Saturday, January 31, 2009
If you haven't done so already, please respond to the consultation here.
I have summarised a few major points that can be made here.
If more parents were to take this responsibility seriously, we would almost certainly see far more children removed from the state schooling system, which would be a thoroughly good thing as the home tutored children would be getting a better education than they would have done in school and it would put pressure on schools to improve.
Friday, January 30, 2009
The government does not need to alter current legislation and policy because:
1) Local authorities already have powers to act if they are concerned. S. 437 gives them the right to insist on information about home education if there are any doubts, and SAOs give them access to the child - once they have an SAO in force and the child is in school, they can see them. If there are cases that LAs are worried about they should use existing powers not whine about needing new ones.
2) For the forced marriage issue, these are children (according to the NSPCC and others) who are being removed from school to be forced into marriage. The LA already has a responsibility to ask about the education of these children. If there are educational concerns, see point 1. If any other concerns arise in the course of asking about the education, then they should have procedures to follow.
3) Children Missing Education databases are still quite new and LAs are still implementing CME guidance. There isn't enough information yet to know how this will affect identification of unknown home educated children. They should give it some time.
4) Contact Point is just coming in. It is being trialed in 17 LAs. If Contact Point works the way they believe it should then problem cases will be picked up. They need to give it some time.
5) The state must not take over parental responsibilities as of right. It must not become responsible for ensuring that an education is suitable or that a child achieves the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda. This is a parental responsibility. Should they take on this job, they will be sued when they do fail in these duties.
6) Social workers always will have a difficult job. They don't have special powers to predict they future: they don't know which child will be hurt and which won't. They are paid to use fine judgement. They shouldn't expect the job to be easy, and the public must understand that mistakes will always be made. Policing the population to the point where mistakes are not made would be to completely remove any hope of familial privacy and autonomy.
7) Lowering the level of concern at which services are meant to intervene would be extremely impractical and probably unsustainable. The social services system currently struggles to deal with children who are at high risk of severe abuse. The system will crash and die if it has to become responsible for intervening at a much lower level of concern.
You can respond to our bit of the consultation here.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Parents everywhere should be frightened, what with ContactPoint going live in May, eCAFs, and the increasing assumption on the part of Local Authorities that they have a responsibility to ensure that your child reaches what should only be the ambitions of the Every Child Matters agenda. See question 58 here. NB: the authorities do not have any duties to monitor for the five targets. They have a duty to co-operate to promote these ambitions. THIS is the law of the land, and technically, if not in practice, the law allows for parents to be responsible for the education and welfare of their children.
Once you have let an authority figure through your door, you are no longer in control of the evidence. They can say anything they like about you in court and they are the expert. The fact that you have known your child since birth, and are as a parent, highly motivated to meet their needs, to think about how you cope with your child, sod all that. This person has a degree in something or other, and an objective view. You, dear parent, don't stand a blinking chance.
Eileen Munro explains in the Guardian:
"We should assume that parents are innocent until we have at least some grounds for suspicion."
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Ho hum. We will just have to try to ensure that Mr Badman is quite clear that parents, yes PARENTS should be responsible for the education and welfare of their children, that the state only has a duty to intervene where it is clear that parents are failing in their duties, and that the law must respect this balance.
If you haven't done so already, you could be telling him this here.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
We can call for the immediate closure of the consultation and review on the basis of our complaints, but failing that we can explain that we think that the results of the review must be deemed invalid due to the extremely poor method of consultation.
NB: UPDATE: The following letter has required some alteration on the basis of the information received from an MP that this four week consultation launched on the 20th of January is not
the full consultation and is only intended to gauge different parties' ideas that will be considered for the Government's proposals to be outlined in a report on Home Education to be launched in May. Then once the report has been launched which will contain the Government's proposals, it will then go out to a full 12 week on line public consultation which the different groups can have their say on the proposals.
This obviously changes what we should say at this point!
Please find my draft letter below, addressed to Mr Kenneth Fox, clerk of the Committee. Full contact details here.
We could also mail the DCSF complaints department directly, contact details here.
Improvements and/or corrections to the letter would be gratefully received.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Mr Fox,
I am writing to you with regard to a review and related consultations on home education which were announced on 19th of January:
The open consultation is to be found here:
and the consultation exclusively for local authorities can be found here:
There are a number of issues which I would like to raise with regard to this review and I would very much like you to pursue answers to the following questions:
1. This is the third review/consultation directly pertaining to home education since 2005. The latest set of Guidelines on Elective Home Education were only issued after extensive consultation in 2007. See here:
Home educators are wondering why we are effectively compelled to go through this whole process yet again when procedures and the law surrounding home education were so extensively thrashed out less than two years ago, guidelines were created and the law remains proportionate to the task in hand? Home educators are busy people and would prefer that the matter be laid to rest so that they can get on with observing the duties to their children.
It is also the case that repeated consultations dealing with the same subject matter are explicitly ruled out by Criterion 5 of the Better Regulations Code of Practice on Consultations to which the DCSF is required to adhere.
2. Worse, we have now been informed by a Member of Parliament that this four week consultation launched on the 20th of January is not the full consultation and is only intended to gauge different parties' ideas that will be considered for the Government's proposals to be outlined in a report on Home Education to be launched in May. Then once the report has been launched which will contain the Government's proposals, it will then go out to a full 12 week on line public consultation which the different groups can have their say on the proposals.
Whilst it appears that this current exercise is nothing but a preliminary garnering of views, to us it is as if we are still being subjected to a full consultation which involves a considerable number of man hours and diversion from our other responsibilities and even worse, we have then to face yet another consulatation, presumably on a similar to identical subject all over again.
3. We believe that there is no reason for this consultation to be compressed into four weeks instead of the standard 12. We do not believe there is sufficient justification for reducing this time scale from the standard 12 week consultation. From the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Written Consultations:
which should be adhered to by the DCSF, at criterion 2, we learn that the code allows for shorter consultation periods in exceptional circumstances, such as where departments need to respond quickly in the best interest of the public. However there does not appear to be any evidence for any exceptional circumstances which could justify this urgency and hard to reach groups without internet access will be unable to partake in this consultation because of the short time scale.
4. We wonder why this review has been instituted at a time when new guidance on identifying children missing a suitable education:
has only just been issued, the application of which would impact upon the answers to the review?
5. The above point about peculiar timing of this review could be reiterated, this time with regard to ContactPoint which is due to go live in May of this year. The effect of ContactPoint cannot currently be evaluated, and yet this could have a huge bearing on the answers within the consultations.
6. Why does the public consultation only invite online responses? We have been led to understand that paper responses will not be accepted, and even if they had been, they would have been very difficult to return to the DCSF within such a limited time-scale. This of course will result in the exclusion of key stakeholders amongst the hard to reach groups. Criterion 4, of the Code of Practice on Consultations states that "Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at, those people the exercise is intended to reach." On this basis alone, we would call for the closure of this consultation and review.
7. Why are LAs invited to respond to a different consultation from the public but are also able to respond to the public consultation?
8. How is the report going to ensure appropriate weight is given to answers to both consultations? We are very concerned that this will result in a biased interpretation of the information, perhaps as an effect of double counting, given that LAs can respond to two consultations when the public can only respond to one.
9. The LA consultation is also apparently completely confidential, so it appears that once again, allegations will be made against the home education community without any chance of these being checked and substantiated.
10. Why does the LA questionnaire:
contain misleading questions which misrepresent the law?
For example " Question 58. 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? (of the Every Child Matters agenda). "
In current law, (ie: The Children Act 2004), local authorities have no duty to monitor for the five outcomes in the ECM agenda. It remains the case that parents, not government, are responsible for ensuring the welfare and education of their children. To suggest with loose wording that LAs have these duties in law when they actually do not is likely to cause them to call for further powers to enact these imagined duties and yet such powers of state intervention into families would be entirely unnecessary, given that current law is sufficient to the task in hand, and would override any hope of families being able to be responsible for themselves or having any privacy.
This loose wording appears to infringe Criterion 3 of the Code of Practice on Consultations which calls for clarity in consultations.
11. Why is the DCSF seeking a review on this subject at all when the relevant law and policy concerning home education remains proportionate and sufficient to the task when applied correctly and it remains for Local Authorities to improve at working with it.
This would appear to infringe the Code of Practice on Consultations again at Criterion 3.
The government urgently needs to give consideration to the fact that if they increase powers of local authorities any further, as is seemingly suggested by the thrust of this review, they would in effect remove parental responsibility for the education and welfare of children, and override the privacy of families. This would be constitutionally unacceptable and hugely damaging, both for parents and for the state when it will be held liable for failures.
12. We understand that because this current consultation is not a full one, there does not appear to have been any need to undertake an Impact Assessment on potential policy changes, as would normally be recommended by the Code of Practice on consultations. However, questions in the LA questionnaire which imply that the government believe that LAs should have ultimate responsibility for ensuring the welfare and education of children would have huge implications for man-power and cost. We believe it is irresponsible to suggest that these duties exist without really considering the impact this would have on the government finances, since these costs would be HUGE.
13. How much taxpayers' money will be squandered on this consultation and report?
14. Home educators are extremely concerned that the review will not be conducted in an impartial fashion. It is being led by Mr Graham Badman, formerly a teacher, head teacher and Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council. It is far from clear where the expertise on home education will come from in the review of the collated information and we feel that the conclusions are highly likely to be biased as a result.
The seriousness of the many complaints above have led many home educators to call for the immediate closure of the consultation and the review. Failing this, we would expect that the results of review be taken as invalid.
If you need any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
1 Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.
The law already gives local authorities sufficient powers to deal with this problem. They have the power to enter homes and check for abuse where there are concerns.
On this point, it is worth noting that the charity Education Otherwise reports that they have HEors emailing, phoning and writing to them every single day to report that they are being unduly harassed, receiving unannounced visits from EWOS, receiving threatening letters from LAs and experiencing their teens being whipped off the streets by truancy sweeps. This already takes up a lot of time that could be used far more constructively by home educators. We don't need any more of it, thank you.
Local authorities may have answered that the guidelines were confusing because they frequently don't understand the limits of their responsibilities, imagine that they have more than they actually have, don't understand how home education works, and don't use the powers they already have with sufficient discrimination.
In every case of abuse of nominally home educated children that we have heard about through the press, the law would have already have been sufficient to the task of dealing with it had it been enacted correctly. The problem seems to be that the law is poorly understood and implemented by local authorities.
For example, in the case of the foster children of Eunice Spry, the family were visited on a regular basis by Gloucester Local Authority personnel. The police had returned the run-away children to the family even after the children had told them that they were being abused. The problem here was not the law but the fact that the authorities failed to use it. It is also the case that systems have been further tightened since Eunice Spry committed these crimes.
it seems that there must be questions as to how the GP acted. He/she had presumably seen Shazia Qayum and had had the opportunity to detect a problem since he/she had provided a sick note. This sick note would presumably have required some sort of renewal, and the EWOs who must have known of Shazia since she had been withdrawn from school, should have been alerted at the point at which it was not renewed. In other words, there were already procedures in place under current law, and proper enactment of this system would have prevented this scenario.
In the terrible case of Kyra Ishaq, the current law would have been sufficient had the authorities used it to pursue the family more vigorously. How would it help to introduce compulsory monthly visits of all home educators? Resources would have been stretched to breaking point in searching for the needle in the haystack, and a family in such a situation could still simply delay the visit by, for example, simply not being at home.
In the other reported case of "ST" where the body of a 16-year-old girl was found in her family home, we hear that the GP was criticised for discharging the family from his books without properly recording why and that a relative raised concerns about the family with a local authority, though it seems that the services did not follow up on these concerns. Yet again the law would have been sufficient to have intervened with this family, had the services used better judgement.
As it already stands, there are far more referrals of home educating families to social services than are in any way necessary. These families are faced with having to to deal with intrusion from the state and with having to try to clear their names- all this on top of their other responsibilities towards their children.It is essential that the law be proportionate for otherwise we really will be living in a brave new world. Home education is integral to family life, and to have this automatically inspected by someone who has complete power of judgement over it is in effect to completely remove privacy from home educating families and to remove all hope of autonomy even within the most private areas of their lives. Intervention that would have this effect MUST only be undertaken by the authorities where it is strictly necessary and must always be done in a proportionate fashion.
The law should exist to protect the private citizen. It is not just there to further the power of the state and to make life easy for police officers, EWOs et al. These personnel are paid to use skill and fine judgement. Their jobs will always be difficult and they will sadly always make mistakes, and this because of the obvious point that rarely seems to be raised in this sort of discussion which is that human behaviour is unpredictable. Social workers cannot be certain which family in their case load will do something truly terrible to their child, and yet they cannot slam all these children into care just in case. However many checks are instituted, it will be impossible to rule out this problem. The best thing that can be done would be to acknowledge this as a problem and to let social workers somewhat off the hook so that more of them stay around to build up proper experience of the job, so that they can get better and better at making those fine calls.
It must remain acceptable to the authorities to receive written communications which would lead a reasonable person to think that a suitable education is being provided. If they receive a satisfactory response, then that's the end of the matter, if they don't then it isn't, and they make further enquiries, possibly ending up by invoking the SAO procedure.
On another related point, question number 1 and others below could be deemed redundant at the present time. My answer above was written with consideration for the situation prior to the issuing of the new Guidance for LAs for Identifying Children Missing a Suitable Education which appeared only this month - January 2009. This guidance appears to have changed the interpretation of legislation somewhat and this means that the situation on the ground may change very rapidly in the next few months. It makes it very difficult to respond sensibly to a review when you are not sure if the situation is already changing and really it would have been more sensible to wait until we know what the effects of the new Guidance would be.
However, it is likely to be the case this new guidance will only confuse LAs all the more as in some places it makes a nonsense of itself. Take paragraph 87 by way of just one example. Here it states that the authorities should make enquiries of home educators to assess for suitability of education, apparently as a matter of course, and yet it also states that the authorities should refer to the EHE guidelines which state that there is no duty to monitor home educators for suitability of education. So which is it then, we wonder? This will obviously have some bearing on how one would answer the above question in a few months time.The review is also being conducted at a strange time in that ContactPoint which will act as a de facto register of home educated children is reportedly about to go live. This too will have a bearing on how one answers the questions here, and yet we are unable to do so until we have had a chance to assess it's impact.
