Background Information Lord Soley’s Home Education Bill

 

Here is some background information regarding Lord Soley’s Home Education Bill as set out in this FOI  from Hertfordshire CC, including correspondence from AEHEP in April 2017 and notes from the meeting with Lord Soley and others at the House of Lords in October 2017.

10 April 2017

From:  David Harvey  Chair AEHEP    Education Inclusion Service 2nd Floor, Elizabeth II Court North The Castle Winchester Hampshire  SO23 8UG

Jenny Dodd Chair AEHEP entrust Riverway Centre Riverway Stafford Staffordshire ST16 3TH

AEHEP Association of Elective Home Education Professionals

To Sir Alan Wood
Learning Trust
1 Reading Lane
London
E8 1GQ
Dear Sir Alan
Re: Elective Home Education
The AEHEP are writing to set out our views on how the 2007 guidance could be updated and to provide some statistical data and qualitative case studies to illustrate our concerns. The founding principle of the AEHEP is to better support pupils and families who EHE. We want to make it clear that we have no wish to prevent EHE. The key challenges we face are families who EHE but have no intention of educating their child, or those who feel forced to remove their child from school in order to avoid exclusion as a result of a child’s behaviour.
It is not always appreciated that EHE is neither formally or uniformly monitored by the Local Authority (LA).
The AEHEP has recently undertaken a survey of members representing over 90 LA’s and the following results are notable by the degree of consensus:
100% of EHE professionals surveyed do not believe that the current statutory guidance is fit for purpose.
100% of EHE professionals believe the current statutory guidance is in need of urgent review.
90% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance assists them to fulfil the requirements of their role.
98% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance supports the process of identifying which parents are providing a suitable education.
100% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance clearly indicates what a suitable education would look like in practice.
98% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance clearly indicates what parents are required to do to deliver a suitable education.
98% of professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance supports safeguarding responsibilities. It does not assist professionals to keep children safe.
The AEHEP believes that the statutory guidance as it stands is not fit for purpose. The Education Act 1996 Section 7 requires parents to ensure their children receive a full time education suitable to their child’s age, aptitude and ability. The Guidance begins with a statement that ‘education is a fundamental right for every child’ and that para 1.3 makes clear that the purpose of the guidelines is to support LAs. Regrettably the current statutory guidance does not equip local authorities with the tools to ensure parents fulfil this duty nor does it provide clear indicators as to how parents should meet this obligation when
educating at home.
Perhaps of greatest concern is the belief that the guidance does not enable effective safeguarding of children as one AEHEP member says: “The statutory guidance as it stands leaves children at risk because it is wide open to abuse by those who have no intention whatever of providing education; those who seek to hide a child from the authorities; those who seek to provide indoctrination unhindered by any regulation or challenge; and so on. The guidance flies in the face of all other areas of child protection law – as well as of common sense.”
In order to address these serious concerns the AEHEP are proposing a series of changes to the guidance and these can be seen in Appendix 1.* We note that Guidance can be revised quickly where there is the will as evidenced by the changes made to flexi schooling a few years ago.
The AEHEP are growing increasingly concerned about their inability to adequately fulfil statutory safeguarding requirements whilst also ensuring parents meet their educational obligations. Whilst it is not possible to provide an accurate number of children educated otherwise (no central data is collected by DfE), what is known from the experiences of professionals is that thousands of children are now receiving provision in the home which is, in the main, unchecked and unverified. Appendix 2 illustrates, from a random selection of Local authorities (those on the executive committee of the AEHEP), the growing number of children who are EHE. There are now significant numbers of children for whom no information is known regarding their well-being, progress or safety. This cannot be in the public interest.
The rise in EHE numbers must also be set against a background where secondary schools in particular, are ‘easing’ pupils off roll who might otherwise negatively impact upon performance data. These are our most vulnerable pupils.
In the immediate future the AEHEP would be pleased to discuss this matter further and in the longer term we are intending to organise a national conference to highlight the issues raised in this letter. We would welcome your support.
Yours sincerely
David Harvey
AEHEP

