Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Year Message for the Children's Commissioner

Home Educators are thinking that it may be worth getting on to the Children's Commissioner in order to tell him what we think of the prospective DfES consultation on changes to Home Education legislation. (NB: Am no longer going to use their euphemism "light touch" to describe these changes as they look to be anything but).

Anyhow, contacting the Children's Commissioner could be a good idea. From the website of the Children's Commissioner:

"We are an independent organisation that was set up by parliament as part of the Children Act 2004.

We look after the interests and act as the voice of children and young people. We do this by:

*exposing issues informed by children and young people themselves
*provoking and facilitating quality discussion and debate
*influencing the public, parents, carers and politicians through effective advocacy, particularly through the media
*informing and scrutinizing government policy
*holding organisations to account
*celebrating and promoting the participation of children and young people."


Given that Prof. Sir Albert Aynsley-Green seems to be asking for it, here is just one of the reasons why we don't want strangers who know next to nothing about our families poking their noses into our private lives without any due cause. Even if the authorities don't come close to doing anything as drastic as they did in this story (which was to haul a home educating family whose children have Asperger Syndrome through the courts under threat of losing their children), we will still find the presence of strangers in our home extremely intrusive and disruptive. I have, on several previous occasions, asked the children whether they would like to meet someone they have never met before who would sit in judgment upon their education and effectively upon their entire private lives, and surprise, surprise, Sir Albert, they said they would much rather not have to do so, for "really, what would they know?" There. Represent that view for us, will you?

The thing is, as far as our educational provision is concerned, we are getting by perfectly well without any state "help" thank you very much. We have always done so and see no need of the state right now. Should we run into trouble, we will try to think of solutions without state help. The state is not our only fall-back, but should that be the case, and we do get into a desperate situation, then we will ask. That is what you were meant to be there for. That was why state education was established in the first place - to plug the gaps, not to co-opt, regulate and ultimately destroy the other precious initiatives that could otherwise spring up all over the place. So unless we reach the point when we do need you, leave us alone to get on with it and go help someone who genuinely needs your help. Stop threatening to destroy the learning that is going on here, for you most likely will.

As to how this translates into what to say to the DfES, I would say that the above means that we should all leave well enough alone. We would love it if Sir Albert could tell the DfES that for the reasons above and below, the department shouldn't dream of giving LAs a duty to monitor all home educators. Let it remain that LAs only have a duty to monitor a home educating family when there is good reason to believe that an education is not taking place. This formalization, as it currently exists, keeps the balance about right, for it offers protection to the few home educating families who do struggle with their educational provision, and yet it leaves the others to get on with it unhindered and not having to cope with the worrying vagaries of state intrusion.

And of course, it has the added benefit for the state in that it means that the principle of parental responsibility for education (as enshrined in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act) remains unchallenged. To insist on monitoring every Home Educating family is, on it's own, sufficient to undermine the principle of parental responsibility in the situation where the monitoring is not desired, but further, a duty to monitor will doubtless carry with it the need to establish a set of criteria as to what the state deems to be an adequate education, which again quite clearly undermines the principle of parental responsibility for educational provision, particularly if the parent/guardian's provision deviates in any way from the characterisation of education by the state.

If you want the principle of parental responsibility challenged, deciding to control those who actively chose not to take up the offer of state education is a sure-fire way of doing it and although I am the very last person to want this principle overturned in law, I would go to court to demonstrate that it had been. It is almost impossible to conceive of the trouble this would cause the schooling system and the state!

On top of all of which, Sir Albert, it is probably worth telling the DfES that they risk meeting with serious resistance from the Home Education community. HEors will say 'no' to home visits. They will resist serious intrusion into their private lives. Should an LA decide that it needs to make informal, preliminary enquiries in order to establish that on balance of probabilities a suitable education is taking place, home educators will continue to present evidence of education in a way that suits that family. They will not be dictated to as to how they should present this evidence. If LAs are given a duty to monitor home education in a specified way, meeting certain prescribed criteria, this will doubtless mean that when they meet with steadfast resistance and they will have to issue more and more School Attendance Orders. Is this really what LAs want to have to do? Spend a great deal of time and money trying to intrude upon the private lives of happy families (a right to family privacy of course being inscribed in European Human Rights law), to force them to use educational provision that they have not chosen and probably won't work for them nearly as well? Really, really, really?

Yep, Sir Albert - tell the DfES to leave the law alone. We can live with it as it is. The balance has been achieved through a prolonged evolution and a certain wisdom has been produced over time. It may not be perfect for either side - most HEing families would far rather have nothing at all to do with LAs, and LAs would far rather have a perfect right to stomp into everyone's front rooms and tell us exactly what to do, but as the law stands it is the best balance that we could hope for.

There, am off to send the above argument to Sir Albert at info.request@childrenscommissioner.org and Happy New Year to everyone.

Education Otherwise Draft Guidelines for LAs on EHE

...can be found here.

Part 2 - Amended Draft

GUIDELINES FOR LOCAL EDUCATION AUTHORITIES ON ELECTIVE HOME EDUCATION

Part 1
Introduction

1.1 Elective home education is where parents or guardians decide to provide home-based education for their children instead of sending them to school. It is not home tuition provided by a local education authority or where a local education authority provides education otherwise than at a school.

1.2 Electively home-educated children are those who, for a range of reasons, are being educated at home and in the community by parents, guardians, carers or tutors, and are not registered full time at mainstream schools, special schools, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), colleges, children’s homes with education facilities or education facilities provided by independent fostering agencies.

amended 1.3 The DfES recognises that elective home education is a key aspect of parental choice and is equal in statute to education provided in school. These guidelines aim to encourage good practice by LEAs in relation to home educators by clearly setting out the legislative position, and by providing advice on the roles and responsibilities of LEAs and parents in relation to children who are educated at home.


Reasons for Elective Home Education

amended 1.4 Parents may opt for home education for various reasons. The reasons should not, in themselves, have a bearing on the LEA’s treatment of home-educating families since the LEA’s sole interest lies in the parents’ educational provision for their children.

1.5 When a parent offers an account of their dissatisfaction with the public system of education provision, the education authority may wish to use this information as part of its ongoing supervision of its own provision.

Part 2

The law relating to Elective Home Education

2.1 The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. In England, education is compulsory , but schooling is not.

2.2 Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that:

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

This right is enshrined in English law. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 provides that:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable-

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.


Parental rights and responsibilities

amended 2.4 Parents may decide to exercise their right to home-educate their child at any stage and there is no obligation on parents to register their child at a school, or to inform the LEA that they are educating their child at home. However, as noted above, in exercising this right parents have a duty to provide an efficient education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. Education provided in this way satisfies s 7 of the 1996 Education Act and is equal in law to provision by education at school. Some guidance on what might be considered efficient education is set out in Section 3.15 below

LEAs' responsibilities:

amended 2.5 As part of their duty to provide complete and accurate information to the public about educational options LEAs should provide information about home education to all parents when they are choosing schools for their children. They should also specifically provide information for the parents or guardians who have chosen to home-educate (see paragraphs 4.5-4.6).

Information about the right of parents to educate their children at home should also be provided to parents when LEAs contact a family because a child is unwilling to attend school for reasons which cause the child distress and might cause them harm, such as:
- bullying,
- school phobia,
- inadequate provision for special needs
Information should also be provided to parents who are issued an SAO because they have not registered a child at school, but who are unaware of home education.

LEAs should make it clear to parents that if they choose to home-educate, they assume financial responsibility for their child’s education, including the cost of public examinations, and that the child must continue to receive suitable education until the end of ‘compulsory education’ (ie the last Friday in June in the academic year in which they reach age 16).

Although LEAs are not responsible for the cost of public examinations taken by home educated children, the Department would encourage LEAs to assist, both financially and practically where possible, especially in relation to access to examinations.

amended 2.6 Under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, LEAs can intervene only if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. This section states that:

If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.

Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.

Case law has established that LEAs should not serve a notice under
s 437(1) without first asking parents informally for information regarding their children’s education in order to assess whether it appears to the LEA that no suitable education is being provided. (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported])

2.7 Section 437(3) of the 1996 Act refers to the serving of School Attendance Orders:

If –
(a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and

(b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school,

the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a "school attendance order"), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.

2.8 The Department sees taking action under s 437 as a last resort after all reasonable avenues have been explored to bring about a resolution of the situation. At any stage following the issue of the Order, parents may present evidence to the LEA (or the court) that they are now providing an appropriate education and apply to have the Order revoked.

amended 2.9 LEAs also have a duty under Section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This section states:

A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred upon them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

However, Section 175(1) does not extend LEAs’ functions themselves, only states that in the course of the functions conferred upon them consideration should be given to safeguarding and promoting children’s welfare. Home education itself is not a cause for concern and section 175(1) does not, for example, give LEAs powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children undertaking elective home education. Unless the LEA is aware of specific concerns, they are not required to adopt ‘welfare’ checks solely on the basis that a family is home educating and doing so is in breach of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.


Part 3

Clear policies and procedures

3.1 All LEA officers involved with home education should be aware of their roles, rights and responsibilities and be clear about the standards expected of them. Policies should be clear, transparent and easily accessible.

Amended 3.2 The Department recommends that each LEA should have a named senior officer responsible for the authority’s policies relating to elective home education. original 4.6 The LEA should also, if the parents wish, provide parents who are, or who are considering, home-educating with a named contact within the authority who is familiar with home education policy and practice and has an understanding of a range of educational philosophies.

Amended original 4.9 It may also be helpful in developing positive relationships for the ‘contact person’ within, or employed by, the LEA to be referred to as a ‘contact’ or ‘EHE contact’ rather than as an ‘adviser’, ‘inspector’, ‘examiner’ or ‘assessor’ even where the usual term may be ‘educational welfare officer’

LEAs should avoid referring to any department by the term “Education Otherwise” as this is the registered trademark of the home education charity Education Otherwise Association Ltd.