On a further related point about timing, home educators have been shocked that they have to partake in yet another review. This is the third consultation pertaining to home education since 2005. The Department for Children, Schools and Families may have nothing better to do with their time, but home educators most certainly do.
The latest set of Guidelines on Elective Home Education were only issued after extensive consultation in 2007. See here:
We are left wondering why are compelled to go through this whole process yet again when procedures and the law surrounding home education were so extensively thrashed out less than two years ago and the law remains proportionate.
We now hear from MPs that this but a preliminary garnering of views, in order to inform the review. What do you think all the previous consultations were about? You garnered exactly the same set of views, on several occasions, such as in 2007 for the consultation on Elective Home Education Guidelines. Why on earth are you doing it again?
Complaints about harassment and infringement of Better Regulations' Code of Practice, Criterion 5 http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file47158.pdf have been lodged with MPs, BRE and the Select Committee for the DCSF.
2 a) Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.
Why wouldn't they be? Home educated children are just as likely to eat healthily and get enough exercise as any other child, and many children are home educated precisely because their experience of school has damaged their mental and physical health.
There are children in our home education group who when in school had their arms or cheekbones broken by other children, were shut in a wheelie bin for hours at a time on a number of occasions, were pushed downstairs, were involved in terrible fights. Nothing like this ever happens in our home education groups.
It should be noted that this question and ones below imply an illegitimate concern, since it is not the duty of government to concern itself with whether children are meeting what should only be framed as ambitions. The government should be concerned to promote these ambitions, not to assess for them as targets to be achieved.
It is also galling to be asked these questions when you so have no moral or legal remit to do so and this whilst the state so clearly fails to protect children when parents do delegate responsibility to it, as they do when they send their child to school.
If anything they are likely to be safer because they are cared for by people who love them and since school attendance, with its currently terrible records of physical and mental bullying, is one of the places where children are most likely to be unsafe.
See Q1 above.
Enjoy and achieve
Home educated children are more likely to enjoy their education because it tends to be tailored to their individual abilities and areas of interest. They are able to take GCSEs etc if they so wish. They frequently excel at university (where they are often offered places with no formal qualifications because because they are so obviously well educated) and in their chosen careers. There is a considerable amount of research (notably Paula Rothermel's, Mike Fortune-Wood's and Alan Thomas's) which indicates that home educated children tend to be several years ahead of school children in academic achievement.
By way of a contrast, we read that 8 out of 10 teens say school is boring and irrelevant: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/4297452/School-is-boring-and-irrelevant-say-teenagers.html
I personally don't know any home educated teens who would use that epithet and many of them are now extremely high achievers in various ways.
Home educated children enjoy their lives. They mix with people they want to mix with. The numbers of home educated children are such that even in rural areas, HEks can easily have other close friends in the HE community and HE children make wide use of after school activities, mixing with school friends all the while. There are HE groups that offer a wide range of activities, from simply offering chances to see friends and meet new people, to lessons in sports, science, music, arts, crafts and languages practically all over the country now, and if there isn't one already available, HE parents have the nous to set one up.
For many HE families, running a group is a great lesson in personal and civic responsibility and initiative. They learn about how to manage large groups, about how to cater for differing needs, about how to do all this without deferring to a higher authority and they frequently learn to to this with great skill. The DCSF would be wise to thank their lucky stars that they have so many families who are prepared to put in the work and who tidy up the community halls for them, and are generally well invested in the community.
Not that any of the review panel know much about this of course. They announce their credentials in their various fields which apparently gives them the right to pronounce upon home education and all this without actually having any substantial first hand knowledge of what is actually going on on the ground.
Make a positive contribution.
See Q2c above. Home educated people clearly make a very positive contribution at university and in their chosen careers. Home educated children are frequently much more involved in their local communities than children who spend most of their time at school.
Achieve economic well-being
See 2c and 2d above.
3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?
Absolutely not, for the following reasons:
The fact that this idea is raised at all suggests that both the DCSF and local authorities are incapable of reading their own legislative framework correctly. The five ideas in The Every Child Matters agenda, which does not in itself carry legislative force, are framed as ambitions, something for which to strive. They are not outcomes which must be achieved or assessed for. The legislation that underpins the ECM, predominantly section 10 the Children Act 2004, is clear that the duties of the local authorities ACTUALLY consist of having to promote co-operation in order to promote the five ambitions. This is the only duty LAs have and is vastly different from any duty that is implied in the above question. We are appalled that the authorities so frequently seem incapable of making this distinction.
An example of this failure can be found in the questionnaire for local authorities which forms part of this review: http://www.myopinion.org.uk/dcsf/homeeducation/index.cfm"eg: Question 58. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system of monitoring home educating families and ensuring that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes?"
This question and others like it are so misleading that this whole questionnaire and the answers to it to be scrapped. The information within it is not legally supportable. By way of another example of a question which also give the impression that LAs have duties that they do not legally have, take question 32:
"Following the initial assessment visit, are further monitoring visits made to a home educated child?"
There is in fact no legal duty upon LAs to insist upon a visit. Please review the EHE guidelines 2007.
There are good reasons for why the Children Act 2004 is framed the way it is and the DCSF and LAs would be wise to pay good heed to it. There is no way that the state can ensure that every child will achieve these outcomes, nor should it seek such an obligation, for to do so is to wrest responsibility for parenting from parents. Lets face it, what sort of a brave new world is it when the state controls, in detail, how children are brought up, what beliefs they are taught to believe and who they consort with?
It would also be extremely impractical. The social services system currently struggles to deal with children who are at high risk of severe abuse. The system will crash and die if it has to become responsible for intervening at a much lower level of concern
Were the state to assume the responsibility to ensure that HE children are meeting the five ambitions and insist upon home visits, we would expect to see a severe deterioration in relationships between many home educators and the authorities which would take many forms. For example, home educators have proposed that they would video home visits and put these videos up on YouTube for all to see, for they feel that it would be interesting to all and sundry to see how the English state, with it's previously proud tradition of respecting the freedom and privacy of innocent citizens, is now policing it's people in the minutest of detail and of course, they also feel that their privacy would have been so invaded that they effectively had nothing to lose by putting it up on YouTube.
And of course, should the state seek such an obligation, they will be held liable when they fail. Given the woeful outcomes for many children in the state schooling system, this move would surely rapidly bankrupt the government and local authorities. Compensation for a failed education has been difficult to come by so far, despite schools having a duty of care, but it has already been achieved in such cases as Phelps v. the Mayor of Hillingdon. It should be far easier to manage when it is absolutely clear that the state dictates the suitability of education.
It must remain the case that the state only intervenes where it is clear that a parent is significantly in breach of their responsibilities.
I would like suggest that Ian Dowty, the leading barrister in this field, be consulted during the review process in order to prevent the type of problems mentioned above.
4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?
There is no current system as such for supporting home educating families, although some LAs may make some small amount of patchy provision. We have usually been told that there is no money available and certainly most LAs around our way are very short of money, particularly at the moment, so we cannot envisage that they will want to spend what little they have on us.
Home educators seek and receive by far the most appropriate and helpful support from each other, from home educating friends, from local home educating groups, from home education charities, from email lists and this because other home educators actually understand the issues involved and have experience of how to deal with problems. Home educating wisdoms are passed down through the home educating generations, from Iris Harrison who still visits HE groups nationally to the next home educating toddler. Home educators are good at using their initiative and seeking out the resources they need. We don't need government help in the form of either support or resources, however it comes, strings or no strings.
Mr Badman is on record as having said here:
"One of the things I most resented as a parent was being talked to as if I knew nothing about education. There's a thin line between engaging them and talking at them and we have to make sure we don't cross that line."
Let us hope that he recalls these words in the coming review. The huge majority of home educators know a great deal about the education of their children. After all, it is not just a job for them. It is their passion and they are highly motivated to become good at it and to access the support they need and all this without the help of LAs. High-handed, impersonal, centralised decisions and directives, whether in the form of support or monitoring, would ruin everything that is excellent about their educational provision.
If the government must do something, it should drop the raising of the school leaving age and stop forcing young people to stay in education against their will when they could be enjoying, achieving and making a positive contribution in the workplace. The five outcomes will not be achieved by forcing children to follow a particular educational path prescribed by government.
5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?
Firstly, how would the state determine the nature of the suitability of an education? After all, there is no overall agreement upon the right way to achieve suitability according to age, ability and aptitude and as it stands, we know that huge numbers of children fail miserably in the so-called suitable provision that the state seems to prefer in the form of the deliverance of the National Curriculum in schools.
Schooled teens are telling the government what they think:
"Eight out of 10 said they were fed up with school and almost half said there were not enough courses to choose from, which limited their options in later life."
Would the government really contend that the education they offer is indeed suitable when it limits the options of the learners and boredom is the near universal reaction? (Boredom, please note, is not an efficient or suitable way to learn).
The government does not have the answers to the problem of a suitable education and yet it frequently appears to disallow challenges to its educational meme. When a number of experts recently questioned the age at which literacy should be taught:
the DCSF reacted extremely dogmatically to these criticisms, with biased and partial reporting of literacy success which continues to conflict with the evidence of employees, (see link* above) and a statement of determination to plough on with failing strategies come what may.
There are plenty of examples of this sort of governmental dogmatism and lack of openness in the face of evidence that the educational provision by the state is unsuitable for many children.
Another example: two friends of mine, experienced home educators, have recently undertaken a PGCE. They found the epistemology conveyed in this course for secondary school teachers frankly risible in the degree to which it failed to acknowledge it's own contradictions. For example, they accurately perceived that the concept of personalised learning in the classroom was absurd and unmanageable and mainly pushed as window dressing. They sadly also found that if they dared to question the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the the standard schooling methodology, their lives were made very uncomfortable, and they felt that they would either have to shut up or leave. The system here appeared to be not open to criticism and for this reason alone, would appear to be suspect.
Autonomous educators go about things in a very different way. The provision they offer their children is indeed personalised. It is personalised to the interests of the child, it allows them the freedom to become experts in certain fields, it answers the questions they have, it allows the learner to direct their learning, to be responsible for it, to develop at their own pace, to manage all of their lives as they see fit. Autonomously educated children are far more empowered than schooled children and as such they grow up quickly, without the hostility between child and adult that is so frequently seen in schools, since they trust the adults around them to help them when they need it. They cope very well in the work and university environment, as Dr Meighan testifies here: http://edheretics.gn.apc.org/EHT018.htm .
Autonomous education has now come of age and there is now substantial evidence of it's almost outstanding success. We have seen way too many autonomously teens successfully graduate to adult life in one form or another for it to be a matter of chance or good genes. Every single autonomously educated person in all the areas we visit is now doing extremely well in further education. They are highly regarded by their tutors as they manage themselves so well. They are responsible individuals, who know themselves, know what they are interested in doing, know what they should specialise in, and know how to find things out for themselves.
And yet plenty of these children were not reading at all at the age of 7, even up to the age of 12.
One completely autonomously educated girl we know who had never been to school, was not reading a word at 11. By the time she was 12 and a half, she was almost never to be found without an adult-level book in her hands. And yet what would have happened to this kind of child had an EWO pitched up at her door, ignorant of the success of an alternative model? He might well have issued a SAO, or pressurised the family to return the child to school where evidence suggests that it is extremely difficult for such a child to catch up. The school child is labelled or else labels themselves as a non-achiever and it is extremely difficult to overcome these hurdles and not fulfill these labels.
Another autonomously educated boy, whose mother only ever gave him one very miserable formal lesson in maths when he was about 8, (she admits she is still not sure that he knows his times tables), has just been awarded a first, along with three prizes, at Imperial College for Maths and IT and has been offered a PhD off the back of it. He is a wonderful, thoughtful, articulate individual with a wide range of interests and yet had he been subjected to a monitoring regime from an LA official, it is highly likely that he would have been returned to school when he wasn't ready, he almost certainly would not have done nearly so well.
Autonomously educated children think it is normal to learn to read when you feel like it and they know that when it is done like this, you don't fall behind. In the real world outside of school, there are numerous ways of acquiring information other than by reading for yourself. You can talk to people, they can read to you, you can watch the Discovery channel, you can experiment with making a universal indicator out of a red cabbage, or you can find out how to make a scarf, create animations, keep a herb garden or care for a pet. Then you learn to read.
The DCSF must understand that plenty of home educated children are home educated precisely because the current state-determined model has failed them so appallingly, and we worry that should the state decide that it has the right and the duty to determine suitability, it will fall back on it's preferred models, and these children will be failed all over again.
Several girls we know left school at 9 through to 11, completely unable to read and write. When left entirely to their own devices, (none of them were pressurised to read), they learned to read on their own, and once they started, they learnt extremely quickly and then went on to take exams and pursue higher education. Three of these girls were severely depressed when they were taken out of school, and two of them had threatened suicide. If the state is determined to put such children back in school, or even just to label them so that they don't have to back to school, you are highly likely to see a further rise in teenage depression and suicides.
Autonomous education does work. Families thrive on it. If the government tries to impose a set exam routine for home educators, most autonomous families will not comply. If this results in School Attendance Orders, families will go underground, or will emigrate, or have talked of going to jail rather than having their children subjected to a coercive education. The government will then be responsible for destroying the lives of previously law-abiding and perfectly successful families. Do they really want that on their conscience?
So far we have concentrated upon the problems of efficacy as it relates to the determination of suitability in education, but there are also legal and constitutional problems in the situation that the state decides that it should determine the nature of suitability of education in all cases and on a routine basis. The government MUST consider that this will have huge implications for the relationship between person and state. Parents, in effect, will no longer be responsible for determining whether the education they are providing is suitable for their children. It will now be up to the state to make this ultimate determination and the status of section 7 of the Education Act 1996 would in effect change to mean that parents are now only responsible for provision of what is in fact a state-determined education.
This, of course, would override parental human rights as enshrined in Protocol 2 Article 1 of the ECHRs.
