The new draft elective home education guidance for Wales ‘draws upon positive examples of practice from within Wales and seeks to encourage more consistent approaches to EHE across Wales.’
Unfortunately, the primary message from the new draft guidance is not about good practice but about annual monitoring visits.
Any secondary message in the draft guidance about positive outreach work, tackling unsupportive schools, improving access to services, and providing venues and funding for exams is completely overshadowed by the emphasis on one-to-one monitoring.
Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at what Welsh councils have shared as examples of good practice.
In some cases, parents will take their children out of school because they feel they have no choice, typically as a result of bullying or unmet special needs.
Several councils in Wales try to persuade schools to explore more options while the child is still on roll, in some cases providing additional input from the authority central services or access to an advocacy service.
Another council puts families in touch with the Youth Health Team for emotional support after deregistration.
Several councils have identified mutual benefits in developing a broader outreach-style service, which might include a regular drop-in facility or forum-style group meetings which can tackle a range of issues.
A frequent problem raised by home educators is the difficulty of taking examinations as an external candidate. One council provides free rooms for tuition groups and pays for exam entry fees, while another council links home educators up with the local FE college.
Cardiff and Ceredigion focus on tackling issues in school before parents decide they have no choice but to home educate.
In Anglesey the local authority holds regular group meetings with home educators to discuss a range of topics. The meetings also provide a way for other services to engage with home educating families.
Caerphilly hosts drop-in sessions for home educating families with information and resources and also provides somewhere to sit exams as an external candidate. The authority also sends a newsletter to home educating families.
Bridgend provides a community hall free of charge once a week where tuition classes can be held and also makes an annual grant to the local home education group which is primarily used to pay exam entry fees. Exam administration is handled by the group which preserves families’ confidentiality. Multi-agency professionals improve their understanding of home education issues through dialogue with the local group.
Ceredigion facilitates links between home educators and the local FE college, although it is not clear who pays for the courses or whether this applies only to post-16. (The situation is different in England with free courses for home educated 14-16s, see model of good practice Central College Nottingham and further positive examples here.)
Carmarthenshire brokers access to the Youth Health Team Service which can help with emotional support where children are deregistered following problems with schools. (NB it is not clear whether there is a comparable service in other areas, since this document refers to a unique service)
Below is what the draft guidance says:
Figure 2: Practice examples of early intervention and conflict resolution
Cardiff ‘Fair Access Panel’
This is a multi-disciplinary panel with the agenda of identifying issues that might lead to EHE and working with families and schools to seek resolution. The panel comprises Operational Managers from Education Welfare, Youth Service, EOTAS; representatives from Educational Psychology, CAMHS and Special Educational Needs (SEN); and head-teachers on rotation are present. All professionals can refer a case to be heard by the panel as long as they can justify that a raft of measures have already been attempted to resolve the issue. The panel will develop a package of intervention and support to resolve issues in a range of areas; SEN, attendance, health and wellbeing and behaviour.
Ceredigion ‘Spotting the signs’
The EHE advisor’s primary role is as an Education Welfare Officer. She is therefore well-placed to ensure issues that might lead to parents choosing the option of EHE are resolved with support and guidance. The local authority also allows access to the children and young people’s universal advocacy service in Ceredigion which is provided by Tros Gynnal. This can mean that the child’s and the family’s voice are heard in issues that might lead to EHE. De-registration from school initiates a swift first contact to ensure that choice to home education is a positive one and not a decision in response to an unresolved issue or unmet need.
Figure 3: Practice examples of engagement with EHE families Anglesey
The local authority holds bi-annual meetings for EHE families at a local venue. These events feature information sharing and training on relevant topics such as internet safety by the police and GCSE qualifications by examination boards. The events provide an opportunity to access services such as Careers Wales and health.
Open/coffee mornings held at Ty Graddfa. This is a community space used for tuition and young mum’s provision. The coffee mornings operate as a drop-in centre, with advice, activities, arts and crafts, resources for GCSE courses, and an opportunity for EHE families to socialize. A special pre-Christmas event included a visit to the local zoo for the ‘children who wouldn’t get a school trip’. This facility is also a registered exam centre for EHE candidates. The local authority sends out a newsletter with EHE news, useful numbers, up- coming events – it is hoped this will develop into sharing good practice or ideas with contributions from EHE families and children.
Figure 4: Practice example supporting EHE groups Bridgend
The Service Level Agreement between the local authority and Bridgend Home Educators is currently unique in Wales. The local authority provides a community hall for the group to use on one day per week. This is a versatile facility with a large space for play as well as smaller rooms for focused learning. They deliver Maths, English and Science GCSE, Environmental Science, and a range of other subjects including a GCSE in Astronomy. The group also delivers the Jon Muir Award which is an environmental award that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect, enjoy and care for wild places through a structured yet adaptable programme.
The local authority provides the group with a grant of £5,000 per year which is used largely to pay for GSCE examinations. Last year 46 GCSEs were taken through this group. There are approximately 200 children and young people registered with the group. Some of these are known to the local authority and others wish not to be. This wish is respected by the group and by the local authority. Two of the home educators have been trained as examination invigilators; they have also received child protection training.
The group has worked in partnership with the local youth service and has had Open College Network credits delivered and issue based workshops. They have linked in with Porthcawl YMCA for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Recently the group have worked in partnership with the allotment association to regenerate a piece of land and develop an allotment. This links in with the Environmental Science GCSE and would enable the children and young people to deliver a project which benefits the wider community. Some of the group leaders of Bridgend Home Educators have delivered awareness raising sessions to groups of multi-agency professionals within the local authority regarding home education. This was done free of charge.
Figure 5: Practice example – links with Further Education/under 16 education Ceredigion
The local authority facilitates links for EHE families with Coleg Ceredigion. Home educated children can apply to take a range of courses in both GCSE and vocational subjects. The local authority provides the EHE applicant with a letter of confirmation of being home educated. Popular courses are the Pre-GCSE full time course offering subjects such as Creative Media and Performance in addition to a core element (including ICT, Literacy, Numeracy and Welsh); the BTEC Introductory Diploma in Vocational Studies; and GCSE evening classes. All courses have continuity and progression to either GCSEs.
Figure 6: Practice Example – promoting services available to home educated learners Carmarthenshire
With consent from the parents and child, a referral can be made by the EHE Advisor to Iechyd Da [Community Health Youth Service] if it is felt that a young person might benefit from a short intervention programme to support low self-esteem, health issues, substance misuse or issues resulting from bullying. The project is well-respected and positively received. It is considered to be a life-line for some children who have been deregistered from school (particularly due to bullying).
The Welsh Government is currently asking for views on new draft elective home education guidance.
The consultation runs until July 3rd 2015.
Previous blog posts have covered first impressions on reading the proposed new home education guidance; the long awaited readable children’s version; SEN annual monitoring Children Missing Education (section 436A) and Tracked Changes
Welsh Government consultation web page (includes draft guidance, response form, children’s version now in pdf AND plain text, children’s rights impact assessment, and equality impact assessment)
Draft guidance set out as web page
Children’s version set out as web page