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Elective Home Education - DCSF Guidelines for Local Authorities Nov 2007

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 12 years ago

Please add your comments/edit this page.

 

related: Local Authority responses to the consultation on EHE guidelines.

 

See the AHEd members letter to the Ministers warning that the guidelines are in contention 

 


 

 

Guidelines Consultation

 

On 29th November 2007, the DCSF published their delayed "Elective Home Education - Guidelines for Local Authorities" document, after receiving 919 responses to  their public consulation.

 

The results of the consulation can be read here

 

The finalised publication can be read here 

 

Analysis and comment

 

The consultation received 919 responses.

 

The organisational breakdown of respondents was as follows:

 

 

 

Home educator                                                 631

 

Other*                                                              102

 

Local authority                                                    91

 

Young Person who is/was home educated         59

 

Organisation representing home educators       36

 

 

 

*Those which fell into the ‘other’ category included prospective home educators, organisations involved in or supporting home education, relatives of home educators, consultants and those who did not specify a category.

 

Home educators have questioned the involvement of some respondents as stakeholders in this consultation. Local Authorities are not stakeholders in elective home education; teachers' unions are not stakeholders in elective home education; NASWE is a body with declared aims representing a vested prejudicial interest against elective home education. We believe that the involvement of bodies such as NASWE and safeguarding boards who disseminate hearsay and rumour about home education being a high risk area for child abuse, including influencing local authorities in nine regional networks, has further developed a hostile environment in government circles against home education and that these have an undue influence on consultation responses and policy development.

 

First reaction from home educators reading the new guidelines has been that results are not as bad as they would have been if we had not had a large input and given that we had to fight hard to try to prevent the consultation that was planned to clamp down on home education. Home educators had been excluded from the previous consultation that consulted predominantly with LAs and resulted in proposals for radical tightening of the law via changes to the legal framework to remove or severely restrict traditional educational freedoms in the UK.

 

The community whose lives are affected by these guidelines has been consulted only once on a draft guidance. They have been consulted along with bodies whose interest is to restrict elective home education and even to remove many traditional freedoms so that they can be replaced with a dictatorial regime of prescription, monitoring and general imposition. Their comments have been taken and completed guidelines published with no further opportunity to comment.

 

Home educators have worked hard to gain a voice in these consultations affecting their freedoms and the wellbeing of their children alongside hostile forces. Despite relief at achieving this and mitigating the results, there is no doubt that there are problems with the new guidance and that these will have serious adverse effects for some families.

 

Some Problems

 

Introduction:

 

No where, that I can find in the document, is it stated that home education is a choice that is equally valid with schooling. Sadly, this is often not understood by local authority officials. It is merely stated in the ministerial foreword that the government "recognises" that parents have the right to choose to educate their child at home "rather than at school." This is grudging in tone.

 

Part two:

 

2.7

 

"Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis."

 

Local authorities have no statutory duty in relation to monitoring the quality of home education at all. There is no statutory duty to monitor. There is the right to make informal enquiries to see if there is an appearance of failure to fulfil the parental duty in section seven of the Education Act 1996. As it stands this section is likely to lead local authorities to believe they should monitor the quality of home education, but not routinely. It is therefore confusing.

 

Currently this paragraph is not clear enough that there is no duty to monitor home education.

 

2.15

 

 

"As outlined above, local authorities have general duties to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (section 175 Education Act 2002 in relation to their functions as a local authority and for other functions in sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004). These powers allow local authorities to insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern (sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989). However, such powers do not bestow on local authorities the ability to see and question children subject to elective home education in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education."

 

This paragraph is too open to misinterpretation allowing local authorities to insist on seeing children illegitimately because it is vague about grounds for concern. The paragraph should have quoted the words of the children act which are, "reasonable cause to suspect that a child ... is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm." It is from long and painful experience that AHEd members believe that some local authorities will purposely ignore the "significant harm" requirement and say they have "grounds for concern" - such as wondering for no good reason, if the child is being abused because no-one at the LA offices has had sight of them. Section 11 of the Children Act is not relevant where section 175 of the Education Act applies.

 

In order to be acceptable to home educators and to avoid the appearance of incitement to pursue unreasonable "concerns" the section should be amended to include the wording suggested above. However, in the context of guidelines on elective home education, it could appear that this section emphasises potential child welfare concerns related to home education, especially as the document does not state that home education is equally valid in law with schooling, and does not state that the decision to home educate is not grounds for concern about child welfare. This paragraph therefore requires urgent attention so as not to support the harrassment of home educating families through child protection procedures.  

 

Currently this section is not acceptable.

 

Part Three:

 

3.6

 

This paragraph assumes home visits to be the norm and suggests alternatives.

