Policy and Law

Consultation Response from Dr Paula Rothermel

Consultation Response from Dr Paula Rothermel

"I find that the policy recommendations regarding mandatory monitoring and supervision of home educators in Northern Ireland are arbitrary, legally unjustified, unwarranted and open to misunderstanding."

Dr Rothermel

News Flash

The Education and Skills Authority is to be scrapped. One body to cover the whole of Northern Ireland, but with the same powers as the current boards is now planned: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27627932

Start Drafting Your Reponses...

Start Drafting Your Reponses...

We are now shifting our focus and asking people to start writing their responses.  We are assured that there is no word limit on the comments, and that people need not answer the multiple choice questions, which are very leading.

You should write your own opinions in your own words.  We don't want to send a hundred copy and paste submissions.  There will be some very thorough ones so feel free to keep your's short if you like, or indeed to go into as much depth as you feel necessary.  HEdNI will be submitting a response to all five Boards, as one of the select group of stakeholders(!).

As a very basic structure we would like to make sure people cover:

1. the most important fact - this is beyond their legal powers -http://hedni.org/files/pdfs/elbpolicy2014/Briefing.pdf

2. this scheme is intrusive and threatening in tone and structure 
       2a - any personal experience you have that you think is relevant
       2b - home visits, safeguarding monitoring, subjective judgements about the best interests of the child, usurping the parent's role, loss of the presumption of innocence - (all bad!)

3. Safeguarding is not the role of ELBs and should not be, they have a duty to refer and this is no area for them to go vigilante


The Welfare Thing - Guest Post on Dare To Know

The draft Policy on Elective Home Education in Northern Ireland is riddled with references to ‘safeguarding’ and ‘welfare’. We know from informal phone conversations that the Boards consider this a crucial element of the policy.
This is problematic on many levels.
  • The law governing the Education and Libraries Boards (Education and Libraries Order 1986) contains no duties or powers relating to welfare.

An Imaginary Conversation...

The same questions and comments come up again and again, here I am talking to my imaginary contact in the ELB...

1.       YOU might think that all parents you meet have their child's best interests at heart but you don't see some of the families we deal with 

That's true and it's very sad. But hang on a minute you say you ARE already seeing these families, so surely you are referring them to the appropriate agencies or using the enforcement powers you already have? Oh right, you AREN'T? Or you tried but nobody was bothered. Well, how will this new policy fix that, I'm a bit confused...

2.       YOU might think that all parents are doing a fantastic job of home educating, but some of the families we're dealing with wouldn't ever join your groups 

It's such a pity when families don't know about our groups. Do you signpost to our groups by the way or do you have a certain image of my group as being full of people like me, so you don't bother recommending it to people you think aren't like me?  

Experiences with the Boards

The Draft Policy as outlined is concerning enough, but doesn't arise out of nowhere.  The current situation is one of deep mistrust between home educators and the Boards.  Given this we believe that the draft policy would be used to bully and intimidate their way into homes, and to insist on parents complicance with unlawful requirements.

Trust starts with the Boards accurately representing their legal powers and duties; while they continue to lie to us why would we want to invite them into our homes!? Trust them to make crucial decisions in our childrens' best interest?

The experience of home educating families throughout Northern Ireland is very mixed.  Stories of Board contact range from them being supportive, through misrepresenting the law, to outright harassment. Many parents are so concerned about putting their families at risk that they are unwilling to attend focus groups, or submit responses to the consultation for fear of becoming 'known'. We have asked parents who home educate in Northern Ireland for their experiences, which we are collecting together on this page to provide a backdrop to the Boards' proposals.

There are many examples of intrusive or unreasonable demands by representatives from the Boards:

Sign Our Petition

Sign Our Petition

Please ask the education and library boards to act within their legal powers, sign this petition and don't forget to write to your MLAs.


To the Northern Ireland Education and Library Boards, and the Minister for Education

We ask you to ensure that the Education and Library Boards' policy on home education accurately reflects their legal duties and powers, and respects the primacy of the parent's legal duty to provide an education.



Graham Stuart writes on our behalf

Graham Stuart's Letter

Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education in Westminster has written a letter to John O'Dowd, the Northern Ireland Minister of Education, detailing his concerns about the draft policy.

"I have concerns relating to the March 2014 draft version of the Policy, which I understand is intended to apply across Northern lreland. This appears to misrepresent the role and responsibilities of Education and Library Boards regarding parents who elect to home educate their children."

Read the full text here, keep updated on latest news here, and find details on the consultation here.

Focus Groups

Focus Groups
HEdNI encourages home educators and those considering home education to attend the focus groups organised by each of the 5 Education and Library Boards on their proposed Home Education Policy
Remember: the crucial point to emphasise is that any policy must correctly represent the legal powers and duties of parents and the Boards. The current draft does not do this.
Be prepared, be friendly, speak your mind and take copies of any documents you might want to refer to. For example:
- an example of best practice - Lancashire's Policy (English Law shares the wording of the Northern Irish Order), note that this isn't perfect but does illustrate that a good working policy is possible
- personal experience
ask permission to record the session or take notes (pause outside straight after and add anything you missed).

Hands Off Home Education

Trust Parents - protect parental choice
Hands Off Home Education
Hands Off Home Education

Parents must feed their children.  They rely on the Food Standards Authority to ensure the food they buy is safe, but the FSA doesn't come and check their kitchen or demand to approve a weekly meal-plan. Parents are presumed to be feeding their children.

Parents must care for their children.  The Department of Health and Social Services funds and regulates hospitals, GP surgeries and social workers, which parents can call on for help when they need it. Social Services don’t routinely inspect family homes or assume every child is at risk of abuse. Parents are presumed to be fulfilling their legal duty by caring for their children.

Parents must educate their children.  They can delegate their responsibility to a chosen school, or legally opt to do it themselves using the community resources around them.  However the Education and Library Boards seem unwilling to trust parents with education in the same way as they are trusted with feeding and caring.  

If parents are failing in any of these duties then there is a safety net, but we don’t assume parents are a danger to their child without good reason.

The Education and Library Boards think they should assume that any child in their parent’s care is not being educated, unless their parents repeatedly prove otherwise using the ELB’s biased criteria.

The Draft Policy on Elective Home Education (currently in 'consultation' phase) is an attempt by ELBs to award themselves a wide range of intrusive new powers, beyond those allowed to Police or Social Workers:

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