The Draft Policy on Elective Home Education published by the five Education and Library Boards would give sweeping new powers to the Boards:
- entry into the home without suspicion of wrongdoing
- powers to question children
- delays over deregistration from school
- parents requiring permission to home educate
- control over the form and content of the education provided
The policy as published represents a serious assault on parental choice and effects a fundamental change to the relationship between parent, child and state.
To create such powers would require primary legislation.
In law, parents have a duty to provide their children with an education “suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise” (Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 SI 1986/594, Section 45). The Education and Library Board’s duty is purely reactive
“1(1) Where it appears to a board that a parent of a child of compulsory school age in its area is failing to perform the duty imposed on him by article 45(1) , the board shall ...” (Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 SI 1986/594, Schedule 13).
Without the appearance of parental failure the Boards have no duty or power whatsoever in this area.
The Education and Library Boards cannot legislate, they must not be allowed to determine their own duties and powers. The proposed measures in the draft Elective Home Education Policy for Northern Ireland should not be implemented since such measures would remove the right of parents to chose the form of education for their children, and would therefore, in effect, make it impossible for parents to be responsible for the education of their children.
We call on the Education and Library Boards to act within their legal powers, and on the Minister to ensure that they do so.