Schools Week Article on Home Education July 2017

Schools Week has published an article about home education. It doesn’t mention unmet special educational needs; the issue of local authorities’ lack of power over academies; the threshold and eligibility for alternative provision; parents home educating while waiting for a place at a preferred school; or coerced deregistration.

There are 152 local authorities in England of which 10 gave reasons for home education so anything in the article about reasons is based on 1 in 15 councils. The threat of prosecution was one of three reasons given.

The article says that Estelle Morris has lodged a bid to change the law and that it was “heard” in the House of Lords last week. In fact what has actually happened is that another member of the House of Lords (Lord Soley) won a place on the Lords’ ballot for private members’ bills and on a technicality this had to be introduced in a certain way on a particular day by the TITLE being read out [“First Reading”] Baroness Morris stepped in to read this out when the original peer was not available.  I have discussed this in recent blog posts here and here.

The article quotes the former conservative MP Neil Carmichael.  The operative word here is former.

 

Almost half of all local authorities did not respond to Schools Week request for numbers so the rest is guesswork as the size of LAs varies hugely and we don’t know which replied.

 

The article notes a steep increase in numbers in certain year groups but does NOT mention the prevalence of home education towards the end of compulsory schooling where schools nudge pupils out who won’t perform well in exams.

The article notes pupils “returning to school” and says “there’s been a 60 per cent rise in the numbers coming back, whether into mainstream or otherwise.”  These figures are derived from only 44 councils which is half of the councils who replied, and less than a fifth of all councils.

When I looked into numbers I found a lot of churn but it is over-simplistic to describe this as “coming back” as though the home education experiment had failed because it may only ever have been intended as a short term solution eg while waiting for a place at a preferred school.

We also don’t know how the question was phrased as to whether there was definitely a school place (“mainstream or otherwise”) or whether the young person was now over compulsory school age and therefore ceased to be counted. Another way of looking at the information provided is that up to 5,000 who started as home educated were no longer home educated at the end of the year because they were in school, and possibly as many again had reached the end of compulsory schooling so were no longer home educated for that reason. In short, it is simplistic just to talk about “numbers rising” as though this were an absolute.

 

 

The article quotes an opinion from an alternative provision  about 5 children out of 30,000. Some commentators say that the only way to access alternative provision is to be excluded. These young people could initially have been coerced into leaving by the school. I have written more about this here.

 

 

The article mentioned parents sending children back to school because of the cost of exams. It is correct that it can be challenging to take exams as an external candidate.

Mike Wood, owner of the website  Home Education UK is quoted as saying local authorities should prosecute parents who do not provide a proper home education.

I imagine this may have been condensed or misquoted. Parents are not “prosecuted” for failing in home education; what happens is that the council issues a School Attendance Order whereby the parent must register the child with the named school. It is only where the parent fails to comply that the council will consider whether to prosecute for breaching the Order.

The article quotes a Government spokesperson as saying “schools are encouraged to notify the local authority if a child has been removed for home education.” 

Again I imagine this may have been a misquote. It is NOT simply a matter of schools being “encouraged” to notify the authority; schools have a statutory duty to do so and moreover the Pupil Registration Regulations were greatly strengthened last year.

 

The article says that ‘a parent of a school-age child must ensure he or she gets a full-time education “either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”, and that it must be suitable to their age and ability.’ This completely FAILS to mention any special educational needs the child may have which is equally part of the law. SEND is notable by its omission from this article.

The article talks about that council “forcing” children into school but in fact the School Attendance Order directs parents to register their child with a school.

In one of the case studies it appears that the school was pushing or strongly encouraging parents to  home educate.  Coerced deregistration by the school is not legal. The parents have solved a problem for the school by removing them and educating them at their own expense. This is not uncommon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally the article looks at Milton Keynes and refers to a “prosecution notice to get the child back in school.” As explained earlier in this post, this is a misnomer. If the council has initiated the enforcement process then it would be a School Attendance Order and prosecution would only arise if the parent failed to comply with the Order. Moreover, if and when the matter came to court it would be a statutory defence available to the parents to prove that they were in fact providing suitable education.

The article refers to the new fair access protocol in Milton Keynes “that requires a child to return to their original school if home education is not approved.” 

This is not something that can be imposed on parents but rather is where the council hopes to make schools agree to something. However, with the prevalence of academies in Milton Keynes (all mainstream secondaries?) this may be wishful thinking since the council cannot force the academy’s hand; if an academy refuses to admit a child the council cannot direct it and instead must ask the Education Funding Agency to make a direction. It has been noted that out of 121 requests to the EFA, only 15 were followed through.

This is what the MK Fair Access Protocol actually says:

“Where a young person has been withdrawn from a mainstream secondary school in Milton Keynes to be home educated, and subsequently requests a return to a mainstream school place (Criterion K), the school from which the child was
removed from roll will be allocated. This allocation will not protect the school from taking a further allocation via the protocol. If the original school place is no longer accessible, the normal fair access process will apply.”

A council spokesman is quoted as saying this means “schools will not want to try to get rid of them because they know they will come back.”

This is the ONLY mention of schools trying to get rid of pupils.

 

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