Implications of the Proposed Statutory Guidance:
These proposals will mean big changes to home education in Wales as soon as April 2023. You can read the document for parents here and LAs here.
- It will mean our children HAVING TO MEET with officers WITHOUT CONSENT.
- It will mean the threat of a SAO if parents/ children don’t comply or if officers don’t like what they see.
- It will mean the government defining what a suitable education is and looking to strengthen this further in thr future.
We need to stand up to this now!
How To Make Your Voice Heard
– Share this to spread the word. Currently the WG feel that the response to this has been positive!
– Join the FB group Community Action for Home Educators in Wales (message me if you’d like info but not on FB)
– Write to your 5 Senedd Members.
– Write to the Ed Minister.
– Use the example letter and edit it to add personal story.
– Invite your friends (and children) to do the same as soon as possible.
If you have any questions please ask. This stuff can be confusing but don’t let that put you off…we can fight this together 🥰
Guidance for Writing to your Senedd Members:
- There is a sample letter below:
- Email is better than snail mail as it’s quicker and harder to ignore.
- You have 5 Senedd Members., so remember to send your letter to all 5!
(It is usual to address your Senedd Member with their name, followed by the letters MS.)
- Try to write engagingly and share personal examples of your family’s experiences of home education. If we all send very similar letters (or a simple cut and paste of the template below) this will cause our letters to be ignored. Personal stories are really powerful in grabbing attention and help build a sense of the real lives that will be affected by the proposed legislation.
- Remember to be polite and respectful at all times. And of course, double check your grammar, punctuation and spelling before sending. Remember that the standard of our communications feeds into biases about home educators. If you need any help in proof-reading, please feel free to share your letter on our Community Action for Home Educators in Wales Facebook Group:
- If you are a Welsh Speaker, please do write your correspondence in Welsh. One misnomer of Home Educators in Wales is that some families home educate in order to avoid participation in the Welsh language community.
- When contacting a MS, if you have another relevant role such as supporting a young person, a teacher etc, as well as being a Home Educating parent, mention this too. Governments love stakeholders!
- You cannot write anonymously to your MS as they can only act on your behalf if you are in their constituency/region, so you need to provide your address in any communications. However, if you have concerns about privacy issues, e.g. not wanting to identify yourself to LAs, you can state in your letter that you do not consent to data sharing with other agencies, and that to do so would be a breach of GDPR. Ask that they share your concerns anonymously.
- If you have written to your MS or MP before, you will know that it’s not unusual to receive a generic, cut and paste reply that fails to address your specific queries. Don’t be disheartened – this is often the initial response. So, if your MSs respond in this way, don’t be surprised. This is a process! Write/email back stating that they have not addressed your points and resend your original letter, or you could try rephrasing some of your key issues. If you need any help in formatting a reply, please feel free to share their communication on our Facebook page so that others can share suggestions.
- If you don’t receive a reply at all (which sadly is not unusual), just resend your initial letter again after 14 days, and just keep resending it until they do. There is no need for a rewrite – just resend with a comment that you are yet to receive a response.
- If there is more than one person in your household, then consider writing separate letters. You could use this opportunity to personalise your responses even more! If you have older children who are able and want to write, this would be amazing – we are then providing them with the unique perspectives of our Home Educated children too!
- If you can, as well as writing your letter, try to also arrange a meeting in person with your MSs. This is normally much more effective (it’s much harder to ignore and dismiss our views in person) and helps dispel some of the stereotypes around the “type of people who home educate”.
If you are able, do also consider sending your letter/email to the following people (particularly if they are your Senedd Members). These people are all directly involved in implementing these proposals and/or involved in discussions on Home Education.
- Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education (and MS for Neath)
The departmental email is: Jeremy.Miles@gov.wales
(Jerermy Miles is also Minster for Welsh Language and a Welsh speaker, so if you are able to write to him in Welsh, that would be even better!)
- The Conservative spokesperson for Education (and constituency member for South East Wales), Laura Ann Jones.
Laura Ann Jones has raised concerns conflating EHE and safeguarding at the Senedd on a number of occasions recently, pressing the Government to pass legislation on EHE.
Her contact email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes. The Children’s Commissioner’s contact email on the website is a generic one – feel free to ask that this is brought to her attention personally.
When writing to the Children’s Commissioner, you may like to mention your view of her predecessor, Sally Holland’s, review of Home Education. It appears Ms Cifuentes has accepted Sally Holland’s review of Home Education at face value and may not be aware that Home Educators were refused permission to participate in this, many having serious concerns about the validity/methodology/biases/misconceptions of that review. You may also like to highlight that a legal rebuttal of Holland’s review has been submitted to the Welsh Government, who, as yet, have failed to respond to it.
