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DCSF Public Consultation Response on the Home Education ---

By Curtis Snyder,2014-08-18 02:50
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DCSF Public Consultation Response on the Home Education ---

Department for Children, Schools and Families Public Consultation Response

    Home Education registration and monitoring proposals.

1. Introduction

Why the consultation took place

On 11 June, the Secretary of State placed Graham Badman’s report entitled, Review

    of Elective Home Education in England, in the House of Commons Library. The

    report set out an analysis of evidence about the standard of education received by home educated children, and the extent to which local authorities were able to satisfy themselves that a suitable, full time education was being provided in a safe environment. It contained 28 interrelated recommendations which, together, mapped out how improved relationships between local authorities and home educators could lead to better support for home education, particularly where home educated children have special educational needs (SEN), want to take formal qualifications, or access education in further education colleges.

The Secretary of State’s initial response warmly welcomed the report and recognised

    that the review made a compelling case for immediate and urgent reforms to ensure that all home educated children are known to, and monitored by, local authorities. The government announced it was launching a public consultation on the proposals for registration and monitoring. The consultation was launched on 11 June 2009 and closed on 19 October 2009. Replies were invited by letter, e-mail or interactive web-site.

2. Overview and next steps for the policy

    The responses to this consultation reflect the views encountered by Graham Badman in the course of conducting his review. Most of the respondents were home educating parents or children, their friends or relatives, or organisations supporting home education. These respondents did not accept the human rights arguments set out in the Badman report. They did not think that there should be a role for the state in ensuring that the quality of home education was adequate, nor that children had a right to education that had to be considered independently of their parents’

    preferences.

    Many respondents expressed concern that local authority officers do not have a thorough knowledge of home educating methodologies and approaches, and that they expect home educated children to be following broadly the same curriculum as children educated in schools. They doubted that sufficient funding would be made available for high quality training that would help local authority officers gain a deep understanding of educational approaches the home educating community use, including autonomous learning.

    The full response to the Badman report published on 9 October set out in detail the funding that the government is committed to investing to meet additional home education costs in full from April 2011. As the full response was published close to the end of the consultation period, it is likely that most respondents did not read it before submitting their response to the consultation. However, we are taking this opportunity to restate the government’s pledge to cover the incremental costs of the

    review in full when it is implemented.

    Most respondents were concerned about the proposal that failing to register or cooperate could lead to prosecution. We have considered alternatives carefully, and

    we are no longer proposing to make it a criminal offence to fail to register. We are instead proposing that, where parents refuse to cooperate with registration and monitoring, an amended school attendance orders system should be invoked.

    The consultation responses suggested some confusion about the proposals to hold school places open for 20 days after parents had taken the decision to home educate. Many respondents thought that home educated children would have to continue to attend school during this 20 day period whereas in fact they would from the point of withdrawal be home educated. The 20 day period represents the length of time before the school place would be offered to another child in case the home educating parents changed their minds during that period. There is no detriment or burden placed on home educators through this proposal so we have concluded that the opposition to this element is due largely to a misunderstanding of what we are proposing.

    The most controversial areas were proposals to see children in the home or other location where education is carried out, and proposals for local authority officers to see the child alone. Many home educators felt that a home visit was an intrusion into their privacy and family life that could not be justified. They also felt that the 2 week notice period may not be long enough in the event of a family holiday, for example.

    We have considered these objections carefully but have decided that local authorities should visit the place where education is taking place, which will usually be the family home, as part of their monitoring work. This would allow local authorities to ensure that the home is in a suitable condition and is free from any factors that might interfere with the provision of education, such as a lack of power and/or heating, or severe overcrowding, for example. We will consider carefully what can be done to make the notice period of a visit as flexible as possible, to suit the circumstances of individual families. If families choose not to cooperate, and as a result are not on the register, local authorities will be able to use a school attendance order to require the home educated child or children to attend school.

    Many respondents were concerned about the proposal to see the child alone. They were concerned that local authority officers acting alone could be at risk of safeguarding allegations, and that some children could find the experience traumatic, particularly if they were young, had mental health problems, or special educational needs. These are important points and we are responding to them by accepting that a blanket requirement for children to be seen alone is neither necessary nor appropriate. We recognise that local authorities will need the power to see children alone or with another trusted adult but this power should only be exercised where there is no other way to ascertain that home educators are providing a satisfactory education. Where a child or parent refuses to cooperate with an interview, and it is not possible to secure satisfactory information about the adequacy of home education, local authorities will have the power to revoke registration and ultimately to issue a school attendance order as a last resort.

