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Open consultation on children not in school

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Call to action

On 2 of April, the Department for Education launched an open consultation on children not in school. The consultation is a follow-up to the Department for Education’s earlier consultation and call for evidence on elective home education which took place in 2018. The deadline for submitting a consultation response is 24 June 2019.

We urge our supporters to participate by responding to the consultation which has three parts to it. The first is a proposed register to be held by local authorities providing details of children who are not formally registered in a school maintained by a local authority or children who are otherwise not attending a ‘mainstream’ school. The second part deals with whether local authorities or the Department for Education should assist home schooling families seeking support. The third and final part of the consultation deals with various assessments made by the Department for Education relating to a proposed register.
 

Why this consultation matters

Christian Concern is greatly disturbed by any effort by the government to place restrictions or bureaucratic obstacles in front of families who wish to home educate or otherwise raise their children in accordance with their Christian faith. History shows that once government begins an incursion into the sphere of family life, in short order those powers are expanded.  The Department for Education’s equalities log, which forms part of the consultation documentation, makes clear that it sees one of the roles of the proposed register as being the oversight of families to ensure they are promoting contentious moral values to our children.

The consultation also seeks to regulate the ‘settings’ where education other than that taking place in schools, as recognised by the local authority, is taking place. The proposal would require proprietors of such ‘settings’ to maintain and store registers of attendance for possible state inspection. Such a register can easily pre-suppose burdensome oversight of faith-based programs, Sunday schools or para-church activities like Christian camps.

On the other hand, organisationally, we welcome the Department’s proposals to assist home schooling families on the condition that any such assistance would be facilitated only when the family initiates the request. Home education is part of the cultural and spiritual fabric of this nation and is worthy of support.

Currently there is an ideological battle being waged for the hearts and minds of our children, highlighted by the recent legislation of mandatory Relationships Education and Relationship and Sex Education. We ask our supporters to stand with Christian parents across this nation to protect our children and to defend our families and their right to educate their children in accordance with their Christian faith.
 

How you can help

To assist you in responding to the consultation, we have prepared some important points for you to consider to some of the key consultation questions:
 

1. Do you agree that local authorities should be obliged to maintain a register of children who are not registered at specified schools (those listed at paragraph 2.2) or being educated under s.19 arrangements?

  • The proposed register can lead to government overreach and the unnecessary and disproportionate surveillance of faith-based programs resulting from local authority scrutiny.
  • Through the Human Rights Act 1998, and Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK has adopted no less than 5 other international treaties requiring the government to respect the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own religious and philosophical beliefs.
     

2. And should such a register specify whether they are attending an educational setting (other than their own home) during school hours?

  • Questions about government intrusion into the moral upbringing of children have dominated news headlines in recent weeks as mass protests by parents over PSHE and RSE have become commonplace. More than 113,000 parents also signed a petition protesting the expansion of government involvement in the moral education of our children. Now is not the time to further expand the scope of government incursion into the scope of private family life, particularly because many parents have chosen alternative means of educating their children precisely because of their concerns over government-sponsored moral indoctrination.
  • The role of government should be to reclaim a healthy and vibrant family culture. Instead of trusting families however, it has increasingly and worryingly, taken on the parental mantle itself.
     

7. What views do you have on the sharing of data on an authority’s register with other local authorities and other agencies?

  • Unless a child protection plan is in place, there is no need for different local authorities to be sharing private data regarding how a family wishes to educate their child.
  • Why, where the ability of private entities to store data has been so radically restricted by the General Data Protection Regulation, should local government's ability to hold and share data be expanded at the same time?
  • Any sharing of private family data raises issues under Article 8 of the ECHR, as read into our domestic law vis-a-vis the Human Rights Act 1998, which requires further justification than that proposed in the consultation document.
     

12. Do you have any other comments on either the principle of registration or practical issues related to registration on the basis proposed?

  • The proposed register will have a chilling effect on freedom of thought, conscience and religion and will have negative consequences for both church autonomy and parental rights by potentially opening up church educational ministries in out-of-school settings for government scrutiny and inspection.
  • The state has a positive obligation to parents to respect their rights in how they wish to raise their children in accordance with their religious and philosophical convictions.
     

19. Do you agree with the general approach that the proprietors of settings providing education in school hours - other than specified types of school - should be under a duty to supply information to local authorities about any child in scope of the proposed register?

  • Punishments placed on proprietors of out-of-school educational settings will have a chilling effect on both parental rights and the number of such proprietors entering the sphere of education. 
  • Therefore, sanctions should be as narrowly tailored as possible. Christian ministries, faith-based initiatives or churches should not be subjected to government inspection or supervision.
     

25. Do you agree that there should be a statutory duty on local authorities to provide support on request to parents who educate children at home, of a type to be prescribed by the Secretary of State in regulations?

  • There are any number of valid reasons families choose to home school, among them religious and philosophical reasons. A system which supports home educating families who wish to have assistance from the Local Authority is not only good practice, it is also sound policy.
  • What is paramount, as with any form of education, is that in providing services to these families, the local authority respects the beliefs of the families in question and the way in which they wish to raise their children.
  • Providing families freedom in their educational choices, including home education, creates a positive obligation on government to provide access for home school graduates to enjoy all of the same opportunities as other students.
  • Support for home educating families is support for a better future for the United Kingdom and for a healthy family culture.
  • Studies in the United Kingdom evidence that approximately half of the families who home educate do so because of their dissatisfaction with maintained schools. Many others do so for reasons of faith. The government’s zeal for its equality agenda should never trump the rights of parents to raise their children in accordance with their own religious convictions.

 

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