Educational Freedom is under threat in the Isle of Man.

Educational Freedom is under threat in the Isle of Man.
 
by Voirrey Baugh
 
Educational Freedom is under threat in the Isle of Man. The Government here is on the verge of introducing monitoring of home educated families – this is directly discriminatory, breaches our human rights and potentially conflicts with new data protection legislation. We have common cause with the UK so please help us fund a legal opinion that will help fight this to the benefit of all British home educators.
 
The Isle of Man’s Government tag line is ‘freedom to flourish’, but nothing could be further from the truth for home educators on the island.
 
In 2008 a compulsory register was introduced, promoting increased scrutiny of educational freedom. Whilst the powers have been relatively limited despite compulsory registration, most recently the Department of Education, Sport and Culture (DESC) has upped the ante and are attempting to intervene and control home educators.
 
The Manx Home Education community is tiny, there are only 57 HE children on the entire island so why are the Government obsessed with monitoring and controlling the quality of the education given to these children?
 
There has never been a school attendance order issued, nor has there been problems with HE children going missing; we don’t have unregistered schools on the island. The Government has not even commissioned research into home education. Its impossible to be anonymous here, everybody knows each others business whether you want it that way or not.
 
Draft guidance, claimed to have been written in line with UK “best practice”, can be found here https://www.gov.im/…/elective-home-education-procedures-050… Several areas of great concern have been added by local civil servants and they can only be challenged by specialist legal opinion from a Human Rights Advocate.
 
This draft guidance was produce the Department of Education, Sport and Culture (DESC) working in private with several, well meaning, home educators. This approach has split opinion and lead to fragmentation within the community, which is not uncommon.
 
The guidance is fundamentally wrong; it will make it much easier for a child to come to the attention of the authorities for the wrong reasons and the family may then be kept under close monitoring until the child is sixteen.
 
Families who come to the attention of the authorities will have their human right to a private and family life curtailed for no obvious legal reason. This, understandably, invokes a feeling of fear amongst HE families.
 
Specifically these areas have been objected to
 
4.3 – annual notification. Why are home educators being singled out to annually update the department when the law applies equally to home educated and privately educated children? This does not happen with other government departments. The DESC will become aware when a child is no longer home educated when they leave the island, become 16 or go to school so the update is, in any case, pointless.
 
4.8 – mediation. The process outlined here is not mediation. Mediation can only take place between willing parties with an independent and qualified mediator. The proposal that the mediator is civil servant, local politician or home educator is ridiculous. None of these people are qualified to mediate and they could come to the mediation with a pre-determined view of what is right for your child.
 
7.1 – review and changes. There has yet to be any reassurance that the Department has dropped plans to change the existing legislation.
 
Appendix 1 – appearance. None of these ‘appearances’ are education criteria. They are also discriminatory as they single out home-educated children for special attention and make way for malicious reporting.
 
Appendix 2 – flowchart. Should the Department decide to investigate your provision and ultimately decide that a school attendance order is not required rather than leaving the family alone they will continue to ‘monitor the situation’. What does this mean? Will there be an endless loop of being watched, manipulated and having to answer to the DESC?
 
The legal opinion we are seeking is not to change the policy, the legal opinion aims to ensure that the DESC can’t ‘write whatever they want’.
 
It is designed to ensure that the law remains as it is and hopefully will ensure that we do not live in fear of the DESC resurrecting monitoring and other increases in their powers. If we carry on with the policy, even with changes – we will always have the threat of the DESC impeding on our freedom to choose our children’s education.
 
The policy says it will be regularly reviewed and the DESC have still not guaranteed that changes to legislation will be dropped. Other jurisdictions could choose to implement monitoring and our Education Minister has hinted he could copy their approach. We are trying to stop this now once and for all.
 
We are being pressured to adopt the draft guidance without question. This feels threatening worrying and our Government lacks a clear understanding of the legal issues surrounding home education.
 
I am in the process of setting up a crowd funding page, which I hope will be live on Monday16th
 
Thank you for your support,
 
Voirrey Baugh

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