Amended 3.3 We also recommend that each LEA should have a written policy statement on home-educated children and their families, and be willing and able to provide guidance for parents and carers who request it. This policy should be compliant with statute and should not seek to impose non-statutory obligations on home educators. In addition, LEAs should organise training on the law and home education methods for all their Education Officers who have contact with home-educating families in their area.

original 4.5 The provision of clear information has an important role to play in the promotion of positive relationships. LEAs should provide written information and website links for home-educating parents that are clear and accurate and which set out the legal position, and roles and responsibilities, in an unambiguous way. We also recommend that contact details for home education support organisations should be provided. A selection of these is included in Part 5. All written information should be made available to parents in community languages and alternative formats on request.


De-registration from School

3.4 First contact between LEAs and home educators often occurs when parents decide to home educate and approach the school (at which the child is registered) and/or the authority to seek guidance about withdrawing their child from school. It is important that this initial contact is constructive and positive. However, while parents must inform the school in writing of their decision, they are not legally required to inform the LEA about their intention to home educate unless they wish to remove a child from a special school (see section 3.22 onwards).

Amended 3.5 De-registration of a child from a school is covered by section 9(1)(c) of the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 1995. Parents who wish to home-educate their child who is registered at a maintained school or an independent school must inform the school in writing that the child is receiving education otherwise than at school. The school shall delete the child's name from their register upon receipt of written notification from the parents, guardians or legal carer, and make a return (giving the child's name and address) to the LEA within 10 school days of removal.

Schools are required by statute to remove the child’s name from the register and do not need to seek permission from the LEA to do so. Parents are not obliged to notify the LEA, or to complete forms provided by the school or LEA.

While they must confirm parents' right to home educate when asked about it, and inform them of this right where a child is having difficulties attending school, EWOs and teachers must not pressure parents into signing a letter authorising deregistration of their children as a way of avoiding exclusion or prosecution. Similarly, this must not be done by LEAs as a way of avoiding expense for children with special needs.

Amended: Contact with Home Educating Families

3.8 Any procedures for dealing with home-educating parents and children should be compliant with statute, fair, clear, consistent and timely, in order to provide a good foundation for the development of trusting relationships. The LEA will wish to follow its own policies and procedures in this regard but the following suggestions may be helpful. LEAs should make initial contact in writing and respect parents’ preferences as to whether further contacts are by phone or by letter.

Amended 3.9 When an LEA becomes aware that a child is not registered at a school, they may choose to make informal enquiries of the parents as to what provision is being made for the child's education to determine but they are under no obligation to do so.

Amended 3.10 Where parents have notified the LEA or the LEA is otherwise made aware of a child’s being educated at home, the LEA should acknowledge the receipt of this notification and consider quickly whether there is any existing evidence, either in an authority’s own records or from other services or agencies, indicating whether there may be cause for concern. Previous irregular attendance at school is not of itself a sufficient cause for concern. In many cases, parents and their children have reached a crisis point, for example with bullying, and children who are taken out of school in distress should be given time to recover and should not be subject to an investigation under the Common Assessment Framework.

Specific instances where there may be concerns include:

where a child has been referred to social services or the police for child protection reasons, and the matter is being investigated
where a child is on the child protection register
where the child is the subject of a supervision order
In these cases the LEA should immediately refer these concerns to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.

Otherwise, the LEA should assume that efficient educational provision is taking place, which is suitable for the child, unless there is evidence to the contrary. There is no express requirement in the 1996 Act, or any other legislation, for LEAs to investigate actively whether parents are complying with their duties under Section 7.

Providing an “efficient and suitable” full-time education

3.12 Parents are required to provide an efficient education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. An “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but “efficient” has been broadly described as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”, and a “suitable” education is one that “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”.

Amended 3.13 There is no legal definition of “full-time”. The measurement of ‘contact time’ is not relevant to home education where there is far more one-to-one contact, where education takes place outside ‘normal school hours’, and where the type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. It should be borne in mind that home-educating parents are not required to:

teach the National Curriculum
have a timetable
have premises equipped to any particular standard
mark work done by their child
set hours during which education will take place
have any qualifications
cover the same syllabus as any school
make detailed plans in advance
observe school hours, days or terms
give formal lessons
reproduce school type peer group socialisation
match school, age-specific standards.

However, LEAs should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.

3.14 An important point to note is that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision. LEAs should therefore consider a wide range of information from home educating parents. The way in which parents provide information is entirely up to them.

original 4.3 Parents’ educational provision will reflect a diversity of approaches and interests. Some parents, , may wish to provide education in a formal and structured manner, following a traditional curriculum and using a fixed timetable that keeps to school hours and terms. Other parents may decide to make more informal provision that is responsive to the developing interests of their child. One approach is not necessarily any more efficient or effective than another. Although some parents may welcome general advice and suggestions about resources, methods and materials, LEAs should not specify a curriculum which parents must follow.

original 4.4 Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds. It should be appreciated that parents and their children might require a period of adjustment before finding their preferred mode of learning. Parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide their children with an appropriate education. Their commitment to providing an efficient education that is suitable for their child may be demonstrated by them providing some indication of their objectives and resources.

Enquiries About Suitable Provision

original 3.11 , If information exists which may cast doubt on whether an “efficient and suitable education” is being provided, the LEA should seek to gather any relevant information that will assist them in reaching a properly informed judgement. This should include seeking from the parents any information that they wish to provide explaining how they are providing a suitable education for their child(ren) and the parents should be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns that the authority has. The child should also be given the opportunity, but not required, to attend any meeting that may be arranged or express his or her views in some other way. The sections below apply to these situations.

Amended 3.15 In any consideration of parents’ provision of education at home, LEAs may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics, while understanding that not all may be obvious at any one time:

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
an indication that the parents have thought through their reasons for home educating and what they hope to achieve
signs of commitment, and recognition of the child’s needs, aptitudes and aspirations
opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences
involvement in activities – providing opportunity for involvement in relevant activities access to appropriate resources/materials to help meet the objectives of the parents and child and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults

Amended 3.16 If, on considering information supplied by the parent, the LEA still has grounds for believing that that an efficient and suitable education is not being provided, the LEA may choose to ask for further information. A full written report on the findings should be made and copied to the parents promptly, specifying the grounds for concern and any reasons for concluding that provision is unsuitable. If the authority is not satisfied that it appears that an efficient education is being provided, and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to show that the LEA is mistaken or to improve their provision and report back to the education authority, have not done so, the authority should consider instituting formal attendance procedures in accordance with the provisions of Section 437 of the Education Act 1996. However, before starting such proceedings it is good practice to offer parents a second opinion on their educational provision. Where LEAs have a 'second opinion policy,' the necessity for SAOs, with the consequent expense and distress, may be reduced. Parents' requests for a second opinion should be met.

Although there is no statutory right to appeal against an authority’s decisions relating to home education, all decisions should be reviewed internally on request. Education authorities should provide parents with details about their complaints procedure and how to apply for a review of a decision about their home education provision. Certain aspects of decisions made by authorities are also subject to external review by the local ombudsman and by the Courts through the judicial review process. Some local authorities have mediation services and the existence of these should be made known to home educating families.

Good Practice for Enquiries

Amended 3.17 Parents are not legally required to give the LEA access to their home or their child. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires respect for the privacy of home and family life, and it should be remembered that where parents choose not to allow access this does not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education being provided. Parents may, for example, choose to meet a LEA representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location, or may choose not to meet at all. If the LEA chooses to approach a family and ask for information, parents can provide information that a child is receiving an efficient and suitable education in a number of ways. It should be in any form sufficient enough to convince a reasonable person on a balance of probabilities only of its appropriateness for the child’s age, aptitude and ability. Parents might, for example:

write a report
provide samples of work
invite a LEA advisor/consultant to their home, with or without the child being present
meet a LEA advisor/consultant elsewhere, with or without the child
have the educational provision endorsed by a recognized third party
provide information in any other appropriate form.

Amended 3.18 A written report should be made after any contact with a family and copied to the family stating whether the education authority has any concerns about the education provision. Where there are concerns about the efficiency or suitability of the education being provided for the child, further contact may be required. Where concerns merit further contact, the authority should discuss these concerns with the child’s parents, with a view to helping them improve their provision in the best interests of the child.


School Attendance Orders

Amended 3.19 In exceptional circumstances, where an LEA finds that there is specific and demonstrable cause to consider that educational provision is not suitable, where no further progress can be made through dialogue, and where a second opinion confirms the initial concern, the LEA will need to take a view. If it appears to the LEA, on the balance of probabilities, that a suitable education is not being provided, then it should serve a notice on the parent under Section 437(1) of the 1996 Education Act requiring the parent to satisfy it that the provision is suitable within 15 days. This is a final chance for the parents to answer the specific concerns of the authority. Failure to do so would mean that the LEA would have to consider if it was in the best interest of the child to issue a School Attendance Order as described in sections 437-441 of the 1996 Education Act.

Amended 3.20 An SAO continues to be in force for as long as the child is of compulsory school age unless it is revoked. Parents may apply for it to be revoked at any time because arrangements have been made for the child to receive education otherwise than at school, and the LEA must comply with this request unless these arrangements are not suitable. If there is a continued failure to register the child at the named school, a prosecution can be brought for failure to comply with the SAO. The parent's only defence is to prove to the court that they are now providing a suitable education through their 'otherwise' provision. If successful, the court can direct that the SAO be revoked. If the parents fail to convince the court, they should then send their child to the school named in the order. Continued failure to comply would then be a matter for the court.

Additional options at this stage could include an application in the Family Proceedings Court for an Education Supervision Order (ESO - under Section36(5)a of the Children Act 1989). Parents have an opportunity at such hearings to show that they are now providing a suitable education, and such evidence would require the revocation of the SAO as well as the failure of the ESO. Where an ESO is in force with respect to a child, the duties of the child’s parents under section 7 and 444 of the Education Act 1996 (duties to secure education of children and to secure regular attendance of registered pupils) are superseded by their duty to comply with any directions in force under the ESO. However, an ESO does not preclude home education; a child for whom an ESO is in force for truanting, for instance, may start home educating while under the care of an EWO.

3.21 Parents' wishes to educate their children at home should be respected and, wherever possible, efforts should be made to resolve issues about provision by a process of ongoing dialogue before Section 437(3) is invoked as a last resort. In all efforts to improve the educational provision offered to a child, the Human Rights Act principle of proportionality should be observed. Only in extreme cases, where the education is clearly not efficient and suited to the age, ability and aptitude of the child, should a SAO be served (see paragraph 2.6 to 2.8 above). More information about School Attendance Orders is contained in Ensuring Regular School Attendance paragraphs 6 to 16 -
(available at www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolattendance/prosecutions/index.cfm ).