 

It remains to be seen whether this causes problems given the traditional preference of LAs for home visits including misrepresentation of home visits as required. DCSF reported that the consultation responses included the complaint of local authoritis that the guidelines should make provision for home educators to comply with their requests for a home visit and some recourse for the LA where families "refuse."

 

Currently this section is likely to cause problems.

 

3.8

 

This paragraph encourages head teachers to inform the local authority that a child may be educated at home before they receive the letter of deregistration from the parent. This can only happen if the parent forewarns the school that they intend to home educate but have not yet sent a letter of deregistration to the school. We think this demonstrates bad faith toward enquiring parents seeking guidance about deregistration but who have not yet deregistered their children from school with the purpose of home educating them. (section 3.7) We do not believe this will result in "constructive and positive" relations.

 

The section is also confusing as it instructs schools not to wait for a deregistration letter before they notify the local authority about the impending deregistration but that this must be as soon as the grounds for deletion are met. The grounds for deletion are that the school has received a letter of deregistration because the child is being home educated.

 

It remains to be seen whether this period of notification (before the parent has notified the school of home education taking place and so requesting deregistration but after enquiring about deregistration,) results in pressure on new or potential home educating families further eroding the relations between families and local authorities.

 

This section is likely to cause problems. 

 

 

3.10

 

This paragraph incites local authorities to persuade parents to inform the authority of their home education decision. Schools are obliged to inform the local authority of children deregistered from their schools. In the case of deregistration for the purpose of home education, schools must inform the local authority immediately. Parents should not be put under pressure to fulfil the duty of the schools for them.  

 

3.12

 

"Schools must not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home as a way of avoiding an exclusion or because the child has a poor attendance record. In the case of exclusion, they must follow the statutory guidance. If the pupil has a poor attendance record, the school and local authority must address the issues behind the absenteeism and

use the other remedies available to them."

 

There have been cases of local authorities seeking to hide information about home education when dealing with  families. See, for example, Manchester gagging policy. Full and appropriate information about educational options open to families should be provided to all parents, including when there is a problem with school attendance and families are reconsidering all the available options. There must be no conspiracy to conceal options from parents and children.  

 

This section appears to encourage schools and local authorities to persist with existing procedures of coercion and punishment rather than propose an alternative that could actually help children. It should be replaced with a statement that schools and LAs must ensure that where children are experiencing difficulties, their parents are aware of all the legitimate alternatives open to them, including home education. This would be in line with a legal duty to broaden information (section 4.5.)

 

Currently this section is not satisfactory.

 

3.14

 

This paragraph includes examples of responses to informal enquiries that is narrow and specific. We believe this will not be used flexibly by authorities. This is potentially problematic. However, in addition there is an unjustifiable assumption, not supported in law, that monitoring must take place. The section therefore encourages local authorities to develop ultra vires policies and practice.

 

Local authorities do not have a duty to assess home education. It is the duty of local authorities to act where there is an appearance of failure to provide a suitable education. Parents are responsible to ensure the provision of a suitable education to their child.

 

The list of possible forms information provided in response to general enquiries contradicts the list in section 3.6 and is too specific.

 

This section is unacceptable.

 

 

3.15

 

This paragraph was the subject of specific questioning in the consultation on guidelines.  Only 32% of respondents agreed with the list of characteristics of a suitable education that the LA may reasonably expect to observe present.  35% disagreed. Another 33% were unsure. Even DCSF have agreed in their consultation report that a majority of respondents disagreed with the list. The list of characteristics is included in the final guidelines. Why?

 

This section and has been judged as not accurate or helpful by respondents in consultation and should be removed.

 

The section is not acceptable.

 

 

Why a list is not acceptable:

 

Section seven of the Education Act 1996 gives a list of requirements for a suitable and efficient education saying that it must be suitable for the particular child. Any list of characteristics may not be suitable to a particular child. Covering all potentialities would seem an impossible task.

 

If a group of home educators were able to agree to a list of acceptable or apparently reasonable characteristics of home education in addition to that already specified in law, there is no guarentee that it will be suitable for every child in every case.

 

Therefore, it is wrong to produce a list that may be used to judge the educational provision to a child for whom that list is not appropriate when the law specifies that the education provided must be appropriate for the particular child.

 

To justify a list of generally agreeable characteristics the law would have to be amended to force a child to adapt to what is generally agreeable in preference to what is suitable for the specific needs of a particular child.

 

Why this list is not acceptable:

 

"consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers - it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education."

 

While this may be observable from parental response to enquiry, equally it may not. The law already provides that parents are responsible to fulfil section seven of the Education Act 1996 but, to satisfy this characteristic of the list of what is reasonable to expect to observe, families will have to subject their parenting decisions and private family arrangements to scrutiny by a public body in official enquiries. This contravenes the right to a private family life.