"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 in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions."
and in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26:
It would also mean that should that state-determined education fail a child, (as it surely will), parents can no longer be held responsible. It is now the state which must be held liable and, given the currently enormously high failure rate of what is still parentally chosen state-determined education, it is not hard to envisage that a change to an entirely state-determined education would result in bankruptcy for the government and local authorities.
All this aside from the fact that we must also consider the practical implications to families of intrusion and loss of privacy, as explained above.
Another almost inevitable result of forcibly absolving parents of the duty to consider for themselves whether they are providing a suitable education is that they will stop asking themselves "am I meeting my duty to provide a suitable education" and instead ask themselves "do we appear to be meeting this duty?" which is not a good question as it is highly likely to result in a less suitable education for the child.The problem of the state having to take on responsibility for determining suitability of education and therefore upon the limits of the form and content of an education would be avoided if LAs only investigated where there is reason to think that a suitable education is not being provided. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it is one. The state then only gets to determine a few cases of suitability, where there is some reason for concern and a good argument could be made for intervention. It does not dictate to the entire population.
Another cost that the DCSF should consider: if the law is changed so that home educators everywhere must do the government bidding and be automatically assessed for suitability of education according to government criteria, we can expect to see more School Attendance Orders being issued to families who were in fact providing a perfectly suitable but not government-approved education. We can expect to see more of these SAOs being ignored by home educators who know that school is not the best place for the education of their children and we can therefore expect to see such parents to included amongst the number of those prosecuted, fined and imprisoned. All uselessly, expensively and damagingly.
Another cost the the DCSF should consider: that if all these HE children are to be returned to school, it would be a massive drain on school resources, as the schools would have to put in the funds to offer a suitable education to these children, many of whom have diagnosable learning differences or who are simply learning at an idiosyncratic pace.
The DCSF and schools have much to learn from the personalised learning of autonomous home educators if only they knew it. It is such a shame that more people don't understand how well it works, and how inspections of such children may well ruin this process as families struggle to provide the support the autonomous child needs but also to please the more formal demands of the home education inspector.
6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?
See answer to question 1. The legislation is already sufficient to deal with the problem.
Introducing compulsory checks for all will be a waste of valuable and limited resources, is highly unlikely to turn up the needle in the haystack and would be an abuse of civil rights and human rights, in contravention of Article 8 of the ECHR.
Home education doesn't take place in isolation from family life. It is integral to it. Having a complete stranger who has considerable power over you pitch up at your door to pronounce on the most private aspects of your life, when they know next to nothing about you and you have done absolutely nothing wrong, is not a prospect to relish. I don't normally want to have to explain to someone I have not freely invited to my home that my daughter's education this morning has consisted of talking to my daughter about why she has just been sick. (Probable norovirus, how contagious diseases are transmitted from person to person, differences between viruses and bacteria, how best to treat the problem, etc) and yet this is precisely the sort of thing that would be expected of us. As a general rule, I want my private life to remain private. I see no hope of this with a routine inspection system.
Have just updated the draft letter below, 7th Feb, 2009, to take account of recent feedback from MPs and the DSCF and to include other developments such as a mention of the petition site. Please do feel free to use it as inspiration if you also feel like writing to your own MP. Don't copy it though. Put your own views and personal experiences in there, and choose the points you feel are the most important.
There's plenty to complain about. Here are some suggestions below:
- - - - - - - - - -
I am writing to you with regard to yet another consultation which forms part of a review of home education:
There are a number of issues which I would like to raise with regard to this review.
This is the fourth consultation/review pertaining to home education since 2005. The latest set of Guidelines on Elective Home Education were only issued after extensive consultation in 2007. See here:
We are left wondering why are compelled to go through this whole process yet again when procedures and the law surrounding home education were so extensively thrashed out less than two years ago? Home educators are busy people and have better things to be doing with their time.
We do however understand that local authorities have some outstanding concerns with regards to their duties towards home educated children. We believe that this problem has several causes:
Firstly, changes which would impact upon policy in this area have already been legislated for within the Education and Inspections Act 2006, most relevant section 436a, and yet this has yet be put into practice on the ground since the newest guidance on this legislation has only just been issued in Jan 2009.
Plus, the children's database, ContactPoint which will also effect this area of policy implementation has yet to go live, (due in May). LAs are already likely to find that in the near future they have got more powers than they have had to date, and yet it is impossible to comment sensibly upon their effectiveness until we have had some experience of their implementation.
This, of course, also raises the question of why instigate a review now? Surely it would have been better to wait until it was possible to see whether changes already implemented would be effective?
Secondly, that LAs do not understand how to enact existing law effectively. It is the case that were they do have legal duties, the law is sufficient to enact these. For example, where LAs do have cause for concern, they have powers to enter the home and see the child.
Home educated children, contrary to many assertions, do not live in a vacuum. They are not hidden under the stairs. They are out and about in the community, going to clubs and groups, doing voluntary work, taking part time courses etc. They are known to neighbours, relatives, acquaintances. Indeed far more referrals of home educating children are made than are necessary and families then have to spend their time trying to clear their names.
Thirdly, we believe that many authorities do not understand the limits of their responsibilities. For example, they frequently seem to believe that they have a duty to ensure that our children achieve the five *outcomes* in the Children Act 2004, when this is clearly not the case. They do have a duty to co-operate to promote the *ambitions*, but this is a very different duty. To imagine they have the first duty is in effect to appropriate what should be parental duties, which would represent a grave alteration in the relationship between the individual and the state.
Plenty of signatories to this petition would agree that this is a step too far. The petition had acquired over 1000 signatures within the first 48 hours of its very recent initiation.
Fourthly, the DCSF and authorities in their mission statements appear to be setting themselves an unachievable target. They pronounce the laudable aim of wanting to ensure that every child is safe and do not acknowledge that this is sadly not possible. Social workers will always have a big case load, and yet they cannot simply throw all of the children on their books into care. Mistakes of judgements about which families will harm their children will always be made because of the obvious fact that human nature is unpredictable. It would be better for all if the DCSF and LAs were to acknowledge this point, take the pressure of social workers somewhat, and allow more of them to stay around for longer so that they can acquire experience and fine judgement.
The relevant law and policy concerning home education remains proportionate and sufficient to the task when applied correctly and it remains for Local Authorities to improve at working with it. To increase powers of local authorities any further, as is seemingly suggested by the thrust of this review, (see for example, the questionnaire for LAs for the above review below.***)
would be to remove parental responsibility for the education and welfare of children, and override the privacy of families to an enormous extent. This would be constitutionally unacceptable and hugely damaging, both for parents and for the state when it will be held liable for failures.
Further, we are concerned as to whether the review will be conducted in an unbiased fashion, and this for several reasons.
Whilst home educators initially only get one chance to respond to only 6 questions, it appears that Local Authorities will be able to offer two sets of responses to the consultation, and with a much longer and this time explicitly confidential questionnaire:
(now just closed.)
This questionnaire for LAs was also unacceptable in that it contains misleading questions which misrepresent the law.
***eg: " Question 58. 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? (of the Every Child Matters agenda). "
See paragraphs above with regard to the illegitimacy of questions such as this.
We are very concerned that this will result in a biased interpretation of the information, perhaps as an effect of double counting, and also that once again, allegations will be made against the home education community without any chance of these being checked and substantiated.
We are also very concerned that this review is but nominally independent. Mr Badman, as a local authority employee, is strongly connected with government and is likely to have vested interests. We wonder whether there is any hope of the results of this review being genuinely unbiased. Our doubts are further strengthened by the fact that Mr Badman's CV demonstrates that he has plenty of experience as a teacher and headmaster but, as almost all home educators are aware, home education is a completely different kettle of fish: it is not school at home. It is not clear that Mr Badman has anything like an equivalent experience of home education. We strongly suspect that this review is unlikely to properly informed and unbiased?
Further, the open consultation also only lasts for four weeks, which effectively excludes hard to reach groups.
In summary, I appreciate it if you would forward this letter to Mr Ed Balls for his/her response to the following questions:
1. Why has a review been instituted at a time when new guidance (on identifying children missing a suitable education) has only just been issued, and ContactPoint has yet to go live, the application of both of which would impact upon the answers to the review?
2. We wonder why the EHER preliminary review will only last four weeks, effectively excluding hard to reach groups?
3. Why did the now closed LA questionnaire contain misleading questions which misrepresent the law?
4. How can we be assured that report of the review will give appropriate weight to both sets of answers and that it will represent an unbiased and knowledgeable interpretation of the evidence?
5. Is the minister aware that home educators feel that the consultation process is now being used vexaciously?
6. How much taxpayers' money will be spent on what appears to be a poorly conceived and timed review?
If you need any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.
We are NOT going to let the state dictate the form of education and this is what will happen in effect, should they have a remit to assess all educational provision.
Such an outcome would, in effect, constitute the theft of children from their parents.
The Voice is right however, in that the current state of affairs is confusing. Why issue new Guidance to LAs for identifying Children Missing from Education and then initiate a review on home education in the form of a consultation immediately afterwards? It is a COMPLETE MESS.
However, we will respond to the consultation as best we can.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
As someone who spent their secondary years bored rigid by most of her lessons, I can vouch for the fact that boredom isn't an efficient way to learn. For example, I started in the top maths set in year one and progressed with a seeming singularity of purpose to the bottom set - set 5 by year 5. That was neither necessary nor good.
It should therefore be distressing to hear that 83% of a set of pupils who were questioned said they were unexcited by lessons and 45 per cent said they were uninterested by education. Ah well...what a waste of everyone's time.
From the 2009 Guidance...
"87. Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 requires local authorities to make arrangements to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children who are not pupils at schools and who are not otherwise receiving suitable education. In order to comply with this duty local authorities need to make arrangements which will as far as possible enable them to determine whether any children who are not pupils at schools, such as those being educated at home, are receiving suitable education. In order to do this local authorities should make inquiries with parents educating children at home about the educational provision being made for them. The procedures to be followed with respect to such investigations are set out in the EHE Guidelines, 2.7-2.11 and 3.4-3.6. "
which differs markedly from the 2007 version:
"3.3.16. 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."
Right, to the paradox: there appears to be a direct conflict between what the 2009 CME (Children Missing Education) guidance and what the 2007 Elective Home Education Guidelines says the Local Authorities should do. The 2009 CME guidance plays up s436a of the Education Act 1996 (inserted from the Education and Inspections Act 2006), and the EHE Guidelines 2007 play up section 437....and ne'er the twain should meet, as lawyer Ian Dowty rightly pointed out.
So which one is supposed to take precedence? Presumably given that the 2009 guidance is statutory, then 2007 EHE guidelines are non-statutory (NB the statutory difference between guid"ance" and guide"lines"), the 2007 guidelines should go by the by, but since 2009 makes statutory reference to following 2007, we seem to be caught in a paradoxical nightmare.
If we take the 2009 stuff seriously, (which I think we should because in effect the LAs will take 436a as meaning they have a duty to assess all educational provision) , it seems that the state has appropriated de facto responsibility for the determining the interpretation of Section 7's suitability criteria...age, ability and aptitude nature of education. OK, parents may still be responsible for the ensuring a child is in receipt of a suitable education, ie: Section 7 Ed Act 1996... (an epistemological impossibility on many levels but hey ho), but parents are now clearly essentially only there to appear to be doing the bidding of the state and implementing the state's version of suitability. A parent is no longer responsible for ensuring the suitability of ed of their child.
This should be headline news. If we ignore the paradoxical nightmare above, something constitutionally hugely significant has happened, and this needs to be pointed out to the ptb at the DCSF. Parents are now unable to enact essential principles of freedom of thought and conscience and are essentially in a huge regard, subject to indoctrination by the state.
And of course this contravenes Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the Human Rights Act:
"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 in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions."
Some other consequences that I can think of....now that the state is in effect responsible for determining the nature of a suitable education, they should be held accountable when their version of it clearly does not suit a child. We would have to deal with all the "so far as it is possible" clauses, but they so woefully fail so many children in situations where it is evident that they could do better, that I think they should be worried, VERY worried.
That'll do for the moment. Will come back to this doubtless.
And then the LA get some sixty questions, on top of the six that we can all answer.
AND some of the questions on the LAs form imply that they have duties which they don't have and are therefore extremely misleading. For example, question 29:
"How does the local authority ensure families know about their rights and responsibilities in relation to home education? (List all approaches used)."
Cough, splutter, excuse me? Where in law is an authority allowed to appropriate responsibilities to itself without legislative force of any sort whatsoever?
Altogether, one is left wondering how Mr Badman can possibly draw any sensible conclusions from such squewed and erroneous information gathering.
And it isn't just the numbers. So far the evidence for all these suspicions about what home educators get up to that are being bandied about by the LAs and the government has been thin to negligable. Making policy on the back of unsubstantiated suspicion is not the behaviour of responsible government.
Great answers, and he's right to be quick on to it. The DCSF might have set the closing date for four weeks away, (Feb 20th) but if Pete can get his in overnight, so can the rest of us.
"The DCSF has taken it's gloves off and is once more trying to bring about the end of Home Education as we know it. If any other minority group were treated the way we have been there would be uproar. Enough is enough, let's do something about it!"
It is essential reading not least because yet again, we come away thinking that there is no solid reason for any legislative or statutory change on home education.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
However I was gob-smacked last night when I first heard about the announcement and immediate commencement of yet another consultation, which came by way this declaration of intent from the DCSF. For a fuller understanding of the loose way with words which leads to a general muddling of responsibilities and legislation, you could also visit this page on the Every Child Matters site and for the icing on the cake, you can get the hidden agenda from the Times and Daily Mail articles here and here.
It's not surprising quite a number of us home educators were moithered. As a press release from Education Otherwise explains, we have already responded to three - that's THREE consultations from this government department since 2005. The latest guidelines on home education were only thrashed out and then issued in 2007. So what's changed?
Well, not a lot it seems. The only thing that seems to have happened is that the rumours and innuendos against home educators from various government quarters seem to have been stepped up. Principally, there is a suggestion that home education is used by some parents as a cover for inadequate education or other forms of abuse such as forced marriage. However when EO asked for evidence for these assertions, none was forthcoming and there is a strong suspicion that these charges are trumped up or exaggerated as a way of justifying increased state intrusion into our lives.
AHED (Action for Home Education) pursued this very issue back in 2007. See here.
