A couple of days ago, I wrote about examples of good practice in the Welsh draft guidance.
I am now wondering how hard the Government has tried to find examples of good practice, given that they haven’t come up with very many.
There may be a clue in the Equalities Impact Assessment published alongside the draft guidance
When local authorities were asked for input prior to the publication of draft guidance, did most prefer to talk about ‘issues’ and ‘views in relation to EHE’ – as noted in the Equalities Impact Assessment – rather than coming up with positive examples of support in their area?
The Equalities Impact Assessment talks of a ‘survey’ and ‘telephone interview’ with local authority elective home education co-ordinators. It is not clear whether this was a structured dialogue with a number of survey questions, or whether it was more of a chat.
If every single LA has been asked to come up with positive examples it is telling that only a few managed to do so or that the consultants did not consider more examples worth mentioning.
On the other hand, if the conversation with LAs was more on the lines of a chat where co-ordinators could talk about what was bothering them, and co-ordinators believed this was another chance to put the case for annual monitoring, this would be an alternative explanation both for the dearth of good practice examples and also for the marked emphasis on annual visits in the draft guidance.
Sue Mitchell’s research, which was commissioned by the Welsh Government and published in September 2012, found that in the area where the LA officer was the most stringent and eager for stronger regulation, the level of suspicion among home educators was definitely higher and more protective of their anonymity. [Link]
It can be seen that the smaller councils with fewest home educated children mostly do not feature amongst the positive examples.
Merthyr Tydfil (13)
Blenau Gwent (19)
Anglesey (23) 6 monthly group meetings discuss careers, exams, health
Vale Glamorgan (30)
Caerphilly (31) Coffee mornings. Place to take exams. Newsletter.
Neath Port Talbot (34)
Bridgend (43) Free tuition venue, pays for exam entry via group
Rhondda Cynon Taff (55)
Ceredigion (112) Advocacy service help w school issues, 14-16s GSCSEs Coleg Ceredigion
Carmarthenshire (122) Access to Community Health Young Person
Cardiff (142) Fair Access Panel before out of school
It is noteworthy that the draft guidance says “Local authorities may wish to consider working within their regional consortium to, for example, facilitate a regional coordinator for EHE or a single point of contact. This may act as a pragmatic means of securing more consistent, comprehensive advice and support at a time of considerable financial constraint. Working on a regional basis, consortia could formulate their own regional responses to EHE tailored to the communities within their area, working with partners on a regional level.”
In 2012 I asked Welsh LAs what they provided by way of support. The answers are here (via this page). I also asked about home education numbers, School Attendance Orders, and statements of SEN. [Link] I’ve include the 2012 responses at the end of this blog post.
In 2012 I got the strong impression of a binary and inflexible system: either a one-to-one meeting with the family or nothing. Of course, at the point when I asked in 2012, the authorities were expecting a new law which would make one-to-one meetings compulsory. This would have been achieved by including something about home education in an upcoming Education Bill.
By 2013 the Welsh Government was saying that there wouldn’t be anything about home education in the Education Bill, but this is not the same as saying that there would be no changes to current Guidelines or that there would be changes but that the changes would be in a different direction.
The significant development occurred in May 2014 when the Minister announced the development of non-statutory guidance an an alternative to changing the law. The Minister said “there is good practice and good engagement by some LAs with the home-educating community. We will draw upon this existing good practice in developing the guidance.” [Link]
Examples of Support, 2012
Merthyr: “Careers Wales information and contacts; passing on information regarding vaccinations that the parents may wish to access”
Blaenau Gwent: “Advice from the SPLD [Specific Learning Difficulty] service for 1 pupil and advice from the Educational Psychology team for another pupil. SPLD, EP, and exam arrangements”
Wrexham: “Home visit report with comments and recommendations.”
Monmouthshire: “EWS Visits and visits from Officers”
Newport: “No support”
Vale Glamorgan: “at least twice a year a home visit is offered. No financial assistance available. Support available includes – information on resources, specialist teacher and/or educational psychology assessments.”
Torfaen: “We provide advice through the system leader’s (formally known as advisory service) on curriculum and refer on to appropriate services if necessary. We have offered support / services to families as follows:- 1) Counselling services for pupils (at alternative venues); 2) Education Psychology service; 3) Put parents in contact with staff at 14 – 19 curriculum through Colleg Gwent; 4) Linked parents with our PRVENT Team (working with pupils who are not in Education, Employment or Training); 5) Supported pupils and families by facilitating discussions with schools to look at transition/flexible schooling; 6) Transition support worker”
Neath Port Talbot “Referrals Careers Wales; Community Dental Service; Liaising role between SEN Service and Parent”
Flintshire: “We are currently exploring holding an annual meeting at County Hall where
Home Educators can meet with School Health Service, Statementing Officers, Learning Advisors, Educational psychology service, educational publishers, Careers Service, Flintshire leisure Service, etc.” An example of current support was “Annual visits ”
Conwy: “doesn’t offer support in the sense of curriculum detail but does offer general advice and fulfils a monitoring role whenever parents agree to cooperate. Type of support offered – Legal guidance/requirements of parents.”
Rhondda Cynon Taff: “discussions at the annual meeting but further meetings and telephone support can be provided should parents/carers require this. A home visit to establish whether the teaching opportunities provided are appropriate to the learner and to ensure that the child/young person’s needs are met. It is also an opportunity to provide support and guidance to the family and the child/young person in question and to provide information on other agencies if appropriate. This has included liaison with the careers service and guidance on local college placements in some cases.”
Denbighshire: “it is limited support. We give all parents new to elective home education contact details for a Denbighshire network and we would offer telephone advice. Additional support could be offered to assist parents with re-admission to school if they wished.”
Gwynnedd: “Advise on resources/materials”
Swansea: “Usually verbal advice dependant on the needs of the family in respect of curriculum and access to careers”
Pembrokeshire: “Advice on resources/materials/websites/careers support services”
Powys: “the Authority’s officers will offer advice on teaching and resources but they do not provide any funding or services for parents who are undertaking Elective Home Education.”