Thursday, June 11, 2009

Consultion on Home Education - Registering and Monitoring Proposals.

Home Education - registration and monitoring proposals

Launch Date: Thursday 11 June 2009

Closing Date: Monday 19 October 2009

Following the review of home education, the Government is proposing to introduce arrangements for the registration and monitoring of home educated children. The consultation document sets out our proposals for a registration scheme and arrangements for the monitoring of provision to ensure that children are receiving the education they are entitled to. There is also a proposal that where there are serious concerns about the ability of the parent to provide their child with a suitable education in a safe environment then they should not be permitted to educate their child at home. The consultation seeks the views of home educating families, groups representing home educating families, local authorities, other agencies involved in the provision of services for children, and the public, on our proposals.


Consultation document

1. Background and Context

1.1

The Review of Home Education in England published on 11 June (click here) took evidence from a large number of home educators, many local authorities and other groups who work with home educating families. The terms of reference recognised that parents have a well established right to educate their children at home and that the government respects that right, and has no plans to change that position. They also set out the Department's commitment to ensuring that systems for keeping children safe and receiving a suitable education, are as robust as possible. They recognised that where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child, effective systems must be in place to deal with those concerns.

1.2

The review's recommendations set out specific proposals for improving the capacity of local authorities and other public services to support home educators. The government, in its initial response (click here), is considering carefully the best way to implement them: a significant amount of further development work will be needed with local authorities, home educators and other organisations. We will publish a full response to the review's recommendations by the end of September.

1.3

The review found no evidence that home education was used to cover forced marriage, servitude, or trafficking other than in isolated cases. However, the reviewer was provided with evidence showing that the number of home educated children known to Children's Social Services in some LAs was disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population. There are well established procedures for supporting children known to a local authority where there are safeguarding concerns. However, the review notes that without knowledge of, or access to, a child, such powers are meaningless. HMCI, in her response to the call for evidence, noted that ‘schools have an important responsibility to monitor children's safety and welfare but this safety net is missing for children educated at home.'

1.4

For these reasons the government has decided to take immediate steps to reduce the risk that home education can be used as a cover for child abuse or neglect. The response to the review records our commitment to tighten up safeguarding procedures by:

  • Establishing a register of home educated children in each local authority;
  • Giving local authorities discretion to prohibit children from being home educated in circumstances where there are safeguarding concerns;
  • Introducing tougher monitoring arrangements which will require local authorities to interview home educated children and visit the premises where home education is taking place to ensure that a suitable and efficient education is being provided and the children are safe and well.

2. The Proposals

2.1 Register of home educated children

The review recommends that DCSF establishes a national registration scheme, locally administered, for all children of statutory school age who are, or become, electively home educated. The scheme described in the review is one where education and safeguarding issues are both considered as part of the registration process, with an initial statement of educational intent forming the basis for subsequent educational monitoring arrangements. The review response acknowledges that ultimately the scheme would need to be underpinned by guidance and training for local authority staff in order to work effectively. We accept that it will take time to put the full scheme in place particularly where more work is needed to provide more comprehensive guidance on the practical interpretation of ‘efficient' and ‘suitable'.

2.2

Registration would be granted automatically unless there were safeguarding concerns (see next section): if at any time a LA became dissatisfied with the quality of home education provided to a child, it would - as now - serve a school attendance order.

2.3

We propose to legislate now for registration and monitoring arrangements that will focus on safeguarding but should also improve the quality of education. They will have the following features:

  • Every home educated child of compulsory school age must be registered with the local authority in which the child is resident;
  • Regulations will specify the information that parents must provide which is likely to be child's name, date of birth, address, the same information for adults with parental responsibility; a statement of approach to education, and the location where education is conducted if not the home;
  • Scope to extend the scheme to 18 in future;
  • Regulations will specify how registration should take place;
  • Any changes to registration details should be notified immediately;
  • Registration must be renewed annually;
  • It will be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information;
  • Pupils should stay on the school roll for 20 days after a notification to home educate;
  • The school must provide the local authority with a record of achievement to date and predicted future attainment;
  • DCSF will take powers to issue statutory guidance relating to registration and monitoring.

Question 1 Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

Question 2 Do you agree that a register should be kept?

Question 3 Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

Question 4 Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

Question 5 Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

Question 6a Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

Question 6b Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?

Question 7 Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?

2.4 Safeguarding

The review recommends that local authorities should have a discretion to refuse registration where there are safeguarding concerns. In addition, if safeguarding concerns are identified after home education has begun, the LA would have powers to revoke registration. Each case would need to be considered on its merits, balancing the rights of parents to home educate, and the rights of children to receive a suitable education in a safe environment.

Question 8 Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

2.5 Monitoring arrangements

Local authorities tell us that they need greater powers to ensure that home educated children are safe, well, and receiving a suitable education. The current arrangements allow parents to submit evidence that a ‘suitable education' is being provided, which could be mainly written evidence. Local authorities have no powers to interview home educated children to establish that sample material provided is representative of their work, nor to establish that they are safe and well.

2.6

We believe that local authorities should interview children within 4 weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, and thereafter at least annually to assess the quality of education provided and ensure that children are safe and well. The local authority should visit the premises where education is conducted, and question the child about the education provided, although at least 2 weeks notice should be given before the visit is conducted. The local authority should have the right to carry out the interview without a parent being present, if this is judged appropriate, or alternatively if the child is vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or parent/carer.

Question 9 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?

Question 10 Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?

Question 11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

3. How To Respond

3.1

Consultation responses can be completed online at www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations

by emailing homeeducation.consultation@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

or by downloading a response form which should be completed and sent to:

Consultation Unit, Area GB,
Castle View House,
East Lane, Runcorn,
Cheshire, WA7 2GJ.

Back to consultation table of documents

Back to consultation homepage


4. Additional Copies

4.1

Additional copies are available electronically and can be downloaded from the Department for Children, Schools and Families e-consultation website at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations

Back to consultation table of documents

Back to consultation homepage


5. Plans for making results public

5.1

The results of the consultation and the Department's response will be published on the DCSF e-consultation website in early 2010.

Back to consultation table of documents

Back to consultation homepage


Respond On-Line

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Consultation Questions

1

Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

2

Do you agree that a register should be kept?

3

Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

4

Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

5

Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

Consultation Questions

10

Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?

11

Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

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