There are plenty of other things to complain about. The Baroness herself assured EO that we would be informed and involved prior to consultations taking place. Right oh, so how can you explain this situation then Baroness? We only knew of this consultation last night when the whole thing was up and ready to run. Yes, I do think an explanation is in order.
Further, the whole thing has to be done and dusted by the 20th Feb, (some four weeks away), so how are the DCSF getting away with it when most consultations are meant to be at least 12 weeks long? It seems this is legitimised in "exceptional circumstances". Quite why these circumstances are exceptional is impossible to ascertain from this site, but one wonders if it has something to do with the DCSF prefering to get a squewed response. Most LAs and interested NGOs will manage an emailed response but all those HEors without an easy internet connection will not have a chance cotton on or have the time to ask for paper copies of the consultation.
Am off to work on a response which will be posted here post haste. Luckily for us, we won't have to think too hard as we have done this several times before, and are familiar with the relevant legislation. The only thing that has happened in the interim: a revision of the statutory guidance for Local Authorities on identifying children missing from suitable education, copied here. We will have to consider this in our responses to this consultation since the guidance is statutory.
But honestly, we should not be having to do this. This whole charade is a classic example of how government interference reduces productivity and efficiency. They may have nothing better to do with their time, but we certainly do. (I was going to spend this part of the morning looking up resources to explain the Hadron collider in answer to my son's questions from yesterday, but that has gone by the by...any tips gratefully received.)
Revised statutory guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving a suitable education
7-15 Duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education
16-20 Requirements for local authorities and relevant partners
Implementing the duty
21-26 Putting in place the right arrangements
27 How will the duty be assessed?
28-43 Children most at risk of missing education
44-49 How to consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to social care or to the police
50-54 Specific Safeguarding Concerns
55-56 Prevention - reducing the risk
57 Developing systems for identifying children not receiving a suitable education and maintaining contact with them
57 Practical model of process steps
58-62 Receive information about a child
63-69 Notification routes
70-74 Partner agencies understand who and how to notify
Check if place of education already known
75-76 Access to rolls for all providers
77-78 Reasonable enquiry
79-80 Enquiry to another local authority in England
81-83 Useful information to share with another local authority in England
84-85 Local authority actions on receipt of an enquiry
86-94 Elective Home Education
95-100 Log details on database
101 Locate and contact family
102-105 Information Sharing
106 Determine child’s needs
107-108 Common Assessment Framework
109-110 Lead Professional
111 Eligibility criteria
Identify and access available provision and places
112 Current information about places
113-115 School Admissions Procedures
116 Multi-agency panels
Monitor attendance for all provision
117-119 Audit registers
120-122 Deletion procedures
123-124 Track and reconcile movements
125-128 Transfer of information
Appendix 1 Standard Data Definitions
Appendix 2 Relevant legislation
Appendix 3 Progress Checklist: Self Evaluation
Appendix 4 Useful Web-links
1. There is wide agreement about the outcomes we all want for every child – they should be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.
2. A key aspect of the Every Child Matters (ECM): Change for Children programme is that relevant agencies should work together locally through the Children’s Trust to design and deliver better and more integrated, preventative services to children and young people. The ECM reforms introduced a Common Assessment Framework, improved information sharing procedures, and the development of the Lead Professional role to support this approach. Implementation of the duty to identify children who are not receiving a suitable education, introduced by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, should be embedded in the local authority’s overarching preventative strategy, and through the Children’s Trust, ensure that these children receive the full range of services they need.
3. The guidance in this document aims to help local authorities to effectively implement the duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education. The guidance also demonstrates how implementation of this duty can help local authorities make progress towards a number of Government priorities that they have been asked to lead in order to improve outcomes for children and young people. These include:
• the ambitions described in the Children’s Plan;
• the Youth PSA – to increase the number of young people on the path to success; and
• targets in their Local Area Agreement against a range of indicators in the new National Indicator Set that are focused on children and young people.
4. Children not receiving a suitable education are at increased risk of a range of negative outcomes that could have long term damaging consequences for their life chances. For example they are at risk of not attaining the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in life, and are at significant risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) once they have reached the compulsory school leaving age. They could also be more vulnerable in one way or another. They may be from disadvantaged families (experiencing multiple risks such as poverty, substance misuse, mental ill-health and poor housing), travelling communities, immigrant families, be unaccompanied asylum seeking or trafficked children, or be at risk of neglect or abuse or disengaged from education.
5. Local authorities, through their Children’s Trust, must have robust measures in place both to identify quickly when a child is not receiving a suitable education, and to follow through with effective tracking and enquiry systems. These measures should be at the heart of the local strategies for preventing negative outcomes for children and young people, and ensuring their safety and well-being.
6. Local authorities and their partners should position their work to implement the duty as an integral part of their governance and strategic planning for discharging duties under sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004. Guidance provided in this document reflects practice that local authorities have already demonstrated as being effective.
Duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education
7. This document is issued under the section 436A (inserted before section 437 in Chapter 2, Part 6 of the Education Act 1996 (school attendance) as amended by the Education and Inspections Act 2006), which provides that local authorities must have regard to statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This document provides that statutory guidance and applies to England only. Local authorities in England must take this guidance into account and, if they decide to depart from it, have clear reasons for doing so.
8. This document is a revised version of original statutory guidance issued in February 2007. It has been updated to place implementation of the duty in the revised strategic context following on from publication of the Children’s Plan (December 2007); to reflect priorities that have emerged since the original version was published; and to reflect local authorities’ initial experience of implementing the duty.
9. Section 436A requires all local authorities to make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children residing in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. In relation to children, by ‘suitable education’ we mean efficient full-time education suitable to her/his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have.
10. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school, for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision.
11. In order to help local authorities achieve consistency in how they share information whilst meeting this duty, this version of the guidance includes, at Appendix 1, a list of standard data definitions. The data definitions were produced taking into account the views of local authorities based on their experience of implementing the duty since its introduction in February 2007.
12. The duty does not apply in relation to children who are registered at a school who are not attending regularly. The duty complements and reinforces duties that already exist for schools to monitor attendance and it is important that local authorities work with schools to make sure they do it effectively. Schools already have a duty to monitor attendance through the daily attendance register and to make returns to local authorities where the attendance of individual pupils gives cause for concern. We also expect schools to identify and address underlying causes of absence, involving other agencies where appropriate. (Further information on the attendance duty is available at www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance).
13. The Children's Plan described a vision for the 21st Century School, which showed how schools are more than just an important partner in the wider work to improve outcomes for children and young people. They should be at the centre of the local Children’s Trust, helping to drive forward local approaches that respond to the needs of all local children, not just those on the school roll, and enable children to receive the full range of services they need as soon as problems are identified. The same range of services should be available for children not attending school.
14. The implementation of the duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education needs to take into account that schools are a service which can quickly identify problems and issues, the potential for future problems, and intervene effectively, working with other services where necessary. The duty on schools to promote pupil well-being emphasises this contribution. DCSF will publish final guidance on how schools can meet the well-being duty early in 2009, which will be useful to consider alongside this statutory guidance
15. ContactPoint, to be implemented across England by mid 2009, will help local authorities discharge the duty by recording the place where a child is being educated, where that is known. Where it is known that a child is being educated at home, that would also be recorded. This will enable local authorities to focus their efforts on identifying children who are not receiving a suitable education, and putting in place the necessary support. ContactPoint will also show whether a Common Assessment Framework has been undertaken with a child, and whether the child has a ‘lead professional’ co-ordinating any support required. Further information on ContactPoint is at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/contactpoint.
Requirements for local authorities and relevant partners
16. Local authorities are responsible for meeting the requirements under section 436A. They also need to put in place arrangements for joint working and appropriate information sharing with other local authorities and relevant partner agencies that come into contact with children and families. Implementation of the duty under section 436A should be integrated with, and not in isolation of, the wider range of duties placed on local authorities, and initiatives led locally, that aim to improve outcomes, and safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
17. The duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education can make a cross-cutting contribution to a number of local priorities and should strengthen and complement existing duties. Those leading the work to implement this duty will need to work closely with colleagues across the local authority area, e.g. Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, and external partners whose work contributes to improving outcomes for children. It should be incorporated into the local Children’s Trust strategic planning and commissioning arrangements, which are made under section 17 of the Children Act 2004, and the cross-cutting arrangements of safeguarding and inter-agency co-operation to improve the well-being of children. See Children Act 2004 Guidance: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/strategy/guidance/).
18. Some of the key partner agencies are:
• Education (maintained schools, independent schools, Academies, Pupil Referral Units, special schools and City Technology Colleges)
• Children’s Social Care
• Health (Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts)
• Police and police authorities
• Youth Offending Teams
• Community safety teams, anti-social behaviour teams
• Young Offender Institutions; Secure Training Centres; local authority Secure Children’s Homes
• Housing providers
Other important partners are:
• HM Revenue and Customs
• providers of Connexions
• statutory and voluntary youth services
• UK Border Agency
• the Fire and Rescue Service
• Other Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership agencies
• voluntary and community organisations, including faith groups
There may also be others, depending on local circumstances.
19. Information Sharing Guidance was published April 2006 and can be found on the Every Child Matters website: www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/deliveringservices/informationsharing/.
20. More detail on what is expected of parents, schools, local authorities and other agencies in relation to safeguarding children and providing a suitable education is in the “Relevant legislation” section of this guidance at Appendix 2.
IMPLEMENTING THE DUTY
Putting in place the right arrangements
21. The purpose of the duty is to make sure that children not receiving, or at risk of not receiving, a suitable education are identified quickly, and effective tracking systems and support arrangements are put in place. In line with the Children’s Plan expectation that all Children’s Trusts will have in place high quality arrangements by 2010 for all children and young people who need additional help, a speedy response when problems are first identified is crucial to implementing this duty. The longer a child misses out on education, the more likely those problems will become entrenched, and the more difficult it can be to respond effectively to their needs. Early intervention will enable the local authority and other partners in the Children’s Trust to ensure that action is taken to provide any child identified with a suitable education, and will also trigger activity between partner agencies that puts in place measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
22. The experience of local authorities has shown that changes in five areas (highlighted in the table below) are required to achieve a robust system to identify children not receiving a suitable education. A key issue is the sharing of information when a child moves from one local authority area to another. The standards in this paragraph are the minimum that local authorities need to adopt to ensure they have effective systems in place to identify these children and once found action is taken as quickly as possible to provide support for them through the most appropriate agencies. Under each heading are questions to help authorities decide what needs to be done to meet these minimum standards (more detail on how to meet and embed these standards is at Appendix 3).
Strategic Management & Leadership
Does the local authority have a written policy - covering objectives, procedures, roles and responsibilities - agreed with partners concerning children not receiving a suitable education?
Are there arrangements to identify and provide the full range of services for children not receiving a suitable education embedded within the Children’s Trust strategic planning and commissioning arrangements. Is this translated into effective operational arrangements?
Is there regular monitoring of the processes/numbers by Senior Management, Lead Members and Children’s Trust partners?
Networks & Points of Contact
Has the local authority identified the key stakeholders (both statutory and non-statutory) to provide information about children/young people without suitable educational provision in the local authority area?
Has the local authority provided and publicised notification routes for all key stakeholders?
Does the local authority have a named contact point to receive details about children not receiving suitable education?
Are there clear responsibilities for this role or those to whom the duties are delegated?
Does the local authority maintain a database of children not currently in suitable education?
If so does the database include fields such as:
• Date child/young person referred in;
• Date of assessment, if necessary;
• Date form of provision determined;
• Date it was considered that home education provision was not suitable;
• Date moved into provision.
Does the local authority monitor the numbers of children/young people in the authority who are not receiving suitable education, including those new to the area or the country?
Are there clear access rules and procedures to ensure fair/safe data processing?
Provision Brokering Services
Does the local authority have clear processes for securing the support of other agencies where it is needed e.g. for welfare or health reasons?
Does the local authority have an agreed process for securing suitable educational provision for children once found?
Does the local authority monitor the pace children move into provision?
Does the local authority have the information systems in place to allow access to up to date information concerning availability of school places and availability of places with alternative providers?
Effective Pupil Tracking Systems
Does the local authority have systems in place to keep children engaged in the education that is suitable for them?
Does the local authority keep a record of children who have left educational providers (school, custody and alternative provision) without a known destination?
Does the local authority keep a record of children whose parents or carers, fathers as well as mothers, it considers are not providing them with a suitable education and a note of action it has taken to address these concerns?
Does the local authority follow up children at regular intervals until they are registered with a new provider?
Does the local authority have an agreed system with schools concerning children leaving provision that maximises the contribution schools can make to preventing children not receiving a suitable education?
Does the local authority have in place arrangements to share information with other local authorities concerning children who move between areas?
Does the local authority support and encourage schools to transfer files via s2s?
Does the local authority have an identified officer as database administrator for s2s with responsibility for the Lost Pupil Database?
Does the local authority upload to and download from the searchable area of the s2s website known as the Lost Pupil Database?
23. In order to implement these changes, local authorities should select, according to local circumstances, from the practical model of process steps described later in this guidance (from paragraph 57 onwards). These process steps reflect practice that local authorities have already demonstrated as being effective. The key processes are:
• receive information about a child;
• check if place of education already known;
• log details on database;
• locate and contact family;
• determine child’s needs;
• identify and access available provision and places;
• monitor attendance for all provision; and
• track and reconcile movements.
24. By implementing these changes, with the Children’s Trust clearly in the lead, the majority of the ‘machinery’ local authorities need to be able to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and prevent other negative outcomes, will be in place. Local authorities can then determine the specific detailed arrangements that work best in their area, that not only meet this statutory duty, but also enable them to contribute to a range of work aimed at improving outcomes for local children and young people.
25. It is often lack of consistency across local authority boundaries that allow a child to get “lost” when moving from one area to the other, or between agencies/services. Vulnerable children are often already identified and monitored by other teams and agencies within the authority, and those receiving a suitable education are monitored by schools and other teams when being educated otherwise than at school. The processes in this guidance are designed to close any gaps, and minimise the risks that are part of transition points, by ensuring there is a clear route in place, understood by all parties involved, and for them to notify a named person(s) when a child is identified as not receiving a suitable education.
