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London Safeguarding Network

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago

Please use this page to respond or comment on this consultation response (to the Elective Home Education Guidelines for LAs consultation) from the London Children's Safeguarding Lead Network, write to the DCSF, or any other action you feel relevant when you have read the following. See also NASWE response.




Serious problems: LA consult responses

There are likely to be a number of significant problems with at the very least one (and probably more) response/s to the EHE Guidelines consult.


London Children's Safeguarding Lead Network:
In many regards, this response looks like our standard worst nightmare.  It contains error after error,  misinformation, misunderstandings and plain ignorance, and demonstrates an almost total inability to think through the consequences.  It would be a monumental task to plough through all of these problems yet again. Therefore to narrow it down somewhat, note that many of the main difficulties stem from this allegation:
"The London Safeguarding Children Leads Network is aware of a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated.  This is a major concern".
However, the allegations in this LCSLN response are extremely vague.

Further Investigation:

One intrepid home educator set to work to elicit further details about the specific cases which could have resulted in such an allegation.  The person who wrote the response for the Network, Mary Kuhn, told him that she didn't actually hold any information about specific cases. It was not that she had concerns about confidentiality.  She appears to assert that she did not have the details at all.  Further, she appears not to have been able to give the names of the professionals who provided her with the information that there were serious child protection issues or who might actually know of the details of these cases. Also any details on this matter are missing from the minutes of the meeting in which they were supposedly mentioned.
What could one conclude?  Is seems perfectly conceivable, for example, that these allegations are based upon unsubstantiated hearsay.
In July 2007, at a meeting of the London Schools Safeguarding Leads Network Mary Kuhn agreed to put together a draft response drawing on discussion during the session, and circulate this for further comment.  The draft network response could be used to flag issues with colleagues within each local authority." In September, http://www.londonscb.gov.uk/files/resources/meeting_notes_26_09_07.doc


It was minuted that Ms Kuhn's draft had indeed been helpful in assisting individual local authorities in writing their own submissions. The document had formed the basis of a London Regional Partnership response and other Regional Partnerships had used it as a basis for their's, so there had been a good "cascade effect " from the work.

This most likely means that the apparently unexamined allegations about serious child protection issues in EHE children, that were initially made by Ms Kuhn in the draft response, could well have been repeated by a large number of individual authorities in their responses. Therefore if similar statements appear in individual replies from London and other LAs throughout the regions, this doesn't necessarily mean that these LAs were writing from direct experience.



News (March 2008) - case histories never materialised:


After persistent efforts throughout late 2007 and early 2008 to contact either Mary Kuhn, Christine Christie or Gill Atkins, all of whom were involved in the arrangement to collect examples of case histories recording abuse in EHE situations, a response was eventaully received from Michael Wadsworth, Corporate Performance & Projects Officer, Corporate Strategy & Performance, London Councils on 27th March 2008.


He wrote:


"I have received a response from the London Safeguarding Children Board in support of your request for information. In the interests of simplicity I have copied with permission their response verbatim:



Please convey our apologies ... for the late reply to her query, it seems that Christine Christie missed the initial email in the large volume of correspondence that she receives - I can, however, confirm that she is still employed by the London Safeguarding Children Board. Unfortunately, Mary Kuhn has recently left her post - although she was employed by the London Regional Partnership, which is a separate body to the London Safeguarding Children Board and has recently ceased to operate.



In response to ... specific query, I'm afraid that the London Safeguarding Children Board does not hold the information requested. Although I wasn't present at the October 2006 meeting, I believe the action note was for case examples to be sent to Gill Atkins at the London Regional Partnership. I'm afraid that I have no information to suggest that this was ever formally followed through and, since the London Regional Partnership is no longer in operation, I am unable to contact them and clarify this. I do know that no case records were ever passed through the London Safeguarding Children Board however, and the notes of the following meeting in February 2007 (available at www.londonscb.gov.uk/education_network/) make no mention of this work having been completed. It may be worth noting that the meeting in October 2006 was the inaugural meeting of this group, and it's quite likely that the system for formal feedback wasn't as efficient as it has since become.



I'm sorry that we can't help more in this instance.



In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this email acts as a refusal notice because London Councils does not hold the information requested."



