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a page for information, news and comment in the Wigan





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Meeting the LA Education Department

Guidance on improving LEAs



EHE Consultation


March 2008:


In response to our enquiry about Wigan's response to the DCSF consultation about guidelines for LAs re elective home education, (guidelines released Nov. 2007) we have received the following in hard copy; here is a transcript:



Wigan Children and Young People's Services

Progress House

Westwood Park Drive




Local Authority:



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




Guidance on home education is very welcome within the authority however; initial consultation on input into draft guidance may have been beneficial.  We have waited for guidance for over 12 months since the original draft was circulated (although not to all Authorities), it is through chance and not direct contact with appropriate officers that we have been made aware again that there is an EHE consultation.


From discussion s in regional groups, there is a frustration that Home education bodies appear to be more involved in the consultation and drafting of Guidance rather than the local authorities that have a major role in ensuring it is implemented effectively.



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





Although the description is clear, it remains an area of professional and parental 'conflict' when the LA are unable to adequately quantify "efficient, suitable educaton" The guidance broadly describes this as an education that "achieves which is sets out to achieve" and one which "primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so".


These statements in themselves can support the fears of local authorities. Parental preference here can take over the rights of the child. The parents are able to decide that the child will not be educated within a school setting and will be brought up within the family culture. If the culture for example is travellers and no secondary education is pursued then although it does equip the child with the skills to be a member within that community, does it not also restrain them within that community? Some children and young people are unable to move on because they are not given the opportunity or rights to move outside their community therefore does this not in itself "foreclose the child's options in later  years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so?"


The Guidance just seems to be as 'wooly' as before telling parents that they (if they are know to the authority to be home educating) must let the authority know if they are providing a suitable education and yet if they don't there is little the authority can do about it. Home educators (not intending to generalise) and home education bodies are fully aware of and will make specific reference to their rights and indeed the lack of rights of the authority when challenged over insufficient submissions to the authority on the education provided. None make reference to children's rights.


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


Not Sure.


On the 19th July The new Secretary of State for DCSF addressed a conference of experts in children's services, saying "...Every child deserves to be safe and loved and have a healthy and happy childhood, free from harm. And every child should have the chance to make the most of their talents and fulfil their potential." "To do this we must provide excellent universal services for all children and their families; be able to identify potential problems early, before things go wrong; and when children are at risk, do something quickly to help children and their famlies get back on track." (Ed Balls 19/7/07 NCB event)


Although we do not work from the premise that all home educated children are at risk, on the contrary there are many families providing an excellent education for their children at home with lots of enriching experiences, many of these families engage very well with the local authority and take pride in showing our officers how well they have supported their children. These families also take advantage of any support on offer particularly when wanting additional services i.e. connections/ work experience. However, there are a few that do not and use EHE as a way to avoid services or to fulfil their own anxieties as parents (separation/poor school experiences/avoiding prosecution). In these circumstances, we are unable to follow the ambitious mission of the Secretary of State for all our children and young people.


Further Guidance is needed in order to properly define how a local authority can safeguard and promote the welfare of ALL children. If we have no access then we cannot fully achieve this.



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


Not sure


As above - how balanced are the rights of the child with the rights of the parent. How many children are choosing to be home educated and how many are refusing to see the LA? The Children Act 1989 and 2004 clearly state that the welfare of the child is paramount but how do we assure this in ALL cases where we are unable to get access or disprove concerns with no real powers to do so.


The guidance appears to give you a responsibility in one sentence but then take away your ability to undertake that responsibility in the next. Para 3.5 says that if there is doubt over whether an "efficient education is being provide, the LA should seek further information. It goes on to say "This should include seeking any from the parents any further information that they wish to provide." Is it not an imbalance saying that the Authority is under a duty but the parent can do if they want to?


How will the risk-based approach be taken as stated in para 3.4? Will there be given criteria that will be consistently used through all authorities. I am sure that should this be produced it would be greatly welcomed nationally and would go some way to appeasing the anxiety of officers having to make these judgements without specific guidance.




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?


Not sure


This seems very parent orientated and a little anti LA. Why can't you list both of the what is not required and what is required together as a parental responsibility rather than putting the what may be reasonably expected in a paragraph targeted at the LA? This is again weakened by the fact that it says may as again if they don't it wasn't a requirement. 



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




However, it does seem fairly weighted to the parents again, what the local authority must so to prevent upsetting the parent?


Para 4.6 says that when a meeting takes place to discuss home education between the parent and the LA, "the child concerned should also be given the opportunity to attend that meeting, or otherwise, to express his or her views" How will it be determined that the child has given their views? If they don't attend the meeting and the parents advocate or bring a written representation - is this sufficient?


4.9 "If any child protection concerns come to light" - how will they come to light? Again without working from the premise that EHE chilren are at risk, how do we know if we are unable to gain access? If children are not registered with us or are refusing access, how do we know if they are safe or at risk?



7 a) Are the suggested resources in section 5 and appendix 2 useful?





7 b) Should any other contacts be included?


Not sure



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































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