26. The alternative provision White Paper, ‘Back on Track’, which was published in May 2008, set out plans for all children and young people moving in and out of alternative provision to have an information passport. Guidance on this will be published by early 2009. If a pupil in alternative provision moves to another local authority’s area, the information passport should be sent to the new local authority, so that they can use it to help them decide on appropriate provision for the pupil, and pass it on in turn to the new provider or school. The local authority named officer for alternative provision in each of the authorities should take responsibility for this. We published the specifications for the named officer on 23 October and this can be found at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/exclusions/alternative_provision_policies/index.cfm
How will the duty be assessed?
27. Inspectorates, led by the Audit Commission and including Ofsted, are currently developing new arrangements for assessing the delivery of improved outcomes for local people in an area – the comprehensive area assessment (CAA). CAA will be introduced from April 2009, with the first reports published in November 2009. It will consider prospects for delivering priority outcomes for the area, including those in Local Area Agreements and those covered indicators in the national indicator set. CAA will embrace within its scope services by local statutory and non-statutory partners who are contributing to the delivery of outcomes in an area. It will pay particular attention to services for those whose circumstances make them vulnerable, so inspectors may assess services for children not receiving a suitable education. Ofsted will lead a new programme of inspections of services for safeguarding vulnerable children, including those in care. Individual inspections may also be triggered where CAA identifies poor or uncertain prospects for improved outcomes.
Children most at risk of missing education
28. Some children who are missing from education can be identified and supported back into education quickly; others who have experienced more complex problems, face tougher obstacles to getting back into suitable education. When developing a policy and procedures for children not receiving a suitable education, local authorities should consider the reasons why children go missing from education and the circumstances that can lead to this happening. This includes considering the important transition points during childhood and adolescence that if not handled carefully – by the child, their family, and the agencies they work with – can intensify problems and put the child more at risk of negative outcomes. The local authority should develop systems to close any gaps that are part of these transition points and through the Children’s Trust ensure the child receives the full range of services they need which may be a necessary precursor to them returning to mainstream education. The systems should aim to enable all children to receive a suitable education, but also promote a more effective response in instances when a child does go missing from education.
29. Children who are not receiving a suitable education will often miss out on the benefits of other measures, for example, they are likely to miss out on the ongoing information advice and guidance provided through schools including an offer of learning under the September Guarantee. This could have long term consequences in relation to participation, when over 16 years old, in education, training and employment.
30. Children can go missing either when they fail to register with a school, or when they fall out of the education system and there is no systematic process in place to identify them and ensure they re-engage with appropriate provision (which may include services outside of school to meet their needs). Their personal circumstances or those of their families may contribute to the withdrawal process and the failure to make a successful transition. For example they may:
• fail to start appropriate provision and hence never enter the system;
• cease to attend, due to illegal exclusion or withdrawal; or
• fail to complete a transition between providers (e.g. being unable to find a suitable school place after moving to a new local authority area, or after leaving a custodial establishment).
31. Some children living in certain circumstances face more obstacles to achieving the 5 ECM Outcomes and this can include not receiving a suitable education. Amongst these are (this list is not exclusive):
• children and young people under the supervision of the youth justice system
• children from families fleeing domestic violence
• children of homeless families, perhaps living in temporary accommodation, house of multiple occupancy or Bed and Breakfast;
• young runaways (for further information, see the Young Runaways Action Plan – DCSF 2008)
• children in families involved in anti-social behaviour
• children who are on the child protection register
• children affected by substance and/or alcohol misuse (see the Youth Alcohol Action Plan- DCSF 2008, and the Home Office’s Tackling Drugs, Changing Lives website)
• unaccompanied asylum seekers; children of refugees and asylum seeking families
• children in new immigrant families, who are not yet established in the UK and may not have fixed addresses
• children of migrant worker families (who may not be familiar with the education system)
• children of families who can be highly mobile, e.g. parents in the armed forces, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families
• children who do not receive a suitable education whilst being educated at home
• children who have been bullied
• children who have suffered discrimination on the grounds of race, faith, gender, disability or sexuality
• children at risk of sexual exploitation, including children who have been trafficked to, or within the UK
• children at risk of “honour”-based violence including forced marriage or female genital mutilation
• looked after children/children in care; children who go missing from care
• children who are privately fostered
• young carers
• teenage parents
• children who are permanently excluded from school, particularly those excluded unlawfully e.g. for problematic behaviour or offending (see paragraph 35 for more information on excluded pupils)
• children whose parents take them abroad for a prolonged period
• children who were registered with a school that has closed, and have not made the transition to another school
• children of parents with mental health problems
• children of parents with learning difficulties
• children with long term medical or emotional problems.
32. Children who meet the descriptions above can have needs that go beyond the reach of universal services. When local authorities identify/are made aware of children/young people in any of these groups who may not be receiving a suitable education, they should seek advice from the relevant specialist team/partner agency, including where appropriate Targeted Youth Support arrangements led by the Children’s Trust, on how best to proceed. See:
Further details on actions to take in certain circumstances are shown below.
Potential vulnerability due to high mobility
33. Children from families of members of the Armed Forces are likely to experience high mobility both within and outside the UK. Moves can be made at quite short notice, with future home address and school not known until just before the move. Schools and local authorities can make enquiries through the MOD Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS). CEAS can also liaise between local authorities, and with devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Service Children’s Education (SCE) also keeps records of all pupils in Service schools overseas. Enquiries about children in Service schools overseas should also be made via CEAS. The CEAS helpline can be contacted on 01980 618244.
34. Children in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) families often have a mobile lifestyle and local authority Traveller Education Support Services (TESS) already advise schools on the best strategies to include these children and promote their achievement and engagement in school activities. There are times when the high mobility of some of these children means they can be more at risk of going missing from education, for example, highly mobile GRT families who are living on unauthorised sites and are subject to unpredictable forced movement which hinders access to school. Local authorities should work closely with their TESS in these cases to ensure the correct procedures are followed and that distance learning packages, including Electronic Learning and Mobility Programme (ELAMP), if available, are supplied by schools to GRT pupils whose travelling arrangements are known in advance. More information is available at: http://www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/primary/publications/inclusion/tess/.
Pupils excluded from school
35. The Education (Provision of Full-Time Education for Excluded Pupils) (England) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1870) require local authorities to ensure that suitable full-time education is made available to permanently excluded pupils, including pupils excluded from pupil referral units from the sixth school day of exclusion. The Regulations likewise require relevant schools to arrange full-time education from the sixth school day of fixed period exclusion. During the first five days of a permanent exclusion the local authority should arrange to assess the pupil's needs and consider how to meet them including any special educational needs the pupil may have. This should involve undertaking a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) process where one has not already been carried out (see paragraphs 107-108 for further details on the CAF). The information passport, which was proposed in the White Paper, ‘Back on Track’, will contain the information needed to identify appropriate provision and curriculum – the core entitlement - for pupils moving into alternative provision. Guidance on the core entitlement, the information passport and the personal learning plan will be published early in 2009.
36. If it becomes apparent that a child has been unofficially excluded the local authority will need to challenge the school as this practice is unlawful. More information on exclusions, including the statutory guidance, is available at the teachernet site: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/behaviour/exclusion/
Children and Young People Supervised by the Youth Justice System
37. Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) in each local authority supervise a range of young people (aged primarily between 8 and 18 years old) who are often at risk of disengagement from education (including young people who have been sentenced for committing crimes and young people who have been identified as at risk of offending). YOTs therefore have a unique role in working with young people who are at risk and who may not be attending school or other provision. Children's Trusts should have strong relationships with YOTs, with clear protocols for joint working to identify children not receiving suitable education (or training or employment) and to identify suitable provision. YOTs must identify those who are not receiving suitable education through the ONSET or ASSET assessment and should then use the agreed partnership working arrangements with the local Children's Trust to ensure that appropriate full time education (or training or employment) is secured as soon as possible.
38. Such joint working will help local authorities achieve a number of important objectives. For example, one of the key indicators underpinning the Youth PSA - to increase the number of young people on the path to success, - is to 'reduce the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system'. Also, the new National Indicator Set also includes an indicator to ensure that at least 90% of young offenders are engaged in appropriate full time provision (education, training or employment) at the end of their sentence.
39. Young offenders who are sent to custody - either a Young Offender Institution, a Secure Training Centre or a local authority Secure Children's Home – should not be classed as ‘missing from education’, as all are required to be in full-time education and training within their custody setting, and education provision forms a central part of custodial regimes. However there remain some significant challenges. The placement of children into custody is managed nationally by the Youth Justice Board, and young people are often placed in custody in different local authority areas from where they usually live. Therefore it is important that YOTs work with their Children's Trust partners to liaise about the location of young offenders in custody and their planned release date. Where there is a change in the planned release date (e.g. as a result of early release) the YOTs should inform the Children's Trust, for example the named lead local authority contact for identifying children not receiving a suitable education.
40. Education and training forms a critical element of resettlement and rehabilitation for children and young people leaving custody and it is important that they are engaged in suitable provision as soon as possible on their release. It is good practice for the place of custody, YOT and its partners in the Children’s Trust to work together at the beginning and during the child’s time in custody to ensure appropriate full time provision is secured for the child before they are released, in order that they can enter education provision as soon as they are released. More information on the relationship between YOTs and Children’s Trusts can be found at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/aims/childrenstrusts/
as well as:
41. Where the child is registered at a school, college, or alternative provider prior to them entering custody, it is good practice for the YOT to work with its Children's Trust partners to inform the provider and for the child’s place to be held open for their return to the community whenever possible and appropriate for the child’s rehabilitation and personal learning and development. Specific guidance on Pupil Registration Regulations “Keeping Pupil Registers” can be found at:
Pupils in families involved in persistent anti-social behaviour
42. Family Intervention Projects are currently in place in 65 local authorities working with some of the most challenging families. Projects ensure that support is in place for all family members. A lead key worker is assigned to manage or ‘grip’ the family’s problems, co-ordinate the delivery of services and use a combination of support and sanction to motivate the family to change their behaviour. Many of the children in these projects are not attending school for a range of reasons which are often linked to children’s behaviour, and/or anti-social behaviour in the wider family which has led to disruption in their housing circumstances.
Pupils at risk of harm 43. Children may be removed from education or prevented from attending as a result or symptom of them suffering from abuse or neglect. In all circumstances where there are concerns over a child’s welfare, a referral should be made to the local authority children's social care. Local authority staff should refer to "Working Together to Safeguard Children" (HM Government, 2006) and “What to do if you are worried a child is being abused” for further guidance. More guidance on what to consider is given below.
How to consider whether it is appropriate to refer a case to children’s social care or to the police.
44. When a child is absent from education, it is possible that this is due to other behaviour, associations or activity that puts them at risk of harm. This could be of their own choice or by the actions of another person or persons influencing their behaviour and choices. They could be the victims of abuse, neglect or crime, including sexual exploitation, forced marriage, trafficking, domestic servitude or abduction. It is important to recognise when young people are in situations where they are vulnerable and to take appropriate action.
45. In any case where there is concern for a child’s welfare this should be referred to local authority social care services through the local Children’s Trust. If there is reason to suspect a crime has been committed, the police should also be involved, Where there is genuine concern that young person’s safety and/or well-being is at risk, it is essential to take action quickly, as delays can see problems escalate, and also hamper an effective investigation of the circumstances in which the child is living. To ascertain whether it is appropriate to make a referral to children’s social care and/or the police, a number of issues should be considered, listed below.
• Have there been suspicions in the past concerning this child and family members, which together with any sudden disappearance from education provision are worrying?
• Have there been any past concerns about the child associating with significantly older young people or adults? For example, are they picked up from school by older males in cars who are not related to them?
• Was there a significant incident prior to the child’s unexplained absence from education provision?
• Is the child/young person the subject of a child protection plan (on the Child Protection Register) or has there been past involvement with children’s social care services about matters of child protection concern?
• Is the child/young person looked after by a local authority?
• Is there current children’s social care involvement with this child or one of their siblings and their parents, fathers as well as mothers?
• Is there a history of mobility without full explanations as to why?
• Are there issues raised by the child or by their family’s immigration or asylum status?
• Has there been school or local authority intervention in relation to attendance, e.g. visits by Education Welfare Service, parenting contracts and fast-track to attendance?
• Is there a good reason to believe that the child’s absence may be the result of them being the victim of a crime? The following questions could assist a judgement:
• Is the child’s absence from school very sudden, out of character, and without any satisfactory explanation being provided by their family or carer?
• Has the child/young person said something to give rise to concern?
• Has the child/young person gone missing with their family?
• Has the child/young person gone missing without their family?
• Is there any reason related to the child’s ethnicity or culture to believe that the child/young person is at risk of harm?
46. Getting answers to these questions could involve talking to the child’s friends at school, or making enquiries of neighbours of the child’s home.
47. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then a referral to children’s social care services within the Children’s Trust and/or the police should be made - local procedures should be followed in line with Working together to safeguard children guidance which can be found at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/workingtogether/.
48. Referrals to the police regarding children who are absent from education rely on established effective liaison arrangements between Children’s Trust and the local police. Best practice would involve arrangements being underpinned by an agreed protocol setting out individual responsibilities and responses to incidents such as these.
49. Many schools already have an allocated police officer under Safer School Partnership (SSP) arrangements, and all schools are being encouraged to have such arrangements. SSP officers are a valuable resource for the school, parents, and the Children's Trust to liaise with when there are cases of children not receiving, or at risk of not receiving, a suitable education, and when there are concerns about the child's safety and well-being. Guidance on mainstreaming SSPs is available from the Every Child Matters website: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/ete/ssp/
Specific Safeguarding Concerns – Further Guidance
Child trafficking and/or sexual exploitation
50. In some cases, young people may go missing or run away due to trafficking, or following grooming by adults who will seek to exploit them sexually. Further guidance on safeguarding children who may have been trafficked is available from: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/. New statutory guidance on safeguarding children from sexual exploitation will be launched in early 2009, and the consultation and will be available from www.dcsf.gov.uk.