The LCSLN draft response:

(Highlighted sections are AHEd comment)

London (LA) Children’s Safeguarding lead network convened by the London Regional Partnership and the London Safeguarding Children’s Board.  Network members have wide-ranging responsibilities including safeguarding in schools, multi-agency protection arrangements, managing allegations, children missing education.


1 Do you agree that it is helpful for the DfES to issue guidelines to local authorities?







The Schools Safeguarding Leads network agrees that clarification of regulations relating to elective home education is helpful but the clarification should be written within the context of Every Child Matters.  The Staying Safe and Being Healthy outcomes are of particular importance where children remain outside the maintained education and health systems.


This statement is discriminatory and an unjustified slur on home educating families. It suggests that home education per se puts children at greater risk of being unsafe or unhealthy. Being safe and healthy are important issues for ALL children and are not of "particular importance" for children who are home educated as there is no evidence to say these children are at risk, unlike children cared for by the state, who are at greater risk.


The draft guidelines as currently written assume benign intent in elective home education and pay insufficient attention to safeguarding issues. 


To write guidance with any other assumption than one of "benign intent" would be to assume malign intent; it would be to say that this minority group in society do not deserve the benefit of a presumption of innocence which is the cornerstone of legal processes in all civilised societies. It is quite breathtaking that the LSSLN should formally display such prejudice.


It is quite proper that the guidance does not over emphasise safeguarding issues in relation to elective home education; there is no evidence to suggest that EHE is, per se, a safety issue. Accordingly, there is no legal requirement to assess EHE provision for safeguarding issues other than where a LA already has "functions conferred on them" (Education Act 2002, Section 175).


The London Schools Safeguarding Leads network is aware of a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated.  This is a major concern.



The Network has been asked to provide evidence of any such cases and has failed to do so. Mary Kuhn, Chair of the London Education Safeguarding Children Leads Network (London Regional Partnership), claims not to have records of any cases raised at network meetings nor to have records of who rasied those concerns. This is extremely concerning since this unsubstantiated claim has been used to successfully persuade numerous other groups to respond to the EHE guidelines consultation citing the claim.


AHEd members are naturally concerned about any serious child protection issues whether they involve children who are home educated or not. What we will not tolerate however, is any dubious claim that any home educated child has been let down by current statute, when there is no evidence to support such a claim and every indication that children who have been let down, have suffered because of inadequacies in LA procedure not inadequate legal redress.


AHEd members question whether there is unspoken pressure on those working with children, to assume that every child is at risk and thus feel a need to actively intervene in every child’s life. It appears that agendas such as “Every Child Matters” perhaps create a culture of mistrust and an illusion that most parents don’t themselves believe that every child, especially their child, matters. They also obfuscate the fact that oversight by state bodies is not a panacea for risk exclusion and can itself put children at risk. Fear of missing the next Victoria Climbie, rather than proper risk assessment, is perhaps driving decision making. It should not have become possible for a caring profession to view elective home education as a risk to children when any proper, rational assessment would conclude that it is not. Yet here we have such a professional group using hearsay case material out of context to that end.




By focusing on the different pieces of legislation relating only to education, the guidelines have the unintended result of taking attention away from the best interests of the child and from safeguarding issues.


It appears that the Network's focus is diverted away from the issue of education welfare, the purpose of the document, to a focus on social welfare that is not appropriate. The section of the draft guidelines covering child protection is quite clear that a child's safety is paramount.




The guidelines should highlight areas where the legal framework is inadequate or in need of review in relation to balancing parents’ rights to home educate their children and local authorities’ duty to safeguard children.  The government should set out a timetable for changes to the current arrangements which will address the inadequacies of the current arrangements.


If the Network believe that current legislation is inadequate they should raise this issue separately. However, DCSF have already announced that changes to legislation are not necessary. DCSF cannot advise, in these guidelines, about perceived legal framework inadequacies. That would be tantamount to inciting LAs into ultra vires action.


2 Do you agree that the description of the law (paragraphs 2.1-2.3) relating to elective home education is accurate and clear?

The network agrees that the description of the law is clear and accurate so far as it goes. 




