Two recent exchanges about elective home education suggest that the Government hasn’t yet been able to finalise its proposals.
On 11 October, in response to a Business Statement by the Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths MS, Shadow Minister for Education Laura Anne Jones asked:
“The second statement that I’d like to request is on home schooling. As you know, business Minister, three weeks ago, I requested an urgent statement from this Government on proposals for home schooling in Wales. The community are very anxious for answers, so I’d like to press you for a statement sooner rather than later from the education Minister.”
Later Griffiths responded:
“And in relation to home schooling, again, I will have a discussion with the Minister to ensure that, at the appropriate time, a statement is made.”
A week later, there was a debate about The Children’s Commissioner for Wales’s Annual Report 2021-22 during a plenary session on 18 October. Plaid Cymru’s Regional Member Heledd Fychan MS took the opportunity to ask for a further update:
“The other area I’d just like to focus on is the section on home education and the specific recommendations there, saying that Welsh Government must also publish an evaluation plan for the implementation of new statutory guidance alongside that guidance. I’m sure the Minister will be aware of concerns that have been raised with many of us in terms of home education. Whilst Plaid Cymru have agreed with the intention of the proposals, which is to ensure that every child and young person in Wales is given a suitable education, we still believe that that guidance, or draft guidance at present, doesn’t distinguish between those who have chosen to home educate their children and feel that they’re going to be monitored or mistrusted, as opposed to those children who aren’t currently receiving any kind of education. I think there are some things that are raised here as concerns that I would like the Welsh Government to be addressing.”
Later the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt MS, responded in her concluding speech:
“…looking at home education in terms of progressing work in this area and expecting, of course, proposals to be implemented. And this will be, of course, all responded to in the Government report.”
Towards the end of her speech, Hutt stated that the Government’s response to the Children’s Commissioner’s report would be published on 30 November.
Some readers will remember that earlier this year we reported on a letter from Education Minister Jeremy Miles MS to the Chair of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee, Jayne Bryant MS, about his proposals for home education. In that report we highlighted this comment from the Minister:
“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)
September has been and gone, as has October, and yet the Government has not published its plans. We have previously highlighted the high bar set by the Supreme Court’s ruling in regard to the Scottish Named Person Scheme [NPS], which was considered unlawful because of non-consensual data sharing of citizens’ private information by the state.
In her 2016 Judgment President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, spelt out the dangers of such bad practices:
“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”
This ruling highlights the limitations the Welsh Government must keep within. If any of its proposals cross the same threshold as the NPS did, then it will be held accountable just as any “totalitarian regime” should be.
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