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Welsh Government

What has the Welsh Government published in regard to elective home education?

On 31 January the Welsh Government launched their long-expected Consultation on Children Missing Education Database. This seeks views on the “children missing education database proposal and regulations for local authorities and local health boards.” The closing date is 25 April. Our initial overview is available here.

Persistent follow-on requests to the Welsh Assembly Government has now led to the release of a further document. This appendix is a compilation of template letters and forms which the Welsh Government say are not statutory, though they also indicated in their response that these were already being implemented by Local Authorities. Full description and link to file: Documents released by Welsh Government reveal highly intrusive objectives

21 September 2023:

On 13 September the Government responded to questions from home educating families asked during or subsequent to on-line session held in June. The stated purpose of those sessions was “to clarify any queries families may have in relation to the new statutory guidance and parental handbook on EHE.” The Children’s Commissioner for Wales chaired the sessions, which were held on 26 and 28 June.

The response was circulated via an email which had fourteen files attached to it. This provided a significant amount of information, which HE families will find it helpful to engage with as much as they can. To help those who did not receive the email look through them we have created an ordered catalogue of them, from which the files can be downloaded. The answers provided in the main response to the questions asked in the June sessions have failed to reassure our team that the new guidance is justifiable and therefore reasonable, but for now we want you to be able to see them and the supporting documents for yourselves. You can access them via the follow page:

Files Released by the Welsh Government | 13 September 2023

24 June 2023:

On Tuesday 20 June the Minister for Education made an oral statement in a Senedd plenary session. Whilst he asserted that his Department’s guidance will benefit home educated children, there was some significant push back from opposition MSs. You can read more here Senedd Plenary – 6 June 2023.

Separately, the following Monday (June 12), the Welsh Government published its long expected “handbook for home educators.” This appears to be a digest of the guidance for LA’s. The holding page links to an interactive, on-line version of the handbook – a PDF version is also available. The Government also provides two ‘annexes’ on the holding page which are template letters as .docx files. These are files parents are invited to use to A) deregister a child from a school, and B) request a decision on whether a child has additional learning needs. (At present we have not commented on these resources.)

24 May 2023:

After several months of delay, during which the Government made little public comment on their progress towards publishing revised elective home education guidance, they finally did so on Friday 12 May.

The new guidance can be downloaded from this page or direct as a PDF. On the day of publication the Minister for Education, Jeremy Miles MS, published a written statement which made clear the Government’s belief that the UNCRC requires home educated children to be interviewed by a state employee. There are also many other aspects of the provisions which raise concern.

The whole of the guidance needs careful examination, and we are in conversation with an international advocacy charity specialising in human rights law in this regard. This is the same group which provided the submission to rebut the arguments for registration and monitoring of home educated children set out by the then Children’s Commissioner for Wales during her term, and which we sent to the Minister in October 2021.

The charity has a team of legal experts who are presently examining the details of what has been set out by the Government. They intend to provide a written summary of their views which we hope to make available to Senedd members prior to the Minister for Education’s statement on the guidance, timetabled for the Plenary session on Tuesday 6 June.

Our team’s initial response can be read here: New Guidance Published – Warts and All 24 May

3 August 2022:

Recently the Government has been sending out standard letters in response to letters received from home educators. These are being used as a means of informally announcing the changes which it plans to implement from April next year. We have obtained a copy of one of these letters, and it is linked from this news update No Reply from the Government which was published today. The proposal of greatest concern is that they plan to make it mandatory for EHE children to be interviewed by LA staff.

7 June 2022:

On 18 May Minister Jeremy Miles wrote to the Chair of the the Children and Young People Education Committee and amongst other things, stated that despite his department not being able to bring forward secondary legislation before the summer recess, he intended that this should not prevent the proposals consulted on in 2019 and 2020 being implemented in April next year. Fuller details are contained in this post: Minister hopes to implement EHE proposals in April 2023.

7 May 2022:

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)

Today, 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 knew prior to publication of the new statutory guidance in May 2023

The Minister for Education intends to put his department’s proposals before the Senedd as secondary legislation in September 2022, with the intention of them being implemented them in April 2023. (More details)

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?

It is always important to raise your voice when you are concerned by actions such as those of the Government.

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.

In the past, Families First in Education Wales met with aides from the Welsh Government – we reported on that here. However the Minister showed no interest in engaging with us personally, or in responding to the points raised in our submission to rebut the arguments for the registration and monitoring of home educated children put forward by Sally Holland when she was the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

We continue to update this page – so please bookmark it.

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