However the guidance omits key legislation in relation to the duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people, namely s11 of the Children Act 2004 and sidelines the duties contained in s175 of the Education Act 2002 (Guidance s2.11).


Both of the pieces of legislation quoted are covered in essence in the draft guidelines though only the latter is directly reffered to. However, in both statutes, the duty to safeguard and promote welfare refers specifically to doing so where a LA already has "functions conferred on them". They do NOT introduce new duties to safeguard and promote welfare in new instances.




In integrated children’s services, safeguarding duties should be prioritised. 


In education provision enquiries it is education that should be the priority. Of course, if social services have sound reason to investigate a child's situation, safety will be a priority issue for them. However, it would be wrong to create a role for children's services of investigating the safety of children where there is no sound reason to suspect that it is anything other than satisfactory, and to suggest that EHE per se is sound reason for suspicion is defamatory. It would also obscure the view of - and divert scarce resources away from - genuine safety risk situations.



There should be the requirement for the child to be seen on a regular basis by someone independent of the local authority but who should gave responsibility for monitoring the child’s development and wellbeing.


There is currently no requirement for a schooled child to be monitored in this manner so it would be discriminatory to introduce such a requirent for EHE children. For reasons stated above it is also completely unnecessary, unjustified and would put children with real welfare needs at greater risk.



The guidance also omits to mention any legislation relating to the rights of children, namely the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

It is difficult to understand why this sentence has been included. Either the Network believe that the Convention is being flaunted in some way by virtue of no direct mention, but have not chosen to elaborate, or they have perhaps included it as a desperate bid to discredit EHE by an indirect and misguided accusation that EHE parents are not being required to comply with the Convention.

3 Do you agree that the description of local authorities’ responsibilities (paragraphs 2.5-2.11) is accurate and helpful?




The statement in para 2.6 “the guidance issued makes it clear that the duty does not apply to children who are being educated at home” whilst technically the case, runs counter to good practice in safeguarding children who are not benefiting from school education. 


This response highlights the underlying generalised mistrust of parents that we mention earlier and that appears to be a cultural shift put in place by faulty, knee-jerk reactions to the plight of children such as Victoria Climbie and the Spry adoptees. It implies that all children not in a school are being denied the benefits of education and safeguarding, whereas the vast majority of them are benefiting from a proven efficient education approach, safeguarded by their parents and the wider community - and those who may be at risk are very well protected by current education and welfare legislation when it is properly utilised. It also appears to suggest that home educated children are at the same risks as other children who are not attending a school, which is unjustified, unproven, unfair, immoral, prejudiced and wrong.


Home educated children are "benefiting" from an education otherwise than at school - shown in research to be "at least" as good for them as school education (Rothermel 2002).



Para 2.8 underlines parents’ right not to comply with a request for information. 

The guidelines should instead emphasise that parents’ refusal to provide information about the education they are providing might constitute an alert for local authorities from a safeguarding point of view. 



AHEd agree that the guidance could usefully warn parents that LAs may take a decision not to respond, as an indication that the family may not be able to provide information sufficient to show that they are causing their child to receive a suitable education. Donaldson introduced this idea in case law and parents should be aware of it (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported]). However, this information should be presented alongside the detail from statute, as stated in the draft, that parents are not obliged by statute to respond.


S175 of the Education Act 2002 creates circumstances in which children of parents who for example, are suffering from mental ill-health, can remain invisible to local authorities who would wish to ensure that they are properly safeguarded.  It would also be possible for a paedophile to keep a child sheltered from view with the local authority powerless to intervene.



It is therefore not helpful to state the provisions of S175 without flagging the tensions inherent in the existing arrangements.

School attendance does not prevent children from having to cope with parents who are suffering mental ill-health or from paedophiles determined to hide their pernicious activity, and home educated children have not been shown to be at any greater risk from either of these sad or tragic situations.

Current legislation does not prevent these situations being detected in home educating families any more than in school educating families.



The Education Act 2002, s175, does NOT create invisibility and the local authority are NEVER powerless to intervene where paedophilia is a real concern and to suggest such in the context of EHE is mailicious.


It is also a sad truth that some school staff and LA staff abuse children and that oversight by the LA of these children has not prevented or detected the abuse.



