The Welsh Government faces a backlash over its draft Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities amidst claims it could trample the rights of parents.
Two home education charities have written to a Welsh Assembly Committee citing a legal opinion that describes the draft proposal as “unlawful”, and outlining wider concerns around the consultation process.
A consultation on the proposal, which would change the way local authorities interact with home educating families, closed last month.
Protecting Home Education Wales has written to the Chair of the Welsh Assembly Children’s Committee Lynne Neagle AM asking her to “demand the Welsh Government to withdraw the Guidance”.
A letter from the charity made public this week cites legal advice from David Wolfe QC, a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel. It describes how the current draft guidance overlooks the rights of parents.
According to the QC, the guidance suggests incorrectly that meetings with families and children are mandatory, and that local authorities should insist on seeing a child without its parents.
The legal opinion states that the draft guidance fails to recognise the Government’s obligations under the Human Rights Act. It says: “if the matters set out above are adopted in the final guidance following consultation, then that final guidance will mis-state or misunderstand the law and so be unlawful”.
A second letter by charity Education Otherwise also cites the legal opinion and lists further concerns over the guidance.
The group claims that data-sharing provisions in the draft guidance would “ride rough shod over home educating families’ rights to have their data protected”. There is to be a separate consultation covering information exchange.
And they allege that some local authorities are “contacting home educating families and purporting to apply the current draft guidance” despite it merely being a draft.
The Welsh Government is yet to comment on the legal opinion or other concerns raised by the groups.
Launching the consultation on the guidance earlier this year, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said:
“This statutory guidance will help local authorities to support families who decide to home educate their children, while reinforcing the levers available to local authorities where a suitable education is not being provided.”