Isle of Man Education Bill Progressed at Short Notice

An important reminder that pressure on home education continues despite temporary reprieve in Wales

Update 30 June: The Bill was sent to a Committee Stage. The audio of the full morning session is available (starts at approximately 1hr 30 into the recording), it will be some time before Hansard’s written record becomes available. A brief report about the debate is available on the BBC’s website.

What’s been said?

The much delayed Isle of Man Education Bill has, with very little notice, been re-introduced. The all important Second Reading will take place in the House of Keys on Tuesday 30 June, with the sitting commencing at 10:00am.

The Island’s Department for Education, Sport and Social Care (DESC) has been the subject of criticism for its poor support for children sent home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Why does it matter?

A previous Byte analysed the impact of the breadth of measures being promoted, which go beyond the much criticised Soley Bill. It does appear that the proponents of home education monitoring have been able to use the Isle of Man as a discrete jurisdiction from which to progress plans that could then be taken up across the UK mainland.

Home Educators have been given very little time to react, making it difficult to lobby support amongst the Island’s twenty-three elected politicians.

At the Second Reading the whole Bill will be put to the vote and it may be approved, rejected or sent for further consideration by a committee. The debate will be about the principles of the Bill and whether to approve the measures as a whole.

Home Education may get a brief mention, but only if local home educators are able to react at short notice.

The key points that might come up are:

  • Families have the right to respect for private and family life under the Isle of Man Human Rights Act.
  • The Government has not presented any actual evidence that home education is a problem.
  • Similar proposals have just been shelved in Wales.

Significantly, the preceding Question Paper contains challenges to the Minister over the support for schooled children at home during the lockdown. This example comes from a strong proponent of monitoring:

“12. The Hon. Member for Ramsey (Mr Hooper) to ask the Minister for Education, Sport and Culture – What remote learning provision is in place for those children unable to attend a) primary and b) secondary school owing to shielding or other concerns; and how this provision will be monitored?”

This is an obvious opening for an argument to be advanced that conflates electively home educated children with those compulsorily home schooled during the pandemic.

An obvious response is that if the DESC is unable to support children whom it decides shall be educated at home, then it is equally unfit to interfere with children educated at home ‘otherwise’.

What can I do?

If you are an Isle of Man home educator, do not expect your politician to advance a detailed case on your behalf on Tuesday. Insist that your right to home educate privately is assured by the Isle of Man Human Rights Act and quote the Quinn Legal Opinion which concluded:

“For the above reasons, we have concluded that, as drafted, the Key Proposals set out above do not comply with Article 8(1), Article 9(1) or Article 14 of the ECHR. Available options to challenge any alleged breach of Convention rights, within the Bill, would include: (a) seeking to amend the Bill, prior to, or during, its consideration in Tynwald; or (b) if the Bill were to be enacted as drafted, for any person directly affected, claiming that he or she is or would be a “victim” of the alleged unlawful act, to bring proceedings against the DESC, under section 7(1) of the HRA seeking a declaration of incompatibility (under section 4(2)).” [Emphasis added]

If you live elsewhere, do take note that the desire to monitor and regulate home education continues despite the pandemic taking it out of mainstream news.

In February we urged readers to “recognise the significance of developments in the IoM for the direction of travel across these islands” and encouraged the whole of the EHE community to keep their eye on this situation, “aware of its potential to set a precedent for other authorities who would love to find justification to monitor HE.” Covid-19 has not changed anything in that respect.