The Home Education group PHEG is once again crowdfunding for their judicial review process. Education Otherwise stands firm in their support and ask you all to please give them the support they need.
This case is of great significance to all home educators, not just in Portsmouth. What is tolerated from one local authority can become the norm in others. Without the judicial review, LAs can continue to act potentially unlawfully as the Local Government Ombudsmen (LGO) can only determine whether or not an LA has acted according to its own policies, not whether those policies are lawful.
LAs create policies and sometimes those policies are potentially unlawful. These policies remain potentially unlawful, are acted upon and carried out by LAs, until such time as they are challenged by the public through judicial review.
The matter of a School Attendance Order (SAO) is heard on an individual basis, meaning that every family taken to court for non-compliance with a potentially unlawful policy, will face the possibility of a criminal record and a fine if they cannot provide good quality legal representation, either themselves or from a solicitor who knows and understands this very niche area of law.
Further, the case is heard in front of magistrates who have no legal training, and any disagreement over the outcome needs to be taken to a higher court before it is heard by a legally qualified judge familiar with the complexities of the law, but often not with education law and how it applies to home education. It is in the higher courts that case law (precedent) is made.
PHEG have challenged the lawfulness of the PCC policies to insist upon increasingly invasive requests, measures, threats of and legal action taken against home educating families in the area. Having exhausted all other avenues the only remaining course of action is a judicial review; a process explained here in the context of a consultation by David Wolfe QC.
The first wave of the PHEG process shows the case is likely to be taken to a full judicial review.
Whether a policy is lawful or not is then decided by the courts. Once the decision is made it is then for all other public bodies to adhere to the outcome.
This case is crucial. It is not hard as a home educator, or supporter of parental democratic choice, to imagine yourself in such a position: an LA making unlawful demands, licensed to bring you to court without giving you reason for concern, or simply for not providing an education as if in a state school.
For up to date details and to donate please follow the link.