* Appendix 1 SEE FOI FOR PROPOSED CHANGES SET OUT AS TABLE

Appendix 3
Case Studies from a variety of Local Authorities
Child A (Yr 10) began to self-harm and school attendance became an issue. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) were involved but Child A was still not able to attend school and when they did, behaviour was problematic. School informed mum that they would either prosecute for nonattendance or permanently exclude. School wrote a letter and mum signed it. Child A continues to self-harm and has also attempted suicide. The family have confirmed this child is not receiving
an education.
Child B (Yr 11) was removed from roll to be educated at home without a deregistration letter following a conversation with parents. Attendance and behaviour have been poor throughout this child’s school life. A representative from school informed me that ‘this child was a nightmare’ and they would not have Child B back in school. They continued by saying that ‘they would find a way to get rid of him, it’s easily done.’ Since then Child B’s whereabouts have been an issue. Police have been involved due to Child B going missing. The family have confirmed this child is not receiving an education.
Child C (Yr 11) is at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). School attendance was sporadic. Home life was difficult with other family members either at risk of or involved in CSE. School advised parents that home education would be beneficial as Child C did not want to go to school. Police and social care involved.
Child D (Yr 11) was removed from school roll in September 2016. Parents had written a letter to the school which had been forwarded to the local authority. In January the parent contacted the LA to complain about lack of education provision, it emerged parent was illiterate and had no idea she had signed a letter to remove child from school to EHE.
Child E (Yr 8 C&YP) taken out of school by father as he had been prosecuted for son’s nonattendance, father works 40 hours per week. Son is left to complete some English and maths work on applications on a tablet. When the EHE officer asked the young boy what he does when he doesn’t understand what to do, he said he moves on to something else.
Child F/G/H/I Family consists of mother and 11 children, 8 are school age. Historic attendance concerns for all children in family and mother has been in enforcement process on several occasions. Two boys on EHE during 2015, mother did not engage with EHE Officer. S437 letter sent and boys returned to school. Attendance concerns continued By November 2016 the two boys (now Yr 11 and Yr 10 and both known to police for antisocial behaviour and drugs) again removed from school to EHE along with Yr 8 boy. Mother did not engage with EHE Officer and process in place via In Year Fair Access Panel to return to school. Case currently referred to Social Care by Secondary school which Yr7 boy attends. Concerns include his presentation (hungry, dirty), presence of unknown male in house and lack of engagement by mother. Historic Social Care involvement over several years (neglect, domestic violence). Primary school reports that younger children are taken to school by older siblings, mother is never seen. Professionals are rarely allowed access to house. Any conversation is held on doorstep.
Child J(Yr11 C&YP) Academy school met father and suggested that his son was at risk of permanent exclusion. They suggested he consider electively home educating to avoid the exclusion going on his record. The father said the school asked him to sign a printed de-registration letter asking the school to take him off roll to electively home educate. The father was promised he could access GCSE examinations at the school but once he was de-registered this offer was redacted. Due to the level of vulnerability of this young man he was later taken into care by the Local Authority.
Child K (Yr 3,4 & 5 C&YP) taken out of school because school had referred to safeguarding due to concerns. Children are left to look after younger siblings, children have significant Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) and parents do not have the relevant skills to meet these needs but they refuse to engage with agencies to ensure their children are assessed for Education, Health and care Plans.
Child L : Y8 Boy. Child L was deregistered from his primary school by his father in early 2007. Parent refused to cooperate, arranged and cancelled meetings, court cases adjourned but by October 2008 still no one had seen the child. Home visits were made but the house was ‘barricaded’ to prevent any contact. Social services had no concerns so reluctantly the LA dropped pursuing the family as father had refused access and was not prepared to provide any evidence.