4 Do you agree that the section on contact with the local authority (paragraphs 3.4-3.7) is accurate and helpful?





This section is too weak and makes the assumption that parents will automatically engage with local authorities – an assumption which is not substantiated in practice.  Some parents refuse to engage with their local authority and some are encouraged not to engage.


Parents have no legal obligation to automatically engage with their LA. Once again the culture of mistrust of parents and state ownership of children forces forward this idea that a child is automatically at risk of harm or neglect by their parents. We are seeing a situation where "declining" offers of public services or "deciding not to invite" services which have no legal compulsion, is couched in terms of "refusal" - ie choose what the LA prefer or be labeled in negative terms and considered a risk.


AHEd members would also argue that the activities of some LAs, that have ultra vires policies in place unchallenged by national government, are such that parents are wise not to invite engagement. These pratices can themselves be harmful or abusive and a parent has a moral duty to protect their child from them.



Para 3.4 cites Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents.  Other groups who may well not have the knowledge, skills and resources to provide or deliver a full-time education that is efficient and suitable are parents with mental health issues,  parents who themselves have learning difficulties and some disabled parents.  Even if the local authority takes a risk-based approach they remain powerless under the current arrangements to insist on seeing a child who is being educated at home.


It would be prejudice to include in the guidelines reference to any social group in this carte blanche manner. The reference to Gypsy, Roma or Traveller parents should be removed rather than added to. Whatever the parent's cultural, social or medical background they should be approached in the same open and fair manner that any other EHE parent should be approached. Whatever the parent's cultural, social or medical background, the LA DOES have power to insist on seeing a child where there is genuine, grounded cause for concern rather than prejudice and presumption at play.



Para 3.5 does not emphasis a child’s right to participate in decision making.  Isolation makes children even more vulnerable.  This makes their participation even more important. Provision should be made for children who are educated at home to be provided with an independent advocate (independent of the school [sic], local authority and parent) to help secure the child’s views.


There is a faulty assumption here that EHE parents do not include their child in decision making, whereas it is quite probable that EHE children are, on the whole, included in decision making to a much greater extent than are schooled children. The second faulty assumption is that EHE children are isolated - an issue firmly rebuffed by research into EHE such as that by Dr Rothermel.


AHEd have already raised concern about the deliberate withholding of information from children and parents, about the legality and possibility of EHE, in order to censor schooled children's and their parent's informed choice and decision making ability.


It is hypocritical and discriminatory to suggest that EHE children need to be provided with an independent advocate. Schooled children are not provided with an independent advocate and EHE children are no less able than them to search out their own advocate, from the local community or the myriad of public, private and charity services on offer, should they want one.


Para 3.8 Regulations relating to de-registration should be re-visited to ensure that children’s are kept within the system.  For example the school should not be able to de-register a pupil until confirmation is received that the pupil has been registered by the local authority as receiving home education. 


If the school and LA fulfil their legal duties, as provided in the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, these two events should be virtually concurrent and at most 2 days apart so there is no valid reason to call for a delay in deregistering a child's name. Again, the presumption of state ownership of a child comes to the fore. It is a parents prerogative to decide whether or not their child is registered at a school, except in the unsatisfactory situation of a child already registered at a special school, and it would be arrogant for the state to assume that role and usurp the parent's primary position.


The system for de-registration creates perverse incentives within a school system publishing league tables for attainment and attendance.


This would appear to be a slur on the integrity of head teachers.


There has emerged an unhelpful distinction in some LAs between children being deregistered from school for philosophical reasons and children being deregistered because of problems with the school. It appears that the latter are being considered unsuitable reasons for deregistration. This is inappropriate, arrogant and discriminatory. Whatever reason a parent decides to deregister their child is a valid reason. It is a parents prerogative.


It may be that unscrupulous teachers may persuade a parent to deregister their child primarily to improve some aspect of the school's record but it is highly unlikely that this would happen in an instance where the teacher truly believed that the child was receiving or was likely to receive, an education suitable to that child's age, ability, aptitude and any SENs by remaining in the school.  It is also unreasonable and shortsighted, not to consider that a child, who for instance had been persistently truant, may not be much better served by being educated in a completely different style such as EHE; that their parent may well be able to reignite an interest in suitable learning once the child is removed from the challenge of attending a school where s/he is unhappy.


