Freedom of Information Request – Lord Soley and AEHEP

What’s been said?

A few days after the Second Reading of Lord Soley’s Bill Lancashire County Council received a FOI request to “Please provide a copy of all communications (if any) specific to the Home Education bill from or to your local authority between 2016 – 2017.” On 5January 2017, LCC responded with 18 documents containing numerous emails. A few days later Fiona Nicholson, published the information in chronological order. She lists 36 documents dated 4 September- 20 December 2017. Her list is lengthy and requires careful consideration. In this post we highlight the contact between Lord Soley and members of the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals committee.

Why does it matter?

AEHEP was launched in Westminster on 26 February 2015 by Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the Education Select Committee at the time. He had supported the home educating community in standing against the Badman Report. According to Fiona Nicholson’s notes on the meeting he emphasised “the recommendation of the Select Committee for the formation of a national body to share good practice” and that the “terms of reference… include supporting parents and achieving a common understanding of the law.” Emphasis added because members of the EHE community are unaware of AEHEP having made any progress in either regard.

It is very difficult to find out what AEHEP has been doing since then. It has no website of its own, nor can any contact details be found by an internet search. [Not to be confused with the AEHEP on Facebook, where the P stands for “Parents”.] Just a few links exist where LA staff have cited AEHEP to their employers – including Barking and Dagenham, Hampshire and Somerset.

In his report to Somerset CC, John Riches (Service Manager, Education Welfare Service) wrote, “The Service Manager for the Education Welfare Service is now a member of the Executive Committee of the AEHEP which is lobbying government to review existing legislation.” The following month, Greg Vaughan (Manager, Education Statutory Services) informed B&D Council that AEHEP, “is an organisation which intends to bring uniformity to EHE working practices across the country through training events and sharing of good practice.” No mention of supporting parents in either of these, but it seems that by late 2016 the AEHEP committee considered itself to be a lobby group seeking to advance its own objectives through changes in law and through training of LA staff.

There are 12 references to AEHEP in the emails between Lord Soley and the professionals he consulted over his Bill, demonstrating that they are working with him to ensure his proposals are accepted into law. You will remember that in introducing his Bill, the noble Lord said he wanted to remove “check on a child’s physical and emotional development” from its title and content. Why was this? Could it be because in an email from H D dated 12 November he was informed, “The general view of the executive of the AEHEP is that words ‘physical and emotional’ could be left out not least because this will distract and allow the EHE lobby to be critical.

What can I do?

We are aware that some home educating parents have been shocked to discover through this FoIR that their LA EHE officer, while appearing to be supportive of them, has been in correspondence with Lord Soley helping him shape his Bill! Why not put in a similar request to your local authority asking if any of its staff have been in contact with him. We know from this FoIR that he has met with the AEHEP committee twice.

Please let us know if you do and please keep coming back to this website for further responses to developments relevant to EHE.