In October last year we reported on a question by Sam Rowlands MS asking the Minister how he would “support parents in being able to choose the right setting for their children to learn most effectively.” Rowlands said his interest in this matter arose from being himself “home educated up until high-school age.”
More recently, on 25 May, Rowlands attended a meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee [CYPEC] to stand in for Laura Anne Jones MS, Shadow Minister for Education. At the start of the meeting he asked a question about one of the “papers to note” in the meeting pack.
“It’s just on paper to note 5, talking about elective home education. I’m somebody who was home educated through choice for a number of years, so I’m just interested to know where the committee – just for personal interest – is looking to take some of this work the Government is doing, and how that’s going to be communicated with the Senedd.”
Whilst his question was not fully answered by the Chair, it was a helpful catalyst to get our team looking for the item he referred to and its background. On 31 March this year there was a ‘private’ meeting of CYPEC so very few details are available. The agenda is short, but item 3 seems relevant, “Consideration of the Committee’s ways of working, strategic plan and forward work programme .” The concise minutes for that item reveal little more apart from “3.1 Members discussed the forward work programme and agreed to write to the Welsh Government for updates on various issues.” Given that in England HE is now considered as a ‘school attendance’ matter, two items then listed seem potentially relevant: ‘Pupil absence’ and ‘Implementation of education reforms.’ What is clear is that CYPEC Chair, Jayne Bryant MS, wrote to the Minister following that meeting asking him to:
“provide an update on the development and introduction of legislation on home education, including a timeline for when you expect this to legislation to be considered by the Senedd.”
In her full letter Bryant also raised the then Children’s Commissioner’s desire for “primary legislation to deal with the issue” compared to the Government’s intention “to use its powers under secondary legislation to implement the proposals previously consulted on in 2019 and 2020.” (Emphasis added)
Miles’ reply is the “paper to note 5” referred to by Rowlands in the 25 May CYPEC meeting. (The agenda wrongly identifies item 2.5 as a letter from the Chair to the Minister, when in fact it is Miles’ reply to Bryant.) Dated 17 May, the letter reviews what action has been taken since September last year, and then continues:
“Having reviewed the work previously undertaken on the EHE proposals, my officials sought further evidence last autumn in support of the proposals from both internal and external sources. One element of this work remains outstanding, relating to the benchmarking of the data sharing process between agencies.
The unforeseen delay in receiving this evidence may result in the proposals being brought before the Senedd in September rather than June as was intended. However, it is not expected to impact on the timescale for the implementation of the proposals in April 2023. (emphasis added)
My officials continue to work closely with our stakeholders on developing the wider package of support to EHE families that will increase educational opportunities for EHE children, enhance their learning and encourage greater access to universal services. Working groups have been convened to this effect. I am also due to meet representatives of families of home educated children on 18 May, to hear at first hand the issues they face in providing effective home education and how we can support them in their choice.”
The important points to note are first that whilst work on the arrangements for data sharing have delayed him putting forward secondary legislation before the summer recess, the Minister intends to do this in September. Secondly, that the Minister plans to implement his proposals in April next year.
It is therefore important that home educating families in Wales are not distracted by events in England concerning the Schools Bill. If these proposals go forward, and they are very likely to, then they will be in place before any changes are implemented in England.
The key proposals appear to be:
- database of all children, taken from health records, to keep track of home educators;
- mandatory meetings with home educated children;
- extensive list of what constitutes a suitable education.
If you are not sure what other changes the Government is intending to bring in concerning home education, they are listed on our Welsh Government page.
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