    Local authorities welcomed the proposals on the basis that they thought the current system did not allow them to carry out their legal responsibilities in ensuring that home educated children were receiving a suitable education and were safe and well. They said that a coherent system of registration would allow them to identify all home educated children in their area, helping to ensure that they could offer better and more tailored support to home educating families, particularly to those with special educational needs. They were also clear that local authority staff who work with home educating families would need high quality, dedicated training in advance of the introduction of the new arrangements to enable them to implement them well.

    While we know that most home educating parents are providing a good education for their children, local authorities have provided examples of children for whom this is not the case. They estimate that around 20% of home educating children known to local authorities may be receiving an inadequate education and an additional 1.8% of home educated children (known to local authorities) may be receiving no education at all. We are therefore convinced that light touch monitoring is not only appropriate

    but is also essential if local authorities are to identify those children who are not receiving a sound education.

    We have considered carefully the large number of responses and noted the strength of feeling within the home educating community. The arguments put by respondents mirror those put to Graham Badman in the course of his review and we remain clear that we need to make changes to existing arrangements to ensure that home educated children receive an education that prepares them for adult life.

    Since this consultation closed, many of our proposals for a registration and monitoring scheme have been endorsed by the Select Committee in their 16 December report and we are grateful for their support bearing in mind the extent of the evidence they collected from many witnesses and written submissions. We are now considering the detailed recommendations made in the report and will respond to the Select Committee in February.

    After considering the consultation responses carefully we decided to implement our proposals for a registration and monitoring scheme for home educated children as part of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. In drafting the primary legislation, we have taken into account many of the concerns expressed by consultees. We have also decided that the appropriate sanction for parents who do not cooperate with the registration and monitoring scheme is use of school attendance orders; we have chosen not to give powers that would allow local authorities to insist that they see children alone in the family home; and we have provided details on 9 October of a substantial support package for home educated parents and their children.

    The following section sets out in more detail our response to the key concerns arising from the consultation. A summary of the consultation responses received for each question is given in section 3 below.

Key concerns expressed by respondents

i. Register of home educated children (Q1-7)

    ; Home educators have been let down by state schools and local authorities in

    the past and are now being asked to register their children;

    ; A register would be of little use in identifying the minority of parents who were

    abusive or neglectful as they will avoid registration;

    ; Proposal to introduce a criminal offence for failing to register a home

    educated child is a step too far;

    ; Statement of approach to education local authorities don’t understand the

    methodologies and approaches within home education so how can they

    assess whether the education is suitable;

    ; 20 day rule if issues have not been resolved in the months leading to

    withdrawal how can a further 20 days on roll achieve anything? Will children

    have to attend school during this period/will their absence be classed as

    truancy?

    Response The purpose of a registration and monitoring system is to enable local authorities to keep track of home educated children of compulsory school age, and to ensure that they receive the education and support they are entitled to in a safe environment. It will also enable local authorities to plan and deliver the support package outlined in the full response to Graham Badman’s review.

    We want the new arrangements to promote more supportive and constructive relationships between all home educating families and local authorities, with them working together to ensure children receive the best possible education in a safe environment. Statutory guidance will ensure that the registration system is flexible and user friendly.

    We envisage close co-operation between home educators, local authorities and children's previous schools, where appropriate, in developing the statement of approach to education. We have earmarked money for local authority officers and others engaged in the monitoring and support of elective home education to be suitably trained. We want this training to give these staff a full understanding of the essential differences, variation and diversity in home education practice, as compared to schools.

    It is unsatisfactory that there is no shared, up to date, concept of what constitutes a suitable education. We know that autonomous home educators are particularly concerned about any new requirements to plan provision systematically as they perceive this conflicts with their approach to education. We have undertaken to commission further work on what constitutes a suitable education and we will take

    into account the views of home educators and others in developing the specification for this work and in drafting guidance which flows from the findings of this work.

    Our aim in proposing that schools should retain their pupils on roll for 20 days is to ensure that any school related problems which led parents to opt for home education could be resolved. Children withdrawn from school can be home educated from the point of withdrawal, but the 20 days allows parents further time to consider carefully the benefits and drawbacks of home education. Our intention is to bring in changes to this aspect of the current legislation from 1 Sept 2011, but we will consult further on the practicalities of taking this action before making these changes.

    The new registration arrangements will be enforced through an amended school attendance orders system.

ii. Safeguarding (Q8)

    ; Safeguarding is a welfare issue and not an educational issue. Why are you

    dealing with these together under the new legislation;

    ; What do you mean by “substantial” safeguarding concerns.

