When Kirsty Williams, Education Secretary for Wales, addressed the Plenary Session of the Welsh Assembly (Senedd) on January 30th of this year, Michelle Brown, UKIP-AM, questioned her about what IS ‘suitable education’…
I support the objective to ensure that children and young people who are being home-schooled receive a good, rounded education. You’ve said that you want to ensure that children receive a suitable education. It’s vital that the assessment of whether a child is receiving a suitable education is made fairly and that ‘suitability’ is not a euphemism for ‘state approved’. The essence of home-schooling for many parents is that the parent has the ability to decide curriculum and pace for their child. Recognition therefore needs to be given to parents’ right to decide the contents of their child’s education. It’s key that parents who home-school their children have a full voice in the development of the assessment criteria and a means of challenging a local authority’s assessment of the education being provided to their child.
What shocked and appalled me was the uninformed and rambling response from Williams. This transcript makes her words seem much more logical than they were in fact. But you can discover that for yourself by watching, Senedd TV (3:54:21)…
This is not about imposing a curriculum on our home-educating parents, but there is already existing legislation in Wales that says that every child has the right to a suitable education. Now, you’re quite right, there are probably many different views around this Chamber about what constitutes a suitable education, but I’m sure we could all agree that ensuring that a child is literate and ensuring that a child is numerate are the basic building blocks that any person needs to go on to fulfil their potential and to live successfully, and I don’t think that’s about imposing a state-run curriculum on a child. But those skills that I believe are necessary are the ones that we’ll be focusing on.
Ms. Williams seem totally unaware that there exists in CASE LAW a well-established definition of ‘suitable education’. One which is contrary to most of what she said that day and proposes to implement across Wales.
I am appalled at the state of an education system which would not have given Ms. Williams the basic foundation of rhetoric and debate to anticipate and prepare for just such a question.
Ms. Williams, if you are proposing to regulate ‘suitable education’, then you da$£ sure owe it to the home education community, parents and #LittleHumans to know off the top of your head what that has been defined as in case law.
You should also be familiar enough with your job as a member of the Welsh Assembly to understand the legislative and judiciary systems enough to know what it is and is NOT within your powers to do.
To be clear…there are TWO ways to change case law…
- To bring further cases…in an attempt to clarify grey areas. This takes years, millions of ££££s, and quite frankly given the clear and long standing nature of existing case law on this matter…it is unlikely to be successful.
- Make new LAW. Law…not guidelines. Lord Soley in England does seem to get this one. Guidelines, statutory or non-statutory, are meant only to provide guidance to parties on how to meet their obligations under existing law and case law.
Of course, it could be argued…and perhaps that is Ms. Williams’ intent…that Welsh devolution sets precedent. When Wales devolved from England and the UK in 1999, it took as its own existing laws. The alternative would have been tabula rasa, blank slate, and utter chaos to pass new laws on everything. Perhaps there is some ambiguity in Ms. Williams and the minds of others whether that transfer includes case law. But once again that falls under item 1 above…a prolonged, expensive, and uncertain future in the courts.
The non-statutory guidance issued only a year ago is already being abused and stretched by Local Authorities (LAs) to bully and intimidate home educators who are unfamiliar with their rights under EXISTING law and case law.
Having once been a victim of such an LA (not in Wales to be fair), I informed myself on this topic and have…and will continue to…defend my provision for my #LittleHuman under the definition of ‘suitable education.’
I am sad to say though that it is not just Ms. Williams who is unfamiliar with the definition of ‘suitable education’. In my recent dealing with the home education community, I have discovered that one reason why LAs are able to intimidate and bully many parents is that they too do not understand what is ‘reasonably expected’ of them under the law and case law.
I think that any discussion and celebration of our accomplishments as home educators such as #100DaysOfHomeEd would be incomplete without some regard to this important matter…for BOTH sides.
Over the course of this coming week, I am going to do just that. Look at what the law…and case law says…and then defend my own unconventional #RadiCoolUnschooling against that standard…probably with a generous dose of UNCRC and European law thrown in for good measure.