This letter has been written by Rose Arnold of Suitable Education, at the request of and input from Welsh home educators, following the publication of the Welsh Government’s concerning elective home education guidance in May 2023:
31st May 2023
Re: Welsh Elective Home Education Guidance May 2023 (288/2023)
Parents and carers – not local authorities – bear responsibility for provision of a child’s education. This is established both in primary legislation and in human rights frameworks as the UN Special Rapporteur on education stated in 1999:
“The objective of getting all school-aged children to school and keeping them there till they attain the minimum defined in compulsory education is routinely used in the sector of education, but this objective does not necessarily conform to human rights requirements. In a country where all school-aged children are in school, free of charge, for the full duration of compulsory education, the right to education may be denied or violated.
The core human rights standards for education include respect of freedom. The respect of parents’ freedom to educate their children according to their vision of what education should be has been part of international human rights standards since their very emergence.”United Nations
This ill-thought through guidance upends this principle, requiring local authorities to assess the provision of education and a child’s progress, relegating the views of parents and carers as secondary to that of the state. Assuming assessment duties is no minor administrative updating of guidance but instead represents a fundamental shift in the relationship between state and family, the repercussions of which are seismic.
Nor does the guidance address the practicalities of how local authorities are to meaningfully take this responsibility from parents. While parents and carers know their children, see their progress or struggles up close, know what they are interested in and what they want to do, local authority staff do not know these children. Within a school setting, children are able to be assessed because of the uniformity of provision and expectations, this is not the case for home educated children where what a suitable education is will look different for every child. How are local authority teams – especially given a widespread lack of qualifications and experience in alternative educational approaches – to evaluate a child’s education? How are they to judge if perhaps a child on one particular day might be tongue-tied or shy? How on a brief meeting are the views of local authority officers to be given more weight than that of the parent or carer? This is the reality of what is mandated by this guidance and the practical implications to the lives of children are huge.
Home education is an important freedom for families. Not only as it is for some – a choice made on the basis of parental or carer philosophical beliefs about education – but also as a vital safety net for the increasing numbers of children failed by the school system.
Governmental guidance must not – as this guidance does – undermine parental and carer responsibility for children in contravention of primary legislation and of human rights principles.
Ellie Costello, Square Peg
Michelle Zaher, Educational Freedom
Dr Chris Bagley, Institute of Education, UCL
Dr Beth Bodycote, Not Fine in School
Dr Ian Cunningham, Self-Managed Learning College
Charlotte Church, AWEN
Jonathan Field, co-founder AWEN
Tristram C. Llewellyn Jones, Home educator and civil liberties campaigner
Dr Harriet Pattison, Liverpool John Moore University
Heidi Mavir, author ‘Your Child is Not Broken’
Alison Sauer, Trustee, Centre for Personalised Education
Dr Kevin Smith, Education, Cardiff University
Jo Symes, Progressive Education
Professor James Tooley, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Buckingham
W. Charles Warner, Education Otherwise
Lord Wei of Shoreditch
Stephanie Yorath, The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK
Rose Arnold, Suitable Education
 s7 Education Act 1996