Changes to Lincolnshire Home Education Protocol

Lincolnshire Council is proposing to make some changes to its elective home education protocol and is asking for feedback by the end of September 2016. The protocol is underpinned by the belief that the council is required to be satisfied about the quality of education that parents are providing. The problem with this belief is that it is not correct.

The main page about home education on the Lincolnshire website is here  If you click on the “about” tab and scroll down there is news of the change.

lincsconsult

This is where you can find a link to the proposed changes  Here is a link to the survey

Here  is my marked up copy of the 2016 draft as compared with the current (2015) protocol, highlighting the changes (sample below) . See also pdf of same document.

lincsnewdraft

My Comments

The protocol is underpinned by the belief that the council is required to be satisfied about the quality of education that parents are providing.

Since the council believes it is required to be satisfied about the quality of education, it wants to investigate home educators every year, even while quoting
Government Guidelines saying there is no need to do so.

6.8 Although the local authority has no statutory duty to monitor the quality of home education on a routine basis, an EHE adviser will make contact with parents annually to discuss the ongoing suitability of the provision in relation to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs which they might have.”

To be clear, the fact that something appears in Government Guidelines doesn’t make it “the law”; a council could just dismiss it by saying after all, these are “only Guidelines”.

However, in this particular instance, the Guidelines are simply stating a fact, namely that there is no statutory duty to monitor the quality of home education on a routine basis. 

Essex County Council acknowledged this fact when it decommissioned its home education service. These are extracts from the Impact Assessment  carried out by Essex in 2014.

essexAt the time Essex introduced this new policy, the Director of Children’s Services in Essex, Dave Hill, was Vice President of The Association of Directors of Children’s Services. He is now President, and has been asked by the Department for Education to work with failing councils such as Somerset and Norfolk

Lincolnshire wants to pay for a service it isn’t required to carry out, because it believes it must be satisfied about every child’s home education. The problem with this belief is that it’s not correct.

The Law 

The authority is not require to be satisfied at the outset, only if it APPEARS that there is a problem.

The relevant law is to be found in sections 437-443 of the Education Act 1996 which deal with School Attendance Orders.

(1) If 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.

(2) That period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.

(3) If (a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and (b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school,

the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a “school attendance order”), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.”

The local authority also has duties related to Children Missing Education.

Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 states that:

A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—

(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and

(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.”

The correct position is explained by Ian Dowty here

‘If Parliament had intended from the outset that the LA had the duty to seek, and a home educator had the obligation to provide, evidence capable of satisfying the LA, then there would have been no need for the 2 separate stages. If the LA were to be empowered to require evidence capable of satisfying it from the outset, the first stage would be redundant. If it is to be given any meaning, as it must, it must be a form of sifting test which only places on the LA the duty, and more importantly only empowers it, to take a general look at the provision being made to see whether further enquiry is necessary. It cannot authorise a requirement, when the LA first considers the educational provision, that the home educator produce evidence capable of satisfying the LA.

In effect the section establishes that not all parents should be required to satisfy the LA of the educational provision made, only those in respect of whom the LA considers “it appears” that a child “is not receiving suitable education”.’

Informal Enquiries

Once this mistaken belief has taken root in Lincolnshire’s protocol, several misunderstandings follow.

The first misunderstanding from the Lincolnshire protocol is that Government Guidelines actively encourage local authorities to make informal enquiries.

It is easy to see how this confusion could arise if someone believed that the council was required to be satisfied.

The fact is that the Guidelines are NOT prompting LAs to make blanket informal enquiries.

Rather the Guidelines say that in cases where the LA believes there could be a problem with the education, then it should start by addressing the situation informally rather than immediately going down the legal route.

Parents Being Sensible

The second misunderstanding on Lincolnshire’s part is that Government Guidelines tell parents it’s sensible for them to cooperate with the council.

There are three references in the Guidelines to parents being “sensible.” In every case, it concerns situations where it already appears that a child is not receiving suitable education and the local authority is therefore asking parents for additional information. The Guidelines say it would be sensible for parents to respond at this stage (ie rather than waiting for a formal notice to be issued)

Survey Questions

The survey questions are tick box from “Strongly Agree” through to “Strongly Disagree”. The only opportunity to comment is at the end.

This revised protocol is clearer to me than the current version October 2015
Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I wouldn’t know what to check here, because some parts are clearer but
others are less clear. I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and
write something in the comment box at the end.

I find this protocol helps me as a home educator
Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I suppose it depends on what kind of thing people find helpful? I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and write something in the comment box at the end.

I am new to EHE and I find this protocol useful (only answer if your child has been electively home educated for less than 1 year)
Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I suppose it depends on what kind of thing new home educators find useful? I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and write something in the comment box at the end.

This protocol helps me understand what is expected of me as an EHE parent/carer by the Local Authority                                                                                                                                      Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I wouldn’t know what to check here, because although it does explain what the local authority expects, I take issue with the expectations. I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and write something in the comment box at the end.

This protocol helps me understand the responsibilities of the Local Authority
Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I wouldn’t know what to check here because although it explains what the local authority believes are its responsibilities, I don’t think they are correct. I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and write something in the comment box at the end.

This protocol helps me understand the support I can expect from the Local Authority
Strongly Agree through to Strongly Disagree
I wouldn’t know what to check here because it gives the impression that the main priority is to check what parents are doing (although it does mention 14+ support) I think I would check Neither Agree Nor Disagree and write something in the comment box at the end.

Do you have any suggestions that might improve the clarity of information provided in the protocol?
This is the opportunity in the survey to add comments.

My thoughts are here (pdf)

Funding

Children’s Services represent 11% of the council budget in Lincolnshire.  A couple of years ago Lincolnshire told met they spent £103,000 a year on home education.

lincscost

This is Lincolnshire’s forward budget for education services 2016-17 (via this page)

Here is an extract

lincs251

Useful Links

https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/parents/schools/at-school/elective-home-education/29467.article

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Changes to Lincolnshire Home Education Protocol

  1. Tracey Hand

    “The problem with this belief is that it is not correct. ”

    Something which (as a Lincolnshire HE-er who had heard about this by post) I had NO problem in pointing out to them in the “additional comments” section!
    Politely and non-combatively, of course (although it’s anonymous anyway)

    Like

    Reply
    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Whoah that was quick off the mark! I genuinely don’t understand how anyone can read “no statutory duty to monitor home ed on a routine basis” and interpret it as … oh, that’s just someone’s opinion … or … I’m sure there’s something new now that means they have to REALLY … or … well, what we are doing isn’t exactly MONITORING … or … oh right, so no ROUTINE monitoring, that means NON-ROUTINE MONITORING is fine…

      Like

      Reply
      1. Tracey Hand

        I felt passionately about it when I left my comments on the questionnaire (don’t we all?!) and, as I only did it yesterday afternoon, it was fresh in my mind when your post came into my inbox.
        To be fair, despite their (lengthy!) suggestions of how we can provide evidence of suitable education, I never give them anything remotely resembling their list! They get a summary of what we’ve done over the last 12 months (since they last contacted), what progress we’ve made in various areas, and what we have planned (VERY vaguely usually!) for the future and, in fairness to the LA, I always get a very tailored response and they are happy with what I provide (although ALWAYS keen to add that their preferred method of “non-routine monitoring” (your words, not theirs!) is to meet.
        And I am ALWAYS keen to ensure that I make it perfectly clear in my ed phil each year that is NOT going to happen!

        So far, so good!

        (Happy to share their/our correspondence if it’s ever of interest)

        Liked by 1 person

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