Children with Special Educational Needs

Amended 3.22 Parents' right to educate their child(ren) at home applies equally where a child has special educational needs (SEN). There is no discrimination against these children under s7 of the Education Act 1996 which states that the parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable) to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Some children with special educational needs have statements but others do not.

Amended 3.23 Where a child has a statement of special educational needs and is educated at home by the parents, the statement will remain in force and be reviewed annually. The parents must make suitable provision for the child’s special needs, although due to the change in the child’s educational setting, this provision may differ from that outlined in the statement

In some circumstances the child's special needs may be related to the educational setting and in these cases the child's needs may be met at home by the parents without the need for continuing LEA oversight. In this situation it may be more appropriate to cease to maintain the statement and this should be considered at annual review.

Amended 3.24 If the parents’ arrangements are suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude, and any special educational needs the child may have, then the LEA is relieved of its duty to arrange the provision specified in the statement. If, however, the parents’ attempts. to educate the child at home result in provision that falls short of meeting the child's needs, then the parents are not making 'suitable arrangements' and the LEA could not conclude that they were absolved of their responsibility to arrange the provision in the statement. In some cases a combination of provision by parents and LEA may best meet the child’s needs.

Parents do not need to make the provision specified in the statement, but need only provide an efficient education suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs the child may have, as defined in s. 7 of the education act 1996.

3.25 Even if the LEA is satisfied, it remains under a duty to maintain the statement and review it annually, following procedures set out in Chapter 9 of the SEN Code of Practice. Where the LEA is satisfied that the child's parents have made suitable arrangements it does not have to name a school in part 4 of the child's statement though it should state the type of school it considers appropriate and go on to state that "parents have made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996".
It may be appropriate, once it is established that the child’s special needs are being met without any additional support from the LEA, to give consideration to ceasing to maintain the statement, if the parents agree.

Amended 3.26 Good practice suggests that the statement should also specify any provision that the LEA has agreed to make under section 319 to help parents to provide suitable education for their child at home. If the child to be de-registered is a pupil at a special school, the school must inform the LEA before the child's name can be deleted from the school roll so that the LEA can ensure extra support and a smooth transition in accessing services. There should, however, be no delay in removing the child’s name from the register. It may then be appropriate to amend part 4 of the statement at the next review.

3.27 A parent who is educating their child at home may ask the LEA to carry out a statutory assessment of their child's special educational needs and the LEA must consider the request within the same statutory timescales and in the same way as for all other requests. The views of the designated medical officer for SEN should be sought by the LEA where a child with a statement is educated at home because of difficulties related to health needs or a disability.

Relevant references in the 1996 Education Act:

Section 324 (4) of the Education Act 1996
"the statement [of special educational needs] shall specify any provision for the child for which they make arrangements under section 319 and which they consider should be specified in the statement.”

Section 324(4A) of the Education Act 1996
"does not require the name of a school or institution to be specified [in a child's statement] if the child's parent has made suitable arrangements"

Section 324(5)(a) of the Education Act 1996
"Where a local education authority maintain a statement then, unless the child's parent has made suitable arrangements, the authority (i) shall arrange that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child, and (ii) may arrange that any non-educational provision specified in the statement is made for him in such a manner as they consider appropriate."


Part 4

Child protection

4.10 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated by other means, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. As with school-educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home-educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols. Unless the LEA is aware of specific concerns, they must not adopt ‘welfare’ checks solely on the basis that a family is home educating.

Amended 4.11 In terms of safeguarding the welfare of children who are educated at home by parents, all agencies should work together in accordance with the principles in 'Working Together to Safeguard Children' (Home Office/Department of Health/DfES/Welsh Office, 1999) and any concerns should be referred to the appropriate agencies.

4.12 Concerns may arise where a child has been referred to social services or the police for child protection reasons and the matter is under investigation, or where a child is on the child protection register, or where the child is the subject of a supervision order. LEAs may also apply to the Court for a child assessment under the Children Act 1989, if they have reasonable cause to do so for child protection reasons.

4.13 Parents may choose to employ other people to educate their child, though they themselves will continue to be responsible for the education provided. They will also be responsible for ensuring that those whom they engage are suitable persons to have access to children. Parents may therefore wish to satisfy themselves by taking up appropriate references. A small number of LEAs choose to assist home-educating parents in this task by undertaking Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks free of charge, for example, on independent home tutors. Tutors employed by an LEA may also undertake work for home-educating parents, in which case, CRB checks ought to have been made already.

4.14 [spare]

Reviewing policies and procedures

4.15 Authorities will wish to review all of their procedures and practices in relation to home education on a regular basis to see if improvements can be made to further develop relationships and meet the needs of children and parents. Home education organisations and home-educating parents should be given the opportunity to be involved in this process of review. Effective reviews, together with the sensitive handling of any complaints, will help to secure effective partnership in formulating policy.

4.16 LEAs will also wish to bear in mind that Ofsted will report on the way local authorities cater for home-educating families within their areas.


Part 5

Support and resources

5.1 When parents elect to home-educate their children they assume financial responsibility for their children’s education. There are a number of sources of advice and practical assistance available to such parents. The Department for Education and Skills provides an information sheet for parents on elective home education, available from the Department's website at: www.parentcentre.gov.uk.

5.2 LEAs do not receive funding to support home educated families, and the level of support will therefore vary between one LEA and another. However, we recommend that all LEAs should adopt a reasonable and flexible approach in this respect, particularly where there are minimal resource implications. As a minimum, LEAs should provide written information (which is also available through the internet) on home education that is clear and accurate and which sets out the legal position (see previous paragraphs 4.5-4.6). LEAs may also be able to offer additional support to home educating parents such as the following:

Provision of a reading or lending library with resources for use with the children, on home education and related topics
Free, or discounted, admission into community programmes (including local authority owned community and sports facilities)
Access to resource centres (including local school resources where feasible)
National Curriculum materials and curricula offered by other educational institutions
Information about educational visits and work experience
Access to qualifications by providing exam centres and provision of fees for exams

The National Curriculum

5.3 Although home-educated children are not legally required to follow the National Curriculum it is thought that a number do, . National Curriculum tests and assessment arrangements are developed and administered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) on behalf of the Secretary of State. Information to support these arrangements is provided both electronically and in hard copy through the QCA's website at www.qca.org.uk or by telephoning their publications office on 01787 884 444.

5.4 In addition, the DfES's website at www.dfes.gov.uk will allow access to the National Curriculum and associated schemes of work, aimed at setting
standards across all schools. Some documents are also distributed via Departmental publications which can be accessed through links on The Stationery Office site at www.the-stationery-office.co.uk or by telephoning Prolog on 0845 602 2260.

Connexions Service

Amended 5.5 The Connexions Service is available for all children and young people aged 13-19 years living in England (see www.connexions.gov.uk). Its services and responsibilities cover children and young people who are being educated at home. The LEA is a key partner in a local Connexions Partnership and each must review how it will bring coherence to the different services and agencies within the area. LEAs may be asked (as partners of Connexions) to provide details of children and young people being home educated; the Learning and Skills Act 2000 gives powers for various partners to share information with Connexions, subject to normal data protection principles. It is important that any contact with home educators is invitational only and that it is made explicit that it is entirely up to the parents and the child whether they become involved with the Connexions Service.

Flexi-schooling

5.6 “Flexi-schooling” or “flexible school attendance” is an arrangement between the parent and the school where the child is registered at school in the normal way but where the child attends the school only part time; the rest of the time the child is home-educated (effectively on authorised absence from school). . "Flexi-schooling" is a legal option provided that the head teacher at the school concerned agrees to the arrangement. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of "flexi-schooling" are referred to on the Home Education UK's website at www.home-education.org.uk/articles-flexi-school.htm

LEAs’ role in supporting work experience

5.7 Work experience is not a statutory requirement. However, the Government’s objective is for all Key Stage 4 pupils to undertake work experience in the last two years of compulsory schooling. Over 95% of Key Stage 4 pupils go on placements each year. The law relating to the employment of children generally places statutory restrictions and prohibitions on employers in this regard. But where the employment is in accordance with arrangements made by an LEA or a governing body these restrictions will generally not apply where the work experience is arranged only with a view to providing pupils with work experience as part of their education in their last two years of compulsory schooling.

5.8 Children educated at home have no entitlement to participate in work experience under arrangements made by an LEA but we wish to encourage LEAs to assist the parents of such children who wish to do so to pursue work experience through such arrangements. Where home-educated children do participate in such schemes, consideration should be given to the extent to which such children are covered by, for example, insurance provision.

5.9 Schools and LEAs have a prime responsibility for ensuring pupils are placed in a safe environment for their work experience. Employers are responsible for carrying out risk assessments in respect of young people on work experience placements as if they were members of their staff.

Other Issues

Education Maintenance Allowance
5.10 Education Maintenance Allowance is a means-tested grant available to learners over the age of 16, if they stay on in education at school or college after GCSEs. It is not available to learners whose parents elect to educate them at home.
Truancy Sweeps

5.11 When planning and running truancy sweeps, LEAs should refer to the the Home Office guidance "Police Power to Remove Truants" which is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolattendance/truancysweeps.

Amended 5.12 Those taking part in the sweeps, including police officers, should be fully familiar with the Home Office guidance. They should be aware that there is a range of valid reasons why school-age children may be out of school. In particular, they should be aware that home-educated children are not the target group for these sweeps and must be allowed to go on their way without being asked for their details, in accordance with the guidance. No action should be taken where children indicate that they are home educated unless the constable has reason to doubt that this is the case. A refusal to provide name and address should not be considered to be reasonable cause to believe that a child is absent from school without authority if the child or their parent indicates that the child is home educated.

Traveller Children

5.13 LEAs should be sensitive to the distinct ethos and needs of traveller communities. The duty of LEAs to act if it appears that a suitable education is not being provided. applies equally to Traveller children residing with their families on temporary or unauthorised sites. Although Travelling children of school age have the same legal right to education as anyone else, it is obviously practically difficult to claim or seek these rights without a permanent or legal place to stop. Therefore, when a Traveller family with children of school age move into an area they are strongly encouraged to contact the local Traveller Education Support Service for assistance. Most LEAs provide such a support service.

