EDITED TO ADD LINK TO FEEDBACK SENT APRIL 27TH
Leicester City Council is considering whether it needs to make changes to its Elective Home Education Policy and has asked for comments by April 29th 2016. It is important to note that the council hasn’t produced a new draft, rather it is asking for comments on the current Policy.
The survey says:
The Elective Home Education Policy is now due for review and we would like to involve families who choose to educate their child/children at home in this process by seeking your views. There are 2 questions we would like you to respond to.
1/ Is there anything missing or anything you would like amending in Leicester City Council’s Elective Home Education Policy?
2/ Is there anything you would like the Home Education Service to do to promote good working relationships with home educators and the local authority
I think it would be easier to start again with a new policy than to tweak this version and to look to LAs such as Cambridgeshire as a model of good practice. Karen Beaton County Behaviour and Attendance Manager in Cambridgeshire has been in post for 3 years and has worked on relationships and changed the council’s approach. The LA doesn’t assess provision or make visits but nurtures a relationship about cooperation and exchange of information. They meet regularly with the home education community.
I accept that people who aren’t having problems probably don’t see any need to get in touch with me, so the fact that I keep hearing about problems in certain local authorities doesn’t prove that “everyone is having problems”.
What seems clear though is that in those areas where the authority seeks to carry out inspections, there is a lack of development and outreach work firstly because the officer is “too busy doing the visits” and secondly because parents overwhelmingly identify the LA with inspections so not surprisingly their ultimate aim is just to be left alone.
I don’t see anything in the current Leicester policy about reaching out to families to help with sorting out problems in school or to look at alternative options, just an investigation process once the child is out of school. It is all about having to pass an inspection, and an inspection moreover which is not a legal requirement.
Leicester’s current policy operates on the presumption that the LA has a statutory duty to assess the provision for all home educated children to see whether it is “considered suitable” and this simply isn’t required by law , as a number of LAs have discovered when they check with legal services and DfE to see if they can make savings by deleting posts.
There is no statutory duty to monitor or inspect the education provided by parents, and local authorities do not have any legal responsibility for ensuring that home educated children are educated to a particular standard.
The local authority does have a duty to serve a formal notice if it appears that a child is not receiving education but the law does not provide for some elaborate and intrusive screening and assessment process to determine whether this may be necessary at some later stage. In other words, the duty is reactive.
The Government thinks it’s best if – when the authority DOES think there may be a problem – the situation is addressed informally, but it cannot be emphasised enough that this applies uniquely to situations where it already appears that a child is not being educated.
Leicester’s current policy invents some new law about what constitutes “suitable education” in a home education context. What is being called “case law” does not and cannot override primary legislation. Suitable education simply means suitable to age ability aptitude and any special needs. The Government has had countless opportunities to incorporate so called “case law” into legislation but has never done so.
Leicester’s current policy also brings in law from somewhere else and wrongly applies it to home education.
Firstly, “education otherwise” can EITHER be elective home education OR education arranged by the local authority for children to whom they owe a responsibility. Section 13A Education Act 1996 states:‘(1) A local education authority shall ensure that their functions relating to the provision of education to which this section applies…’ The LA is not “providing” home education therefore s 13 does not apply to home education.
Secondly, I am unaware of any current law requiring the collection of ethnicity data about home educated children. Government Minister Edward Timpson said in Parliament only last month that ‘some local authorities maintain voluntary registers of children educated at home but as they have no statutory basis, they cannot be regarded as an authoritative source of data.’
In the SEN section of the current policy there is no mention of EHCPs even though the law changed in September 2014. The statement or EHCP does NOT need to be amended BEFORE the child’s name is deleted from the roll. As currently written it sounds as though the LA must assess suitability before the child is “allowed” to come out of a special school and also as though the annual review is an inspection of home education provision.
In fact, most of the SEN section is predicated on the current inspection model for all home educating families, which is NOT what the annual review of a statement or EHCP is supposed to be about.
Earlier I mentioned Cambridgeshire. Also as noted on page 2 here Cambridgeshire has recently begun doing more outreach work with home educators in regard to SEN and had recent network meeting specifically about SEND. If a school notifies, the home education manager will look at the case, see what services are needed, and will broker appropriate support from within the LA. More young people are coming into the system who are below the threshold for SEN support eg with behavioural issues in school, and the manager will work to get support for parents from local services.
Lastly, I have never seen another policy mention ‘life limited children’. Is it a sufficiently common occurrence for it to be included here? If the child has a terminal illness, why is there no mention of NHS Continuing Care for young people, and if the child is UNABLE to attend school for medical reasons, why is there no mention of a Personal Budget or SEN Direct Payments with an EHCP?
For anyone who is interested, here are my tracked changes + comments http://edyourself.org/leicester_policy.docx