• Members of the CYPEC (Children’s, Young People and Education Committee). There has been very negative rhetoric against Home Education at some of their recent meetings and evidence sessions on school attendance, which has not been challenged or disputed. These members include Jane Bryant – chair, Laura Ann Jones (see above), Ken Skates, Buffy Williams and Sioned Williams.
Background Information on Welsh Politics which may help in the writing of your letter
Education in Wales is a devolved area of administration. This means that education is governed and legislated on by the Welsh Government at the Senedd rather than by Parliament at Westminster (although actions in one can influence the other). Unlike Westminster, where we are each represented by 1 MP, everyone in Wales is represented by 1 constituency MS (Member of Senedd) and 4 regional MSs. The benefit of this for our purposes is that each letter or email written can easily be sent to 5 different representatives from a variety of political parties.
Part of the problem with the current proposals on Home Education is that its supporters are trying to pass them through as ‘secondary legislation’. Secondary legislation, unlike primary legislation, typically avoids full debate (and thus full scrutiny) in the Senedd. Therefore it is vital to engage and inform every Senedd member as MSs can, and should, make representations on our behalf. The Senedd prides itself on being a government that forms policy based on consulting with the people – so if you don’t think they are doing this with regards to Home Education, please say so!
Why is it important to write to your MSs?
- To object to the Welsh Government proposals to legislate on Home Education –
The Welsh Government proposed changes can be found here:
Please also see our Facebook Group for more information on what the proposed changes mean for Home Educators:
Community Action for Home Educators in Wales
Remember, this legislation could represent a huge shift in the rights and freedoms of Home Educators.
- To engage members of the Welsh Government in order to change the narrative surrounding Home Education – to highlight all that is wonderful about Home Ed, and its many benefits from your personal experience. We seek to dispel myths and to break down barriers of prejudice and discrimination.
- We can use “case studies” of our experiences to show how the proposals would be damaging/destructive/undermining to our child’s/children’s educational path and experience.
- Remember that many people, including MSs are equating their experience of “Homeschooling” during lockdown” with Home Education – we need to help them to see the two experiences are very different!
- We need to challenge commonly held suspicions that home educated children are “hidden”, “unseen”, don’t “socialise”, aren’t prepared for “real life” and so on – so please use your experience to counter that narrative.
Below is a simple guide for how to write to your Senedd Members to raise your concerns, here only as a help to anyone unsure of where or how to start. Please make your letter individual to your own experience and concerns – these are only suggestions as starting points.
Please note that points enclosed with [ ] are prompts for you to write and should be edited before sending.
Dear —-, MS
I want/wish/write to express my concerns about changes that Welsh Government is considering making in imposing/passing statutory legislation/guidance on Home Educators.
[Briefly explain your experience of Home Education. Why do you home educate? Why does it suit your family? What are the benefits of Home Education for your child/children? You may like to say why you child/children’s needs are better met at home than at school.]
As you know, in 2019, the Welsh Government produced Draft Guidance for Home Education. Key proposals in that guidance were:
- creating a database of Home Educators,
- mandatory meeting with every home educated family, including meeting with every child, in order to assess the suitability of the education being provided,
- increased powers for Local Authorities to regularly monitor Home Educated children and make judgements on the suitability of their education,
- enhanced powers for LAs to issue School Attendance Orders where they feel the education is unsuitable,
- identifying what constitutes “a suitable education”.
The Welsh Government has stated that it is committed to revisiting the proposals of 2019 when they meet in September 2022, with the aim of producing Home Education legislation which may take effect as early as April 2023.
[State what concerns you about the proposals. Pick 1-3 of the points below which most concern you. Do not use all points as this may make your letter too long and will also risk making our letters all sound too similar. Please try to rephrase these discussion points in your own words.
- Discuss the potential database of home educated children – why should there be a database of children, simply because they are Home Educated? How will a database serve to protect children (our children are already “visible” in that they access services such as healthcare, and many are already known to the LA)? What data would be captured, and from what sources? The guidance suggests that the data would be gleaned from health care providers and local health boards. If you feel this would affect people’s freedom to engage with health care providers/register with GPs and dentists, for example, then share your concerns. Do you have any concerns on data handling/data breaches/GDPR/legality/human rights issues?
