The Christian Institute, who won the landmark Supreme Court case against the Scottish Government regarding the infamous Named Person Scheme, is paying particular interest in the latest developments in the Welsh Government’s draft guidance on home education and the legal advice that we obtained. You may want to read their recent article and The HE Byte column on the Scottish experience.
On 20 November, we attended the Welsh Assembly with a trustee of Education Otherwise who handed in the petition to the Petitions Committee to stop the draft guidance on home education. We were kindly invited to attend and we were able to speak directly with the Assembly Members for almost an hour. We stressed the importance of stopping a guidance which if issued would be unlawful or lead to illegality. They confirmed that they would be discussing the petition and legal opinion obtained from the QC in their next Petitions Committee meeting on 3 December.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee is seeking clarification from the Education Minister on certain points regarding the home education guidance and the proposed regulations on data sharing. A copy of the letter can be found here.
The Home School Legal Defence Association Attorney for the US Global Outreach Department , Mike Donnelly, has responded to the Welsh draft guidance. Calling the guidance “concerning” and pointing out several flaws, Donnelly advised the Welsh education officials in writing to go back to the drawing board.
The HSLDA have also recently published an article, Welsh Government Takes Aim at Homeschooling, which focusses on the draft guidance. However, it also draws international readers.’ attention to the wider threat to home education freedom throughout Great Britain.
Importantly, it also compares the planned Bill in the Isle of Man, which it calls a “Restrictive Proposal,” to the draft Welsh guidance. Those unfamiliar with the proposals in the draft new Manx Education Bill, will find this recent update from The HE Byte helpful – Isle of Man Bill Delayed Amid Legal Controversy.
Please share the HSLDA article.
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.