5.14 Traveller children can be educated at home in the same way as other home-educated children. However, particular care may be required in the handling of Traveller children in view of their communities’ culture and lifestyle. So, for example, before deciding to prosecute the parents for failing to provide a “suitable and efficient” education for their children, the LEA should consider whether it would be appropriate to take the alternative route of making an application in the family proceedings court for an education supervision order (ESO) which would last one year and would enable a supervisor or education social worker to advise, assist and befriend both the child and the parents. Where an ESO is in force with respect to a child, the duties of the child’s parents under section 7 and 444 of the Education Act 1996 (duties to secure education of children and to secure regular attendance of registered pupils) are superseded by their duty to comply with any directions in force under the ESO.

5.15 Further guidance can be obtained from the DfES Guide to Good Practice on the education of Traveller children – “Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Gypsy Traveller Pupils” which can be obtained from DfES Publications (reference DfES/0443/2003). Another (external) source of information is www.gypsy-traveller.org/education/.


Part 6

Examples of good practice

Annex A

Qualifications options

The following information sets out some of the options available to home-educating families who wish to provide opportunities for their children to study for recognised qualifications. This is not an exhaustive list, but sets out the main options available and provides contact details for relevant organisations. Please note that the following information is also liable to change from time to time.

Enrolment at a Further Education College

Some colleges may, at the discretion of the Principal, be willing to accept children of school age for full and part-time courses. This approach has the advantage that all the work and entry for qualifications is organised by the college, but it does require at least some attendance at classes which will not appeal to all home-educating families. If a student enrols at a FE college, their parents will normally be liable to pay all of the course fees themselves unless the education authority or the Learning and Skills Council are willing to provide funding. Colleges also have the discretion to waive fees, which they may do for low income families.

Self-Study

Many home educating families prefer not to enrol for attendance at a further education college but choose instead to work independently towards recognised qualifications. Because of compulsory internal assessment components, there are many subjects and qualifications which are not available to external candidates unless an appropriate arrangement can be made with an approved centre which meets with the examining board’s requirements. Some centres and examining boards may be willing to accept coursework which has been marked and authenticated by a private tutor. Thus, families who study for qualifications from home will need to:

contact the relevant examination board to find out about their requirements;
register with an approved centre for their child to be presented for the qualification; and
pay a registration fee for each subject their child will take.

It may also be possible for a group of home educators to consider seeking approved status in their own right.

Correspondence Courses

Correspondence courses can be an option for students who prefer to work independently, though they will be required in most cases to follow a structured curriculum and programme of work. Correspondence courses offer a wide range of qualifications at different levels and the organisations offering these courses will advise about arrangements which need to be made for registering with an examination centre and for marking and authenticating coursework. The cost of this option varies depending on the organisation and the qualification chosen, but can prove expensive.

There are an increasing number of organisations offering open and distance learning courses. The following contacts provide a useful start in finding a suitable course and organisation:

The Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC) is an independent body which accredits open and distance learning courses. The ODLQC produces a free information leaflet which lists all approved organisations and their courses. Contact:

16 Park Crescent, London, W1B 1AH
Tel: 020 7612 7090 Fax: 020 7612 7092.
Website: www.odlqc.org.uk
E-mail: info@odlqc.org.uk

The Association of British Correspondence Colleges (ABCC) is a voluntary association of colleges which comply with a code of ethics. Contact:

PO Box 17926, London SW19 3WB
Tel: 020 8544 9559 Fax: 020 8540 7657.
Website: www.nationline.co.uk/abcc
Email: abcc@msn.com

The British Association for Open Learning (BAOL) promotes quality and best practice in open, flexible and distance forms of learning. BAOL members work to a code of practice for open learning and are listed on the BAOL website. Contact:

Suite 12, Pixmore House, Pixmore Avenue, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, SG6 1JG
Tel: 01462 485 588 Fax: 01462 485 633
Website: www.british-learning.com
Email: info@british-learning.com


Alternative qualifications

The internal assessment component of many UK qualification courses such as Standard Grades, National Qualifications and GCSEs can restrict the choice available to home educated students. The following qualifications have, however, been identified as particularly suited to home study students as they are not dependent on internal assessment and moderation.

National Christian Schools Certificate (NCSC)

The National Christian Schools' Certificate (NCSC) provides a graduated series of
certificates, ranging from Level 1, which is equivalent to 5 GCSEs (grades A*-C), through Level 2, which equivalent to 2 AS/A2 passes, and culminating with Level 3, which is equivalent to 3 AS/A2 passes (grades A-C). There is also an Honours Certificate, which is awarded to pupils who show exceptional performance.

Examinations are conducted at home under the supervision of parents, but the NCSC Board has strict moderation procedures to ensure the validity of results. The course is highly structured and requires a minimum pass mark of 80 per cent for each module test. During the course of 2004, the NCSC is to be superseded by the International Certificate of Christian Education, which will have very similar content and standards to the NCSC Certificate programme.

Contact: The European Academy for Christian Homeschooling (TEACH)
Marantha House, Unit 5, Northford Close, Shrivenham, Swindon,
Wiltshire, SN6 8HL
Tel: 01793 783783 Fax: 01793 783775
Website: www.christian-education.org
Email: admin@ncscboard.org.uk or cee@christian-education.org


Examining boards

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA)

The AQA is one of three unitary examining bodies in England incorporating the now merged Associated Examining Board and the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board. The AQA also has responsibility for the City and Guilds' GNVQ qualification.

Contact: AQA, Devas Street, Manchester, M15 6EX
Tel: 0161 953 1180 Fax: 0161 273 7572
Website: www.aqa.org.uk
Email: mailbox@aqa.org.uk

Oxford Cambridge & RSA (OCR)

OCR is one of three unitary examining bodies in England incorporating the RSA (Royal Society of Arts), UCLES (University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate), and MEG (Midland Examining Group).

Contact: OCR Information Bureau, General Qualifications:
1 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB1 2EU
Website: www.ocr.org.uk
Tel: 01223 553998 Fax: 01223 552627
Email: helpdesk@ocr.org.uk

OCR Information Bureau, Vocational Qualifications:
Progress House, Westwood Way, Coventry, CV4 8JQ
Tel: 024 7647 0033
Fax: 024 7646 8080
Email: cib@ocr.org.uk

Edexcel

Edexcel was formed in 1996 by the merger of BTEC and the University of London
Examinations and Assessment Council (ULEAC). Edexcel is one of the main examination boards for England and Wales.

Contact: Edexcel, Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London, WC1B 5DN
Tel: 0870 240 9800 Fax: 020 7758 6920
Website: www.edexcel.org.uk
Email: enquiries@edexcel.org.uk


Annex B
Useful contacts

Education Otherwise Association Limited
Nationwide charity for home education information and support. Provides an advice line for parents and LEAs, a network of local and specialist contacts to support families, and produces a range of books and information leaflets. Subscription of £20 also entitles members to receive a handbook, UK and overseas contact list, bi-monthly newsletter, a membership card giving access to educational discounts, access to further resources, special interest and local groups and national gatherings

Address: PO Box 7420
London
N9 9SG

Website: www.education-otherwise.org
Email: enquiries@education.otherwise.org
Helpline: 0870 7300 074

Home Education Advisory Service
HEAS produces a range of publications and leaflets on different aspects of home education. Annual subscription [currently £12] gives access to the Advice-line, quarterly magazine, card for educational discounts, resources for loan and a regional list of other subscribers.

Address: P.O. Box 98
Welwyn Garden City
Herfordshire
AL8 6AN

Website: www.heas.org.uk
E-mail: admin@heas.org.uk
Helpline: 01707 371854


Home Education UK

Website: www.home-education.org.uk


Home Education Resources

Website: www.home-education-resources.co.uk


The Home Service – a national Christian home education group

Website: www.home-service.org

Christian Home School

Website: www.homeschool.co.uk


Muddle Puddle – an independent site focusing on learning for 0-8 year olds

Website: www.muddlepuddle.co.uk


DfES related links:

Education of Sick Children
www.dfes.gov.uk/sickchildren
www.dfes.gov.uk/mentalhealth

Ethnic Minority Achievement Project
www.standards.gov.uk/ethnicminorities

Vulnerable Children Grant
www.dfes.gov.uk/standardsfund

Exclusions and Alternative Provision
www.dfes.gov.uk/exclusions

Looked after children
www.dfes.gov.uk/educationprotects

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Importance of Freedom in Education

From the BBC we hear that the Archbishop has entered the educational fray. Apart from wondering exactly what prompted this, it rather looks as if the good man is confused, (if very well intentioned.)

The thing is, Archbishop, children/people ARE consumers. We aren't turned into them. We come out that way. In order to support ourselves we therefore need to produce. The real problem here is that this message gets distorted by the bundle of confusions that are compulsion in education, the presence of the welfare state and the bits of our Christian heritage which canonize poverty. The message that a huge majority of children derive from being forced to jump through educational hoops that are not of their own making, and also perhaps from absorbing the message of the welfare state that they don't have to look after their material needs anyhow and finally the Christian meme that dealing with material wants is a trivial, inferior or even contemptible problem, is that a person must live a life of compulsion and drudgery if they simply want to do take responsibility for their own lives and that it is therefore better to let someone else do it for you, given that you clearly don't have any control over your life anyhow.

Whilst there are extensive tomes written about the problem of the messages derived from the existence of the welfare state, and there are doubtless books which bust the Christian meme about the merits of poverty (indeed other sections of the bible, though less well-known, contradict this message), educational compulsion is probably the least explored factor in the generation of the problem of confusion over the nature of humans as consumers. When a child is forced to sit and try to learn something, he is implicitly not being allowed to answer the big existential questions for himself. He is being made to take his own life seriously by someone else. The implication here is that no-one in their right minds could possibly freely choose to take their own lives seriously because to do so would inevitably involve horrendous drudgery. This message is often coupled with the Christian message that a person's material wants are a somehow contemptible problem, which re-enforces the whole notion that to take one's material needs seriously is a thoroughly unpleasant thing to have to do. Better by far, to give up on the whole thing of dealing with needs, and hope that the welfare state will bail you out.