51. Being removed from education is a recognised symptom for children and young people who may be facing a forced marriage. If this is suspected, local authority children's social care should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Forced Marriage Unit where experienced caseworkers are able to offer support and guidance. They can be contacted on 020 7008 0151. Care should be taken not to approach the family or attempt to mediate if forced marriage is suspected.
52. New statutory guidance on dealing with forced marriage was published in November 2008, setting out the responsibilities of agencies dealing with forced marriage issues. This can be downloaded from www.fco.gov.uk/forcedmarriage.
Practice guidelines for education professionals and social workers are also available from http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/nationals/forced-marriage-unit/info-for-professionals. These will be updated in early 2009.
Missing / unexplained absence
53. There are also some circumstances when a registered pupil of compulsory school age is absent without explanation. Most cases are relatively minor whereby the child returns home quickly or is not believed to be in any serious danger. However, there are more serious cases, including those where a child may become a victim of crime, such as being abducted by his/her parent, or abduction by a stranger. It is best practice for school administrative staff or support staff to contact parents on any day a registered pupil is absent without explanation (i.e. First Day Contact), including in cases where the pupil skips lessons after registration. By contacting the parents/carers the school also ensures that the parents/carers, mothers and fathers, are aware that the child is not in school enabling any parent/carer to take steps, where necessary, to establish that the child is safe. Further information on first day contact is in the “Tackling it Together toolkit” at: http:www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance/goodpractice/tackling.cfm.
54. Other sources of information on where to look for advice about missing children are also available via some non-Government organisations, for example: the National Missing Peoples Helpline (the “Education” section on the website www.missingpeople.org.uk contains information which may be useful); also the Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT) website http://www.pact-online.org; and support in relation to international child abduction is available from the voluntary organisation ‘reunite’ - www.reunite.org.
Prevention - reducing the risk of children not receiving a suitable education
55. Local authorities, with their partners, have a range of approaches to reducing the risk of children not receiving a suitable education, and of avoiding contact with agencies with responsibilities for ensuring their safety and well-being. Existing good practice broadly falls into four categories where the local authority introduces measures to:
• reduce the likelihood that children fall out of the education system, such as audits of the rolls and registers of schools (an audit for local authorities and schools to use is available at: www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/secondary/keystage3/behaviour/focus/attendance_manual/resources);
• identify children who are not receiving a suitable education at home and use existing section 437 powers to issue a school attendance order if needed;
• identify and locate children who are not receiving a suitable education, such as via school attendance and exclusions sweeps and the provision of named points of contact to receive notification of children from other agencies;
• re-engage the children with appropriate educational provision, for example via multi-agency panels, to broker admissions.
56. Local approaches to reducing the risk of children not receiving a suitable education, should take account of the following:
a) the pivotal role of parents. Following the successful pilot of Parent Support Advisers in 20 local authorities, funding for these professionals has been provided to all authorities from August 2008. The Advisers and other similar professionals work with parents to improve children’s behaviour and school attendance, offering advice with parenting, and providing support for families at the first sign a child or young person may be experiencing behavioural or emotional issues. In many cases Parent Support Advisers may be the first point of contact between parents and schools, and where particular issues are raised they are well placed to refer parents to the relevant specialist agencies. The Training and Development Agency has collated many examples of good practice involving Parent Support Advisers, which can be found on their website - please see www.tda.gov.uk.
b) the need to link to the wider remit of the local authority to safeguard the welfare of all children. Sometimes there are concerns about a child’s welfare, including the concerns of school staff or others delivering services to children through the work of the Children’s Trust partners. When such concerns exist then established Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed. Detailed information about Local Safeguarding Children Boards can be found at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/lscb/.
c) the need to link to the implementation of the duty for maintained schools to promote the well-being of pupils, set out in section 21 of the Education Act 2002 as amended by the Education and Inspections Act 2006 for maintained . Final guidance underpinning the well-being duty will be available by spring 2009 from www.dcsf.gov.uk.
Developing systems for identifying children not receiving a suitable education and maintaining contact with them
Practical model of process steps
57. Local authorities should select, according to local circumstances, from the practical model of process steps given below. These process steps reflect practice that local authorities have already demonstrated as being effective:
Receive information about a child
Clear responsibilities for appropriate action
58. All local authorities must have:
“A named individual responsible for receiving information about children of compulsory school age in their area who may not be receiving a suitable education at school or otherwise, and for brokering support for them through the most appropriate agencies.”[Source IRT: Guidance on Information Sharing to Improve Services for Children – published by the then DFES in 2003].
59. This responsibility is determined depending on local circumstances. Examples of how some local authorities have taken this forward are:
• recruitment of a dedicated pupil tracking officer;
• senior management lead with delegation to others; or
• a small team who may receive notifications from different sources.
60. If local authorities decide to recruit a dedicated pupil tracking officer, robust recruitment and vetting procedures should be followed, as appropriate, to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children. www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/ .
61. Arrangements to discharge the duty should be included in the local Children’s Trust strategic planning and commissioning arrangements, and the cross-cutting arrangements of safeguarding and inter-agency co-operation to improve wellbeing of children. The development of Targeted Youth Support Teams (TYS) within the Integrated Youth Support Service will also be important to take into account. TYS teams, aligned with the provision of extended services through schools, make a significant contribution to the well-being of children. Every local authority will have Targeted Youth Support arrangements in place, providing earlier intervention to young people whose needs go beyond that which universal services can address, yet who do not always meet the thresholds for specialist services. Please visit:
62. The Director of Children’s Services, Lead Member for Children’s Services and other Children’s Trust partners, as appropriate, should monitor procedures and numbers.
63. Information about children not receiving a suitable education can be received from within local authority boundaries (from colleagues within schools, members of the public, the local authority, and other agencies, e.g. Traveller Education Services) and/or from other local authorities around the country.
64. Providers of the Connexions service are required to hold details of all 13-19 year olds and where they are being educated on their local Client Caseload Information System (CCIS). Connexions Personal Advisors offer information and advice in schools and may have identified a young person moving into the area. Connexions providers also have cross border arrangements with neighbouring services in order to help keep contact with young people as they move from one area to another. Local authorities are expected to ensure that information about children missing education is passed to their Connexions provider so that they can be recorded on CCIS. This will ensure that the young person gets support at 16, including an offer of learning under the September Guarantee.
65. Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) who work with young people who offend are well placed to identify young people out of education. The ONSET or ASSET assessment, completed by the YOT, is designed to identify educational and other needs at specific periods of the young person’s relationship with the YOT or secure establishment.
66. Local authorities may receive notification about a child via School Attendance and Exclusions Sweeps run in conjunction with the police and other agencies. More information about School Attendance and exclusions sweeps can be found at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance/truancysweeps.
67. Notifications could be about children who are actually receiving an education, which is being delivered by a route not known to the local authority at that time: e.g. independent schools, home education, or alternative provision. When the route of education has been determined it should be logged on the local authority database for future reference.
68. UK Border Agency - UKBA (http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk) routinely informs local authorities about children subject to immigration controls coming to stay in their area, such as:
• all cases of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), who will generally become looked after by a local authority;
• children who are part of a family which is seeking asylum - in such cases, when a family is provided with accommodation, the provider responsible for the provision of their accommodation is required to notify the local authority; and,
• children who are non-European Economic Area nationals who arrive in the UK to stay with someone other than their parent(s) or close relatives (i.e. a private fostering arrangement).
69. In addition, there are two points of contact provided by UKBA for local authorities to verify the immigration status of children:
• for enquires about the immigration status of individuals who are not claiming asylum, contact the ‘LA Desk’ in the UKBA Enquiries Unit on: Tel: 0845 601 2298; Fax: 020 8196 3049; and
• for enquires about the immigration status of individuals who are claiming asylum, contact the UKBA ‘LA Communications Team’ on: Tel: 020 8760 4527.
Partner Agencies understand who and how to notify
70. Awareness should be raised amongst Children’s Trust partners and other agencies about how the local authority will be informed about children not receiving a suitable education, to ensure that all of them employ this route consistently. It will sometimes be the case that another partner or agency is aware of the arrival or existence of a child, living in the local authority area but not in education, before the local authority is aware, for example, children of migrant worker families. There is a higher chance of this being the case in relation to children in the ‘at risk’ groups identified earlier in this guidance, as in some circumstances, steps may be taken to avoid contact with statutory authorities.
71. The first step is to identify all likely routes of information, for example:
• school secretaries/administrators/Designated Senior Persons
• Pupil Referral Units and alternative education providers
• housing providers
• homeless hostels
• Missing People Helpline
• Accident and Emergency
• NHS Walk-in services
• Parent partnership services
• Children’s Social Care
• Youth Offending Teams
• Fire and Rescue Services
• Other agencies involved in Crime and Disorder Reduction partnerships;
• Health Visitors
• UK Border Agency
• Education Welfare Officers (Education Social Workers)
• SEN caseworkers
• Traveller Education Support Services (TESS)
• General Public
• Voluntary and community organisations.
72. Possible routes for raising awareness with Children’s Trust partners and other agencies (which will need to be repeated on a regular basis due to staffing changes, etc) could be by:
• circulating (either online or via hard copy) the name of the Children’s Trust/local authority named individual with telephone number and email address, including information about how to inform the Children’s Trust/local authority about children not receiving a suitable education;
• entry in Directory of Services;
• events/workshops with partner agencies, including voluntary and community groups;
• School Secretaries’ Conferences; and
• leaflets, and other publicity materials.
73. When raising awareness with partner agencies it is useful to remind them that parents may lawfully educate their children at home . Where a local authority is satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable full time education, the child is not the target of this duty. However, the local authority does have the power to issue a school attendance order if it appears that the parent is not providing a suitable education. Education of children at home by their parents is not in itself a cause for concern about the child’s welfare.
74. Local authorities should agree arrangements with the agencies with whom they need to share information. Guidance on information sharing and integrated working can be found at www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/deliveringservices/informationsharing/.
Check if place of education already known
Access to rolls for all providers
75. When the named person(s) receive notification about a child believed to be in their area it may be necessary to check the child’s name and other details, if available, against all alternative provision rolls in the local area held by the local authority and schools to see if they are already registered. One way to achieve this is to have all names of school-aged children kept on a central database which is frequently updated and can be checked by the staff members who require access. (This is not a requirement to set up new IT systems for children not receiving a suitable education. See paragraph 95 for suggestions for utilising existing databases).
76. Another way to check a child’s name and other details would be via communication links with all educational providers: this includes all schools; Pupil Referral Units; providers of alternative provision (local authorities and schools should establish a contractual agreement that providers of alternative provision will keep a register to check if the child is registered with them) and custodial institutions. “Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools: Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision” and “Commissioning Alternative Provision – Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools” can be found on the Teachernet website:
http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/ (ref: LEA/0024/2005 and DCSF-00758-2008). If email is used then careful consideration should be given to what information is sent via a relatively insecure medium. The last section of this guide describes the School2School (s2s) website, where a secure messaging facility is available.
77. When making “reasonable enquiry, to ascertain where the pupil is” as referred to in Regulation 8(1)(f)(iii) and (h)(iii) of the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance/ it is reasonable to expect that the appropriate team in the local authority will complete and record the following actions:
• check local databases within the local authority (including ContactPoint when implemented);
• follow local information sharing arrangements and where possible make enquiries via other local databases e.g. those of housing providers, health services, police, Youth Justice Services, social care services, the Inland Revenue;
• check with agencies known to be involved with family;
• check with local authority from which child moved originally, if known;
• where appropriate check with the Youth Offending Team responsible for the child’s supervision or with the custodial institution from which a child has been released;
• check with any local authority to which a child may have moved (see below);
• check with the local authority where the child lives, if different from where the school is;
• in the case of children from families of those in the Armed Forces, check with the Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS) on 01980 618244; and
• home visit(s) made by appropriate team, following local guidance concerning risk assessment and if appropriate make enquiries with neighbour(s).
78. Making these enquiries may not always lead to location of the child, but it will provide a steer on what action should be taken next, for example, contact the police and, in cases where there may be concerns for the safety of a child who has travelled abroad, contact the Foreign Office.
Enquiry to another local authority in England
79. In the first instance an enquiry via the phone should be made. Secure systems should be used to appropriately share personal information. If an address is being provided then the correct person at the other local authority should be identified first. If further information needs to be sent - secure messaging is available using s2s.
80. Local authorities should not make “blanket” enquires (by email or hard copy). Contacting all local authorities with a list of children asking them to search their databases is seen as poor practice and the majority of local authorities will ignore this request, as it is time consuming with little reward (very rare that they find the child in their area). It is also not secure. Best practice is for local authorities to carry out thorough local checks in their own authority area before contacting specific local authorities that they believe to be linked to the child/young person that they are looking for.
Useful information to share with another local authority in England
81. To enable local authorities to make their best efforts to search for a child/young person on behalf of the enquiring local authority the following basic information could be shared (as appropriate) with the named officer:
• Name (plus any know aliases)
• Date of Birth
• Parents/carers names including who has parental responsibility
• Siblings names
• Previous Address
• Previous school and date of last attendance
• Possible new address and school if known or suspected
• Previous home education
• Date child/young person left area
• If recent entry to UK - their country of origin.
82. Care must be taken to ensure information is factual and evidence based. (Also consideration should be given to guidance on “custodians of child protection register”: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/missing/).
83. The following factors can help to identify if the child is at risk of negative outcomes:
• reason for leaving if known
• the local authority considers the child is not receiving a suitable education whilst being educated at home
• the child is or has been the subject of a child protection plan
• the child is/was looked after by a local authority
• the child is/was privately fostered
• the child is an unaccompanied asylum seeker or a member of an asylum seeking family or family otherwise subject to immigration control
• child is, or was, subject to the youth justice supervision
• any interventions for poor attendance (including prosecutions pending);
• SEN Status
• reason for believing child has gone to this particular local authority
• evidence gathered from making the enquiries described at paragraph 77.
Local authority actions on receipt of an enquiry
84. When another local authority has provided an address, the family should be contacted as soon as possible (which would be carried out by the relevant team in the local authority, e.g. Education Welfare Service, or Children’s Social Care). An assessment of vulnerability based on the information provided should be made prior to any home visit. The level of priority should be based on the information provided which will indicate the level of vulnerability of the child/young person. Unless concerns justify an immediate visit, initial contact should be made in writing before calls or visits are made.
