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Liberty Letter

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago





Ahh, Liberty, formerly the Council for Civil Liberties, and a liberty is what they're taking with their home ed guidelines...


from their page on compulsory education;



Compulsory Education


Children over the age of five and under the age of 16 are of compulsory education age and they must receive full time education. Parents are required to ensure that a child receives efficient full-time education suitable to his or her age, ability and aptitude and to ensure that any special educational needs are met by attendance at school or otherwise. Parents may educate children at home or engage a private tutor, but the LEA must be satisfied that the education is of a sufficiently high standard. If the LEA thinks that a child is not attending school and is not receiving a suitable education elsewhere the LEA may serve on the parents a notice requiring them to satisfy the LEA that this is not the case. Where the parents fail to respond to this notice, the LEA can serve a School Attendance Order (SAO) requiring the parents to register the child at a named school. Parents must be given notice of the LEA’s intention to serve this order and the named school must not be one from which the child has been excluded. Parents can try to have the child admitted to another school other than the one named in the order.


The SAO lasts while the child is of compulsory school age unless it is repealed by a court order. Where a parent fails to comply with the SAO he or she can be prosecuted before a Magistrates’ Court and can be fined up to £1000. In addition the Magistrates’ Court may also make a Parenting Order if it thinks that this would prevent further offences. This order can only last twelve months but may be quite expansive because it can require a parent to take measures specified in the order to avoid further truancy. The parent is also required to attend counselling for not more than three months. Breach of the parenting order is itself punishable by a fine of up to £1,000. Where a parent knows that a child is not attending school and fails to take steps to make the child attend, the parent can be fined up to £2500 or imprisoned for not more than three months. A court which has convicted a parent for a failure to comply with a SAO can direct the LEA to apply for an Education Supervision Order. The LEA does not have to do this but it must tell the court why it has chosen not to make an application.


The purpose of an Education Supervision Order is to guide parents and children to ensure that the children receive a satisfactory education. The Department of Health has issued guidance on the use of Education Supervision Orders which last for up to one year initially, but may be extended for up to three years at a time. They cannot last beyond the point at which the child is no longer of compulsory school age.


(Especially dubious sections highlighted.)


So - it is letter time again:



Dear Liberty,


Action for Home Education (AHEd) members are concerned about the information on your website involving elective home education (http://tinyurl.com/2ra99l, Compulsory Education). It is, in several respects, inaccurate in its representation of the law, which we find particularly disturbing given the nature and ethos of your organisation. Your analysis of the legal position re compulsory education is neither "protecting civil liberties" nor "promoting human rights" of those families choosing an education otherwise than at a school. We are concerned that the page makes no reference to the provisions within the ECHR which protect freedom in education. The best protection our members have against oppressive and illegal government practice are the letter of the law and the ECHR. We are disappointed that, with the information presented on this page, Liberty seems to be selling us short. We hope that you will correct this matter and we offer below some useful legal information to that end.


As the law in England and Wales stands (Education Act 1996 (EA96) section 437), the local authority (LA) only has power to formally intervene if it has valid reason to suspect a failure to provide a suitable education. It has no power to pro-actively or routinely satisfy itself that the education is of a "sufficiently high standard". The local authority does not have any routine duties to intervene in the choice or practice by parents of elective home education; that choice and practice is the parent's civil liberty and the child's human right and is provided for in the Education Act 1996, section 7 and the ECHR, article 8. For example, there is no requirement for parents to inform the authority that they are home educating, though they must inform any school at which their child is registered, if they are removing them from that school for the purpose of home educating (Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006). The only exception to this is "where a child has, under arrangements made by a local education authority, become a registered pupil at a special school"; in those instances the parent must seek consent from the local authority to remove their child from the register and may appeal to the Secretary of State should that consent be withheld.



Many local authorities misrepresent their powers and responsibilities in this regard, and AHEd members are worried that both local authorities and parents may take the information on your web page as verification of the validity of what are in fact ultra vires practices of compulsory registration and routine monitoring of home education.


The information you provide on School Attendance Orders (SAOs) could also be clearer so that both LAs and parents understand that the SAO procedure has several stages and opportunities to prevent reaching the actual serving of a SAO.


When a local authority becomes aware that a child in their area is being educated otherwise than at school they may choose to make an informal enquiry. If the result of the enquiry and any subsequent arrangements for support and redress still cause the authority to believe that there is an appearance of failure to cause a child to receive a suitable education in accordance with Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, the authority must proceed to serve a formal notice under the provisions of Section 437 (1) of the Education Act 1996. This notice requires the parent to satisfy the LA, within NO LESS than 15 days (no legal max), that a suitable education is being received.



If the LA are not satisfied by the response to that formal notice AND they feel it is expedient that the child should attend school, they must serve another notice on the parent informing them of their intention to serve a SAO and specifying the school they intend to name in the Order (EA96 section 438(2)). The parent has 15 days from the serving of this notice in which they may apply for a different school to be named . The LA can also decide not to serve the SAO at any time during this process if they become satisfied that the child is in receipt of a suitable education otherwise than at school.


Where a SAO is eventually served, it can be revoked by the LA as well as by court order. A parent can apply to the LA to revoke a SAO at any time on the ground that they have made suitable arrangements for education otherwise than at school. Should that application be refused the parent can appeal to the Secretary of State (EA96 section 442).Liberty's statement about £2500 fines and imprisonment fails to be clear that this applies ONLY where a child is a registered pupil at a school and the parent fails to ensure their regular attendance and is provided for in section 444 of the Education Act 1996. It does not apply to children not registered at a school.


AHEd are not aware of any guidance issued by the Department of Health with regard to Education Supervision Orders(ESO). If there is such guidance we would be very interested to be referred to it. If there is not, it may be more useful to refer to the guidance from the DCSF at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance/publications/index.cfm


It may also be helpful to add to the Liberty information the facts that the LA should inform the parent and child when an ESO is being considered (Guidance on Education Supervision Orders 2007, section19) and that a parent has the right to appeal to the High Court against the making of an ESO (Children Act 1989 section 94).


AHEd hope that you find the above infomation useful and that you will amend your web page accordingly. We are also happy to discuss any of these issues or any other Home Education issues.



Yours Sincerely,

(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd
The Action for Home Education Group.
(posted 10.10.07)



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