Of course the implications of this kind of message are many, various and serious. A person may rebel against the perceived coercive forces which appear to him to making his life a drudgery, but in the confusion he may attack the wrong target: instead of attacking the coercive system that forced him to take on the message that supporting one's life is a thorough bore, he may implicitly reject his own needs and regard his own material wants as a coercive factor in his life. Some part of him, often an unconscious part, wants to take life seriously, but he cannot translate this into feeling free of coercion from his own needs, since all his life he has received the message that meeting his own needs is necessarily a matter of drudgery. He cannot see that deciding to go for life, means that you can thrill to the thought of meeting one's material needs. In this situation, he usually ends up with a self-fulfilling prophesy, living a life of unimaginative drudgery, not hoping or seeking to meet his needs without experiencing coercion, either from himself or others.

Children who are not coerced to learn are not placed in this situation. They do face life's big questions pretty early on. They realize that they are free autonomous beings who make big choices about what they do - whether in the long term, they live or die and that what they do will actually affect this. If, as almost all of them will, they choose to live well, they will freely learn what they need to learn in order to support this choice.

All of which is rather important in the light of the up-and-coming DfES consultation on changes to home education legislation. Almost all the proposed changes, such as the submissions to establish criteria for a suitable education and to monitor the progress of education, threaten the principle of freedom and autonomy in education and thereby implicitly threaten the chances of a child learning that he can choose whether or not to take his own life seriously, that he could freely choose to live well, that he could choose to take his material needs seriously and could choose to enjoy meeting these needs, and further, that choosing to enjoy meeting your material needs doesn't mean that one excludes the possibility of meeting other needs as well, and in fact actually probably increases the opportunity of doing so.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lessons from Scotland

Have been trying to find a mo to look at Home Education legislation in Scotland with a view to seeing how prospective legislative changes to HE law in England could pan out. The news from The Herald looks hopeful in terms of numbers:

"The number of children in Scotland whose parents have taken them out of school to be taught at home has soared by 39% in the past year."

This comes despite the fact that parents of children who have attended a Scottish state school must seek the education authority's consent before withdrawing their child. It is even more amazing that the numbers are up when we hear from The Scotsman that at least six Scottish councils are being obstructive when parents seek to de-register their children from school, (this despite the fact that a section of the Scottish Ed Act provides that education authorities must not unreasonably withhold consent).

The fact that parents cannot be deemed responsible for the education of their children in the situation that they have to seek the consent of the state as to where the education takes place makes Scottish law very vulnerable, as Lord Adonis seems to be aware. It would be great if the frailties of Scottish HE legislation could be exposed sometime very soon, preferably before the government bother to impose a similar system here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Monday, December 25, 2006

Eaten Too Much?

Even the dog couldn't make it out the dining room...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Seven Best Things This Year.

It's a first for ARCH since they have done a cruel thing!, and that is to tag me with the "seven best things you've done this year " meme. It is especially awful because it is impossible to follow their list without appearing utterly paltry in comparison, but here goes.

1. One of the best things we have done this year is to carry on home educating. It has given us all the flexibility we could possibly need. This has meant, for example, that we can travel cheaply to far-flung places and introduce the children to the great wonders of the wider world. I love the fact that because the children don't have to be in bed at prescribed times, we could indulge Ds's obsession with the Eiffel Tower and accompany him on midnight walks around the Tower, over the Seine and further into Paris, whilst he talked and asked questions incessantly. You could see other pedestrians looking at us questioningly, perhaps deducing that he had a hyperactivity problem and that we were walking it off, but it couldn't have been further from the truth. He was animated out of pure joy and excitement engendered by the remarkable architecture, illuminations and setting.

2. I am so pleased that we have been able to let the children learn at their own pace and let them set the agenda. We would have got things so wrong otherwise, since all our predications based upon previous experience of their learning styles would have proved completely inaccurate. Ds, for example, has suddenly become a much more conventional learner, quite prepared to sit down and study in a schooly type way. His reading skills have developed at such a rapid pace that we can only be convinced that in this regard at the very least, it is better to wait until a child is ready and you cut out all those years of slow and painful struggle. (I should have believed all those HEors who have gone before and who kept telling me that this was so.) And Dd, contrary to all expectation, decided at the beginning of the year not to go to school and has instead developed into a highly independent, self-motivated learner who decides the pace of her education with great strength. She writes incessantly, but only what she wants to write. Whilst she is fascinated by language, she shows little interest in numbers, so in the spirit of the lessons we have taken from Ds, we are happy to let this ride for a bit. My own sudden emergence of interest in algebra suggests to me that it is actually never too late!

3. During our travels, we found the beach of our dreams: virtually deserted, unspoiled, yellow sands, warm blue sea, rock pools, octopuses and perfect waves - a wave the right size of all of us. A small but steady wave for Dd, a medium-size for Ds, a bigger one for the mums, and a virtual tsunami for Dad and the Uncles (loons). The memory of the place glows like a precious crystal and we are determined to return as soon as possible.

4. Having had the opportunity to spend quite a bit more time with certain people. It has been such a privilege to get know them properly.

5. Watching the children develop their friendships.

6. To have found part-time work which I absolutely love. Thanks so much to the person who helped me with this and thanks so much to the person who helped us out with HEing our children while we worked.

7. I can't pass up this opportunity without mentioning that it is a matter of enduring pleasure to me to watch Dd run. She runs like the wind, reminding me most of a gymnast with that sudden burst of speed as they run up to vault. She is so quick off the mark, her leg speed is extraordinary and when she isn't wearing jeans, her co-ordination is perfect. I am not sure quite why I find this so pleasurable; perhaps it is at least partially because she reminds me of my brother and sister who were similar when it came to finding such a joy in co-ordinated action. Ds, meanwhile, has become so much more co-ordinated during the year. He started out gangly and ends it by doing the neatest forward and backward flips, diving catches and perfect throws that anyone could hope for.

So that is it: a great time and life is generally getting easier as Dd passes out of toddlerhood. We just have to hope that impending changes to HE legislation doesn't screw this up for us.

As regards tagging, am going to let people off a direct hook, given that it is Christmas and all that, though would love it if Ron, Andrea, Jax and Tim and Gill took it up. Would also love it if Clare could pick this up, but rather doubt that she will have a mo.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Security and the Information Sharing Index

...two words that won't go together it seems. Here's more on what the experts think about it:

"More worryingly, we are due to see the UK’s Integrated Children’s System go live – a data system containing details of all of the nation’s vulnerable children. This is madness of course – an incredible resource for child abusers the length of the country. Two questions spring to mind: will the first big story be of an external hack into the system or an authorised user abusing their access rights to find their targets? And, who will be hung out to dry: the poor soul responsible for specifying the system’s security, or the politician who thought this was a good idea in the first place?"

Raising the School Leaving Age

Alan Johnson, in discussing the proposal to raise the school leaving age to 18, said:

"40, 50, 60 years ago, seeing a 14-year-old at work was perfectly acceptable. Now it is totally unacceptable. And it should be just as unacceptable to see a 16-year-old just working and not doing anything else, not receiving any training or schooling."

In my opinion, what is actually completely unacceptable here is that someone who has absolutely NO idea about an individual's desires and propensities, imagines that he has the right to dictate what that other person should be doing with their lives. There, that should be it - this much should be so obvious as to warrant no further explanation, but just in case it isn't, I will explain that I think it is generally very difficult for anyone to work out when someone else is or is not learning. As Jan Fortune Wood used to say - who can tell what that child lying on the sofa staring at the ceiling is thinking?"

I once briefly worked with a woman who, to my mind, should have been a player in the City, so quick and accomplished was she with numbers, business management, man-management, time management, PR, sales, she had the full works. She had somehow acquired all of these skills working from the age of 16 in the apparently mind-numbingly boring task of picking mushrooms in a darkened shed all day. Inexplicably as far as I was concerned, she just loved picking mushrooms. Perhaps something to do with her dedication to the task had resulted in this accumulation of other attendant skills and she gradually and imperceptibly took on more and more responsibility within the business. Eventually the manager left everything up to her.

So when Gordon Brown says that young people need qualifications in a post-industrial economy, I say "What are you talking about? Qualifications don't necessarily equal skills and there are more ways to acquire information than simply sitting in a classroom? Plus, why does everyone need to be a techie? The largest growth area in employment has quite recently been in the demand for Care Assistants. How many college graduates will want to fill that role after forking out so much cash to be educated?"

Perhaps one of the reasons that Johnson and Brown are thinking of going for 18 is because the age at which youths commit the maximum number of crimes correlates to the minimum school leaving age, so that when the school leaving age was 14, crime amongst youths peaked at 14, and similarly when the school leaving age was raised to 16. (see The Welfare State We're In, James Bartholomew). Could Johnson and Brown be thinking that if they just keep children engaged in school for long enough, they will get past that criminal stage entirely? If this is the case, I suspect they've got it wrong, and that what we will see instead are increasing levels of anarchy in schools, as children who are woefully unsuited to being in this sort of institution become ever more disaffected and desperate as a result of the lengthening of their torture.

ARCH has another very likely take on their possible motives.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

DfES "Unfit for Purpose"

The thing is, if you ask silly questions, you'll get silly answers. And you can't help wondering - if the DfES can't even manage a single purpose database, what on earth will they make of the Children's Information Sharing Index?

Here's the latest Telegraph take on that last question.

More on the Prospective DfES Consultation on Home Education

It would be infinitely preferable not to have to send out alarming messages at this time of year, but I thought it nonetheless best to post this Education Otherwise Government Policy Group update on the prospective DfES consultation on home education, since it contains clarification on the issues of the subject, object and timing of the exercise, along with EO's reaction so far.

==============================

From The EO Government Policy Group

"The DfES have been signalling over the last few weeks that they are about to conduct a new review of local authority arrangements for home educators. The news was first given to Stephen Tarlton, EO East London Local Contact, who was told that previous consultations had "raised concerns about lack of access to the child" and that some parents opting for home education "may not be in a position to offer their children the well rounded education to which they are entitled". DfES said that they plan to consult on "what light touch changes we might implement to strenthen the monitoring arrangements for home education".

