"SENAC cannot support the implementation of this draft policy for a number of reasons and as a consequence we disagree with each point in the pro forma response.
Our main concerns are:
Home educating families are very concerned at the apparent disregard for the law, and for the legal rights of children in the responses by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Youth, and the Children's Law Centre.
Both state that the Board's have a duty to 'ensure' education under Schedule 13, in fact the word 'ensure' does not appear in any part of the relevant legislation and Schedule 13 creates no duty to act except if a concern arrises. The duty to provide an education is created by Section 45 and belongs to the parent, the Boards are not mentioned at all.
Further, the relevant legislation creates no powers or duties relating to welfare. If the Boards wish to annex powers and duties properly belonging to social services then they will need primary legislation to do so, a treaty unincorporated into law cannot create these powers.
We strongly suggest that the Boards and the charities set up to protect children's rights read the relevant legislation, and carefully consider whether the safety of all children is promoted by confusing education with welfare, by allowing the Boards to step outside the law and by arbitrarily labeling a group of families as a welfare risk, simply because they excercise a legally sanctioned educational choice.
Anne Rix, Chair of Education Otherwise Assocation, submitted their reponse to the consultation:
"We ask ELBs to consider the nature of their relationships with families carefully throughout the policy. Engagement between Boards and home educating families is and should be based on trust and mutual respect. The development of policies which undermine these principles will set the Boards at odds with home educators from day one. As a consequence, the legality of the policies will inevitably be challenged in court, resulting in an instant breakdown of relationships at a practical level.
It is worthwhile highlighting at this juncture that there is a significant and growing body of legal opinion that contends that policies such as these comprehensively and demonstrably breach the existing legal framework throughout the UK. EO firmly agrees with this opinion and hereby requests visibility of the Boards' own legal advice so that we may address the issue directly
The ELBs appear to be seeking covertly to avoid pursuing primary legislation and a national consultation by running local consultations without the rigour and review of an established process."
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"Since 2006 I have been a research associate of the Institute of Education, University of London specialising in home education practices and philosophy. Research undertaken by myself and in collaboration with Dr Alan Thomas, Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Education, has encompassed a number of European countries (including the UK and Ireland) as well as Australia, USA, New Zealand and Canada. I hold a PhD from the University of Birmingham in alternative education and literacy.