**********************

10 April 2017

To Lord Soley
House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW

AEHEP Association of Elective Home Education Professionals
Dear Lord Soley
The AEHEP wrote to you on 24 January 2017 regarding concerns around Elective Home Education (EHE). We are writing again now, as promised, to set out our views on how the 2007 guidance could be updated and to provide some statistical data and qualitative case studies to illustrate our concerns.
The founding principle of the AEHEP is to better support pupils and families who EHE. We want to make it clear that we have no wish to prevent EHE. The key challenges we face are families who EHE but have no intention of educating their child, or those who feel forced to remove their child from school in order to avoid exclusion as a result of a child’s behaviour.
It is not always appreciated that EHE is neither formally or uniformly monitored by the Local Authority (LA).
The AEHEP has recently undertaken a survey of members representing over 90 LA’s and
the following results are notable by the degree of consensus:
 100% of EHE professionals surveyed do not believe that the current statutory guidance
is fit for purpose.
 100% of EHE professionals believe the current statutory guidance is in need of urgent
review.
 90% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance assists
them to fulfil the requirements of their role.
 98% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance supports
the process of identifying which parents are providing a suitable education.
 100% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance clearly
indicates what a suitable education would look like in practice.
 98% of EHE professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance clearly
indicates what parents are required to do to deliver a suitable education.
 98% of professionals do not believe that the current statutory guidance supports
safeguarding responsibilities. It does not assist professionals to keep children safe.
The AEHEP believes that the statutory guidance as it stands is not fit for purpose. The
Education Act 1996 Section 7 requires parents to ensure their children receive a full time
education suitable to their child’s age, aptitude and ability. The Guidance begins with a
statement that ‘education is a fundamental right for every child’ and that para 1.3 makes
clear that the purpose of the guidelines is to support LAs. Regrettably the current statutory
guidance does not equip local authorities with the tools to ensure parents fulfil this duty nor
does it provide clear indicators as to how parents should meet this obligation when
educating at home.
Perhaps of greatest concern is the belief that the guidance does not enable effective
safeguarding of children as one AEHEP member says:
“The statutory guidance as it stands leaves children at risk because it is wide open
to abuse by those who have no intention whatever of providing education; those who
seek to hide a child from the authorities; those who seek to provide indoctrination
unhindered by any regulation or challenge; and so on. The guidance flies in the face
of all other areas of child protection law – as well as of common sense.”
In order to address these serious concerns the AEHEP are proposing a series of changes
to the guidance and these can be seen in Appendix 1*. We note that Guidance can be
revised quickly where there is the will as evidenced by the changes made to flexi schooling
a few years ago.
The AEHEP are growing increasingly concerned about their inability to adequately fulfil
statutory safeguarding requirements whilst also ensuring parents meet their educational
obligations. Whilst it is not possible to provide an accurate number of children educated
otherwise (no central data is collected by DfE), what is known from the experiences of
professionals is that thousands of children are now receiving provision in the home which is, in the main, unchecked and unverified. **Appendix 2 illustrates, from a random selection of Local authorities (those on the executive committee of the AEHEP), the growing number of children who are EHE. There are now significant numbers of children for whom no
information is known regarding their well-being, progress or safety. This cannot be in the
public interest.
The rise in EHE numbers must also be set against a background where secondary schools
in particular, are ‘easing’ pupils off roll who might otherwise negatively impact upon
performance data. These are our most vulnerable pupils.
In the immediate future the AEHEP would be pleased to discuss this matter further and in
the longer term we are intending to organise a national conference to highlight the issues
raised in this letter. We would welcome your support.
Yours sincerely
David Harvey
AEHEP

* Appendix 1 SEE FOI FOR PROPOSED CHANGES SET OUT AS TABLE

** Appendix 2 SEE FOI FOR NUMBERS SET OUT AS TABLE
******************

From Lord Soley
Thank you for letting me know your views on my Home Education (Duty of
Local Authorities) Bill. I am sending a general reply at this stage but will add
further comments in due course as some of you have asked specific question. I
will not be able to answer all these questions until we reach the second
reading stage probably at the end of the year.
This Bill is likely to be debated in the House of Lords towards the end of this
year. I hope that in the intervening period I will be able to meet with those of
you who wish to discuss it further. I will also be very willing to come to any
meetings that might be arranged subject to time and place.
A few points of clarification at this stage. I am not opposed to home education
indeed I have always seen it as an important right and one which deserves
support. It does not get much support at present.
I am also aware that many parents take their child or children out of school for
home education because they feel that the school is not giving their child the
education that they think is necessary. This is strongly felt by parents who had
a bad experience of the SEN Service in some schools.
I am also very conscious of the rights of parents but as some of you
acknowledge this should be balanced with the rights of the child. If a child does
not get the basic education necessary to cope in our modern and very complex
society then we are failing that child. It is important to remember that some of
these children are rejected by the school because they are ‘difficult’ and these
children also deserve better support then they currently receive.
There is also the problem of the abuse of children. There has been a rapid rise
in Home Education and this has co-incided with a greater public awareness of
child abuse.We know that some children have been taken out of school and
subsequently suffered abuse. An abusing parent is now more aware of being
caught and taking the child out of school enables them to ‘hide’ the child.
In recent years this has been given additional urgency as there is some
evidence that children have been removed from school to work illicitly at
home or in a parent’s business.
The Government is also concerned about the use of Home Education to put
children into situations where they receive indoctrination supporting violent
extremism. You may wish to listen to this extract from the BBC Today news
programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/prog rammes/b08xxdh3. This was
broadcast on the 20th July but it has been a growing concern for governments
in recent years. The full item starts 2hrs and 40 minutes into the programme
and the part concerning the wrong use of home education starts at 2hrs 40.
These are just some of the complications of this sensitive area of policy. It is
my aim to create a better situation for parents who choose to home educate
while also ensuring the rights of the child are recognised. I think we can do this
much better than we are at present. Parents who Home educate deserve
support so my Bill will try to get this balance right and that is why I will be
willing to consider changes to the Bill if they appear necessary.
Yours,
Clive Soley
Lord Soley of Hammersmith