Further responses from DfES to home educators have indicated that DfES have a range of issues they are wanting to address and that the scope of the consultation will be broad. The consultation will look at the following issues, (but there may be more, DfES have not yet given a formal statement about the planned scope):

Standards of educational provision.
DfES have said that the state prescribes the form of education at schools but not in the home, and described that as an anomaly at odds with the improvement of educational standards for all children.

Monitoring of educational provision.
DfES believe they have a duty to ensure parents are able to provide an education that meets the requirements of being suitable and efficient.

Lack of access to home educated children.
There are contradictory signals as to whether the focus of this is on checking general welfare, or about assessing a childs progress and hearing their views.

The DfES have sought to reassure home educators about their intentions by saying that the intention of a full consultation is to open up a constructive debate on whether or not changes are required, and that the consultation will consider "light touch" changes. However it is clear from the use of a full public consultation and other signals, that changes in the law are being considered through primary legislation (ie future amendments to, or a new Education Act in parliament).

The group have been speaking to DfES and the phrase they are using is "We are consulting in the New Year on the regulations on home education". They have not yet set the consultation dates, but plan to start in January with the usual 12 week period.

EO's Government Policy Group have accepted an invitation to DfES to hear from them the intended content of the consultation and have an initial "exchange of views". The meeting will take place in London Tuesday 18th December. The EO team will consist of Jill Fisher (former chair of EO), Martin Wise (Vice chair of EO) and Phil Hicks (Govt Policy Group).

Following the meeting we will give a report. "

=====================

Thanks. Yep, whilst we can't say we actually look forward to it, we are grateful for your work!

The only thing I would wish for: that the relevant parties in the DfES do their homework, in the spirit of which, below is a reading list that immediately springs to mind:

Children in Chancery by Joy Baker. (Thanks so much to Gill who forwarded a copy of this to me).

The New Thought Police by Tammy Bruce

The Abolition of Liberty by Peter Hitchens

The Welfare State We're In by James Bartholomew, for an overview of the reasons for scepticism about the efficacy of state interference.


UPDATE:

Below, an EO Government Policy Group report of their meeting with the DfES:

"In brief, the situation is very much as has been signalled: The DfES have concerns about the educational provision that parents in the traveller communities give children who are deregistered at the transition to secondary school. (Ivatts report)

The policy solution they are"exploring" is to set a standard local authorities can apply so that they can concretely assess when provision is not up to standard. Monitoring to ensure that the standard is being met, and compulsory registration to make sure they have the opportunity to monitor all families."

My immediate reaction: "What IS the problem with the DfES? The law already makes provision for Local Authorites to deal with families who are failing their children educationally. The law may not be extremely easy to implement in this regard, but that is a GOOD thing, since otherwise families run a very real risk of having no privacy and no freedom to educate as they see fit. As parents, we would effectively stop being responsible for the education of our children, and we would then be compelled to require other legislative changes in order to reflect this fact. Once it is enshrined in law that the state is responsible for the education of our children, the government can then expect to be sued, and sued extensively, as and when our children fail in their state-enforced form of education.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Educational State We're In

Who's been reading their E.G. West then? Why none other than home educating journalist dad, James Bartholomew, of course. If you need a quick history of the establishment of state education, coupled with a succinct debunking of the fiction that it is generally good for you, you couldn't go far wrong with the chapter on education in his book "The Welfare State We're In".

Some choice quotes:

"Compulsory schooling, contrary to what nineteenth century reformers expected, has not reduced crime. The indications are, if anything, the other way around: that compulsory schooling has contributed to the rise in crime."

"We published a paper in 1990 showing that Zulu children could spell better than UK children, and English is their second language." quoting Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education.

"In some cases the decision of a parent not to force a child to go to school is perfectly rational - indeed, wise and in the best interests of the child. A significant proportion of truancy is actually caused by state education. Disorder, low achievement and sometimes bullying turn people away..."

"The basic problem is this: there are far too many people being funded to monitor, advise and even direct the far too few actually doing the work." quoting Jim Hudson, head teacher.

A supply teacher found that "she was not actually expected to teach the children anything. 'My task is simply to prevent them from wrecking the classroom and injuring each other.' Many (of the schools she worked at) were 'not for the faint-hearted.

'The pupils are bad mannered, disaffected and often violent. They shout, swear, throw books around the classroom, kick over chairs and tables, laugh in your face, call you names, and threaten to "have you done" if you remonstrate with them.

Almost daily, I suffer abusive behaviour, foul language, personal insults and comments of a sexual nature too disgusting to repeat. When I first walk into a classroom, it is not unusual to be greeted with the comment "just another f***ing supply teacher.' "

"The most worrying aspect of the lack of parent power is that bad schools and bad teaching methods can go on forever."

Bartholomew also roundly trounces the claim that there has been any genuine improvement in educational standards, as could be inferred from the rise in GCSE grades. He says, for example: "One supply teacher told the TES how students at a private school in Lancashire were allowed up to six 'drafts' of English course-work before submitting a final version for marking."

Bartholomew doesn't mention that he has chosen home education over private schooling, and it would be easy to infer from this chapter that he sees private schools as significantly better option than state schools. Perhaps he has been subsequently disabused of this idea for whilst private schools may turn out the academic results, they produce significant problems of their own. Nick Duffel's book The Making of Them about the psychological effects of independent schools looks like a good place to start on this subject.

"Tragedy!"

...as in the Bee Gees song, was completely innocently proposed as the tune of choice to celebrate the birth of Jesus at our local HE Nativity Play. Can't imagine that would have gone down too well in school, but clearly didn't meet with a terrible reception in this context as the angels were still able to work in a rendition of "We are the Cheeky Girls" just after Mary had been informed that she was about to give birth to someone other than Joseph's child.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Home Education "Research"?

Does this seem like solid research to you? By "this" I mean a government funded study "focusing on the local authority’s role regarding elective home education (EHE)."

"Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 21 local authority officers (including those with a lead responsibility for monitoring EHE) and practitioners who were responsible for conducting the monitoring visits. In addition, the local authority officers were also asked to nominate parents who might be willing to speak to researchers, particularly those who had decided to educate their children at home as a result of negative experiences within school. In total, four parents were interviewed to gain their perspectives on EHE and their relationships with the local authority. Relevant documentation produced by local authorities was also collected."

Doesn't therefore seem altogether surprising when they came up with such grossly misleading so-called "findings" such as this:

"The parents in the sample, identified by LA contacts, had developed good relationships with local authority officers and had found the local authority support helpful. Parents noted the benefits of local authority officers having a teaching background. A keen interest in, and a connection with, the children was considered key to the development of an effective relationship between the local authority and families. "

and:

"Almost half of the authority personnel reported having some form of ongoing contact with local EHE organisations"

Wha? We go to or have been to HE groups in seven different areas now and none of these have any direct contact with LAs, as far as I am aware. OK, an organiser of an HE group may be known to the LA but this doesn't meant that the LA has any direct contact with the group at all. I would be interested to hear otherwise, but this bit, as well as many other sections in the report, looks like a mere fiction.

News Behind the Spin(e)

Oh boy do you have to keep an eye on these guys. Yesterday we hear via the Guardian that

"The government has bowed to privacy concerns about a new NHS computer system and conceded that patients should be allowed a veto on information about their medical history being passed from their GP to a national database. "

which is a great start, but go here for some qualifications to the good news.

Richard Feynman on Schooling

Via Unschooling.com, physicist Richard Feynman talked about the state of schooling in 1985. What has changed, I wonder?

From U.S. News & World Report:

"I sometimes feel that it would be much better not to educate our children in such subjects as mathematics and science. If we left youngsters alone, there would be a better chance that, by accident, the kids would find a good book - or an old textbook - or a television program that would excite them. But when youngsters go to school, they learn that these subjects are dull, horrible and impossible to understand. When I went to school, I didn't learn that math and science were dull because I knew before I got there that they were interesting. All I saw was that they were dull in school. But I knew better".

I once sat in a committee in California that chose new schoolbooks for the state. The books said things that were useless, mixed up, ambiguous, confusing and partially incorrect. How anybody could learn science from these books, I don't know.

What happens often is that state bodies decide what ought to be in the curriculum on the basis of what so-called experts think. This has a tremendous influence on publishers, who want their books to cover every single item on the suggested list. Publishers try very hard to follow what states want, and in the end, the books are poor. They don't try to make subjects easier to understand. They try to make it easier to know what to do to pass the test and please the
teacher. They are involved in making sure that certain items are understood by children so that they can go on to the next course, which is designed in exactly the same way.

Someday people will look back at our age and they will think: "My goodness, how they tortured their children! Year after year they went to these schools every day for hours. yet look how easy it is to teach. But they didn't know how to do it back then."

I certainly witnessed the truth of his first paragraph yesterday. I noticed a friend of mine (who had left school with no scientific qualifications at all and absolutely no previous mention of any interest in science) had slipped away from the general conversation. I went looking for her and discovered her in the next room buried in the heavy article in the New Scientist - the one that I often start out reading and then think..."OK...yada, yada" and then skip to the conclusion, but she was taking it in word for word. When she sensed I was there, she looked up as if still completely absorbed by the article and then shook her head as if to bring herself round, but then only came up with a look of complete bewilderment..."That's amazing" she announced. "This is fascinating, and I am fascinated! How strange is that!"

Looks as if Dr Feynman was right in this regard but on another point he made, my guess is that many textbooks have, over the last decade or so, got a bit better at presenting their subjects clearly and that most do make an effort to be easy as possible to understand. I'd bet that this has much more to do with competition in the publishing market than anything to do with the National Curriculum which, because of it's one size fits all mentality, merely means that many of these books still risk being boring.

What seems to me to be a pretty intractable, though less publicized, problem for the school system is that text books are, of course, still prone to error which actually would not matter a jot if teachers were able to acknowledge this fact. It would matter even less if teachers were able to acknowledge their own potential for fallibility but it seems that this is sadly largely impossible since schools run the risk of anarchy and confusion if pupils were to be fully genned up on the fact that there teachers could be wrong. Yet an awareness of the potential for fallibility in apparently established structures is a fundamental precept of scientific and philosophical thinking. School children risk missing out on this completely. They do not see the principle of fallibility being modelled by those in positions of power. They risk learning that the truth has nothing to do with what really is out there, and everything to do with having the power to dictate what others should believe to be the truth.