 

"recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations"

 

This is already a requirement of the education act in so far as the education provided must be suitable for the age, abilities and aptitudes and any special education needs of the child. It is questionable whether the attitudes and aspirations of the child should be a subject for official enquiry. This is not a legal requirement and is very open to differing subjective interpretations. The legal duty of the local authority is to act in the appearance of failure to provide a suitable education. Schools themselves show very little regard in the area of the wishes of children.

 

 

"opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences "

 

However this may or may not happen in schools, it is asking for an extra demonstration by home educators to account for this tick box requirement. It is also subjective and may be used to push a differing educational philosophy or method with parents taken to task for not demonstrating this aspect sufficiently in their responses to enquiries. This could be seen as an attempt to influence how parents should respond to enquiries.

 

For example, in schools the learning is managed by the (compulsory) curriculum designers who may try to work in an opportunity to be stimulated by artificially manufactured "learning experiences". The fact that the curriculum is designed remotely from all children requires that conscious attempts should be made to make it relevant if possible and to ensure that there are opportunities to be stimulated by the provision. This is not necessarily the case in home education provision and so cannot be included as an across the board requirement of families. In homes, it is often the child who designs or contributes to the curriculum, creating their own learning experiences. It is a silly addition in this list.

 

"access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults."

 

The resources should not be specified. Is it always reasonable to expect to see any specific resource item? None of the above mentioned items are compulsory subjects for home education, and each of them may not be relevant to a specific child at a specific time. Therefore to approach home educating families with a list in mind of what is reasonable to expect in terms of material provision is not reasonable, so long as the family can show that there is no appearance of their failure to provide what is suitable for the child in accordance with section seven of the education act. What is "appropriate interaction" will differ according to each individual child or circumstance.

 

It is important for parents to be able to respond to enquiries from their local authority with reference to their own philosophy, methods and circumstances and according to the needs and abilities of their own child; not with reference to an imposed list of expectations from the local authority.  

 

 

3.16

 

This paragraph follows the list, in section 3.15, of what the local authority can "reasonably expect" to see in home education provisions, with advice about what the authority should do if it considers that a suitable education is not being provided. This tranforms the list into a list of requirements and encourages local authorities to view provision as not suitable if it does not tick all these boxes of what is considered reasonable to expect.

 

paragraph 3.16, provided in conjunction with 3.15, is not acceptable.

 

Part Four:

 

4.2

 

"Whilst there is no legal obligation on local authorities or home educators to develop such relationships, doing so will often provide parents with access to any support that is available and allow authorities to better understand parents’ educational provision and preferences. A positive relationship will also provide a sound basis if the authority is required to investigate assertions from any source that an efficient and suitable education is not being provided."

 

While it acknowledges that home educators may not wish to build a relationship with the local authority, this section looks like a threat that things may go better for them if they do, should there be a complaint against the family, or that they will receive preferential treatment if wishing to access any support that may be available. This places home educators under duress to develop potentially unwanted relationships out of fear. All home educators should be treated fairly and equally and there should be no implied threat and no implication of preferential treatment for home educators who agree to build positive relationships. All functions of the local authority should be carried out in a fair and legal manner regardless of whether the parents have chosen to develop a relationship with the authority. Many parents may not wish to develop these relationships. Any support or services available to parents should be available on request to any parent and not selectively withheld. However, the most common experience reported by home educators is that there is no support from the local authority.

 

This section is unacceptable.

 

4.5

 

" ... From April 2008 local authorities will have a legal duty to broaden the information they make available to parents to support their children."

 

Guidelines must state a duty on LAs to inform all parents of their right to home educate alongside any information about schooling, in order that it should be full and relevant rather than prejudicial and partial as is currently the case. This should be specifically stated.

 

This section is incomplete

 

4.6

 

" ... the parents and the authority should consider and agree what future contact there will be between them, recognising that in many instances such contact might be beneficial but is not legally required.

 

Thus paragraph promotes continued contact and implies that it may be legally required. There is no monitoring duty on the LA. This paragraph supports the belief that LAs should monitor home education provision in many instances.

 

4.7

 

"The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community."

 

This paragraph implies that there is cause for concern about the welfare and protection of all children. This is manifestly untrue. The welfare and protection of children is the duty and responsibility of families. The state and community has a role where there is an appearance of failure and cause for concern. There is no general cause for concern or investigation.

 

4.9

 

"Paragraph 2.12 to 2.15 details local authorities’ duties to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children."