****************

Home Education
In recent years there has been a steady and significant increase in
elective home education. Currently we know that some 45,500
children in England and Wales are registered with local authorities as
home educated either as reported by schools, who have a legal duty
to inform the LA when a child is taken off roll to home educate, or
parents who choose to inform their local authority if the child has
never attended a school. There is no requirement for parents to
register a child who has never attended school so we can only make
an informed guess at the total number. It is thought the total of all
children in elective home education will be about 60,000.
In one county (Hampshire) they have 1422 electively home educated
children and that figure has tripled over the last five years. We not
only have little knowledge of the numbers of children but also of the
quality of education they are receiving and whether they are at risk
in any way. There is a need for more research in this area.
The majority of parents who choose to home educate are doing so in
and informed and responsible way. These are the parents who need
minimum help but it is not the whole story. Parents have important
rights that must be protected when making decisions about their
child’s education but children also have rights and those rights must
be carefully balanced with the rights of parents.
There are many parents who take their child out for home education
and then find it difficult and are unable to deliver the quality of
education necessary. Children in this situation are often returned to
school having been absent for significant periods. These parents
could, with help, make home education a success and avoid the
disruption for both school and child of a return to school after a
period of absence.
Some children are removed for home education because the parent
feels the school or education authority are failing their child. This is
especially true for children with special educational needs. Here we
really must do better and if a child has been failed by the education
department then it is vital that we give additional support.
Finally, there is a very worrying but hopefully small group of children
who are at risk either of failing to get anything resembling adequate
education or in some extreme case of children being at risk either of
radicalisation or of sexual or physical abuse.
With increased awareness of child abuse it seems likely that a small
minority of children are removed from school by a parent who seeks
to hide signs of abuse. We know of cases where children have been
removed from school and then seriously ill-treated. We cannot
ignore the dangers here. Equally we have to be much more vigilant
about the dangers of radicalisation.
The first essential step is to put a duty on local education authorities
to create a register of all children out of school. My Bill will put a
duty on the local authority to visit the family and child to ensure the
child is being educated but this should not be seen as a negative
duty. The idea is to offer help where it is needed. This does not mean
a prescriptive instruction to home educating parents; it does mean
ensuring the child is receiving an education and is safe and not being
radicalised or ill-treated.
If, as I hope my Bill is given a second reading I will propose changes
to some of the detail to make sure we are getting the right balance
for parents and child. That will be the committee stage probably
early next year so I will be taking advice and listening carefully to
experts, parents and children,
This is too important an area of educational policy to ignore any
longer.

************************

Dear Lord Soley
Re Private Members Bill -EHE
I have circulated and collated the views of AEHEP members.
Title: “Standards and welfare of children in home education” bill
The rationale being the current emphasis across education and children’s services is around
standards and welfare. Pupil progress in school is measured partly to ensure standards are reached but also to hold schools to account for outcomes. There is an argument that parents should also be accountable. The welfare of pupils is critical especially around the push for improved mental health where many EHE pupils are suspected of being isolated and in effect ‘invisible.’ We thought keeping ‘safeguarding’ or ‘protecting’ out of the title would be wise as this would possibly draw criticism from the powerful pro EHE lobby groups.
We recognise parents have a right to home educate ‘subject’ to the local authority being satisfied that the child is receiving sufficient education. Another way to achieve this would be to add a clause to the Education Act 1996 stating that ‘education otherwise’ includes home education. We have tried to keep any change of law as simple as possible but essentially want to be able more easily to know if a child is receiving a suitable education.
Clauses:
 A compulsory registration scheme maintained by individual local authorities capturing all
home educated children and reported to the DFE on an annual basis (currently the DFE have no idea of numbers of EHE pupils)
 confirming that provisions relating to LAs should uphold the best interests of the child and
give specific powers, e.g. the monitoring powers – such as the LA’s right to see the child and
the child’s work in order to determine standards and welfare
 The voice of the child to be heard. A requirement to meet face to face at appropriate
intervals , with sensible maximum and minimum time limits, with a LA representative to
provide information relating to the education being provided by the home educator. This
should be evidenced based, not a verbal description.
 All parents should respond to enquiries from the LA in order to determine that education at home is suitable.
 Parents can expect to be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns and LA’s can expect parents to provide further information as requested.
Guidance: please see the attached document. Updating the guidance is a good idea but should happen in tandem but separate from the need to legislate. Revising guidance does not require new legislation but strategically simply asking for clarification of the current law in the guidance is perhaps something that could be seen as a compromise position?
The following is an example of how under the current law and guidance some parents can evade their responsibilities:
“I have been calling around in the last few weeks and have been bounced from one person to the next. I have been most recently told I need to speak to you so I hope you can help me. I am 21 years old and concerned about my younger sisters who are 16 and 13 who live separately from me with my mum. From my knowledge, she has had various visits from education authorities regarding her plans to home school the children herself. I have heard her on numerous occasions mention that she has presented work that has been completed herself in order for there to be no further intervention. The older sibling has no plans to complete her GCSEs any time soon and I am aware they would be due to sit this year. My mother’s intentions may be good but I worry that she cannot cope and am deeply concerned about my sisters’ lack of education.”
The changes we have suggested would result in cases such as this being more robustly addressed to the benefit of the child, parent and society.
I hope these ideas are helpful, * please do not hesitate to contact me should you require input from the AEHEP
Yours sincerely
David Harvey
AEHEP

* Appendix 1 SEE FOI FOR PROPOSED CHANGES SET OUT AS TABLE

**********

17 October 2017

Meeting notes, EHE House of Lords, Westminster – 17th October 2017.
Present:
Lord Michael Watson, Labour education spokesperson.
Lord Clive Soley
Daniel Monk professor of Law, Birkbeck University of London
David Harvey, Hampshire, AEHEP.
Geraint Evans, Ofsted.
[Redacted] Ofsted
Hilary Alford, Scott Bagshaw Kent LA
CLLR Gillian Ford, Clive Harris LGA
Kevin Grant Bromley LA
Anna Shaw Hertfordshire LA
Viv Trundell Buckinghamshire LA
Victoria Franklin NASWE
Sara Griffiths NASWE/ Cornwall Council
Venetta Buchanan EHE Sheffield, AEHEP
Alison Renouf London safeguarding Board
Janice Alison Whitaker Baroness – House of Lords

Introduction
The meeting was called by Lord Soley to discuss the merits of the Private Members Bill which is supported by Government but no time due to Brexit. The second reading is likely to be end of November. The meeting was partly to reaffirm key issues and discuss law/guidance
Comments/Observations
AEHEP suggested an early first step would be the need for mandatory collection of data by DfE, nobody collects this data. Numbers of pupils EHE is not known, this was felt to be unacceptable.
The bill as a clarification that the local authority already is responsible, the existing guidance has led to confusion and has enabled a wide range of interpretation, there is a lack of clarity on this issue and hence the good thing about the bill is that you are clarifying a duty which already exists and of course there needs to be checks to any exercise of power. We already
have reviewing systems for an appeal process – independent exclusion tribunals for instance, we could expand their remit. (DM)
GE: Does this information exist somewhere else? With healthcare professional? Ofsted does look at children being withdrawn, and can contact the local authority. Believes that logistically would be difficult for Ofsted to take on this role, as they are already doing a lot of work on unregistered schools, this could be an aspect of what they do. Unsure if they would support an appeal process at this moment. If we move it from who does the checking to what is checked, it would be easier to check if the child is safe than how good the education is – should the focus be on safeguarding as opposed to an education check?
Concerns that EHE is driven by schools not always parents.
Discussion around LA role in terms of checking/creating relationships – key issue being the Guidance not the law
Concern that some vulnerable parents are ‘spoon fed’ what to say to LA’s by EHE groups
Increase in EHE due to exclusion? Concern from LGA that academies data not available
Kent reported link between EHE and troubled (gangs, poverty, etc) groups
LSCB – Every borough keeps a record of home schooling kids they know of, it is the unknown who we are worried about from a safeguarding issue. There are children who may never be known. From a safeguarding position, nothing is more important than the parent registering children being home schooled. They are concerned about home schooling and radicalisation – we would want to see greater power for local authorities or an independent organisation where a child can be seen without their parent. Child protection plan could be useful if applied to home schooling. If the local authority were not to do the inspections, then we
would need a national organisation to carry them out which would be expensive and complicated.
NASWE – Agrees with the requirement to register, so the question is what is the action to be taken if the parent does not register the children? Parents were saying they felt they had to remove their children out of fear of their children being permanently excluded from school.
Kent is very well resourced, but different local authorities may not be as able to carry out these checks. Also, there is no single standardised view on what constitutes as ‘satisfactory’ education.
Action to attendees: one paragraph of rough numbers in the areas, or shortcoming of the evidence which can be sent to the education minister, including any information about cases where children have been abused or radicalised.
AEHEP (DH) agreed to organise future meetings as matters develop.

*******

SEE ALSO

https://edyourself.wordpress.com/tag/lord-soley/

 

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