85. If no address is provided but there is reasonable evidence to suggest a child/young person could have moved to the area then check with local schools including independent schools via the local authority database, or a secure communication medium. Also follow local information sharing arrangements and where possible make enquiries via other local databases e.g. those of housing providers, health and social care services, police, Inland Revenue. Whatever the result of the search, the enquiring local authority will need a response.
Elective Home Education
86. Parents of children who are of compulsory school age have a duty to ensure that they receive an efficient, full time education, suitable to their ages, abilities, aptitudes and any special educational needs they may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise (section 7 of the Education Act 1996). Some parents decide to provide suitable education for their children by educating them at home.
87. Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 requires local authorities to make arrangements to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children who are not pupils at schools and who are not otherwise receiving suitable education. In order to comply with this duty local authorities need to make arrangements which will as far as possible enable them to determine whether any children who are not pupils at schools, such as those being educated at home, are receiving suitable education. In order to do this local authorities should make inquiries with parents educating children at home about the educational provision being made for them. The procedures to be followed with respect to such investigations are set out in the EHE Guidelines, 2.7-2.11 and 3.4-3.6.
88. Where parents decide to withdraw their child from school and notify the proprietor [“proprietor”, in relation to a school, means the person or body of persons responsible for the management of the school so that, in relation to a community, foundation or voluntary or community or foundation special school, it means the governing body (s579, Education Act 1996)] in writing that the child is receiving education at home, the proprietor must delete the child from the admissions register unless the child is the subject of a current School Attendance Order (see regulation 8(1)(a) and (d) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006) (‘the Pupil Registration Regulations’) at www.statutelaw.gov.uk). If a parent on whom a School Attendance Order has been served fails to comply with the requirements of the Order they are guilty of an offence under section 443 of the Education Act 1996, unless they prove that the child is receiving a suitable education otherwise than at school.
89. It is the duty of the proprietor of the school to inform the local authority of the deletion and the reason for it, no later than when the pupil’s name is deleted from the register (regulation 12(3) of the Pupil Registration Regulations 2006). The Pupil Registration Regulations apply to all schools: maintained; independent; Pupil Referral Units; special schools; City Technology Colleges; and Academies.
90. Children with statements of SEN can be educated at home. The duty of the parent remains to provide a suitable education for the child. Where the local authority maintains a statement for the child, the authority is responsible for arranging that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child, unless the child’s parent has made suitable arrangements (section 324(5)(a) of the Education Act 1996). If the parent’s arrangements are suitable, the local authority is relieved of their duty to arrange the provision directly, but it still remains the local authority’s duty to ensure the child’s special educational needs are met.
91. Local authorities should keep a record of children who are known to be educated at home by parents. Parents are not, however, required to inform the local authority if they decide to home educate a child who has not previously attended school.
92. In order to discharge their duties in relation to children not receiving an education, local authorities should make inquiries with parents about whether their home educated children are receiving a suitable education. The Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities make clear that parents who home educate may take a number of equally valid approaches to educational provision for their children.
93. Though it is not the subject of this guidance, local authorities have a duty under section 437 of the Education Act 1996 (School Attendance Orders) to act if it appears to them that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Further information is available in “Ensuring Children’s Right to Education” at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/behaviourandattendance/
94. Local authorities can insist on seeing a home educated child if there is cause for concern about the child’s safety and welfare (section 47 of the Children Act 1989). Where there are concerns about the child’s safety and welfare, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed.
Log details on database
95. The practical model shown at paragraph 57 does not involve a requirement to set up new IT systems for children not receiving a suitable education. The following are suggestions on how to utilise existing databases.
96. Some authorities hold information on a centrally held database (either a commercial system or one developed locally), and a periodic download of information from schools onto such a system (e.g. monthly) will reasonably current information is held. The individual with responsibility for monitoring pupil registration and co-ordinating pupil mobility, checks any names notified against the data held in the central database.
97. ContactPoint will help local authorities fulfil their responsibilities for identifying children not receiving a suitable education by recording the place where a child is being educated, where that is known. ContactPoint will also record whether a Common Assessment Framework has been undertaken with a child and whether the child has a ‘lead professional’. More information can be found at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/deliveringservices/contactpoint.
98. Monitoring by senior management will be a helpful component of effective systems. Consideration should be given to the form in which data is held. Also to monitor the speed with which children progress into provision after being found, it will be necessary to record the appropriate dates:
• date referred in;
• date of assessment, if necessary;
• date form of provision determined;
• date moved into provision.
99. In order to monitor the patterns in the previous history of the children then both date and location of last known educational placement would be useful, as well as form of provision recommended and accessed.
100. Some local authorities also helpfully include in their database, as a subgroup, all those children of compulsory school age living in their authority but not in educational provision. The other information allows local authorities to monitor the educational status and progress of recognised vulnerable groups.
Locate and contact family
101. The practical model shown at paragraph 57 includes a step to establish a process by which the local authority determines the child’s address, parent or legal guardian and establishes communication with the child and parent/guardian or refers the contact to the local authority in which the child is resident.
102. To locate children and young people when it is believed they are resident in your local authority, it may be necessary to share information with other agencies (as listed in paragraph 18). Agencies will include many who are already notifying the local authority when they encounter a child not receiving a suitable education.
103. Any sharing of information must comply with the law relating to confidentiality, data protection and human rights – guidance to support practitioners making information sharing decisions on a case by case basis is available at: http://wwweverychildmatters.gov.uk/resources-and-practice/IG00340/
The local authority should work within their authority’s arrangements for recording information and within any local information sharing protocols that are in place.
104. Children who are both not receiving a suitable education and whose current residential whereabouts are unknown are likely to be deemed vulnerable.
105. It is in the interests of other agencies for children to be enrolled in education and attending regularly, (whether at school or otherwise), not only because of the welfare of the child but also in order that the agency can fulfil their duties.
Determine child’s needs
106. If a child has been identified as not receiving a suitable education it is important that any process to access education is as speedy as possible. Parental and child preference should be taken into account. In order to ensure a successful return to education, an assessment and intervention plan, that takes into account the reasons the child or young person has become disengaged from education, e.g. bullying, will assist the process of successful re-engagement. Local authorities and schools will need to work with their Children’s Trust partners to ensure the full range of support services is available when they are needed. Guidance on re-integration can be found at:
Common Assessment Framework
107. A Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is available to help in assessing needs and improving services to children, young people and families. There is no need to assess every child using the CAF format, however, this assessment may be required if the child’s needs are unclear, and can help identify other services which may need to be involved. An assessment using the CAF will enable a child’s needs to be assessed in a holistic way, to decide what response is needed. If it is identified that the child has complex needs then a referral for a more specialist assessment appropriate to the child’s situation will need to be made. This specialist assessment will build on the work undertaken in completing the CAF.
108. The use of the CAF as a means of analysing the child’s needs will enable practitioners to join up with any other professional who might already be working with a child or have completed a specialist assessment for them. With consent, practitioners from different agencies will be able to share information about a child’s needs, enabling them to work more effectively together, build up a holistic picture of a child’s needs and develop a more coordinated response.
109. Where a child not receiving a suitable education needs support from several agencies to help them return to full-time learning, having a lead professional should help ensure that the actions identified in the assessment process are fully co-ordinated. The lead professional will provide a single point of contact for the child and family.
110. Information about the CAF and Lead Professional can be found at:
111. Any Directory of Children’s Services supported by the local authority, for example as part of its action to ensure practitioners, children, young people and parents are informed about services available to them, should include details about eligibility criteria for services.
Identify and access available provision and places
Current Information about places
112. If the process is to progress efficiently, then information about available places is best held centrally, if at all possible. In areas with high transience, turnover in schools will be high and therefore school places will come and go rapidly.
School Admissions Procedures
113. All schools and local authorities must comply with the mandatory requirements of the School Admissions Code which came into force in February 2007.
114. Each admission authority and Admission Forum must have a Fair Access Protocol. All schools and Academies must participate in their local authority area’s protocol to ensure that unplaced children, especially the most vulnerable are offered a place at a suitable school and that all schools in an area admit their fair share of children with challenging behaviour. An agreed protocol must include timescales for considering and resolving individual cases that aim to best serve the interests of the parent and child. It must also describe who will take part in this process, how the decisions will be taken and who will be ultimately accountable for them. Once protocols have been agreed, Admission Forums must monitor how well they are working.
115. Improvements are in hand to strengthen the admissions framework to work towards delivery of the Children’s Plan commitments to: improve the application and allocation process for parents, support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, help to ensure that parents have the information they need to make realistic choices and all schools comply fully with the law and the Codes. New Regulations have been made and a new School Admissions Code has been laid before Parliament and if approved will come into force from early February 2009.
116. Additionally, some authorities find it useful to use multi-agency panels to place children in provision, often called “In – Year Fair Access Panels’’. These panels track progress and alert the Inclusion and Access Managers if there are concerns about delay or inability to meet the child/young person’s needs.
Monitor attendance for all provision
117. It has been identified previously through public consultations and in the Ofsted Report: Key Stage 4: towards a more flexible curriculum (published in 2003) that children can go missing from alternative provision. This indicates the need to audit registers of alternative provision as well as schools.
118. Guidance for local authorities for schools on monitoring attendance is contained within www.dcsf.gov.uk/behaviourandattendance/ and at: www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/secondary/keystage3/behaviour/focus/attendance_manual/resources/.
119. Guidance for local authorities on Pupil Referral Units and alternative provision was issued in February 2005 “Guidance for LEAs - PRUs and Alternative Provision”. Separate guidance on commissioning alternative provision – “Commissioning Alternative Provision – Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools” was published on 23 October 2008. Both sets of guidance can be found on the Teachernet website: http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/ (ref: LEA/0024/2005 and DCSF-00758-2008).
120. Deletions from the admission and attendance registers must be made in line with the provisions of Regulation 8 of the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1751) which are at: http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk and apply to all schools in England, including independent schools. The name of a pupil of compulsory school age may only be deleted from the attendance register on the grounds prescribed in this Regulation. Under regulation 12(3), schools must also inform their local authority of deletions of compulsory school age pupils due to: ceasing to attend the school; being withdrawn to be educated outside the school system; being certified by the school medical officer as unlikely to return before ceasing to be of compulsory school age; being in custody; being permanently excluded. More information is available at: www.dcsf.gov.uk/schoolattendance.
121. In line with the duties on children’s services and schools to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged with a view to improving or promoting the well-being of children (section 10 of the Children Act 2004 for local authorities and their relevant partners, and section 38 of The Education and Inspections Act 2006 for maintained schools), the expectation is that both the school and the local authority will put in place procedures designed to track the whereabouts of the child and to record that they have completed these procedures before deleting them from the register. The type of procedures may include the appropriate agency checking with relatives, neighbours, landlords - private or social housing providers - and other local stakeholders who are involved. If there is reason to believe the child/young person may be or is at risk of significant harm procedures should be followed in line with the Local Safeguarding Children Board. http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/lscb/ :
Follow-up procedures could include:-
• if the child/young person is located and the current school is still the appropriate school then steps should be taken to engage with the child/young person and the parent to improve attendance;
• if the child/young person is located, but has moved, and a new school is necessary but in the same local authority, the necessary steps should be taken to access a new school as previously mentioned and steps taken to transfer the Common Transfer File (CTF) (see paragraph 126 below); and
• if there is evidence to suggest the child/young person has moved to a different local authority then contact should be made with the named individual in the new authority.
122. In the absence of the location of the child/young person being found these procedures will also prompt reference to the transfer of information to the police and Children’s Social Care and the transfer of information via school2school (s2s). Until a child/young person is located the local authority should maintain a record of their details.
Track and reconcile movements
123. This is the process by which the local authority maintains visibility of children who have ceased to be registered with a provider and monitoring progress until they are registered with a new provider, by effective use of available inter-local authority exchange of information. Monitoring at the transfer between Key Stage 2 and 3 is vital. Local authorities will need to develop protocols with their schools to ensure that all children leaving a primary school are subsequently registered at a new provider.
124. There are challenges in areas where children leave the maintained sector for the independent sector in high numbers, in areas where children commonly cross boundaries to attend schools in other authorities and in areas of high transience, particularly if children leave schools at other than normal ages of transfer. Also, similar issues regarding the transfer of information apply for young people involved in the youth justice system and who are leaving custody.
Transfer of Information
125. The Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/1437) (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051437.htm) governs the transfer of information from school to school when a child moves school. In particular, regulation 9(3) provides that: “…the governing body of the old school or, where this has been agreed between that governing body and the local authority, that authority shall transfer the pupil’s common transfer file and educational record to the responsible person of the new school no later than fifteen school days after the day on which the pupil ceases to be registered at the old school”.
126. The DCSF provides a secure internet site (s2s) for the electronic transfer of information on Common Transfer Files (CTFs) from school to school when a child moves school. On the home page for s2s- www.teachernet.gov.uk/s2s, a description of the processes and guidance is provided for local authorities and schools on how to use the system. There is also a publication for schools which local authorities can order and distribute. s2s also provides a secure messaging facility. Guidance notes for schools and local authorities to clarify the creation and use of CTFs can be found at: http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/management/ims/datatransfers/s2s/ .
127. The s2s website also contains a searchable area referred to as the Lost Pupil Database where schools can upload CTFs of pupils who have left but their destination, next school is unknown or the child has moved abroad or transferred to a non-maintained school.
128. There may be exceptional circumstances when standard rules for sending a receiving a CTF for a pupil might not apply. Each case would need to be judged on its merits in consultation with relevant parties. Circumstances when it is not considered appropriate to pass on details via a CTF might include: a family escaping a violent partner; the family is in a witness protection programme; or concerns that the child is at risk of forced marriage. Guidance on how to share information in these circumstances is available in Annex A of the CTF Guidance Notes: www.teachernet.gov.uk/management/ims/datatransfers/CTF/
Standard Data Definitions
1. The following data definitions have been developed working with several local authorities to help improve consistency of how information is collected about children who are not receiving a suitable education and to improve cross-border transfer of information.