 

These paragraphs point out that the duties don't extend LAs' power in respect of EHE. AHEd is concerned that this section will encourage LAs to misinterpret paragraphs 2.12-15 as conferring a duty to monitor EHE for welfare purposes.

 

This section is not acceptable

 

Part Five:

 

5.9

 

"Education Maintenance Allowance is an income tested weekly allowance available to learners over the age of 16 as an incentive to stay on in education at school or college after GCSEs. It is not available to learners whose parents elect to home educate them after the age of 16.''

 

While large parts of the guidance draft were drawn from the Scottish Home Education Guidelines, this policy is not. In Scotland the Education Maintenance Allowance is a benefit for all young people who stay in education after the age of 16 years. Elective home education is recognised as an equally valid choice along with the option to choose schooling. In England this is not the case. Home education is increasingly and specifically being treated as an unequal and even suspect choice in the way English authorities carry out their duties. Not only are home educated young people excluded from EMA, but they are currently also being denied access to NHS benefits to which they are entitled because new arrangements for claiming exclude the category of home education, which the department has failed to deal with despite being informed early in 2007. July promises have come to nothing so far.  In addition to these abuses, home educated children are liable to be stopped, questioned and required to justify their presence in public places in school hours by truancy officials and police, despite a ministerial promise committing the government to ensure that home educated children were not adversely affected by a law that does not apply to them. Children have been detained, harassed, removed from their lawful business to another place and routinely disbelieved even in the presence of credible witnesses as to their status and required to submit personal details for checking. EMA is withheld from young people who are home educated. Home educators experience this as a slight and an unfair punitive measure confirming the instutionalised prejudice and discrimination of the DCSF against the parental choice of elective home education. A choice that is simply and grudgingly,  "recognised."

 

As EMA currently functions, it is a pure bribe and behavior modification technique to ensure the attendance of young people in further education. In that case it is an Attendance Maintenance Allowance that has little or nothing to do with the further education of young people. To further prop up the attendance requirement, a policy of compulsory education and training is currently being developed with sanctions for non compliance.

 

Home educators are opposed to policies of discrimination and prejudice against young people who are electively home educated. Home educators are therefore opposed to the denial of EMA to home educated young people.

 

 

5.10

 

Truancy and the home educating family:

 

the history of truancy measures is a history of betrayal and broken ministerial promises to home educators resulting in their persecution including restriction of free movement and association. It is an indication of the disregard that the department has for the rights and freedoms of home educators that they have failed to properly guide authorities as to the law and specifically forbid practices which are harmful and that we have appraised them of, such as the removal of children from a public when provided with evidence that they are home educated and other similar abuses.

 

....

 

Home educators are further betrayed and mistreated by the failure of the DCSF to use this opportunity to properly represent our freedoms and to halt the catalogue of abuse and harrassment experienced by home educators because of truancy measures. The fact that these guidelines simply refer the reader to another document and do not do anything to stop the abuses of which the department have been made aware, is a further indication of prejudice and discrimination against home educators. The truancy patrols and programmes of public interrogations of the population must be ceased. The harassement and removal of children who are not breaking any law must be ceased.

 

Summary:

 

In conclusion, the guidelines produced by the DCSF

 
do not state that home education is an equally valid choice with schooling and appears negative and grudging about the existence of this choice
 
are misleading about the duty to monitor home education, not stating clearly that there is no such duty
 
dangerously fail to quote the proper wording about grounds for child welfare concerns leaving home educators vulnerable to authorities pursuing unreasonable or trivial concerns through social services
 
normalise and legitimise home inspection regimes
 
encourage the creation of delay in deregistration procedures and premature notification where parents have sought the advice of the school but have not yet deregistered a child
 
encourage authorities to pressurise parents by inciting them to persuade parents to inform the authority of their home education decision
 
encourages schools to conceal options from parents and children
 
provide narrow and specific examples about parental choices
 
have included a list of required characteristics of home education provision with which the majority of consultation respondents disagreed
 
encourage local authorities to judge a provision unsuitable if it does not meet characteristics that are not a legal requirement
 
imply preferential treatment for home educators seeking to access services if they have a "positive relationship" with the local authority
 
imply additional difficulties for home educators under investigation if they have not developed a "positive relationship" with the local authority 
 
confirm institutionalised prejudice and discrimination against home educated young people by the continued denial of their right to EMA
 
fail to address the long standing betrayal and abuse of home educators meeting truancy officials in spite of being well informed of the difficulties they have already undergone
 
encourage, in preference, the incitement to truancy officials to harrass and abuse us and our children
 
far from promoting relationships "rooted in mutual understanding, trust and respect" the guidelines, many recommendations assume monitoring is necessary/advisable/valuable,  and are therefore likely to promote mutual misunderstanding, mistrust and contempt
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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