachments on human rights. By way of example in the advice the QC cites Articles 14 and 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which cannot be ignored by primary or secondary legislation.
2. If mandatory visits or interviews are enforced home educating families will be the only residents in Wales who would be forced to such State interference without referral to the Court. They will be the only families compelled to be interviewed by any agency, except for those suspected of committing criminal offences or where serious risk of harm to a child is at play, which is certainly not the case in respect of home educated children and there is no evidence of that, which leads us to the next two points.
3. The Commissioner said that home education was seriously under regulated suggesting that that was a bad thing. The Commissioner and Welsh Government are reminded that we live in a liberal democratic society where freedom is the norm and regulation is not. The Welsh Assembly Government should pay heed to the recent Supreme Court judgement in Scotland in the case of The Christian Institute and The Lord Advocate related to breaches of the Human Rights Act and Data Protection.
4. The Commissioner seemed to justify any regulation on home education by reference to the case of the late Dylan Seabridge, which we attach . It is useful to refresh our memories; this was an isolated case and the fact that the child was being home educated was merely circumstantial as the authorities knew that the child was at risk and they failed. This was certainly not a case where the child was “not known”.
5. Home education is not a safeguarding issue and for the Commissioner to justify subjecting families to mandatory interviews on the basis of one case of neglect, which was neglect by services as well as the parents and not because the child was home educated, is unreasonable.
6. A regulation that forces local health boards to provide data of children to local authorities, other than where there a serious risk of harm, could have the undesired effect of home educating families shunning away from the NHS services due to their data being shared.
We would very much welcome the opportunity of discussing the above with the Committee.
Please keep us abreast of any developments.
Protecting Home Education Wales
Footnote: 1] The above link is to the original Concise Child Practice Review, on the National Independent Safeguarding Board Wales website. A PDF version is available via this Facebook link.