This for me, is one huge area of benefit of home educating. A home educating parent can admit to being wrong or not knowing since she/he doesn't have a classroom of kids to control.

Of course the other problem with schooling that unquestionably persists since well before 1985 is the sheer cumbersome nature of it - having to teach 30 children of differing learning needs all at the same time. Even if they every pupil had identical needs, a teacher still has the problem of managing the class. This fact was brought home to us yesterday when we received a handwriting pack through the door. It contained some lesson plans for Key Stage 2. (ie: Ds's age). These lessons were meant to last 45 mins or so. Ds and I actually covered the information contained in the lesson in three minutes flat. Most of plan involved managing the class in complex and lengthy manoevers which only resulted in the demonstration of a very small point. You couldn't help but conclude that this was an enormous waste of everyone's time and it certainly added weight in my mind to the old home educating truism about the efficency of personalized learning and that home educators can do in ten minutes the equivalent of a whole days work at school.


HT: Eliot

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Legal Guidelines for Home Education - Draft - Comments Welcome

The only updates I've attempted so far - changing Local Education Authority (LEA) to Local Authority (LA) and some draft alterations to the section on De-Registration, but would be very grateful if anyone can spot anything else that needs updating, as well as any comments on the de-reg section:

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LEGAL GUIDELINES FOR HOME EDUCATION

Index

Page

Education Law 1
Parental Responsibilities 2
Deregistration 3
Local Authority Duties 3
Diverse Approaches 5
Special Educational Needs 6
School Attendance Orders 9
Irregular School Attendance 10
Further Notes 11

Act numbers refer to The Education Act 1996 unless otherwise stated.

Education is compulsory - school attendance is not. The freedom to educate children at home forms an intrinsic and essential element of educational provision in our society, a right which has been protected by a succession of Education Acts. The law is clear that while education is compulsory, school attendance is not.

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Page 1.

Education Law

The current legislation regulating education in England and Wales is the Education Act 1996 (a consolidating act which incorporates and repeals the 1944 Education Act and later legislation. Repealed law should no longer be referred to).

The only sections relevant to elective home education are: (emphasis added)

Parental Duties:

Section 7 "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable;

a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Local Authority Duties:

The LA's duties and powers in relation to home-educated children are contained in the Education Act 1996. These are fully set out in sections 437 to 443 of the 1996 Act and (except in relation to special educational needs) are limited to the provisions of those sections.

437. - (1) If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.

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Page 2.

Parental Responsibilities

Under section 576 of the Education Act 1996, a parent is defined in relation to a child or young person as also including any individual:

(a) who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him, or(b) who has care of him.

As parents are responsible for ensuring that their children are properly educated, it is their decision whether to use schools or provide education at home.

It is important to note that the duty to secure education is stated entirely in section 7 and nowhere else.

Provided the child is not a registered pupil at a school, the parent is bound by no other constraints. In particular, there is no obligation

to seek permission to educate 'otherwise';

to take the initiative in informing the LA;

to have regular contact with the LA;

to meet with the LA;

to have premises equipped to any particular standard;

to have any specific qualifications;

to cover the same syllabus as any school;

to adopt the National Curriculum;

to make detailed plans in advance;

to observe school hours, days or terms;

to have a fixed timetable;

to give formal lessons;

to produce examples of ‘work’ for inspection;

to reproduce school type peer group socialisation;

to match school, age-specific standards.

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Page 3.

De-registration

The grounds on which a pupil's name must be deleted from the admission register are listed in Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations (England) 2006. See here.

Under regulation 8 (a) a 'school-age' pupil's name is to be deleted from the admission register
when the school has been notified in writing that arrangements have been made for the child to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude otherwise than at school;

If the parent writes to the proprietor explaining that the child is being educated at home, the school is obliged to take the child's name off the register, and the duty to secure regular attendance thus comes to an end. Since 1995 this has been an absolute legal requirement: no discretion is involved. Under regulation 12 (3), Pupil Registration Regulations, 2006, the proprietor shall make a return to the local authority for every such pupil giving the full name of the pupil, the address of any parent with whom the pupil normally resides and the ground upon which their name is to be deleted from the admission register as soon as the ground for deletion is met in relation to that pupil, (ie: upon the receipt of the letter informing the school of the de-registration.

There is a phrase appended to this regulation which may lead to some confusion for proprietors, namely that the proprietor must inform the LA of the deletion from the register no later than deleting the pupil's name from the register. This may be interpreted by schools as meaning that a delay in deregistration may be introduced by the schools whilst the LA is informed of the deregistration. We have been reassured that this is not the intended purpose of the appended phrase and that de-registration in law remains immediate upon the school's receipt of parental notification of the de-registration. (Please see qualifcation below*)

In this way the legal position of a parent embarking on home-based education is the same regardless of whether or not the child has been withdrawn from a school for this purpose. i.e., the LA is entitled to make informal enquiries of the parent(s).

*LA consent is required for the name of a child registered as a pupil at a ‘special school’ – ‘under arrangements made by the LA’, to be deleted from the schools’ admission register. (Regulation 9(2) Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations, 1995 [SI 1995/2089]).

The Regulations do not specify who should seek that consent. Reasonably, such a request can be made by either the child’s parent, the proprietor of the school, or both, in cases where it is the parental choice to home educate. If the school has stated that it will, itself, seek LA consent for the child’s name to be deleted from the admission register, for example where the parent has informed it that they have chosen to home educate, it is advisable that the parent also seeks such consent themselves.

LAs should not discriminate against parental choice to home educate their child by refusing such consent on the grounds that the child has SEN for whom it maintains a statement. If the authority does refuse to agree to such consent, the direction of the Secretary of State can be sought.


Local Authority Duties (cont'd)

The wording of the Education Act 1996 requires the LA to act only if something comes to its attention which gives it reason to suppose a breach of a parent's section 7 duty. It does not need to investigate any instances of home education which come to its attention unaccompanied by any grounds for suspicion that an adequate education is not taking place.However, case law (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported] Judicial review by Lord Justice Donaldson, as he then was) has established that an LA may make informal enquiries of parents. Lord Donaldson said:

"Of course such a request is not the same as a notice under s 37 (1) of the Education Act 1944 (now s 437 (1) of the 1996 Education Act) and the parents will be under no duty to comply. However it would be sensible for them to do so. If parents give no information or adopt the course ………. of merely stating that they are discharging their duty without giving any details of how they are doing so, the LA will have to consider and decide whether it ‘appears’ to it that the parents are in breach of s 36. (now s7 of the 1996 Education Act.)"

Determining ‘Suitable Education’

LAs should bear in mind when considering the replies to such informal enquiries (and other more formal ones, should the matter go that far) that parents taken to court for failing to comply with a School Attendance Order only have to show the court that they are providing a suitable education on a balance of probabilities. That is the test that LAs must also apply. Also a court will receive any evidence a parent produces, it will not have to be in any specified form and it will be sufficient so long as it shows that a suitable education is being given. Similarly an LA has no power to require that information be given to it in a specified form or way.

The DfES acknowledge this on their web site:http://www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolattendance/faq/

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Page 4.

(LA Duties, con'd)

LAs have no automatic right of access to parents' home. Parents may wish to offer an alternative way of demonstrating that they are providing suitable education, for example through showing examples of work and agreeing to a meeting at another venue.

Another “example” might be information provided in written form, sufficiently comprehensive to establish competence and intention, and beyond the bare assertion that education is taking place which Lord Donaldson determined was inadequate.

Many parents are quite concerned not to have their child’s privacy invaded out of respect for the child’s autonomy, and any hint of testing or examination by strangers with a different agenda can be experienced as undermining. Therefore for reasons of educational approach, some parents may not wish to provide information to their LA through home visits. Insistence or assumption of a home visit by the LA is a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR (the right to privacy and respect for family life.)

It would be helpful if LAs carry out their duty to accept information provided in any reasonable and adequate form, by not making a prior assumption of the normalcy of any particular form this might take, but on first approach to present the parents with the free choice the law supports. In the case of R v Surrey Quarter Sessions Appeals Committee, ex parte Tweedie (1963), Lord Parker held that: '.....an education authority should not, as a matter of policy, insist on inspection in the home as the only method of satisfying themselves that the children were receiving full time education.'

There is no legal requirement for the LA to make continual enquiries. Once in receipt of a reasonable account of the educational provision, their legal obligation is fulfilled and no further contact is necessary. However, some parents may appreciate continuous help, support and contact and under these circumstances further contact can be arranged. Some LAs arrange 'drop-in' centres where families can maintain contact.

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Page 5.

Diverse Approaches to Home Education

The principle of parental choice is paramount. Families are entitled to choose what they feel to be the most suitable educational approach.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 2 of protocol No 1 states:

"No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

One system cannot be expected to cater for the needs and interests of all individuals, (many fail to thrive or reach their full potential whilst receiving formal instruction in a school environment). A variety of alternatives in education is therefore important and the law protects this diversity.

A clearer interpretation of some terminology used in the 1944 Education Act (repealed by the 1996 Act), was gained in the case of Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson (appeal to Worcester Crown Court 1981). The term 'suitable education' was defined as one which enabled the children ‘to achieve their full potential’, and was such as ‘to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society’. The term 'efficient' was defined as achieving ‘that which it sets out to achieve’.

Clearly this definition covers a great variety of educational approaches.

There is no one 'correct' educational system. All children learn in different ways and at varying rates, and chronological age has little bearing on the process. It would be wholly inappropriate for example to seek to impose ‘reading and numeracy age’ scales on home educated children, not subject to the specific educational methods in state schools. Individual children come to literacy and numeracy over a huge age range, which has no subsequent bearing on their competence in these areas as adults. It is vital that parents and children choose a type of education which is right for them, and it is important that any LA officers understand and are supportive of many differing approaches or "ways of educating" which are all feasible and legally valid.

Education Act 1996, Part V (incorporating Education Reform Act 1988).

This deals with the National Curriculum, stating in ss 351 to 353 (replacing ss1&2) that it only applies to children who are registered pupils of maintained (i.e. State or State-supported) schools. Home educators may choose whether to base their studies around these guidelines fully, partially, or not at all.