2. The national definition of children who are not receiving a suitable education is as follows:
“A compulsory school-age child who is not on the roll of a school, not placed in alternative provision by a local authority, and who is not receiving a suitable education at home”.
3. Suitable education is defined as: “efficient full-time education suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he/she may have”.
4. Alternative provision is defined as: “educational provision arranged by local authorities or schools, and made off-site by a voluntary or private sector provider or by a Pupil Referral Unit”.
5. The following two sub-sets are suggested, but they are not intended to be an exclusive list:
a) Children not on a school roll (including in a General Hospital School, an Academy or City Technology College (CTC) or at an Independent School): nor in local authority care, nor in juvenile custody, nor in immigration removal centres, nor in alternative provision (AP), nor in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), nor in Further Education (FE). Examples of what this sub-set would include are as follows (N.B. This is not intended to be an exclusive list):
• New to the country or area and not yet registered at a school
• Refusal to accept an offered school place
• Refusal to start school
• Elective home education that is unsuitable in accordance with Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act
• Children of highly mobile families
• Lack of understanding/disregard of their parental responsibilities with regard to education
• Children caring for parents or siblings
• Children living in refuges
• Children whose parents are in breach of a School Attendance
• Children who should be in alternative provision but are awaiting placements to be made.
b) Children who have been on the roll of a school, but have left, destination unknown (both those still on roll of school, and those removed from it), not in AP, not in PRU, not in Independent School, not in FE, not in General Hospital School, not in Academy, not in CTC. Examples of what this sub-set would include are as follows: (N.B. This is not intended to be an exclusive list).
• Children sent abroad to be with other family
• Children believed to have moved location within the UK but destination unknown
• Permanently excluded and not placed in other provision from the sixth day of exclusion
• Children working illegally, location unknown
• Children removed from school by parents/carers, alternative provision unknown
• Illegal or informal exclusion.
Children Act 1989
Section 17 - Provision of services for children in need, their families and others
Under the terms of section 17 of the Act, every child under the age of 18 is entitled to a full assessment of his/her needs and, if approached, social services have a legal duty to carry out this assessment and can be challenged if they fail to respond to any request for a section 17 child-in-need assessment. Section 17 places a general duty on social services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children ‘in need’ living in the area and to ensure appropriate services are provided for those children. Social services do not have any right to opt out of this requirement or any other part of the Act on the grounds that they do not have resources. The term ‘in need’ is not tightly defined in the legislation, but left open to reinforce preventative services and support for families.
Section 47 - Local authority’s duty to investigate - Councils with Social Services Responsibilities (CSSRs) are required to conduct enquiries, in accordance with section 47 of the Children Act 1989, when they receive information that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
Children Act 2004
Section 10 requires each local authority to make arrangements to promote co-operation between the local authority, each of their relevant partners and such other persons or bodies, working with children in the local authority’s area, as the authority consider appropriate. Relevant partners are also under a duty to co-operate with the local authority in the making of those arrangements. The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the wellbeing of children in the authority’s area – which includes protection from harm or neglect alongside other outcomes. This section is the legislative basis for Children’s Trust partnerships.
Section 11 requires a range of organisations to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions, and services provided on their behalf, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
Section 12 enables the Secretary of State to require local authorities to establish and operate databases relating to the section 10 or 11 duties (above) or the section 175 duty (below), or to establish and operate databases nationally.
Section 17 enables the Secretary of State to require local authorities to prepare and publish a plan setting out the authority’s strategy for discharging their functions in relation to children and relevant young persons. The Children and Young People’s Plan Regulations (England) 2005 required local authorities to publish their first Children and Young People’s Plan on or before 1st April 2006 and to review the plan annually.
Section 63 of the Children Act 2004 amended Schedule 5 of the Tax Credits Act 2002, meaning that the Inland Revenue now has lawful authority to provide local authorities with “….information, other than information relating to a person’s income, which is held for the purposes of functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance by the Board” (extract from section 63(1)). This information can only be requested where it is needed in order for the local authority to fulfil their statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Such enquiries will generally be made under section 47 of the Children Act 1989, which requires local authorities to make enquiries where they suspect a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.
Children Act 2004 guidance can be found at:
Education and Inspections Act 2006
Section 38 laid a duty on the governing bodies of maintained schools, primary, secondary, special and Pupil Referral Units, in discharging their functions relating to the conduct of the school, to promote the well-being of pupils at the school. The duty came in to effect in September 2007. Since that date, an equivalent requirement has been placed on new Academies through their funding agreements.
Education Act 2002
Section 175 puts a duty on all local authorities, maintained (state) schools, and further education institutions, including sixth form colleges, to exercise their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children (children who are pupils and students under 18 years of age, in the case of schools and colleges). The same duty is put on Independent schools, including Academies by regulations made under section 157 of that Act.
Identifying children not receiving a suitable education is a key part of discharging the responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Local authorities should use the powers identified above and work with their partners to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to share information when identifying children not receiving a suitable education.
For more guidance on safeguarding children local authorities should refer to the Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006 document (Part 1 of which is statutory) and other guidance available on the Every Child Matters website: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding.
Education Act 1996
Section 7 provides 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.
Section 8 provides that compulsory school age starts on the relevant day on or after a child’s fifth birthday and ends on the specified day of the school in which the child’s 16th birthday falls. Regulations provide that the relevant days are the 31 August, 31 December and 31 March and that the specified day is the last Friday in June.
Section 14(1) provides that a local authority must make sure there are sufficient schools for providing education in their area. For these purposes, the schools must be sufficient in number, character and equipment to provide all pupils with the opportunity of appropriate education (section 14(2)). “Appropriate education” means, broadly education which is desirable in view of the pupils’ different ages, abilities and aptitudes and the different periods for which they may be expected to remain at school (section 14(3)).
Section 19(1) requires every local authority to make arrangements for the provision of suitable education at school or otherwise than at school for those children of compulsory school age who by reason of illness, exclusion from school or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them.
Children not receiving an education
Progress Checklist: Self Evaluation
Use the following categories to rate the Local Authority:
(Not previously identified, but discussions have now taken place and a plan has been produced)
Working Towards: W
(Achieved some of what is expected, identified some gaps, discussions have taken place and a plan has been produced)
(The Local Authority can provide evidence to support positive responses to the questions below and plans are in place to review their policy/processes/systems to move towards “Embedded” status)
(The Local Authority can demonstrate that the policy/processes/systems have been in place for a period of time and have been reviewed)
N, W, A or E
Strategic Management & Leadership
Does the local authority have a written policy (1) agreed with partners concerning children not receiving a suitable education?
Are the arrangements for identifying children not receiving a suitable education embedded within the Children’s Trust governance and strategic planning arrangements (2) and the cross-cutting arrangements for safeguarding and inter-agency co-operation to improve wellbeing of children?
Is there regular monitoring (3) of the processes/numbers by Senior Management, Lead Members and Children’s Trust partners?
Networks & Points of Contact
Has the local authority identified the key stakeholders (4) to provide information about children/young people without educational provision in the area?
Has the local authority provided and publicised notification routes (5) for all key stakeholders?
Does the local authority have a named contact (6) point to receive details about children not receiving a suitable education?
Are there clear responsibilities (7) for this role or those to whom the duties are delegated?
Does the local authority maintain a database (8) of children not currently in education, including those new to the area or country?
If so does the database include fields (9) such as:
date child/young person referred in;
date of assessment, if necessary;
date form of provision determined;
date moved into provision.
Does the local authority monitor the numbers (10) of children/young people in the authority who are not receiving a suitable education?
Does the local authority have processes in place (11) to monitor the educational status of children in recognised vulnerable groups?
Are there clear access rules and procedures (12) to ensure fair/safe data processing?
Provision Brokering Services
Does the local authority have clear processes (13) for securing the support of other agencies where it is needed e.g. for welfare or health reasons.
Does the local authority have an agreed process (14) for securing educational provision for children once found?
Does the local authority monitor the pace (15) they move into provision?
Does the local authority have the information systems in place (16) to allow access to up to date information concerning availability of school places and availability of places with alternative providers?
Effective Pupil Tracking Systems
Does the local authority keep a record (17) of children who have left educational providers (school and alternative provision) without a known destination?
Does the local authority follow up children (18) at regular intervals until they are registered with a new provider?
Does the local authority have an agreed system (19) with schools concerning children leaving provision?
Does the local authority support and encourage (20) schools to transfer files via s2s?
Does the local authority have an identified officer (21) as database administrator for s2s?
Does the local authority upload to and download from (22) the searchable area of the s2s website known as the ‘Lost Pupil Database’?
Evidence to show ‘Achieved’ status
(1) The policy itself which should be shared with and understood by at least Health, Education (including all schools in the area), Children’s Social Care, Police, Youth Justice Services and Housing. The document(s) containing the policy should contain:
• the current position of the authority;
• evidence about the scale and nature of any problem around children not receiving a suitable education;
• ways of tackling it in a multi-agency approach; and
• arrangements for monitoring.
(2) Arrangements for identifying children not receiving a suitable education are included in the integrated processes of the Children’s Trust.
(3) The authority can provide copies of records, or the ready ability to produce regular records. ‘Regular’ is Termly.
(4) The authority can provide documentary evidence listing other agencies in their area who their lead named individual has spoken to, referred children to and/or given details of children not receiving a suitable education, plus receiving details of children not receiving a suitable education from other agencies and the general public.
(5) Documents showing notification routes, and evidence of the dissemination of this information should be available. Dissemination should be by: mail outs, website, leaflets etc. Essentially, if a number of likely important stakeholders are approached they can say easily how they notify the authority.
(6) If contacted, the authority can give the name of a person or persons with the responsibility for receiving information on children not receiving a suitable education.
(7) The person(s) in (6) are readily contactable, and are able to provide, without difficulty information on their role and the limits of their responsibility and if they are not responsible they know who is.
(8) The authority can provide accurate, verifiable and up to date figures (no more than a month old), and trends over time, together with a description of how these figures are collected and calculated.
(9) The authority can provide information on any case within the database and show the dates of: notification, assessment (if necessary), identification of appropriate provision and actual access to that provision.
(10) The authority can provide documentary evidence that regular updates on the number of children not receiving a suitable education are sent to senior responsible officers within the organisation. Ideally the numbers should come from the same system that provides data in response to (8).
(11) The authority can provide documentary evidence of the mechanism by which they identify children in recognised vulnerable groups in their area. There are also documents detailing how the educational status of these groups is monitored. Ideally the monitoring should be robust, in that it should rely on more than one source of data to establish the situation regarding children in recognised vulnerable groups in their area.
(12) Access rules and procedures to ensure fair/safe data processing are known and understood by any member of staff in the authority who is likely to have to deal with any data on children not receiving a suitable education. Any case drawn at random should show the implementation of these processes if tracked through to support receipt. This knowledge should be consistent with written down and agreed procedures.
(13) Documented procedures for securing the support of other services is known understood and agreed by relevant staff both in the authority and those in the relevant support services and partner agencies. Any case tracked through the system that requires such support should reflect the documented procedure.
(14) Documented procedures for attempting to secure appropriate provision is known, understood and agreed by relevant staff and followed regularly, so that any case tracked reflects those procedures in principle and shows records of any failures to secure provision.
(15) The authority can provide documentary evidence that gives regular updates on, for example, the mean, mode and range of time taken to access provision are sent to senior responsible officers within the organisation. Ideally the data should come from the same system that provides data in response to (8).
(16) The authority can provide accurate, verifiable and up to date figures (no more than a month old) on the number of places available, broken down by at least statutory and alternative provision. A description of how these figures are collected and calculated should be available.
(17) The authority can provide accurate, verifiable and up to date figures (no more than a month old) on the number children who have left education without a known destination. A description of how these figures are collected and calculated should be available.
(18) The authority can provide documentary evidence of follow up procedures, together with a named contact for whoever is responsible for follow up work. Any case tracked should show evidence of regular (at least monthly) follow up contact until the case is registered with a new provider or the local authority designated person.
(19) Documentary evidence is available describing the process for children leaving provision. There should be evidence that this process has been agreed to by all school authorities in the area, and that contact with staff responsible for implementing these procedures should show knowledge consistent with an understanding of the process. Any case tracked upon leaving provision should show evidence reflecting the appropriate following of the process.
(20) The authority can provide documentary evidence of support given to all schools, and of appropriate encouragement of all schools in the use of the s2s system. Relevant staff in any school selected at random in the authority should be able to show that they are at least aware of the system. Ideally, where they are not currently using it, they should be able to show evidence of support from the authority to do so. This support should comprise at least the provision of relevant and appropriate materials on how to access the system.
(21) If contacted, the authority can give the name of a person or persons with the responsibility for administering the s2s.
(22) If contacted, the person(s) named in (21) can provide documentary evidence of regular (at least monthly) uploads and downloads to the Lost Pupil Database. This evidence could comprise upload and download reports for each session.
Useful websites and documents
Children in Care
The Children’s Plan
The Children’s Plan – One Year On
Children Act 2004 Guidance
Children’s Trusts (working with)
Elective Home Education
Exclusions & Alternative Provision
Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance
Gypsy & Roma Travellers
HM Revenue and Customs
The Lead Professional and Common Assessment Framework
Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)
Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision – Guidance for Local Authorities (refs: LEA/0023/2005 and DCSF-00758-2008)
Pupil Registration Regulations
Registers (Keeping Pupil Registers)
General Safeguarding Links:
Cross-cutting arrangement of safeguarding and inter-agency co-operation to improve the well-being of children: Children’s Trusts:
Forced Marriage - Information for professionals
Local Safeguarding Children Boards
London Good Practice Guidance for Safeguarding Children Missing from School
Parents and Abducted Children Together (PACT) website:
support in relation to international child abduction is available from the voluntary organisation ‘reunite’:
Missing Children Notifications
Safeguarding Children - Trafficked/Subject to sexual exploitation:
Working Together to Safeguard Children:
Safer School Partnerships – Mainstreaming Guidance
Schools Admissions Code
Tackling it Together toolkit
Targeted Youth Support
The Training and Development Agency
Transfer of Information
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051437.htm (Pupil Regulations 9 (3))
UK Border Agency
Youth Offending Teams (working with)
Youth Justice Board
Youth Task Force Action Plan