5 Do you agree that the section on providing a full-time education (paragraphs 3.11-3.14) – and in particular, the characteristics of provision (paragraph 3.13) – is accurate and helpful?

There is no reference in this section to the Every Child Matters agenda outcomes.  It is too adult focused with no reference to children’s rights or children’s welfare issues.  The law as currently defined does not afford children educated at home the same protection afforded to children educated at school This is discriminatory and this fact should be flagged in the guidelines with plans for how this will be remedied.



The guidance can only reflect the law and where the law gives duties to parents it is essential that they are included or the document is worthless. Children's rights and welfare issues are well addressed though it is clear from the Network's comments that the law is not invasive enough to address their irrational fears - irrational because they are not evidence-based.


The Network are mistaken about protection. The law provides EHE children with exactly the same protections whenever and wherever they are in the same situation as schooled children. It is proper that the law also provides other protection mechanisms for children whose parents leave them with LA and school staff in loco parentis but those mechanisms are not required or appropriate when and where a parent retains parental care and does not use public services. The state is answerable to the public, not vice versa. 



Schools which encourage parents of children with attendance issues to deregister are not addressed.  These guidelines also fail to address parents who deregister after their EWO pressurises them to get their child to attend school.


AHEd have addressed this spurious concern about attendance issues above. We reiterate that it is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable decision to home educate a child who is not attending school regularly. It is the parent's prerogative to choose to do this and it would appear to be a morally correct response to a child's rejection of externally imposed schooling. In a one-size-fits-all state education system


6 Do you agree that the section on developing relationships (section 4) is useful?




These guidelines place the responsibility to develop a relationship with the local authority.  The guidelines should state that parents too have a responsibility to engage with the local authority and health services. 


This is completely erroneous. There is no legal or moral responsibility for a parent to engage with public services if they do not require them. State health and education provisions are "services", provided by the state for those who need them; they are not morally or legally required elements of life; it is quite correct for parents to be able to choose to provide for their children as they see fit, turning to the state for assistance only when they so choose or when society as a whole feels they are putting others, especially children, at real risk.



This should be strengthened by changes to the current statutory arrangements.


see immediately above



The fact that parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide education discriminates against home educated children who, were they in school, would benefit from teaching from professionally trained staff who engage in continuing professional development and whose performance is regularly appraised.  Again the guidelines may be stating the current legal situation but issues such as this should be flagged and plans for the situation to be remedied, set out by the government.


Persons qualified in school teaching neither hold a monopoly, nor are likely to be better qualified, in the ability to cause a child to receive a suitable education. What they are qualified in is "school" teaching, which is very different from the vast majority of home education processes. Research shows that home educated children are not only not disadvantaged academically, but are in many instances advantaged by their education experience, scoring higher in assessments than their schooled counterparts (Rothermel, 2002). Not all children benefit from the fact that school teachers are trained etc.; Treasury statistics show more than 1 in 6 children leave school each year unable to read, write or add up - which cannot be said about home educated children.


As highlighted in previous sections of this response, current arrangements do not take account of parents with mental health issues or parents with ulterior motives for keeping their children at home.
see above
Para 4.10 Parents should be required to request the local authority to carry out a CRB check on anyone they are engaging in the education of their children
On the contrary, the LA should be obliged to "offer" free CRB checks on people parents employ in the education of their children. Parents are as capable as LA staff of deciding whether or not a CRB check is expedient.
7 a) Are the suggested resources in section 5 and appendix 2 useful?

Provision should be made for children who are educated at home to be provided with an independent advocate (independent of the school, local authority and parent) to help secure the child’s views.


see above



A recommendation could be made in the guidelines that local authorities offer home educated children the possibility of sitting exams at their local school. 


Excellent idea


This could provide the incentive for building a relationship between home educated children and their community.


Home educated children do not need such a service to build a relationship with their local community. Many EHE children have excellent relationships in the local community due to not being incarcerated in school buildings for the majority of their waking hours for large parts of the year, as well as to their more mature/comfortable relationship with adults than their schooled counterparts experience.



