Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gloucestershire LA's Response to the Review

...has inspired a range of reactions from AHEd members so far. I think it is possible to be lulled into a false sense of security. You have to stay awake until you reach question 59.

Q1 Name of LA

Gloucestershire

Q4 Would you be willing to take part in the next phase of the research in February/March (including in-depth interviews with key personnel in your organisation)?

Yes

Q5 Which team(s) have the main responsibility for supporting and monitoring home educated children within the local authority and other agencies?

The Elective Home Education Service supports home educating families on behalf of the LA

Q6 List all teams / professionals involved in supporting home educating families

The Elective Home Education Service (EHEGLOS). Some children with a statement of need for SEN receive additional support from the Advisory Teaching Service when this forms part of the provision named on their statement.

Q7 List all teams / professionals involved in monitoring home educating families.

EHE advisors provide guidance to parents who request it with regard to the family’s current and future plans for their children’s education. The LA currently has no legal duty to monitor home educating families.

Q8 Describe how you ensure collaboration and communication between these teams / individuals

EHE advisors and the lead officer for elective home education meet fortnightly as a team. EHE advisors have separate casework meetings with the lead officer every three weeks. A Steering Group is established with representation from Social Care, Health, EPS and LA.

Data and Tracking

Q9 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Registered with LA)

62

Q10 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q11 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Registered with LA)

192

Q12 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q13 Total (Registered with LA)

254

Q14 Total (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q15 Are these figures accurate or based on estimates?

Accurate

Q16 If accurate, where do you get this data from?

EHEGLOS keeps the names of families known to be home educating on a register. Data on this list is supplied by parents who often contact EHEGLOS to request support or guidance. Schools are legally obliged to inform the LA when parents send deregistration letters to schools.

Q17 If accurate, how do you know the data is accurate?

EHEGLOS checks contact information with schools and parents. We also liaise with the SEN department of the LA about SEN if a home educated child has a statement of need.

Q18 If estimated, what data have you used to arrive at this figure? (List all sources)

Q19 How confident is the local authority in the accuracy of this data?

Very confident

Q20 How often does the local authority get updated data? (List frequency for each source separately)

Data about individual families who deregister their child is sent to EHEGLOS by schools immediately. EHEGLOS has produced guidance for schools to remind them about their duties in respect of elective home education.

Q21 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is statemented for SEN? (please state whether accurate or estimate)

7.5% - accurate 3- Autistic Spectrum Disorder, 1- Behaviour Emotional Social Disability, 1 - Hearing Impairment, 2 - Moderate Learning Difficulties, 3 - Physical Disability, 3 - Speech Language Comminication difficulties , 4 - Severe Learning Difficulties , 2 - Specific Learning Difficulties

Q22 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is non-statemented for SEN (please state whether accurate or estimate)

30% - estimate. This figure relates to children previously on roll at school and identified as having additional needs at school action and school action plus and does not include children who may have additional learning difficulties but who have never been at school. School Action and School Action Plus do not apply to children educated at home.

Q23 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage (please state whether accurate or estimate)

18.5%- accurate

Q24 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is made up of other Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups

7.08%

Q25 Please list which BME groups.

Indian, Chinese, White/Black African, White/Black Caribbean, White Eastern European, Irish, Welsh, Other White British, Other Mixed Background

Q26 Do you believe the local authority knows about all the home educated children in your area?

We think we know about the vast majority of home educated children in the area

Q27 Do you think that you will be better able to track children in your area in the near future? e.g. planned changes to your own systems, ContactPoint, other system improvements?

Yes

Q28 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

In cases where professionals have welfare concerns about children, ContactPoint will make it easier to keep track of children from an early age and from other LAs.

Supporting Home Educating Families

Q29 How does the local authority ensure families know about their rights and responsibilities in relation to home education? (List all approaches used)

The LA maintains up to date information for parents on the EHEGLOS pages of the County Council website. EHEGLOS send parents a detailed information pack written by EHEGLOS as well as information leaflets by Home Education Advisory Service and Education Otherwise on request. EHE advisors write to parents informing them of their right to receive or refuse support from the LA. Advisors also routinely advise parents about their rights and responsibilities by phone, email or during meetings.

Q30 What support does your local authority provide to home educating families? (List all forms of support offered)

EHE advisors offer advice to parents on request. Such advice covers a range of topics to do with the child’s current and future learning opportunities. EHEGLOS pays for families to use education packs provided by the Library Service for Education. The LA considers funding for young people to attend pre16 full-time college courses so that they can access GCSE or other external qualifications in cases where the EHE advisor knows the family and can provide a reference for the young person.

Q31 How does the local authority let families know about the services provided to support them in home educating their children? (List all approaches used)

The LA maintains up to date information for parents on the EHEGLOS pages of the County Council website. The EHE lead officer, administrator and advisors routinely informs parents who contact the LA by phone, email or in writing about the support offered by EHEGLOS as well as national support groups. EHEGLOS has devised guidance for schools and guidance for other professionals which recommends that families who may be considering EHE are given details of EHEGLOS to ensure the family is given up to date relevant information about the support offered by the LA.

Assessment and Monitoring

Q32 Following the initial assessment visit, are further monitoring visits made to a home educated child?

Yes

Q33 If yes, how often, on average, are these carried out?

Twice a year

Q34 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Meetings or any other contact between families and EHEGLOS is discussed and agreed by EHE advisors and families. Many families request to meet advisors more than twice a year and in some cases monthly to discuss their child’s education and request advice on resources, support groups etc

Q35 On average, how often is the child seen when a visit is made?

