Of course that gets attention, because the idea quite rightly raises outrage. We are outraged and so should you be. Remember:
‘First they came for the home educators and you did not speak out because you were not a home educator. Then they came for you—and there was no one left to speak for you.’ (adapted from the poem by Martin Niemöller)
On the 19th November 2021 a statement was published by the Welsh Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) and the Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW) who are ’United in their support of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales’ efforts’ to introduce draconian legislation to which home educating families in Wales will be subjected:
This statement shamefully exploits the death of a child (Dylan Seabridge) in order to demand that the Welsh Government places: ‘Statutory obligations on local authorities to visit, have sight of and communicate with (home educated) children’ on the basis of their claim that home educated children are: ‘Children who may be vulnerable and need services (and) are not seen by safe adults or professionals outside the home, and have less opportunity to make relationships outside the home that form the basis to be heard, noticed or ask for help.’
Of course, home educating families in Wales are aware of the Children’s Commissioner’s long held animus toward home education. She could not have made it plainer. However, we question whether this move also lends something to the need of Ms Holland and children’s services to divert attention away from their own shortcomings in Dylan’s sad case. Parents are ‘safe adults’ in by far the majority of homes and despite desperate attempts to discredit home educating families are undermined by the facts:
• Engagement between home educating families and local authority education staff is rising in Wales.
• There is no evidence that home educated children are more at risk than children who are in school, despite school children having ‘oversight’.
• Home educated children are part of: ‘A highly engaged and visible community, with children attending a large variety of groups and venues, many of which would not be available to those outside the community’ (Alburey 2021).
• Home educated children are ‘healthier, happier and more virtuous than public school graduates’ (Case and Chen, 2021).
• A Police officer cannot insist on meeting with somebody unless they have reasonable cause to do so, most usually that the individual is suspected of a crime. We ask what crime home educating parents are suspected of committing?
• A social worker cannot interview a child subject to a child protection plan without the consent of the parent, except in exceptional circumstances (he or she has good reason to believe that the parent may threaten the child or try to make them stay silent) and if consent is refused, they must seek an order from a court if they consider it necessary to do so.
• It bears repeating, engagement between home educating families and local authority education staff is rising in Wales.
Engagement between home educating families and local authorities is rising in Wales (which explains some of the apparent increase in numbers of course), not as a result of becoming increasingly adversarial as authorities elsewhere are as that achieves nothing, but because most home education staff in Wales enjoy much greater trust from families and are mostly respected to act in a reasonable and supportive manner. It is crucial that we support that rise in engagement by supporting positive and constructive relationships. Conceding to this demand would put those relationships back enormously and that is not in the best interests of home educated children.
In cases where safeguarding is an issue, the power to seek to see the child for assessment purposes already exists, it sits with Children’s Social Services. Education staff need to continue to support positive relationships with home educating families in the best interests of their children. To concede to this demand would place them in the invidious position of having to operate as ‘social services lite’ whilst alienating parents with whom they currently have increasingly positive relationships.
What the ADSS and ADEW are seeking to mandate is to categorise home educated children as being somehow more ‘at risk’ than children on CPPs are, when by far the majority are manifestly not at any risk at all. This cannot be viewed as anything short of blatant prejudice.
If the Welsh Government concedes to this demand Education Otherwise would have no choice but to seek parity for every school child during school holidays; the government must mandate that each of those children meet with local authority staff as clearly, their parents also need to be treated as ‘unsafe’ adults.
We live in an era where Governments are increasingly undermining the family and individuality. Home education is different and equal, it is not and must not be portrayed as lesser. We do well to remember the words of Baroness Hale of Richmond sitting as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in the ‘Christian Institute and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate (Respondent) (Scotland) Trinity Term.  UKSC 51’:
‘Different upbringings produce different people.
- The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.
Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way. As Justice McReynolds, delivering the Opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States famously put it in Pierce v Society of Sisters 268 US 510 (1925), 534-535:
“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in
this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to
standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from
public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state;
those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled
with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional
‘The noble concept in article 1 of the Universal Declaration, that “all
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” is premised
on difference. If we were all the same, we would not need to guarantee
that individual differences should be respected. Justice Barak of the
Supreme Court of Israel has put it like this (in El-Al Israeli Airlines Ltd
v Danielowitz [1992-4] IsrLR 478, para 14):
“The factual premise is that people are different from one another, ‘no
person is completely identical to another’ … Every person is a world in
himself. Society is based on people who are different from one another.
Only the worst dictatorships try to eradicate these differences.”
The Minister for Education Jeremy Miles, has assured home educating families that he wants to change the narrative and to move way from, adversarial relationships toward support. Education Otherwise and home educating families support that approach and ask that he not be swayed by this demand. Alburey, J. (2021) ‘How societally visible and engaged are the children of home educating parents who access online home education support groups?’. Derby University Dissertation.
Case, B. and Chen, Y (2021) ‘What Home-Schoolers Are Doing Right’ [Online] Available from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/home-schoolers-schooling-are-doing-righteducation-parents-bartholet-harvard-parenting-11636577345