2019 Consultation Responses

HEdNI Consultation Response

Personal Response from Sarah Dickinson to the Consultation

"I support the adoption of these guidelines because I believe they will encourage good practice in the EA and enable parents to insist on fair treatment.  

The process for addressing concerns is the most important part of the guidance for parents, it is essential that it is clear and legally accurate, and that EA staff are properly trained in its implementation.

However, I am very concerned by the number of references to the UNCRC and the ECHR which are sprinkled throughout this document.  It appears that they have been added out of a general feeling that it is always good to get a mention of Rights in to a document, no matter the context and no matter what effect it will have.  

The effect of these references, if they are not put in their proper legal context, may well be to encourage EA staff to assess the education that parents are providing against their own ideas of what is empowering or child-centred.  

The introduction states that:

“Education must be child-centred, child-friendly and empowering, with its goal being to strengthen the child’s capacity to enjoy the full range of human rights and to respect the rights of others.  Education should empower children by developing their skills, learning and other capacities, human dignity, self-esteem and self-confidence.”

As a parent and educator I certainly aspire to these things, in fact I would argue that the education I provide is uniquely suited to promoting these aims for my own children, however I have absolutely no faith in the ability of an EA officer to comment constructively on this.  They lack the expertise, experience and legal standing to make any sort of judgement.

Response by Dr Harriet Pattison

The Guidance sets out a clear and legally accurate framework through which families can clarify expectations regarding interactions with EA officials.   

As a specialist researcher into literacy and home education, I continue to be concerned that the Guidelines place insufficient emphasis on the many ways in which learning at home may diverge from learning in school.  There is repeated emphasis given in the guidelines to the legal requirement that education be suitable to a child’s age, ability and aptitude.   Whilst this is the case, it should be highlighted that the transposition of age related bench marks from school to home education is wholly inappropriate and should not be used as either a guidance or expectation.  This may be particularly the case with regards to literacy, reading and writing where the normative framework  imposed by school has frequently been used to inadequately assess the efficacy of home education provision.  Recognition that pedagogic approaches may be different (ie from structured to autonomous) needs to be matched with recognition that learning trajectories may also be very different – for example reading and writing succeeding rather than preceding  other aspects of literacy.”

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