Government Response - 2018 Home Ed Consultation

Government Response to Elective Home Education Consultation 2018 and The New Consultation

Important Note – At this stage, the government has no wish to alter the basic right of parents to educate their children at home and the government has recognised that home education often produces very good results.

In 2018, the Department for Education held a consultation about EHE which involved 2 parts:

  1. A consultation on draft versions of revised departmental non-statutory guidance on Elective Home Education (EHE), for local authorities and parents
  2. A call for evidence on three issues
    • Registration of children who are educated at home
    • Monitoring of the suitability of their home education
    • Support for home educating families

The context of this consultation was the duty of local authorities to make arrangements to identify, so far as possible, children in their areas not receiving a suitable education.

New guidance for local authorities has now been issued which sets out the departments view of the way in which local authorities should exercise their duties and powers which are relevant to home education. Currently, there is no legislation that deals specifically with home education. New guidance for parents has also been published today. The revised guidance being published alongside this document is aimed at helping local authorities use their existing powers in the most effective way and does not, at this stage, confer new powers on local authorities.

 

Overall the total number of responses received in the consultation period was as follows: Online: 2,987 Email: 274 Hard copy: 180. When you look at the estimated number, which following the consultation, has been estimated at 57, 600  of compulsory school age children being home educated (0.5% of the relevant age group) the responses the government received are actually very small and it is doubtful that they will be representative of the whole community. Under half of the total 152 local authorities responded so again this is not representative of all the authorities across the U.K.  The estimates are uncertain and are considered to be underestimates because there are home educated children who are not known or counted by the local authorities. The numbers of children being home educated appears to be rising by 20% per annum but again this is an estimate.

Please note – the issue of off-rolling which was highlighted by this consultation is being dealt with separately.

 

The Government consultation found that:

  • Local authorities and other respondent organisations were strongly in favour of a statutory system of registering children believed to be educated at home, citing the reasons why voluntary registration was thought to be inadequate; whereas a majority of individuals responding were against this – although by no means universally
  • Local authorities and other respondent organisations were strongly in favour of an enhanced and specific statutory framework to allow authorities to monitor and assess the suitability of the home education of individual children – again putting forward reasons why the existing legal framework does not in their view allow adequate oversight. A majority of individuals responding were opposed to any formal monitoring powers, and often viewed local authorities as being already too intrusive;
  • there was a more diverse set of views about support for home educators. Many individuals and some local authorities said that there was a need for more support. While some examples of good practice were identified, there was no unanimity on what changes were required. Difficulty accessing public examinations for home educated children was, however, identified as being in need of improvement.

The government has decided to act based on a significant increase in the number of home educated children in recent years which it feels is not related to families genuinely believing in and wanting to home educate but due to inadequate provision in school (especially for children with SEN), disagreements in school about academic or behavioural issues and a lack of suitable alternative provision for some. The government believes that parents who remove their children from school to home educate, for the above reasons, may not be providing a suitable education.

The government also believes that ‘sometimes parents are well aware that they cannot provide home education and turn instead to the use, during the school day, of a variety of unregulated settings such as part-time alternative provision or unregistered independent schools. Sometimes attendance at such settings is legitimate as part of a properly constructed package of suitable education; but it can become an absence of education - in that the children concerned are neither in school nor actually being educated at home - although often described inaccurately as ‘home educated’. These children are likely to become more vulnerable given the lack of suitable education - which of course will have a negative impact on their life chances. In some settings, given the lack of oversight, there is also potential for children to be exposed to safeguarding risks, such as extremism and radicalisation, corporal punishment and sexual exploitation.’

Is this really a significant issue? We cannot comment because we do not have any data to go by, but this seems to refer to a group of children who are not actually under the true umbrella of home education but instead are a group of individuals out of school that need to be found alternative provision. This is NOT, in our opinion, a home education issue.

The government now intends to consult on possible legislation based on the following:

  1. the introduction of a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children of compulsory school age who do not attend schools of a specified type (mostly state-funded or registered independent schools). This would apply to children who are not receiving their principal education in mainstream schools. It would not apply to those children who are in mainstream schools but are also receiving supplementary education in out of school settings - such as those who may attend an afterschool club, religious settings or a weekend club as an addition to their principal education through a mainstream school;
  2. the introduction of a duty on parents to inform their local authority when their child is not attending a mainstream school;
  3. the introduction of a duty on settings attended by the children on the register to respond to enquiries from local authorities as to whether a specific child attends that setting;
  4. the introduction of a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families - if it is requested by such families.

And a new consultation paper has been published which sets out further details of the proposals.

4.10 The proposals above do not include: a. any specific new powers or duties for local authorities to monitor the suitability of home education; b. any legislation on a more detailed definition of what constitutes a ‘suitable’ education, either in the context of home education or other forms of provision. The call for evidence did not specifically address this, although a significant number of 10 respondents called for more detailed rules on suitability. The government does not believe that this would be in the interests of children, or home educators, who by and large prefer flexibility in the ways education can be provided; or local authorities, which should be free to develop their own expertise and approach to this issue.

The consultation is therefore concentrating on registration and the duty to support families, in order to gather more information to support detailed legislative proposals. At the end of the further consultation period the government will consider responses received and decide whether to take forward legislation and what the basis of that legislation should be.

Results from the first 2018 consultation 

Issue 1: Registration of children who are electively home-educated

Q8. How effective are the current voluntary registration schemes run by some local authorities? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration of children educated at home, with duties on both local authorities and parents in this regard?

Government response - A.7 The government accepts that a register of children who are educated at home would help local authorities to deal effectively with children for whom it is not clear that the education provided is suitable, whilst having a minimal impact on the families of children who are being suitably educated at home. To this end, it is publishing a consultation paper on the issues involved.