Response

    Local authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with a home educating family these concerns will be dealt with using established protocols for

    child protection. The proposed legislation is focused on the quality of education rather than on safeguarding arrangements. However, we anticipate that local authority officers meeting home educating families will receive safeguarding training so that they are equipped to recognise safeguarding issues and make referrals where appropriate.

    Home educators are understandably anxious about any threshold that might be applied in deciding whether to prohibit a family from home educating. The general approach will be for each case to be considered on an individual basis, underpinned by an assessment of whether it would be harmful to the child’s welfare to become or

    to continue to be a home-educated child. We anticipate that this assessment will be based on substantial issues only and we propose saying more about this in any statutory guidance.

iii. Monitoring (Q9- 11)

    ; Visits to family home will be intrusive and two weeks notice may not be

    enough;

    ; Children should never be interviewed alone;

    ; Monitoring levels excessive.

Response

    Monitoring must be proportionate and light touch where home educators are doing a good job. We envisage that statutory guidance will set out the detail of any monitoring arrangements. While we think that a two week notice period is generally reasonable, we recognise that local authorities have to be flexible where this does not fit with family routines and commitments. We envisage that during the registration period the local authority will visit the place where the child’s education will usually

    takes place at least once, and meet the child, its parents and anyone else delivering the child’s education. A local authority officer will not be able to interview a child

    without their parents being present if either the parents or the child object.

iv. General

    ; Will funding be available to local authorities to support the additional work?

Response

    We have already agreed to provide sufficient funding to underpin any new arrangements.

3. Summary of the responses to each question

    We received 5,211 responses to the consultation document of which: 2,222 were from home educating parents; 436 from home educated children/young people; 83 from local authorities; 40 from organisations representing home educating families; 40 from other organisations with responsibility for children. A further 2,390 replies fell into the “other” category including anonymous responses, those who did not specify

    a respondent type; and “campaign” type responses which were received after groups including the Christian Institute, Education Otherwise and the British National Party lobbied their members to reply to the consultation via their own websites.

    The responses are summarised below.

    Consultation question Agree Disagree Not Total

    sure responses Q1. Do you agree that these 230 4497 106 4833 proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to

    home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

    Q2. Do you agree that a register 621 3012 316 3949 should be kept?

    Q3. Do you agree with the 357 3022 190 3569 information to be provided for registration?

    Q4. Do you agree that home 455 2972 176 3603 educating parents should be

    required to keep the register up to date?

    Q5. Do you agree that it should be 245 3409 131 3785 a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

    Q6a. Do you agree that home 476 2621 416 3513 educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

    Q6b. Do you agree that the school 341 2959 248 3548 should provide the local authority with achievement and future

    attainment data?

    Q7. Do you agree that DCSF 300 3281 195 3776 should take powers to issue

    statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?

    Q8. Do you agree that children 577 2371 1189 4137 about whom there are substantial

    safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

    Q9. Do you agree that the local 472 3106 226 3804 authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place, provided two weeks notice is given?

    Q10. Do you agree that the local 215 4360 81 4656 authority should have the power to interview the child alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not, in the presence of a trusted person who is not a parent/carer?

    Q.11 Do you agree that the local 311 4217 189 4717 authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on

    an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent

    monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

A question by question summarised narrative of views is provided below.

Register of Home Educated Children

    Q1. Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

This question received the highest number of replies 4,833. The majority of home

    educating parents, home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with this statement. They stated that it is

    parents responsibility to raise their children and to ensure that they receive a suitable education and that they did not accept that there could ever be a conflict between the rights and interests of parents and children. 750 respondents said that the proposals were draconian and represented serious infringements with the civil liberties and family privacy.

    Several respondents suggested that many children were home educated because schools were failing in their duty to provide a suitable education. They thought that home education and the school system were two different methods of educating a child. Many raised issues about what constituted a “suitable education”, calling for further clarification on this issue.

    610 respondents stated that no evidence had been provided by the Badman review to suggest that parents weren’t doing a good job in the home education of their

    children or to substantiate the safeguarding concerns raised as part of the review.

    Most local authority respondents and some home educated children and their parents (115) agreed that the proposals struck the right balance of rights and interests of parents and children. They would strengthen and clarify local authority roles and responsibilities and recognise a parent’s right to choose to educate their children themselves. Some local authorities suggested that staff training was the key to successful implementation of the proposals.

Q2. Do you agree that a register should be kept?

    Almost 900 fewer respondents answered this question compared to Q1. Again, the majority of home educated parents and home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with the need for a

    register. They stated that a register would be of little use in identifying the minority of parents who were abusive or neglectful, that it was a waste of resource, and that it would be used to control home educators and to forcibly return children to state

    education. 537 respondents said that many home educating families had been let down by the state school system and the proposals expected parents to apply for registration to the same people who they considered had already failed their children. 393 respondents disagreed with annual registration and said that this amounted to a licensing scheme.

