...about finding children missing from a suitable education are piling in - 419 at the latest count. Let's hope that most of these responses are from home educators who understand the problems.
It seems there are a few HEors who don't. This is not really so surprising as it is complex. Other HEors think it's hopeless, because the proposed guidance could seem to be directly informed by the law, ie: section 436a of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted from the 2006 Education and Inspections Act). However, in this regard, HEors need not despair, for the proposed guidance contains such an extreme interpretation of section 436a that it will result in problems in other areas of the law, ie: Sections 7 and 9 of the very same act. It seems that the bods at the DCSF haven't worked that one out just yet and home educators need to be gently explaining it to them.
And yes, if this seems familiar, it is because it is. We've thrashed out many of these problems only last year with the Elective Home Education guidelines consultation. Unfortunately, there are new people in post in the DCSF and they simply have to be re-educated all over again. This time we hope that they will pass on their received wisdom and prevent this sort of problem from happening all over again.
This revised statutory guidance (note: since this is "guidance" it will be legally binding and will take precedence over the EHE "guidelines"), contains major changes to the previous February 2007 guidance on finding children missing from education. The 2007 version was all about finding "children missing education" and the guidelines explicitly said that did NOT include home educated children; ie: from the 2007 Guidelines:
"s3.3.16. If it becomes known that a child identified as not receiving education is being home educated, this should be recorded on the local authority's database and no further action should be taken unless there is cause for concern about the child's safety and welfare. Monitoring arrangements already exist for children being educated at home. Where there are concerns about the child's safety and welfare, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed."
However, the 2008 proposed version of guidance is about "children not receiving a suitable education" and INCLUDES home educators. It implies an assessment of suitability of the education, not about a child not being in any educational setting. From 2008:
"Section 6.35 In order to discharge their duties in relation to children not receiving an education, local authorities should make inquiries with parents about whether their HE children are receiving a suitable education. "
This puts the emphasis on a positive duty to assess all educational provision out of schools for suitability, rather than only to assess when there is reason to think that there might be a problem and it seems pretty obvious that those LAs who do not have a good attitude to home educators and do not follow the EHE guidelines, will use THIS statutory guidance to prove once and for all that they have a *duty* to *assess* how *suitable* our educational provision is.
Worse still, the guidance also implies and certainly doesn't rule out that families with children out of school should be assessed for meeting the five ambitions for children in the Children Act 2004.
This will significantly lower the level of risk at which LAs will think they have a right to intervene in family life, will override any rights to privacy for families, (see Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights), and will mean that the state will appropriate the role of parenting, thereby contravening Sections 7 and 9 of the Education Act 1996.
You can read up on all of this it at the Freedom for Children to Grow Walkthrough
If you need a quick way to respond, just fill in the consult form, NO to every question and add a bit to any questions where you could demonstrate how what is being proposed would impact negatively upon your family.