Home education parents win judicial review to challenge Portsmouth City Council's 'aggressive' approach

PARENTS who criticised Portsmouth City Council's home education policy have been granted a judicial review to challenge its approach.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:48 pm
Home educators protesting about government changes to home education in 2018, at an event at Portchester Castle. Bryony de Vries and Victoria Campbell are pictured

Portsmouth Home Educators first threatened legal action earlier this year and said the council had only become ‘more aggressive’ in issuing school attendance orders since then.

Having raised £37,000 through a fundraising campaign, the group has now been granted a full hearing next month to challenge its approach after a High Court judge said it was 'arguably unfair'.

‘There is a substantial issue to be determined about the basis upon which decisions are made generally by the local authority and the scope of the requirements lawfully placed on families to demonstrate the provision of home schooling,’ Mrs Justice Foster ruled.

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It was also agreed to put in place an order capping the group's legal costs at £35,000.

Only two local authorities had issued school attendance orders to more than one per cent of home educated children, according to charity Education Otherwise. As of January, the city council had done so to nine per cent.

And Portsmouth Home Educators said ‘at least’ 14 more had been issued since then ‘without any clear justification’.

Group admin Vicky Campbell, who has been teaching her 10-year-old child at home for five years, said the council was ‘attacking’ people rather than working to support them.

‘We’re thrilled that the judge has put our case forward for a full judicial hearing,’ she said. ‘However, it saddens us that we were forced to bring legal action in the first place.

‘We just want the council to be reasonable and take our point of view into account.’

A spokesman for Education Otherwise added: ‘If Portsmouth City Council was confident in its position, it would have welcomed judicial examination of its actions, not sought to prevent home educating families from challenging those actions.’

The hearing is due to take place on Monday, October 18 in Bristol. A ruling could either be made at the hearing or at a later date.

A council spokesperson said: ‘The local authority (LA) has a statutory duty under the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to establish if a child is receiving a suitable education. In cases where it appears to the LA that a child is not receiving a suitable education, the LA has a duty to issue a notice requiring the parent to satisfy the LA that a suitable education is taking place. A judicial review is taking place on October 18 to challenge our approach. We do not wish to make any further comment until after the hearing.’