Usually, but not always

Q36 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

The vast majority of parents meet EHE advisors in the family home with the children present. Some families initially chose to meet the advisor without their child but most are happy to meet as a family once parents meet the advisor and are clear about the advisor’s role.

Q37 If the child is seen, where is s/he usually seen?

In the home

Q38 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Occasionally families prefer to meet the EHE advisor away from the family home. Advisors are happy to meet families in the local library, Shire Hall or other public buildings.

Q39 If you are not permitted access to a child, is any further action taken?

When access to a child is not permitted and where there is also uncertainty about the welfare of the child consideration is given to logging a child welfare concern.

The LA has a responsibility to ensure all children are safeguarded and where there are concerns about a child, Child Protection procedures are followed, concerns shared via a strategy meeting and actions taken as deemed appropriate.

Q40 If yes, what further steps are taken?

Q41 How is the suitability of the education provided to the child assessed? (Please describe)

EHE advisors offer support and guidance to families about their children’s education on request. Advisors understand that there are many different philosophical approaches to home education and talk to families about the suitability of their children’s education in terms of the definition provided by Mr Justice Woolf in the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985)

"Education is ‘suitable’ if it 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."

Q42 Is the local authority clear about what the definition of a 'suitable education' is?

Yes

Q43 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

EHEGLOS uses the above definition to inform discussions with parents about their child’s education. EHEGLOS understands that suitable can only be judged on the basis of information that would, on the balance of probabilities, convince a reasonable person that a suitable education is taking place.

Q44 Does the local authority have systems in place to track the educational progress of home educated children?

Yes

Q45 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

EHE advisors report back to parents following any meeting. Reports take the form of a written summary of any discussion that has taken place. Such summaries include any points raised about the child’s progress in learning. It is the experience of EHEGLOS that most families are able and keen to demonstrate progress in the context of the aims they have for their child’s learning.

Q46 Of the home educated children in your area of whom you have knowledge, what proportion (as a percentage) in your estimation is receiving a suitable, full time (20hrs a week) education? (Please describe)

95%. Currently two children known to EHEGLOS are not, in the opinion of the EHE advisor in each case receiving a ‘suitable’ education. Although statutory guidance for schools is 22 to 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year this is not relevant to home education. Home education provision may span the whole calendar year; take place on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups, and under very different conditions.

Q47 Does the local authority take any further steps if a home educated child's education was found to be unsuitable or not full time?

Yes

Q48 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

EHE advisors discuss any concerns about the suitability of a child’s education with the parents and write about this in their letter following any meeting. Parents are given time, advice and referred to support groups for additional support to adjust their provision or find more information supporting their provision to allay any concerns. In extreme cases where discussion and additional time has not been successful, EHEGLOS refers families to the EWS who can issue a School Attendance Order.

Q49 Does the local authority face any challenges in assessing whether home educated children receive a suitable education?

Yes

Q50 If you answered yes to Q49, please describe the challenges and what you think could be done to overcome these

EHEGLOS has anecdotal evidence and some written feedback form parents that many families are concerned that LAs across the country do not fully understand or support parents’ rights and responsibilities in relation to their children’s education. Consequently, some families do not want to be known to the LA. EHEGLOS receives much positive feedback from families informally about the support offered by advisors and formal written feedback to date is all positive. Clear government guidance about the scope of the LA role and responsibilities would help the LA to work in partnership with parents.

Q51 Thinking about your local area, in the last five years, how many cases have you come across that use the premise of home education as a 'cover' for child abuse, forced marriage or other aspects of child neglect?

One

Q52 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given. Please include the number of Serious Case Reviews you know about that have a home education element.

One foster parent of five children who went on to adopt two children in Gloucestershire was recently sent to prison for abuse inflicted both when the children were at school in two separate counties and subsequently when she removed them supposedly to home educate. A Serious Case Review was held.

Q53 Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?

No

Q54 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Greater clarity about the need of the LA to check safeguarding would help.

Q55 Do you think that home educated children in your local authority are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please say why you think that for each of the five outcomes

Yes.

The vast majority of children known to EHEGLOS are physically healthy. Many have home educating experiences which provide a range of experiences that enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.

Most of the children report being happy with their education provision at home. EHEGLOS now reports to the EHEGLOS steering group on a range of educational achievements of home educating families known to the LA. A significant number of children educated at home with a statement of SEN have recently achieved well at GCSE level.

Most families meet with other home educating families or arrange for children to attend sporting, musical etc groups. Many also are part of religious or community groups.

Many families known to EHEGLOS maintain contact with advisors after their children reach 16 and report success for their children in finding employment or further education.

Q56 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families?

Yes

Q57 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Currently there is no central pot of money allocated to the LA as a budget to support elective home education.

Q58 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families and ensuring that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes?

Yes

Q59 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

LA should have access to the child to ensure suitable education is provided.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

All three of my children responded to the review saying they wouldn't want to be seen by a stranger.

I wonder whose views will be given more weight?

Imogen

Gill said...

Urgh, and they were doing so well up until Q59!

Anonymous said...

How did you get these answers? I want to see if my own LA have responded...

Anonymous said...

actually, I think the answer to Q58 is just as interesting. Empire building is not entirely irrelevant here, is it?

Leo said...

Can we know the other replies?

Annkrozeika said...

Interesting to read....I'd also like to know how you go about getting hold of your LA's response...?

Carlotta said...

re getting hold of LA responses...as far as I can gather, I think a Glos HEor simply asked for it, so it might be worth a try. Probably easier if you already have some sort of working relationship with your LA.

Annkrozeika said...

Thanks for that, my LA either weren't told about us by the Head of the school we left or they aren't bothered enough about us to get in touch, so I have no relationship with them. I might still ask though, as you say, it's worth a try.