Q9. What information is needed for registration purposes, and what information is actually gathered by local authorities? Would it help the efficacy of these schemes, and the sharing of information between authorities, if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS?

Government response - A.15 The government continues to believe that data sharing between local authorities, and between local authorities and other agencies, would enhance the effectiveness of registration. However, it accepts that there are significant data protection factors, and will address the data sharing and associated data protection issues in the proposed legislation.

Q.10 Does experience of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements suggest that it would be better if the scope of registration schemes included any children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school full-time? If so, do you think that local authorities should be able to confirm with both state funded and independent schools whether a named child is attending that school full-time?

Government response - A.22 The government believes that there would be substantial advantages in extending the scope of registration beyond home education, to include all children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school, and the consultation proposals are based on that.

Q11. Would the sanction of issuing a school attendance order for parental noncompliance with registration be effective, or is there another sanction which would be more useful?

Government response - A.32 The government accepts that there is divergence of opinion on this issue and will be seeking views in the consultation on the consequences of non-compliance with a registration requirement, although the consultation paper makes clear what the government’s preferred option is within possible legislation.

Issue 2: Monitoring and assessment of elective home education

Question 14: How effective is local authority monitoring of provision made for children educated at home? Which current approaches by local authorities represent best practice?

Government response - A.40 The government accepts that there is a divergence of opinion about the effectiveness of monitoring of home education at present, both in absolute terms and in terms of varying practice in different local authorities.

Q 15. If monitoring of suitability is not always effective, what changes should be made in the powers and duties of local authorities in this regard, and how could they best ensure that monitoring of suitability is proportionate?

Government response - A.47 The government accepts that the diversity of experiences of monitoring is striking but does not propose to make changes in the existing framework for this.

Q16. Should there be specific duties on parents to comply with local authorities carrying out monitoring if such LA powers and duties were created, and what sanctions should attach to non-compliance?

Government response - A.53 As no changes are proposed in relation to monitoring, the issue of sanctions likewise does not arise at present.

Q.17 Is it necessary to see the child and/or the education setting (whether that is the home or some other place), in order to assess fully the suitability of education, and if so, what level of interaction or observation is required to make this useful in assessing suitability?

Government response - A.64 The government accepts that there is a case to be argued for ensuring access to a child when the parents have not been able to satisfy the local authority under s.437(1) of the Education Act 1996 that the education provided is suitable. However, issues related to monitoring are not being taken forward.

Q18. What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at home, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?

Government response - A.72 The government believes that it is important that children should be able to have their views heard on home education, even though a decision to educate a child at home rests with the parent and not the child. To this end, its newly published guidance to local authorities emphasises this point and identifies the extent to which information from a child can legitimately affect a conclusion as to suitability. The government does not, however, propose to introduce any formal framework for children’s views on home education to be expressed to agencies outside the family.

Q.19 What are the advantages and disadvantages of using settings which are not registered independent or state schools, to supplement home education? How can authorities reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home?

Government response A.80 As noted above the further consultation includes the proposition that a register will include in its scope all children not attending state-funded or registered independent schools; but also, the possibility that there should be a duty on other settings to provide information about the educational provision made for individual children. This would not amount to a power for local authorities to inspect such settings; the focus would be on the individual child.

Q.20 What are the advantages and disadvantages of using private tutors to supplement home education? How can authorities best obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education at home includes private tuition, or whom attend tuition away from home?

Government response - A.91 There is some guidance on the use of private tutors in the recently issued DfE guidance document on home education. The government does not at present propose to introduce any regulation of private tutors in relation to home education. However, as noted by some respondents, this is a wider issue than just home education. The 35 government is considering how the issue of online schools should be addressed within the wider landscape or regulation of independent schools.

Q22. Are there other matters which stakeholders would wish to see taken into account in this area?

Government response - A.95 The government believes that the many respondents to the consultation and call for evidence had adequate opportunity to express their views and provide information.

Issue 3: Support for home educating families

Q.23 What might be done to improve access to public examinations for children educated at home?

Government response - A.103 The government accepts that the current variability in access to public examinations for children educated at home is not satisfactory, and the further consultation document asks about this.

Q24. What good practice is there currently in local authority arrangements for supporting home-educating families? Should there be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support, and if so, how should such a duty be framed?

Government response -  A.108 Although there was in general a view that there should not be a duty on local authorities to provide support to families which educate children at home, the government believes that this issue should be explored further, in the sense of a duty to provide support but only when it is requested. There are significant issues as to what forms this could reasonably take, and the resources involved, and the further consultation 40 document covers these, as well as the possibility of direct DfE support for home educating families.

Q28. Are there any other comments you wish to make relating to the effectiveness of current arrangements for elective home education and potential changes?

Government response - A.110 As stated above the government believes that the consultation process gave respondents adequate opportunity to set out their views. It fully supports the right to educate children at home but believes that the needs of children who are not receiving a 15 The remaining 58 respondents who answered this question did not comment on whether they represented an individual, organisation or LA. 41 suitable education in this way are important and the issues arising from those needs have to be properly covered in consultation, as does the risk relating to safeguarding.

The government feels there is a need for greater oversight of children being home educated (and in fact any child that is not in mainstream school), given the increasing number of children being educated in this way. They believe that all settings should provide a suitable education and ensure the welfare and safety of children which is completely understandable. Any oversight will have implications for the individuals and schools involved, and the accompanying consultation proposes to consider these.  Let’s hope there is a good response to the current consultation and a more representative result. It does seem that many of the issues that arose out of the first consultation have not and will not be addressed (monitoring and the definition of a ‘suitable’ education) and we fear that moving forward without these points being addressed will be difficult and cause more confusion and more disparity in the interpretation of the law and the published guidance.

 
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