Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education
This statement is to update Members on the proposed consultation on the draft database regulations, the timescales for publishing the final statutory guidance for local authorities on home education and the coming into force date for the database regulations.
Members will be aware our consultation on new statutory guidance for local authorities on home education ran between 29 July and 25 October 2019. This generated 471 responses. The responses came from a diverse range of stakeholders, including statutory agencies, such as local authorities and the health sector, education stakeholders, home education organisations and home educators. We will be publishing a high level analysis of the consultation on the statutory guidance in the new year.
I am genuinely pleased so many stakeholders took part in the consultation and to see the breadth of views expressed. It is clear from the detail of the responses that this involved considerable time and effort, and I recognise that it also reflects the strength of feeling that exists on some of the issues. However, because a significant number of the many responses also raised complex technical, policy and legal matters which require careful consideration, we need to ensure the final guidance and the draft regulations fully take these into account. Therefore, I have decided to extend the timescales for consultation on the draft database regulations, the publication of the statutory guidance for local authorities on home education and the coming into force date for the regulations.
The 12 week consultation on the draft regulations will take place early in the new year. During the consultation period, we will hold facilitated stakeholder events, details of which will be available in the new year and publicised on our website, via twitter and stakeholder organisations. The publication of the statutory guidance and coming into force date for the database regulations will be autumn 2020.
The consultation on the draft guidance has clearly demonstrated the heightened sensitivities and emotive nature of any proposals regarding home education. In particular, matters related to data protection and human rights were prominent amongst responses from home educators. We have taken the time to frame the consultation document on the regulations to reflect these concerns, and to provide clarity on the data protection and human rights implications of the database regulations.
I am keenly aware of the depth of feeling amongst home educators about how some of them might be affected by our guidance and regulations in this area. I take these concerns seriously. At the same time, I have to balance these concerns with the views of local authorities and other stakeholders, who have shared reasonable expectations that the statutory guidance and regulations will ensure all children in Wales receive a suitable education. I acknowledge the revised timescales may disappoint some stakeholders but I am confident my decision to take more time to consider the views shared with us during the consultations, is the right decision. I believe that to not do so would in fact undermine the very purpose of consulting properly.
We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders and delivery partners to ensure we have statutory guidance and regulations that are fit for purpose, reasonable and proportionate. In addition, prior to final publication of the guidance and coming into force for the regulations, they will be subject to robust processes and scrutiny, such as a data protection impact assessment, integrated impact assessment and a regulatory impact assessment, to ensure both are lawful.
I would like to thank all respondents for taking the time to submit their views on the draft statutory guidance for local authorities on home education. I look forward to receiving stakeholder views on the draft regulations, and I want to assure respondents that the Welsh Government will take the time to give due consideration to each and every response received during both consultations.