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Written Questions – Answered on 5 & 17 October 2022

Two written questions have recently been asked about contact between the Welsh Government and the UK Government in connection with home education.

On 28 September Mark Isherwood MS (Con. Regional Member) asked Minister Jeremy Miles the following:

Written Question – WQ86159

“To what extent did the Welsh Government liaise with the UK Government during consideration of introducing proposed statutory guidance for home education?”

Miles replied on 5 October, though there is usually several days’ delay before such answers appear on the Senedd’s external website:

“As with any policy development we liaise with the Department for Education on matters of shared interest.

We recognise the importance of sharing our experiences and learning across Governments, particularly where cross border issues may arise. Whilst these discussions and exchanges can be informative, our policy position on elective home education in Wales remains unchanged.”

Two days after Miles’ response to Isherwood, Rhys ab Owen MS (Plaid Cymru, Regional Member) followed up with a further probing question:

Written Question – WQ86243 – Welsh Parliament

Will the Minister provide an update on the content and nature of communications between the Welsh Government and the Department for Education in Westminster regarding the proposals on elective home education in Wales?

Miles replied on 17 October:

Further to my written answer WQ86159.

In recent months, my officials have held informal discussions with the Department for Education regarding the elective home education and Children Not in School proposals in the respective jurisdictions. A particular focus has been on the intended timings of the necessary legislative processes in each jurisdiction and the potential impact of any cross-border issues.

The Minister’s answers are somewhat obscure and certainly not as detailed as they might have been. In January we published information provided in response to Freedom of Information requests to both Cardiff and Westminster Governments. The FoIRs were submitted on 12 December 2021 and asked for “Agendas, minutes and emails relating to meetings and discussions” between the two administrations from 1 September that year.

Included in the documents received were discussions about defining “a suitable education” in both countries, and exchanges on the outcome of the Goodred vs Portsmouth City Council case. Welsh officials replied in respect of the latter:

“The Goodred judgement was obviously a positive outcome from both our perspectives and the initial impression is that it is supportive of some aspects of WG’s draft statutory guidance.”

Since then, however, both Governments have slammed the institutional door shut on the public finding out the details of their discussions. The same person sent follow-up FoIRs to both the Welsh Government and the Department for Education in England on 7 April this year. Both cited the Public Interest test to decline supplying any meaningful information.

The Deputy Director, Equity in Education Division, justified this refusal in their reply, stating:

“As this is a developing policy area it would not be prudent to disclose information which is currently under consideration, but which may, or may not subsequently form part of formal policy of either the Welsh or UK Governments.”

An official from the DfE played a similar straight bat:

“We have publicly consulted on the policy discussed in the meetings and therefore it is the Department’s view that the public interest in non-disclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure in this case. Disclosure of the withheld information would be likely to have a potentially corrosive effect on good Government and lead to less fully-informed decision making. This is not in the public interest.”

The lack of clarity in recent Ministerial written answers to elected Members of Senedd, suggests that there is now a policy of non-disclosure concerning collaboration between both Departments.

We are confident that many home educators will come to very different conclusions to the Minister and his staff. Knowing what they are planning for our children’s futures is very much in this section of the public’s interest!


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