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Wolverhampton LA

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 10 months ago




A page for information, news and comment in Wolverhampton





related links:


Meeting the LA Education Department

Guidance on improving LEAs



EHE Consultation


In response to a FOI request, the following has been received:



Which of the following best describes you:



Local Authority





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









The principle of issuing guidelines is helpful, however they simply reinforce current practice.  It is very disappointing that although the Regulatory Impact Assessment acknowledges some of the difficulties faced by LA’s in balancing the welfare of children against the absolute rights of parents, the guidelines do nothing to address the issues raised.  The guidelines do not give practical advice in dealing with cases where parents have elected to home educate but are incapable of, or unwilling to, fulfil their responsibility to educate their children. The DfES needs to recognise the extremity of inadequate parenting in some of these cases and put the welfare of the child above the right of the parent.



The impact assessment talks about a ”small minority” of parents unable/unwilling to provide a high quality education, and a small, but increasing number of parents withdrawing children to avoid School Attendance Orders. Although the numbers may be small relative to the whole school population, these cases are undoubtedly increasing.   These are some of the most needy and vulnerable children and the DfES needs to acknowledge that in these cases the parents are not reasonable, responsible and genuinely concerned about their childrens’ education.  They often have low levels of literacy, mental health and social problems.  These are families where expectations are very low.   There is no practical advice on safeguarding these children and ensuring that they thrive under the “The Every Child Matters” agenda. The law on EHE does not support the ECM, or the Safeguarding agenda in any way; in fact it works against these two key initiatives.



There is a desperate need for clarity about parents’ responsibilities and what constitutes a “suitable” education. There is also a pressing need for some legal powers or duties for LA’s to take action to champion the rights of these children who are receiving no education (which is their right under the Human Rights Act).




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









This section of the guidance does accurately state the law: the problem is that the law itself is not clear. Clear definition of a “suitable” education is needed (see response to Question 5).  This would be helpful to parents in clarifying their responsibilities and to LA’s in identifying unsatisfactory provision. Schools are subject to Ofsted, but parents are accountable to no-one.  Many children are being denied the right to an education because parents are exercising their right, but not their responsibility, under Section 7 of the act. 



A well defined balance of rights and responsibilities in terms of the parent and the LA is needed, clearly placing the emphasis on the welfare of the child.  Safeguarding is not taken into account in current legislation. The LA has responsibilities and duties in respect to safeguarding children, but because it has no rights in relation to home educating families, it cannot effectively discharge them.  There is clear imbalance, contradiction and inconsistency in government directives and legislation.





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









The description of LA’s responsibilities may be accurate, but it is not helpful and is inconsistent.  The majority of LA’s have a very balanced view of Home Education and provide good quality information to parents, actively supporting them in their choice.  LA’s are well aware of the diverse approaches of families who are genuinely home educating and recognise this in their communication with them.  LA Officers build strong and positive relationships with these families.



It is very unhelpful, for example, that (Para 2.6)  the duties in Statutory Guidance relating to Children Missing  Education do not apply to children educated at home.  Given that some of these children are the most vulnerable and at greatest risk of missing education, it seems obvious that the duties should apply to them.  The guidance is actively working against safeguarding these children. 



Para 2.11 is also totally inconsistent and contradictory.  How can the LA “exercise its duties with a view to safequarding and promoting the welfare of children”, if  the LA has no power to see or monitor children who are educated at home.  How can the LA be sure that these children are safe, well, thriving, achieving or even alive?  If families choose to home educate, it is possible for them to completely “disappear” from the system and there may be no professional from any agency engaged with that family.  This can place children at significant risk and this LA, and others,  have case studies which substantiate this,



The guidelines make reference to School Attendance Orders as a last resort, but these are lengthy, cumbersome and expensive.  Establishing the evidence (or lack of evidence in many cases) of education can take many months or  even years is a family persistently evades LA contact; a suitable school needs to be identified in advance of an Order and again this can be time consuming.  Where a young person is in KS4, by the time the procedure has been followed the young person will be very close to leaving age and at the end of this process, if the parent fails to comply with the order, the penalty is a £50 fine.  This will not achieve the intended result of securing an education for that young person.  A parent who is unable to ensure their child attends school, has already been prosecuted for non-attendance and has a history of non co-operation with the Local Authority is unlikely to be deterred by a School Attendance Order.  The legal process will not solve the problem of inadequate parenting.





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









Again this section is accurate, but not necessarily helpful.  It reinforces parents rights not to cooperate with the LA.  This LA and most others will be already following the procedures outlined.  Again it should be emphasised that this LA makes positive and supportive contact with home educating parents, developing strong and excellent relationships. This LA shares best practice with others and has a detailed policy based on the draft guidance.



