Despite the present crisis distracting from its importance, the Welsh Databases Consultation still needs your response
What’s been said?
Given the radical changes in “normal” life at present, it is very easy to forget that lurking in the mists of a few weeks ago there are some very important proposals concerning HE which require the attention of the wider EHE community.
Of course, no one is quite sure how long the present crisis will last. It could well be that the effects of this medical emergency will disrupt political programmes for years to come. One possibility is that plans to introduce some form of registration and/or monitoring of electively home educating families could be put on hold for the foreseeable future. But then again, they might not be.
For now, the current Local authority education databases consultation is ongoing. The closing date is Wednesday, 22 April – less than three weeks away. Links to all the relevant documents are available on our Welsh Consultations page. Wherever you live we encourage you if at all possible to make time to respond to this consultation before it closes.
Our first Byte about responding to these proposals highlighted the internal contradictions in the main consultation document, especially as it sought to justify collecting data on children who are receiving a suitable education, in order to identify those who are not.
There are several other documents which should be read to enable an informed response. One of these is the Integrated Impact Assessment Summary. This seemingly answers just one question, “What action is the Welsh Government considering and why?” In many ways this document adds nothing to the main consultation document. The same faulty reasoning is regurgitated in both.
Space is too limited to detail all the flawed reasoning, so consider this paragraph from page three:
Ensuring children and young people receive an efficient and suitable fulltime education is a requirement on parents under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 as well as a right under the UNCRC, and will help to ensure children develop and reach their full potential, and reduce the chances of becoming NEET. The database will assist with the identification of children known to health services or independent schools but not known to local authorities. This will enable the LA to fulfil their duty to ensure all children in their area – including those they were unaware of – are receiving a suitable education.
The first clause correctly recognises that it is a child’s parents’ duty to ensure that they receive a suitable education. By the last sentence however, this responsibility has been transferred to the LA!
This muddled thinking is the foundation for these proposals and must be challenged in order to prevent a total state takeover of parental responsibilities.
There is also a lack of clarity in the above paragraph. The first sentence is long and therefore confused – it is not specified exactly what “will help ensure children…” The author also seems to have swallowed Graham Badman’s false assertion that a high percentage of EHE children end up on the NEET failure pile.
Why does it matter?
Unless parents actively resist this notion of state parenting, which is very different from the state stepping in as the parent of last resort, the state will inevitably seek to squeeze children into the dominant philosophical mould of the day.
To illustrate the danger of the Welsh Government’s proposals, consider for a moment the current national requirement that we all stay at home unless we have an approved reason to leave. It is every citizen’s responsibility to ensure that they comply with the legislation authorising such draconian demands, whether or not they agree with them. Our police forces have not been authorised to make unannounced visits to our homes to verify that all the residents are present, but they are authorised to penalise those who do not comply with the requirements.
There is however evidence that overzealous police officers are reinterpreting the requirements and falsely accusing people of breaking them. This has led one civil liberties group to comment, “Police spying on innocent members of the public with drones to shame them on social media is excessive. It’s not at all clear what police powers are being used to do this.” Lord Sumption, a retired senior judge, is similarly concerned. There is a very thin line between being a community governed by law and order and one which is a police state!
HE parents are all too familiar with LAs and their staff failing to properly understand education law. Consequently, officers demand more than they are legally empowered to do. The recent Home Truths report highlights how widespread this problem is in Scotland.
The legal opinion on the first Welsh consultation emphasised how misguided the Welsh government was in its understanding of Human Rights. The paragraph above from the Children Rights Impact Assessment, illustrates that the Education Minister and her staff continue in their erroneous assumptions.
The proposals for tracing children in Wales and monitoring the education being provided by parents, are not far removed from the police entering your home to check who’s there, and monitoring whether or not parents are feeding their children correctly.
What can I do?
First, don’t let the need to make your voice heard by responding to this consultation be erased by the unusual situation we are now living in. Use this period to read the relevant documents and make some form of response.
Right now “home schooling” and how to do it is in the forefront of many people’s minds. Use the opportunity not just to share your experience with family and friends who find themselves in uncharted waters, but also to explain your concerns about the relentless pressure there has been to treat home educating parents with mistrust. It’s a very good moment to explain to such folk that it is education which is compulsory, not “going to school”.