    431 respondents offered suggestions relating to the current availability of information about children who are home educated, including the child benefit database, GPs

    registers and the ContactPoint database.

    All local authority respondents strongly agreed with the need for a national register and stressed that this would ensure that information about home educated children was collected in a more consistent way. It would also ensure that a child was

    receiving a suitable education and support good safeguarding practices. Some local authorities raised the cost of maintaining and updating a register on an annual basis.

    A further 539 respondents from across the different categories felt that a register was a logical step towards understanding the home education statistics and in helping to identify additional funding and support for home educating families. 262 suggested that registration should be on a voluntary basis, to provide a more equal partnership and allow home educators to access the support and guidance available from local authorities, if they wish to do so.

    Q3. Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

    Over 1200 fewer people answered this question than for Q1. The majority of home educating parents and home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with the information to be provided for

    registration purposes because they did not agree with the need for a register.

    424 respondents said that they disagreed with the need to supply a statement of approach to education because they believed that the concept of home education was different to that of state education and a statement might undermine the flexibility of approach that characterises home education.

    The majority of local authority respondents agreed with the information to be provided for registration and suggested that clearer guidance was needed to ensure that local authorities could interpret and make sound judgements about the “approach to education”.

    148 respondents said that assurances were needed about the arrangements for confidentiality, data security and information sharing of data on the register.

    Q4. Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

    The majority of respondents across all categories, with the exception of local authorities, disagreed with this requirement on the basis that it pre-supposed agreement with the introduction of a register. 638 said that they had no wish to comply with the request on the basis that there was no evidence to suggest that home educated children were not receiving a suitable education.

    172 said that they thought that the registration system would be too bureaucratic and time consuming and that home educating parents would be better off spending their time educating their children rather than filling in forms.

    454 respondents agreed with the proposal, stating that if a register was in place it would become pointless if it wasn’t kept up to date and adding that as parents had a

    legal responsibility to educate their children then it seemed reasonable to expect them to provide updated information for the register.

    Q5. Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

    Most respondents disagreed that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information, stating that this was a step too far by Government in trying to control home educating families. They also thought that this action would be damaging to parent/local authority relationships.

    244 respondents, including 117 home educating parents and children and 64 local authorities agreed with the proposal. Some local authorities said that they would have a duty to ensure that their home educating population were fully aware of the requirements of registration and that action to criminalise parents should only be taken in very extreme circumstances and only where parents had already been given additional support and advice to ensure that they fully understood both the requirements of registration and the implications of non compliance.

    Q6a. Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

    2,621 respondents disagreed with this proposal, many saying that it was within a parents rights to withdraw a child from school at any time and that any decision to do so would not have been taken lightly. Concerns raised included: whether 20 days was long enough to resolve any issues if they had not been sorted out in the months leading to the withdrawal of a child from school; that the welfare of the child might be dependent on deregistration from school; that it would be discriminatory to treat home educating children any differently to those who had transferred to another school; that it wasn’t clear whether or not a child would be expected to attend school for the 20 days and how this would work if the child was withdrawn from school within 20 days of the end of the school year.

    283 considered the proposal as an invitation to hostile school authorities and local authority officials to attempt to bully parents into changing their minds about home education at a time when the family was under very considerable stress.

    475 respondents agreed with the proposal saying that this would have been extremely helpful to them and would have provided a period of time to make absolutely sure that they had made the right decision to home educate their children. Most local authority respondents agreed with the proposals and asked for action to be taken to ensure that any child withdrawn from school but remaining on the register was not classed as being absent throughout the 20 day period and for clarification on the timescales for children with special educational needs where statements might need to be amended.

    Q6b. Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?

    Most respondents disagreed with this proposal saying that once the child had left school there should be no further role for the school in providing information about the child. 413 had concerns that schools might deliberately or unintentionally provide incorrect information about a child’s attainment and that this information would then

    be used as a means of testing the suitability of home education provision. 566 said that a child’s achievements or future attainment as a home educated child could not be measured or predicted in the same way as that of a child in school as they did not follow a prescribed curriculum, have tests or achieve set targets.

    340 respondents, including most local authorities and 167 home educating parents and home educated children agreed that the school should provide the local authority with this information. Several local authorities said that it was essential for them to have the information if they were to be able to carry out their responsibilities to monitor and support home education and also asked that the information be shared with home educating parents to ensure transparency and to promote an open working relationship.

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