- Discuss the possibility of mandatory meetings. The proposals suggest meetings with every family and every child. How would you feel about this? How would your child feel? Would they engage? Would it be traumatic? You may want to question how a school child might respond if quizzed on the suitability of their education by a stranger.
In previous consultations, it was proposed that the meetings would include review of multiple samples of children’s work. How do you feel about that? Perhaps your home educating style doesn’t lend to producing formal ‘work’.
Would the requirement of these meetings change how you home educate your children, and if so would that be a positive or a negative change?
Share any human rights concerns – do you feel this is an infringement of human rights?
- Discuss the proposal of the Government as opposed to the parent setting the definition of what constitutes a suitable education. What would this look like? How could such a definition be tailored to suit every child? Would this definition extend to school children? Who is accountable and what is the recourse for all of the school children not currently receiving a ‘suitable education’?
- You may want to ask why the Government consider there is need for change to a system that already functions relatively effectively and has allowed some Local Authorities to improve engagement with home educating families and communities? You could ask why the Government feel that Local Authority powers have to be “strengthened” (Jeremy Miles, Education Minister).
- You may want to query why the Welsh Government propose making guidance statutory rather than non-statutory. This would mean that not only parents but also LAs would be bound by measures, so that, for example, Local Authorities would have no alternative but swiftly issue a Notice to Satisfy and School Attendance Order if they disagree with the parents on suitability of education. This may undermine the positive relationship many families have established with their LA.
- Discuss any concerns you have about the Home Educators handbook that Welsh Government has produced.
- Discuss any concerns you have around funding the proposals – do you consider this a good use of tax payers’ money? How much will the (non-consensual) meetings cost to fund? How much will it cost to train LA officials in all of the different educational approaches, legal and human rights issues, education laws, safe-guarding etc? How much money will be spent on establishing and maintaining a database? On ensuring GDPR and proper data handling of the information? How much will be spent on administering the increased number of School Attendance Orders and increase in court cases if LAs are placed under statutory obligations to exercise their “strengthened powers”? And ultimately, how much of the money that Welsh Government has allocated for “supporting Home Education” will actually be used directly in aiding children and families in a meaningful, positive way that actually enhances the educational experience as opposed to being spent on imposing measures that are neither wanted or necessary.
- Discuss any other proposals that concern you. ]
The Home Educating community challenged the 2019 draft guidance by writing to the government and responding to the government’s own consultations. However, the Welsh Government has never fully addressed our consultation responses. A summary of responses was produced, but nothing further since: .
[If you feel that ministers/departments/the Senedd are not listening to the voices of/ignoring the experience of home educators, say so].
[If you have concerns that Government Ministers and Senedd Members do not personally meet with/ engage with the home educators they plan to legislate on, say so.]
As a community, Home Educators also sought the legal opinion of David Wolfe, QC on the guidance (https://familiesfirst.wales/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Home_Education_Welsh_Draft_Guidance_Wolfe_2019.pdf and ) as well as producing a further legal rebuttal in 2021, addressing the then Children’s Commissioner’s call for reform of Home Education policy ( and ). These legal opinions emphasise the potential illegality of much of the guidance on the basis of human rights, the rights of the child, and data protection laws.
[If you feel that the Government have refused to listen to or respond to the two legal opinions submitted by David Wolfe QC in response to the last two consultations, say so.]
[If you have concerns that the Government has not responded to the legal rebuttal of Sally Holland’s 2021 review of Home Education, say so.]
I would appreciate if you would respond to my concerns, as well as raising these issues with Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education.
[Ask for a meeting (if you would like one) to discuss your concerns in person – face to face contact is very often far more beneficial and engaging than letters alone.].
[If you are concerned that writing will somehow identify you to the authorities or the LA, you can add here that you do not give consent to sharing of personal data such as names and contact details/addresses in this letter. If you would prefer your letter to be sent to Jeremy Miles by your MS with your personal information kept private, say so.]
Dear Elin Jones, MS,
I am writing to you to express my concerns about the changes that Welsh Government is considering making in passing statutory legislation guidance in relation to home education.
We chose to home educate our children long before they reached statutory education age for a number of reasons. Having worked in Education as a teacher and for the LA for a decade, I felt that many children were being failed by the school system. Namely due to lack of flexibility, insufficient training and understanding of mental health and special educational needs and a focus on assessments and academic work from a young age. I feel that our children hugely benefit from the autonomous approach that home education currently allows us to take.
As you know, in 2019, the Welsh Government produced Draft Guidance for Home Education and are committed to producing Home Education legislation which may take effect as early as April 2023.