A recommendation could be made in the guidelines that local authorities offer the use of free leisure facilities to children who are educated at home.


Excellent idea



Para 5.6 The notion of “flexi-schooling” is of concern.  It creates circumstances in which parents may be encouraged to keep a child at home for part of the week with little check on the education the child is receiving during that time.  Any “flexi-schooling” arrangement should be subject to monitoring by Education Welfare services.


"Flexi-schooling" is not a "notion" - it is a perfectly viable, efficient and suitable means of causing a child to receive a suitable education.

"Flexi-schooling" - more accurately called part-time schooling, is already subject to the same legislation as full-time schooling or full-time education otherwise than at a school. Where a child attends school on a part-time basis, the parent continues to be obliged to cause the child to receive a full time, suitable education. When a child is out of school for part of the education it is not true that there is "little check on the education the child is receiving during that time". The child is being checked, as s/he should be, by the person taking ultimate legal, social and moral responsibility for that education - the parent. To presume a need for state oversight of every aspect is to arrogantly usurp the place of parent of first resort.



Para 5.8 This paragraph should be strengthened to make arrangements for home educated children the same as those for children educated in school.
Excellent concept - though the overall responsibility should remain with the parent.
7 b) Should any other contacts be included?

8 Please use this space for any other comments you wish to make about the guidelines


We re-iterate here the comments made in Section 1 which we believe to be of fundamental importance.




The draft guidelines as currently written assume benign intent in elective home education and pay insufficient attention to safeguarding issues.  The London Schools Safeguarding Leads network is aware of a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated.  This is a major concern.


The repetition of this hearsay and shroud-waving is scurrilous.




By focusing on the different pieces of legislation relating only to education, the guidelines have the unintended result of taking attention away from the best interests of the child and from safeguarding issues.


The focus of the Network appears to be over-duly influenced by the worrying current social culture of separating children from their parents as far as is possible and placing the state in the position of "parent of first resort" and the parent in position of suspicion and mistrust.



The guidelines should highlight areas where the legal framework is inadequate or in need of review in relation to balancing parents’ rights to home educate their children and local authorities’ duty to safeguard children.  The government should set out a timetable for changes to the current arrangements which will address the inadequacies of the current arrangements.
As stated above, it would be to encourage ultra vires activity for the DCSF to hint or direct that part of current legislation is, in their opinion, inadequate. Lobbying for changes in statute cannot be part of a guidance production procedure.



Comments (4)

starkfamily1@... said

at 11:54 pm on Mar 28, 2008

So, is it the case that the board wrote in an official, professional document, that they are aware of serious cases that caused concern about harm to children comparable to high profile new stories of child abuse and murder and as a result of which they insisted the law should be changed to investigate our families when, in fact, they were not aware of any such cases but had embarked on a search to find some as a result of which, they did not find any cases?

OrganisedPauper said

at 11:15 pm on Mar 3, 2009

Because of this 'nice cacade effect' home educators are now subject to the home education review which is heavily weighted towards the very LAs who continue to abuse home education and create hysteria.

OrganisedPauper said

at 11:16 pm on Mar 3, 2009

Because of this 'nice cacade effect' home educators are now subject to the home education review which is heavily weighted towards the very LAs who continue to abuse home education and create hysteria.

Tom Paine said

at 1:56 pm on Mar 4, 2009

I asked the NSPCC if they had any knowledge or expertise of Home Education and they did not. The NSPCC receive 30 million pounds directly from the government for their work with Childline where they receive 2.3 million replies and the best they have been able to come up with is the Eunice Spry case and a line they cut and pasted from the LCNSLN draft response above and they are lobbying for the law to change. When I looked at the LCSLN draft response I was surprised that they didn't know that there is no requirement to be a qualified teacher at a private school and I have been told by someone whose son goes there that there are none at Eton. So the government having sought the ignorant opinion of these bodies they are now seeking their ignorant opinion again. Didn't this government take us to war in Iraq using this kind of nonsense - where were the weapons of mass destruction? I think it is really important to contact the other stake holders and ask for their responses and if they have any knowledge or expertise of HE. Just what these people are being paid for if they are quite unable to go to Amazon and buy Alan Thomas's research work before they answer anything.

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