What is the Welsh Government proposing in regard to elective home education?
Update 7 May 22:
The Minister for Education made two statements regarding home education. We have reported on them in full here. Neither expanded on the information below, though his written answer to a question from Altaf Hussain MS provides the fullest summary to date of what the Government is planning, without saying how they can justify their intentions.
In a statement to Senedd on 3 May concerning the effect of pandemic school closures on subsequent attendance rates, Jeremy Miles, when speaking specifically about elective home education, again reasserted his view that LAs should “work together with families through a supportive approach to enable a return to school.” (Details)
On 30 March 22, Jeremy Miles MS, the Minister for Education, stated in the Senedd:
“we are keen to make sure that children are being taught in school with their peers, subject to the safeguarding regime that all schools operate,” (emphasis ours)
He also indicated that he intends to bring forward legislation this summer with the intention of putting in place statutory regulation on home education by next year. This signals his intention to significantly change the law in Wales to regulate home education more greatly.
This is what we know so far
The proposals intend to:
- “Clarify what is meant by a suitable education”.
- This has previously been at the discretion of parents.
- “Strengthen the existing framework for local authorities to take action where a child is not receiving a suitable education and clarify that where this appears likely to impair a child’s development, the local authority should fully exercise their safeguarding powers and duties to protect the child’s wellbeing”.
- This gives LAs more powers to intervene in home education.
- Establish Local Authority “databases” of all children.
- This means that more data will be collected about children for the government’s purposes.
- And produce a revised version of the proposed handbook on home education which they consulted on in 2019.
- This could severely limit the rights of parents to choose the type and method of education for their children.
We don’t yet know how many of the original proposals from the 2019/20 consultations are planned to be included in this statutory guidance. We will keep monitoring the situation.
Links to both the previous consultations along with helpful comment are available on the HE Byte’s Welsh Consultations page. At the time Protecting Home Education Wales crowd-funded two clear legal opinions in response to the consultations. Unfortunately, some of the links to their documents are no longer active. However we have placed copies of the legal opinions in our documents folder:
For information, the intentions stated in the previous consultations were:
- That as part of determining a suitable education, LAs should physically see and speak with the child, asking their opinions on the education that is given to them (this means they have to unless there is a good reason not to – parental refusal is not sufficient). Also, that LAs should assess multiple pieces of the children’s work, as well as taking into account the parents’ view.
- Encouragment that the LA, if not satisfied, moves to a School Attendance Order [SAO] and then to an Education Supervision Order [ESO] (which grants automatic right of access to the child). And suggests that if it gets to court proceedings through refusing any of the stages (e.g. not supplying work), LAs should apply for a cost order against the parents on the ground that the prosecution would not have been necessary if they had complied. This suggests that the LA will always expect to win against parents in court.
- An extensive list of “suggested characteristics of a suitable and efficient education.”
- Using data of children registered with Health Authorities to find all children that are not registered with a school (so a parent could not register a child with a GP without becoming known to the LA).
- Information alone supplied by a parent about the education being provided should not be taken as indicating that a suitable education is being received. A lack of evidence can trigger both SAO and safeguarding (s47) thresholds (draft guidance paragraph 7.17). This is a significant change from the current position, where the LA should assess whether there are any concerns before pushing for further information.
What can be done?
Now is the time to raise your voice.
If you disagree or have strong concerns with the proposals to limit the rights of parents, pleas write to your Senedd member – their address is easily found on this page.
Recently, Families First in Education Wales met with aides from the Welsh Government, we intend to report on those discussions in the near future. (The Minister has, to date, still declined to meet and there does not seem any indication that he has personally met with home educators on these matters or any others connected with home education.)
We will update this page as more information emerges – so please bookmark it.