I have a number of concerns regarding these proposals especially considering that there is a well known history within the home education community of local authorities abusing their power and misquoting legislation in relation to home education.
The implication in the guidance that the requirement for LA officers to have mandatory meetings with home educated children without parent or child consent is incredibly concerning. I feel that this could be traumatic for some children given that some are home educated due to being let down by school and the LA. Children in our schools who were beaten up daily at 6 years old, teens who were dragged across the floor and threatened, young people bullied by teachers, neurodiverse children pushed to breaking point and children sexually assaulted while at school.
It is those children, with trauma, that will be expected to meet with officers who will not have the appropriate psychological qualification to understand the experiences of these deregistered school children or the benefits of Home Education on their wellbeing, mental health and recovery from their experience. These inappropriately qualified LA employee’s will be expecting children to perform and answer interview style questions. Recent job advertisements for Local Authority EHE positions have been widely shared within the home education community which have not insisted the post holder has a psychological qualification. They have however specified applicants hold relevant teaching experience. This in itself is an issue as a teacher will be trained within the state system and national curriculum and unless they have lived experience of home education will likely fail to comprehend the differences.
Expecting children to perform and answer interview style questions or risk being judged harshly by Officers is a huge concern. Not because we have anything to hide and definitely not because we aren’t hugely proud of their abilities but because it is not how we operate as a family. I have never forced, bribed or threatened my children into speaking to somebody and I honestly don’t understand how doing so will be beneficial. We already have procedures in place to protect children in Wales. As a family we were known to the LA as home educators without ever making contact due to communication between health and education professionals. Infact my children have been questioned about their education by almost every doctor, dentist or nurse they have ever come into contact with. They are judged frequently enough already without being forced to perform for someone who holds such power over them and their family.
The requirements of these meetings (and the suggestion that school type work would have to be shown) would have damaging implications to the way we home educate and will no doubt cause unwarranted anxiety for many who are forced to justify their choices. It will mean families feel they need to educate to satisfy the Local Authority, instead of educating to suit the needs of the child. The legislation also fails to include any information regarding what steps parents might take should they be unhappy with the officer that has been appointed to them.
The legislation also states that “these meetings are an opportunity for local authorities to discuss the education provided and any support the family may need.” I’m unconvinced that any officer who can issue a school attendance order will be confided in about any potential issues a family may be facing. Especially as some home educators have already faced years of lack of support prior to home educating. I feel it will have a detrimental effect on relationships between the LA and parents as we see is already happening.
Another aspect of the guidance that concerns me is the strengthening of LA powers to dictate the child’s education. There is huge value in play-based learning and allowing children greater autonomy about how and what they learn. I feel that although the WG legislation refers to the various approaches home educators can take there are some worrying statements within the document. For example, the points noted under “Suggested characteristics of a suitable and efficient education”. Whilst I don’t disagree that many of these are useful skills, I do disagree with LA officers judging whether my child is learning at a pace or in a way that aligns with their school focused beliefs as opposed to an approach that suits my individual child. There is such little understanding or acknowledgement of how children learn and go on to be successful without school.
Had my child been “assessed” at age 6 he may have been considered “behind” in his reading and writing. Fast forward to now, he’s almost 8 and is enthusiastically writing a novel and creating the characters using polymer clay having researched how to do this on his own. He’s thriving.
He will willingly share his passions with most people who have time to listen but he will be acutely aware of the imbalance of power that he is faced with because he is used to autonomy. Something that he doesn’t seem to have the right to according to the proposed legislation. The way in which the guidance is currently drafted, It’s a case of speak to the LA or your prevision will be deemed unsuitable and you will be issued with a school attendance order.
What makes home education appealing to many is the flexibility to meet their children’s needs. We put huge effort, time and finances into ensuring that we do this. Having a total stranger (trained in school education methods) judge whether home education provision is suitable for each individual based on a report and meeting is insulting.
I feel strongly that further consultation needs to take place before any changes are made to legislation as many home educators are unaware of the changes being proposed.
I am keen to know why the Government consider there is need for change to a system that already functions relatively effectively and has allowed some Local Authorities to improve engagement with home educating families and communities up until now?
I’m also keen to hear WG response to the two legal opinions submitted by David Wolfe QC in response to the last two consultations. These legal opinions emphasise the potential illegality of much of the guidance on the basis of human rights, the rights of the child, and data protection laws.
I would appreciate if you would respond to my concerns, as well as raising these issues with Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education.