Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Now for the Good News! Local Authorities, Please Note.

After yesterday's disappointing news regarding the proposed Home Education policy changes in N. Ireland, it is great to hear that things could be working out for the better in some other parts of the UK.

News has reached us that Graham Stuart MP. has written to the Tri Borough, (Westminster CC, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea BCs), to call them out on a number of misdemeanors with regard to home education, which include:

* their misrepresentation of current law in the UK
* their disregard for guidance
* their appalling treatment of home educators in their boroughs.

Apparently the make-works in these boroughs have quoted out-dated law in the cause of seeking to insist on seeing both parent and child face to face. They insist this is the only way to monitor the home education and that this is their duty!

Parents have been terrified by their heavy-handedness and rightly so, given the gross miscarriages of justice perpetrated by children's services departments that we have witnessed up and down the country over the years.

Graham Stuart, (serious thanks are due to this man) wrote: 

Dear Ms (Head of children's services),

I am writing regarding the guidance issued to the Tri Borough group of London local authorities relating to Elective Home Education (EHE).  As the chairman of the Education Select Committee and the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education, I have concerns about some apparent misrepresentation of the law contained in this guidance, (a copy of which is enclosed for your reference).

Specifically, I would like to raise the sections of the guidance which state:

"The local education authority has a duty under section 199 of the Education Act 1993 (in England and Wales) to monitor the education provided."


"A local authority school improvement adviser (SIA) will visit your home to assess the quality of the education you ore giving and, if necessary and in the light of his or her findings, make recommendations on how it could be improved."

The Education Act 1993 was repealed by the Education Act 1996. Under the 1996 Act, local authorities have no statutory duty to monitor home educating families on a routine basis. Instead, they should intervene only if they have a reason for doing so. They are not obliged, or indeed pre-emptively to seek reasons to intervene. This is confirmed by paragraph s 2.7 and 2.8 of the Department for Education Guidelines for Local Authorities on Elective Home Education. These state in full:

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education.

This section states that:

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

Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 75 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served
2,8  Prior to serving a notice under section 437 (1), local authorities ore encouraged to address the situation informally. The most obvious course of action if the local authority has information that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, would be to ask parents for further information about the education they are providing. Such a request is not the some as a notice under section 437(7), and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures. Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but it would be sensible for them to do so.

The guidance issued by the Tri Borough therefore fundamentally misstates the powers and responsibilities of local authorities in this regard. I would be grateful to learn what action you will take to amend the guidance so that it properly reflects both the law and the Department for Education's Guidelines.  Rather than imposing a monitoring regime on home educating families, it would be better for the Tri Borough to concentrate on improving the support and resources available for home educating families, in accordance with their individual wishes.

On a related note, I have also been show correspondence from your adviser Ms Kyria Parsons to XX who is home educating her son.  In a letter dated 11th February 2014, Ms Parsons told XX

2we are of the view that our statutory duties, under 437(7) Education Act, 1996, can only be consistently and satisfactorily fulfilled through face to face meeting with parents/carers and the child(ren) being home educated."

In light of the Department's own Guidelines, I believe this view has been formed in error.  Ms Parsons states in her letter that it has been taken on the basis of legal advice.  I would be grateful for the opportunity to review the advice in question.  

The Department for Education shares my concern about the Guidelines for Home Education being represented incorrectly to parents.  I am theefore copying this letter to the Minister Elizabeth Truss, whose office I expect will be in touch shortly."


Anonymous said...

LA,s will not take any notice of Graham writing to them.

Carlotta said...

In which case, the ombudsman it is, but Graham is definitely a great wake up call.


Carlotta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The ombudsman remit is to see look into if a bad injustice as been done but he/she decides if it is! i had some dealing with an ombudsman over Peter and he ruled that an LA can tell a lie so long as it is not a bad lie! and 2 of the head Ombudsman are ex council people!

I like your blog your a clever women but do not get fooled by Graham i not seen him go to M Gove and t ell him all about this and then demand that Gove do something about LA,s

Cloudberry said...

Good to read this recent letter from Graham Stuart to local authorities. Here in Gateshead we continue to experience similar ultra vires actions by the LA.

I have however been concerned recently to read about the new EU proposals, effectively labelling home education a 'cult' that must be monitored and controlled. This is quoted from the final paragraph of the Council of Europe's report entitled "The protection of minors against the excesses of sects" -
"The Council of Europe member States should step up their efforts to protect minors against the excesses of sects. Amongst other things, they should compile statistics on the scale of the phenomenon of sects, set up national surveillance centres in this
regard, ensure effective monitoring of private schools and home schooling, make abuse of weakness a criminal offence, and carry out large-scale awareness-raising activities. It is also recommended that national parliaments set up study groups on the phenomenon of sects so that the public at large is made more aware of this issue."

I read about it here on HSLDA: