B'ham LA publish updated guidance for new home educators

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Mar
7
AttachmentSize
B'ham EHE Guidance (MS Word version)165 KB
B'ham EHE Guidance (standard text file)21.85 KB

Elective Home Education - Guidance Notes

Birmingham LA have produced some new guidance notes (see attachment) that they are sending to new HE families. However these notes are ultra vires (literally outside the law) and assume powers that they do not have. I have picked out the worst paragraphs and commented on what is wrong and what the actual law says.

"The information required of parents who are home educating is not specified in the Education Act. However, the Local Authority expects that parents should be able to provide evidence that would, on the balance of probabilities, convince a reasonable person that a suitable education is being provided. Also that this information should be provided promptly (within 4 weeks) following a request by the authority. An outline of the information Birmingham Local Authority would expect a parent to be able to provide is given in appendix 1."

Whilst most of this is reasonably factual, Appendix 1 is wrong. You do not have to study specific subjects, nor follow a time-table, nor mark work nor formally assess your children. The Elective Home Education Guidelines 2007 (which the B'ham document refers to but ignores) say:

3.13 Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of “full-time”. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of “contact time” is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal “school hours”. The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Home educating parents are not required to: 

  • teach the National Curriculum 
  • provide a broad and balanced education 
  • have a timetable 
  • have premises equipped to any particular standard 
  • set hours during which education will take place 
  • have any specific qualifications 
  • make detailed plans in advance 
  • observe school hours, days or terms 
  • give formal lessons 
  • mark work done by their child 
  • formally assess progress or set development objectives 
  • reproduce school type peer group socialisation 
  • match school-based, age-specific standards.

The B'ham notes then state that:

Local Authorities have general duties to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (section 175 Education Act 2002 in relation to their functions as a Local Authority and for other functions in section 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004). These powers allow Local Authorities to insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare (sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989). In circumstances where children are not seen, the matter will be discussed with other safeguarding agencies.

The Childrens Act gives LAs the power to insist on seeing a child if they have serious concerns about the welfare of that child. Elective home education is not of itself grounds for welfare concerns and insisting on home visits is in fact harrassment under a family's right to privacy as enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The FAQ section of the guidance notes ask:

What if my child has special educational needs?

If your child has a Statement of Special Educational Needs you must obtain permission from the Local Authority to deregister your child from school. Children with a Statement of Special Educational Needs may be educated at home provided the Local Authority considers the arrangements to be appropriate for the child's 'age, ability and aptitude'.

This is not correct. Parents only need LA permission (which should not be withheld unreasonably) if their child is attending a special school. A child with a statement in a mainstream school can be deregistered as normal. 

Note: The LA have acknowledged their mistake and stated that they will update this part of the notes. When they do I will update the information here.

The FAQ section then states:

How will the Local Authority decide if the education I am planning is appropriate?

If you are new to Elective Home Education, the Local Authority will arrange to visit you and your child and will give you a questionnaire in order for you to provide information concerning your educational arrangements. Officers acknowledge that initially plans may not be fully developed, but they would expect to see reasonable details of provision within 4 weeks of request.

You do not have to meet anyone or fill in the questionnaire unless you wish to do so. The courts have acknowledged that it is reasonable for a new HE family to have time to settle into their provision. 3-6 months is usually seen as reasonable, not 4 weeks.

The next paragraph them states:

On receipt of the questionnaire an Adviser from the EHE team will arrange to visit you. The purpose of this visit is to assess the education you plan to provide to ensure that it meets your child's needs. The focus of the visit will be to jointly discuss issues arising from your completed questionnaire. Other possible areas for discussion are:

  • Your planning
  • Resources
  • Record keeping
  • Any arrangements for public examinations where appropriate

You have the right in law to provide the evidence in a form that suits you. This was discussed by Lord Donaldson in the Philips v. Brown case.

If you would like meetings to take place other than in your home, this can be arranged but you will need to bring evidence of the education you are planning/providing for your child.

As previously stated you do not have to meet with them at all. You certainly do not have to provide "evidence". You only need to provide enough 'information' to satisfy them on the balance of probability.

Feel free to look at the links provided above for more information.

Birmingham seem to be bullying quite a few families at the moment so if you are having problems then please get in touch and we will do our best to help.