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Page 6

Elective Home Education of Children with Special Educational Needs

The right of parents to choose to home educate their children with special educational needs is upheld by section 7 of the Education Act 1996 and applies regardless of whether a statement is maintained by the LA for the child or not.

'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable: -

(a) to his age, ability, and aptitude and (b) to any special educational needs he may have

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise

Identification and Assessment of Children with Special Educational Needs

It is important that LAs recognise that a child with a disability will not automatically have special educational needs (SEN). The definition of a person with a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is not the same as the definition of those children who have special educational needs under the Education Act 1996.

Children with SEN are defined as those having “a learning difficulty.. (the definition of which includes a disability) ..which calls for special educational provision to be made for him.” Special educational provision is itself defined as provision which is additional or different to that made available for children of the same age in ordinary schools in their area. (section 312).

Accordingly, it is possible for a child to be disabled under the DDA and not have SEN (and vice versa). Equally, it is possible for a child to be both disabled and have SEN (and, of course, be neither).

Under sections 321 (2) and 323 (2), LAs have a duty to identify and formally assess only those children for whom they are responsible, where

(a) he has special educational needs, and(b) it is necessary for the authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty he may have calls for.

It is therefore not necessary for LAs to identify and formally assess electively home educated children of compulsory school age that have, or probably have, SEN, where the child’s parents and the LA are satisfied that those needs can be suitably met by the parents ‘otherwise than at school’. Conversely, it is necessary for LAs to identify and formally assess children of compulsory school age that are electively home educated in the following instances:

· the child has, or probably has, SEN, the child is to become a registered pupil at a school and it is considered unlikely that the child’s needs can be met within the schools own resources (e.g. at School Action Plus).

· the child has, or probably has, SEN, the parents’ no longer wish to fulfil their section 7 responsibilities by electively home educating and the LA is of the opinion that it is necessary for it to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty calls for.

LAs shall make and maintain a statement only for those children for whom it is necessary that the LA, as opposed to the parent, determines the special educational provision necessary.

Section 324:“(1) If, in the light of an assessment under section 323 of any child’s educational needs and of any representations made by the child’s parent in pursuance of Schedule 27, it is necessary for the local education authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty calls for, the authority shall make and maintain a statement of his special educational needs.”

The statutory procedures for formal assessment and making and maintaining a statement are contained in Part IV and Schedules 26 and 27 of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001) and The Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001

Children that become electively home educated for whom statements are maintained

Parents need to seek permission to home educate a child for whom a statement is maintained only where a School Attendance Order is in force. Otherwise, the fundamental parental right to choose to home educate a child with special educational needs is in no way undermined.

Section 324 (5) of the Education Act 1996 places a statutory duty upon LAs to arrange the provision specified in a statement it maintains only if parents are not themselves making suitable arrangements.

Section 324:“(5) Where a local education authority maintain a statement under this section, then

unless the child’s parent has made suitable arrangements, the authority – shall arrange that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child……”

Where parents that are electively home educating their child for whom the LA maintains a statement of SEN are fulfilling their responsibility under section 7 of the Act, they are indeed making ‘suitable arrangements’.

Nowhere in the legislation is there a duty placed upon parents to arrange the provision specified in the statement maintained by the LA for their child. LAs cannot conclude that a parent is failing to cause their child to receive suitable education on grounds that the parent is not arranging the special educational provision specified in the statement. Parental responsibilities are defined entirely in section 7 and nowhere else. LAs must accept that electively home educating parents may choose alternative special educational provision or an alternative approach to meeting their child’s SEN than that which is specified in the statement.

Parental rights and duties are not affected where a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) Order has been made regarding the content of the statement. Accordingly, a parent is not required to register their child as a pupil at the school named at Part 4 of the statement, nor to arrange the special educational provision specified at Part 3, where the contents of these Parts of the statement are decided by the Tribunal upon conclusion of an appeal.

LA’s are absolved of their duty to arrange the special educational provision specified in the statement it maintains where the child is electively home educated. This does not prevent a LA from offering to arrange some, or all, of the special educational provision specified at Part 3 of the statement, although parents are free to decline such an offer. If the LA and the child’s parent are agreeable to the suitability of LA arranged provision for meeting the child’s special educational needs otherwise than at a school, section 319 provides that such provision be specified in the statement and duly arranged.

An LA cannot insist that a child for whom it maintains a statement or a child with SEN for whom no statement is maintained be assessed by an educational psychologist, specialist teacher or similar in order to establish that the parents are fulfilling their section 7 responsibilities. LAs can only expect a child to be presented for an assessment ‘examination’ when a statutory assessment under section 323 is underway.

LAs retain the duty to review a statement maintained for a child that is electively home educated at least every 12 months, as required by section 328 (5) of the Education Act 1996. Regulation 22 of The Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001 prescribes the statutory procedures of such reviews and the matters which must be considered.

Once a LA is satisfied that a child’s special educational needs are being suitably met through elective home education and that parents are established in and committed to providing long term home educational provision, consideration to ceasing to maintain the statement should be made. An appropriate opportunity for such consideration would be when the statement is reviewed, although such consideration can be made at any other time. LAs concerned that this may not be an appropriate course should recognise that statements should only ever be maintained “…where it is necessary for the local education authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty he may have calls for…” (from section 324 (1)).

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School Attendance Orders

Education Act 1996 s 437-443, (previously s 192-198 1993 Act) This begins:

"If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent...."

The formal steps provided for in these sections should not be needed unless something has gone seriously wrong. Nevertheless they are summarised here for reference:

1. If the LA has evidence that there appears to be no suitable educational provision, the LA must serve the parents with a notice giving them at least 15 days to satisfy them that their child is in receipt of suitable education. The DfES at has issued LA guidance on this procedure which states that when

“informing them of the LAs intention to serve a SAO. The LEA should inform the parent of schools that are suitable for the child to attend and should also inform the parent that they have the right to educate their child at home if they choose to.”

2. If the parents fail to satisfy the LA, it then has to consider whether it is expedient for the child to go to school. If they think it is they must serve a 'school attendance order', but before doing so they must serve a notice stating which school they intend to name in the order, and giving the parents a chance to choose an alternative. If a statement is maintained for the child, the LA must name the school specified in Part 4 and is not required to serve a notice which allows parents to choose an alternative school. However, if no school is named in Part 4 or if the school named is determined by the LA to be unsuitable, an amendment must be made in accordance with paragraph 10 of Schedule 27 of the Education Act 1996. Accordingly, parents will have the right to make representations against the contents of the statement, express a preference for the name of a maintained school or make representations for another placement and to appeal to the SENDIST, if necessary. Similarly, if the parents request a change of named school, the LA must comply with that request in accordance with paragraph 8 of Schedule 27 and parents will be able to exercise their right of appeal to the SENDIST if the LA determines not to comply. The LA should not issue the school attendance order until the time limit for lodging an appeal has lapsed.

3. The LA serve a school attendance order requiring the parents to register the child as a pupil at the school named in it.

4. The parents can ask the LA to revoke the order because they are educating 'otherwise'.

5. The LA can prosecute the parents for not complying with the order, but the action will fail if the parents can show the court that they are educating 'otherwise'.

The evidence a court requires to satisfy it that adequate education is taking place, is such as would convince ‘a reasonable person’, ‘on the balance of probabilities’. (Under section 447, whether they prosecute or not, the LA must also consider applying for an education supervision order.)

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Irregular or Non-attendance at School

Education Act 1996 s 444, (previously s 199 of 1993 Act derived from s 39 1944 Act)

This deals with the non-attendance, or irregular attendance at school, of registered pupils. If poor/non attendance is due to severe school anxieties, usually the Educational Welfare department becomes involved and the family should be informed of all their duties, rights and available options including education at home.

Many LAs, when confronted with the problems of School Phobia/Anxieties, School Refusal/Truanting, encourage families to contact one of the home education support groups for help and advice. This provides a useful alternative course of action for officials, because if endeavours are made to pressure children with the above problems back into schools under duress, the whole family (as well as the child) suffers the ensuing stress and the truanting and nervous illnesses inevitably continue. Education at home may prevent further distress and the possibility of the child returning to school at a later date remains an option.

Flexi-time or Part-time schooling

There may be families who would prefer a flexi-time schooling approach.

Under s444(3)(a) of the 1996 Education Act

Any ‘school age’ child who goes to school at all must attend regularly, but absence ‘with leave’ does not count as irregular attendance. During such absences the child is officially at school, but is effectively being educated off site. (S)he is therefore covered for insurance and attracts full funding. Such arrangements are at the discretion of the school. (s 444 (9))Further Notes

Truancy Patrols

It has unfortunately become necessary in this revision to draw attention to the Home Office guidance: ‘GUIDANCE DOCUMENT POWER FOR THE POLICE TO REMOVE TRUANTS’, as the widespread experience of home educators around the country has revealed that many police officers and accompanying EWOs have not been properly briefed on the safeguards it contains, specifically to protect the civil liberties of home educated children.

Section 4.21 of this guidance states:

"Local procedures should take account of possible contact with such home-educated children and it should be emphasised that they are not the target group for the new power. The power can only be exercised in relation to registered pupils of compulsory school age absent from school without authority; it does not apply to children who are lawfully educated at home. No further action should be taken where children indicate that they are home-educated - unless the constable has reason to doubt that this is the case."

Some police officers and EWOs have used the opportunity these actions provide to insist on names and addresses being given, and refusal as a reason for doubt. There is no compulsory registration of home educators, therefore to so insist against the clear direction contained in the Home Office guidance is an abuse, and an avoidable source of friction and resentment where it occurs. Home educators and their children have been advised that legally, once they have stated that they are home educators, that as they commit no offence, they are entitled to go on their way without further question, and that any further detention is unlawful.


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Further Notes

Resources for home educators

It would be appreciated, at first LA contact, and in any written LA guidance that the following web site be listed: www.home-education.org.uk This web site is independent of any one organisation or educational philosophy, and is the home of the UK Home Education web ring, linking with many other sites created as self help resources by and for home educators. All the home education organisations can be found through this one site. The information, help and mutual support available is an unrivalled resource of immense value to many.