Wood Review and Home Education

There were suggestions about home education in two documents published by the Department for Education on May 26th 2016. It doesn’t seem that the Government intends to take them forward. 

Wood Review

On May 26th the Government published Alan Wood’s review of the role and functions of Local Safeguarding Children Boards

Media attention has focused on the Government agreeing with Wood that local authority Serious Case Reviews should be scrapped. (I wrote a critique of LSCBS and SCRs here including issues around having Independent Chairs)

Alan Wood was an unsurprising  choice for this review. Wood oversaw major changes to schools and social services whilst Director of Children’s Services in Hackney and is known to be in favour of outsourcing children’s services. Hackney is also where Michael Wilshaw, now Chief Inspector at Ofsted, was in charge of Mossbourne Academy.

Wood was President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services from 2014-15, so when he  refers to Directors of Children’s Services, these would be former colleagues whom Wood presumably knows quite well.

Paragraphs 102 to 105 of the Wood review make reference to home education, as well as to “unregistered school settings.” (Background information here about the Government’s intentions for  illegal independent schools and  part-time education settings)

Wood Review into Local Safeguarding Children Boards
102. A number of Directors of Children’s Services (DCSs) and chairs of LSCBs have raised the lack of effective statutory provision about children in unregistered school settings or receiving home education. They point to the fact that public agencies do not have the right to gather information on the children in such settings and have no way of assessing the level of risk children face. This issue is not covered in multi-agency arrangements and it needs to be.

103. In some areas, a significant number of children attend independent faith schools for their period of statutory education. A number also attend unregistered settings, which to all intents and purposes are schools. In these settings there is an absence of national guidelines or procedures on allowing access to the property to check the details of children in attendance and to assess whether or not the setting meets the requirements of a school. For those charged with carrying out safeguarding duties on behalf of the local authority this creates a gap in their knowledge of children in their area as they have no lawful way of assessing any potential safeguarding risk. A similar issue exists in respect of children who are home educated. The majority of parents who arrange home education for their children work closely with, and share information with, the local authority. However, this is a voluntary act on behalf of the parent and a number of parents are not willing to provide information to the local authority. In both of these cases the local authority is not able to assess either the quality of education being received by the child or whether there are any safeguarding issues that require attention. This needs to be addressed urgently. New guidance should be provided which makes clear the responsibility of parents to ensure information about their child’s education is provided to the local authority and proprietors of unregistered school settings should be required to fall into scope of the local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements and to be registered with an appropriate body.

105. In conclusion, there is a case for primary legislation to strengthen the framework around unregistered settings and what constitutes a school, as opposed to a religious centre. Linked to this, the current guidance with regard to children who are educated at home – which some parents of children who attend unregistered settings will claim – needs urgent review in order to enable local authorities to fulfill their safeguarding responsibilities and ensure the wellbeing of those children. I welcome therefore the proposal in the White Paper, “Educational Excellence Everywhere” to consider the role of the local authority in ensuring the safety of children in these settings; this needs to be undertaken soon.

Recommendations
9. Keeping Children Safe in Education should be reviewed to ensure it covers child protection and safeguarding issues in respect of unregistered school settings, independent schools and home education. There should also be clearer guidance on the role played by the police and the NHS in that process. Keeping Children Safe in Education should make clear what role, if any, academy chains will carry out in respect of child protection and safeguarding children.

The Government published its response to Wood’s review alongside the review, setting out which recommendations it was going to take forward. There was no mention of home education in the Government response.

What the Government HAS said in response to Alan Wood’s review is that it will:

  • introduce a stronger but more flexible statutory framework allowing local partners freedom to determine how they organise themselves
  • remove the requirement for local areas to have Local Safeguarding Children Boards with set memberships
  • bring forward legislation to underpin the new arrangements, supported by new statutory guidance
  • work with the inspectorates to establish suitable review arrangements
  • provide for the Secretary of State to have power to intervene in situations where the three key agencies [health, the police and local government] cannot reach an agreement on how they will work together, or where arrangements are otherwise seriously inadequate
  • replace the current system of Serious Case Reviews and miscellaneous local reviews with a system of national and local reviews
  • legislate to establish an independent National Panel responsible for commissioning and publishing national reviews and investigate the most serious and/or complex cases
  • put in place arrangements to transfer national oversight of Child Death Overview Panels from the Department for Education to the Department of Health

Keeping Children Safe in Education

The Wood Review mentioned ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’. (I blogged about the proposed changes to this guidance before Christmas https://edyourself.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/internet-safety-and-extremism/ )

As it happened, the Government published an update about  ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ yesterday https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/keeping-children-safe-in-education-proposed-changes

Apparently  3 respondents to this consultation did ask for something added about home education safeguarding. (To put this in perspective, other questions had 288 responses)

The revised guidance is available to view in draft form and the proposed changes will come into force in September 2016.

There is no mention of home education in the revised draft of Keeping Children Safe in Education which could perhaps be explained by the fact that the subtitle is “Statutory guidance for schools and colleges”

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2 thoughts on “Wood Review and Home Education

  1. Anthea

    From Mr Wood: “A similar issue exists in respect of children who are home educated. The majority of parents who arrange home education for their children work closely with, and share information with, the local authority. However, this is a voluntary act on behalf of the parent and a number of parents are not willing to provide information to the local authority. In both of these cases the local authority is not able to assess either the quality of education being received by the child or whether there are any safeguarding issues that require attention.”

    Make up your minds, folks! Essex County Council visited our family many times, and had two experienced advisers. I know people who found the Essex HE advisers very helpful when they first began home educating. Essex have now completely cut this department. Now it’s all up to EWOs, who will only contact a family if they suspect the education is deficient. So, of course, I want nothing to do with them.

    Some Essex councillors have recently said that they think home educating families need to be contacted. Eh? Why berate parents for keeping their distance, if councils are trying to make contact on the cheap?

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