Isle of Man – Guinea Pig for Registration & Monitoring of Home Education in Britain?

What’s been said?

In the autumn of 2017 the Isle of Man [IoM] government consulted on major changes to EHE in a proposed new Education Bill. Following this, new EHE procedures were expected, but never materialised. Instead, sweeping changes to all education law including EHE have emerged in another public consultation on a new Education Bill closing 20 March 2019.

Why does it matter?

All IoM legislation is cleared by the UK authorities before gaining Royal Assent. The IoM has previously led the way with new law and could be the first British jurisdiction to succeed in fundamentally changing EHE law, so this matters to all British home educators.

The IoM has legally required home educators to register since 2009, and the penalty for not doing so carries a maximum penalty of a £1,000 fine.

Current legislation mirrors that in England as “pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents” and “It is the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”, with enquiries only able to commence “if it appears” that a child is not in receipt of a “suitable education”.

The new Bill sweeps these provisions away. Education “otherwise” is replaced by a Parental Duty saying 62 (1) “Each parent of a child of compulsory school age must ensure that the child receives suitable education, whether or not by regular attendance at a school” and that parents should only 6 (3)(e) “have a reasonable degree of influence over the kind of education”. The enforcement provision “If it appears” has been replaced by 65 (1) “If the Department suspects”.

“Education otherwise” is thus effectively done away with, and the legal way cleared 78(1) for all EHE children to be assessed. The Department proposes to:

  • Assess the child’s work

  • Interview the child

  • Interview the child’s parent

  • Require the parent to supply unlimited personal information

Home education is further defined by clause 65(2), saying that guidance can include provision for:

  • Educational outcomes (including but not limited to examinations and qualifications)

  • Educational methods and processes

This is very similar to Soley’s English proposals, but would also include guidance on: “Opportunities for social interaction and integration.”

Shockingly, the maximum new penalty for not complying with a school attendance order has risen from a £1,000 fine to £10,000 or a 6 months prison sentence.

This means that a simple refusal to have a child interviewed or to provide any information demanded by the authority could result in a parent being jailed.

If this new draft legislation is passed by the IoM and approved by the UK authorities, the bar will be lowered and a precedent established allowing the rest of Britain to follow suit.

The IoM is being draconian not only with EHE – the Bill also seeks to control all private education, however delivered. There are 8 new criminal offences for which a 6 months custodial sentence may be served. This Bill is an idealogical clamp-down on all non state-provided education.

What can I do?

What happens with this Bill in the Isle Man matters to home educators across Britain, so it behoves us all to take an interest in it. Time is short; the IoM Government wants to introduce it in April and it could become law in July. You could support home educators in the IoM by:

  • Responding to the public consultation, which will accept and publish anonymous submissions from outside the IoM.

  • Bringing this Byte to the attention of home educators you know, alerting them to this fundamental threat to home education everywhere in Britain

  • Consider making a donation to this “Protect All Home Education Rights” crowdfunding appeal – some home educators in the IoM are planning a legal challenge to the Bill, but need financial support to do so.

More information including links to original web pages, resources to help with responding to the consultation, and other material is available on a dedicated page in our Reference section.