Experience shows that the parents who welcome contact with the LA  are the responsible parents who are able to deliver a satisfactory or high quality education.  How, for example, can a parent who has low levels of literacy respond to enquiries and produce evidence? There are many examples of such families choosing to home educate and clearly this would “cast doubt” on their ability to provide a suitable education.  How can the LA take action when such families fail to respond over the course of several months to repeated enquiries?  This is not an exclusively a problem amongst Traveller families, as the guidance seems to imply. 



This LA has a very good relationship with the Traveller Education Service in terms of home educating families and works very closely with them; however the fact remains that both traveller and non-traveller families are using the existing law to avoid school attendance.   The Arthur Ivatts report quoted contradicts the DfES guidance.  What is the basis for the statement that “we do know that there will be Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children who do receive a good education at home”?  This is very confusing and vague. This section is not at all clear in establishing procedures for working with home educating traveller families.



 In the meantime, children are not receiving the education to which they are entitled and although they may be being prepared for life in the community of which they are members (i.e. a community which does not place high importance on education or employment) the situation may well “foreclose the child’s options in later years…” (Para 2.3). 



This section of the guidance seems to assume again that all parents are responsible and willing to respond to LA’s which is clearly a distortion of the true position. Case histories demonstrate that this is not the case.



As has already been stated, School Attendance Orders will be highly ineffective in these situations, particularly when families are highly mobile. This is a wholly inadequate mechanism to deal with the problem.





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?









Again  this section is accurate, in as much as it restates the law and reinforces what parents do NOT  have to do (Para 3.11) .  This LA and most others have a clearly policy of offering support and advice on educational matters, on request and are well aware of the broad range of ways in which parents may provide information.



Para 3.10, which has been overlooked in the consultation, is particularly vague and can be easily exploited by manipulative parents who can use it as a delaying tactic. It seems entirely reasonable to expect that responsible parents who are choosing to home educate will have given careful consideration to the approach and methods to be used, even if this is a child-centred and unstructured approach and will be able to describe this if requested to do so.



Para 3.13 is disappointing. The characteristics are an improvement, but seem to characterise parenting generally rather than education.  They are of limited help because they do not give a clear message to parents about their educational responsibilities.  The paragraph is too vague to be really meaningful in helping LA’s decide whether education is “suitable”.  The decision still relies on the professional opinion of the LA Officer, who has no clear criteria against which to measure this provision.  For example there is no explicit mention of progress in literacy or numeracy.



The aspirations of children will often be a reflection of parental expectations and may therefore be very low if parents do not value employment or education and children are not in an environment where they are exposed to wider opportunities. The cycle of under-achievement can be perpetuated in this way, which works directly against the Every Child Matters agenda.






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









Section 4 may be helpful to unenlightened  LA’s who seldom have contact with home educating families, however in the case of this LA it restates our current good practice. This LA has produced a comprehensive policy and a detailed and impartial information guide for parents which reinforces the DfES guidelines.  These are aimed at promoting and developing positive and supportive relationship with home educating families.  It should be emphasised again that relationships with responsible parents in this LA are excellent, but once again the balance of this section of the guidance is weighted heavily towards the rights of parents and how the LA should behave in respect to those rights.  There is still an absence of discussion parental responsibility.





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









Yes the resources are helpful, but they will need to be monitored to ensure that they are up to date and relevant.  The best source of information is often families themselves





7 b) Should any other contacts be included?



Not sure






Possibly a contact list/database of LA Officers with designated responsibility for EHE.  Although most LA Officers will know their counterparts in neighbouring authorities, it could be helpful to know who to contact in other parts of the country.  This may not be practical or easy to achieve.





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





The guidelines will be read and responses will be received from concerned professionals and from responsible Home Educating parents, keen to protect their rights.



The DfES will only hear of difficult cases and understand the scale and complexity of the problems created by the loopholes in the current legislation through more detailed, direct and widespread research amongst LA’s. This LA would welcome the opportunity to take part in such research.



Again it should be emphasised that there are a large number of responsible parents exercising their right to home educate and this LA is very supportive of them and has developed excellent relationships with them.



The scale of the problem of inadequate parenting and misuse of the law, however, cannot be quantified unless LA’s know who all home educated children are.  It is clear from the Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment that the DfES recognises the problems, but the two “benefits” of this consultation identified in the Assessment are questionable if no enforcement of the guidelines or changes to the law are planned. 



The guidelines simply reinforce the status quo.
































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