HED0746

Written evidence submitted by London Borough of Hillingdon

 

The London Borough of Hillingdon has an increasing number of parents electing to provide home education. We would like to submit evidence to highlight any areas that require changes to current legislation. 

 

The duties of local authorities with regards to home education including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education.

 

LBH has a statutory duty, under section 436A of the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible) the identities of children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. This duty applies to all children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll and do not appear to be receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school.

 

It is appropriate that parents and children choose a type of education that is right for them. It is equally important that EHE officers understand and are supportive of many differing approaches or "ways of educating" which are all feasible and legally valid. The role of the EHE Team is to respond to concerns that a child is not receiving suitable education for his or her age, ability and aptitude and, where appropriate, provide support and information for parents. It is not the role of the EHE Team to tell parents how to educate their children.

 

The Local Authority has no legal power or duty to monitor home education on a routine basis although the local authority will make enquiries if it is not clear that a child is receiving suitable education. The Local Authority sees its role in relation to home education as part of its wider responsibilities, including safeguarding, to all the children in its area.

 

If information exists which may cast doubt on whether an "efficient and suitable education" can or is being provided, LBH will seek to gather any relevant information that will assist in reaching a properly informed judgement.  This will include seeking from the parents any further information that they wish to provide explaining how they intend to provide a suitable education for their child(ren) and the parents will be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns that the local authority has.

 

A referral to our Children’s Services team will be offered to help support the family, where safeguarding or family support needs have been identified.

 

Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;

 

LBH currently has 330 (October 2020) children registered to Electively Home Educate. In the school census, spring 2020 we recorded approximately 48,728 pupils of statutory school age on roll at Hillingdon Schools. In every authority there will be an unknown number of children who are home educated and remain unknown to universal services. This would suggest that current voluntary registration schemes are not effective in identifying every child and whether they are in receipt of education.

 

LBH considers that a central registration scheme would significantly improve its ability to identify families who previously remained ‘under the radar’ and who have for their own reasons, made a conscious decision to avoid engagement with universal services. It would serve to inform these parents of their duty to educate and what that duty may entail.

 

Registration would provide a positive opportunity for the LA to engage with families, ensuring all children and young people are in receipt of the education to which they have a legal entitlement. It cannot be assumed that any neglect to a child’s education or well-being will be identified through other professionals, when their existence may not be known.

 

Under the current legislation not all LA’s monitor EHE children/young people as they have no statutory duty to do so. With a registration scheme, the LA will have a clearer understanding of the numbers and resource commitment required by the LA to support families who EHE.

 

A register will ensure that the education status of all children is known and will for the first time, enable LA’s to better meet the requirements of 437(1) Education Act 1996 to intervene & 436A to enable LA’s to identify children not registered at school nor receiving suitable education, some of whom may be vulnerable and therefore may require additional support from other professionals.

 

From a safeguarding statutory duty having a responsibility placed on each LA to communicate and share information regarding EHE we could collectively be in a better position to safeguard children where other vulnerabilities might be present in their lives. This is particularly relevant for families who move around the country for different reasons. Arrangements should be made to ensure all LAs follow set processes with clear timescales attached.

 

The benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;

 

There are many recognisable benefits that children gain from home education, this list is by no means exhaustive:

 

        Parents are given more freedom in planning a curriculum and schedule

        They can personalise and tailor the education specifically for their child’s needs and learning levels

        Learning can be expanded outside of the home and include more vocational studies

        It allows parents to spend more time with family.

        Parents can protect their children from negative influences they may encounter outside the home.

        Parents are not restricted when to have family trips and holidays

 

Parents may arrange for other people to tutor their child, though parents themselves continue to be responsible for the education provided.

 

There are however some disadvantages, these are the most common factors that have brought to our attention:

        Parents assume full financial responsibility for their child’s education, including the costs of private tuition, courses and public examinations.

        Pupil premium and free school meals is not available for EHE pupils

        Social interaction and opportunities for children to make friends may be reduced

        Parents may not be aware of support that is available that would be signposted at a school setting.

 

 

The quality and accessibility of support (including financial support) available for home educators and their children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities, mental health issues, or caring responsibilities, and those making the transition to further and higher education;

 

Parents’ right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Parents of any child subject to the statutory provisions of an EHC Plan who are considering whether to make their own arrangements should discuss this with their child’s school SENCO and or the named SEN Caseworker to ensure that they are fully aware of alternatives (amended provision and/or change of placement) and their SEN statutory rights of appeal.

 

Young people are required to engage in education, training, or employment with training until the age of 18. This includes college, apprenticeships, employment with training, attending sixth form or volunteering.

 

Some colleges offer courses that do not require the young person to have any formal qualifications, however, most courses have entry requirements and a set number of GCSEs may form part of the requisite for an offer to be made. As colleges are generally over-subscribed an assessment/ interview may also form part of the application process.

 

The LBH have officers who can offer career advice and to help find a suitable post 16 placement for a young person. The referral would usually be submitted in the later stages of Year 11 if a young person is unsure of their options for the next academic year.

 

Whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded, including where they may attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to ‘off-rolling’;

 

Recent Ofsted inspections and prosecutions have identified an unregulated tuition industry that has built up around the home education community. This group of unregistered education providers understandably have a vested interest in avoiding any external scrutiny of their work with children, particularly if they have no appropriate training or expertise in working with children. There is the risk that the significant growth in home education fuels the growth in unregistered schools and tutor agencies; with no regulation of these agencies, children may be placed in danger or find themselves in the care of individuals restricted from working with children.

 

The LBH contacts electively home-educating parents who remove their child from a school roll. If it is found that a parent has been ‘encouraged’ by a school to remove their child from roll for the purposes of elective home education, this will be challenged, and the child reinstated on roll when appropriate with parental consent, whether the vacant place has been filled or not.

 

Children become a subject of LBH’s Fair Access Protocol if they are electively home educated and home education is judged to have failed in the view of the Local Authority. These pupils will be placed back at their previous school under the said Protocol (where applicable i.e. not inclusive of primary/secondary transfer or out borough schools).

 

Where a family chooses to Home Educate, schools should work closely with the LA and have access to a named LA officer, who will be consulted with when schools are first approached by parents seeking to Home Educate.

 

There should be a duty on schools to invite LA representatives to any meetings held with parents who are seeking to remove their children from a school roll to home educate. This should be mandatory, where it is known that the child is supported by specialist children’s services. Schools should be prevented from removing a child from a school roll until such time that they can provide evidence that such a meeting has taken place, preventing EHE to be recorded as the default onward destination for children.

 

What improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012; and the impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, and what additional measures might need to be taken in order to mitigate any negative impacts.’

 

The LBH offer support for EHE families in the form of:

 

1. Signposting parents to resources and services, discussing methods and philosophies, networking and advising on examinations.

2. Publishing information about EHE that is clear, accurate and sets out the legal position, roles and responsibilities of both the Local Authority and parents.

3. Discussing the implications of EHE with parents before they make the decision to leave or enter the school system.

4. Producing and distributing accurate written records of meetings with home educating parents and children.

5. Promoting positive relationships with elective home education families based on mutual understanding, respect and trust in order to safeguard the educational interest of children.

6. Referring to other agencies, such as Children’s Social Services for support.

7. Seeking to mediate between schools and potential EHE families when the relationship has broken down and parents feel obliged to withdraw their child.

8. Dedicated webpage via the Council’s website which is updated regularly in line with the changing government advice.

9. Written information (which is also available through the internet) on home education.

10. Offering meetings with families to discuss suitability of education provided, giving opportunities for us to tailor specific advice.

11. Providing details of national and local support groups (when known).

 

During the outbreak families who were already providing EHE were contacted and sent information regarding specific services and resources available during the lockdown period. A newsletter was created to help target families with specific advice. Additional information was also made available on our website to advise families considering EHE due to Covid related reasons.

 

The main impact on EHE families is the closure of services that they would use as part of their child’s education program such as access to libraries, leisure centres and museums. This will reduce social interaction and may affect children's mental health. We need to ensure that families are reminded of support available and recommend alternatives such as online services.

 

 

 

November 2020