Consultation results and new guidance on EHE to LAs
I'm very pleased to see that they clarify certain points which have caused problems between some home educators and their LAs, such as:
- "Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home";
- "Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis";
- "The most obvious course of action if the local authority has information that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, would be to ask parents for further information about the education they are providing";
- "Section 175(1) [of the Education Act 2002] does not extend local authorities’ functions. It does not, for example, give local authorities powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education";
- "Section 11 of the 2004 [Children] Act sets out the arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, this section does not place any additional duties or responsibilities on local authorities over and above section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002";
- "Local authorities should organise training on the law and home education methods for all their officers who have contact with home educating families";
- "Where a parent elects not to allow access to their home or their child, this does not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education provision being made";
- "Home educating parents are not required to: ... provide a broad and balanced education .. [or] reproduce school type peer group socialisation"; and
- "It should be appreciated that parents and their children might require a period of adjustment before finding their preferred mode of learning and that families may change their approach over time."
There are one or two points about which I'm less happy, for example:
3.11 Local authorities should bear in mind that, in the early stages, parents’ plans may not be detailed and they may not yet be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an “efficient and suitable” educational provision. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision.
- which seems to make an automatic blanket assumption that local authorities will have information that makes it appear that the parents of recently deregistered children are not providing a suitable education in order for them to be seeking to agree a reasonable timescale for the supply of information about the provision; and at the end of section 3.6:
Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form
- which term (appropriate form) just might encourage some authorities to imagine themselves to be the arbiters of such appropriateness.
But on the whole the guidelines seem sensible and sympathetic to the postcode lottery position to which EHE has previously been subject and appear to be a victory for civil liberty over the tyranny of some self-styled Home Education Inspectors - who will be duly outraged by them, I suspect.
So I'm relieved by this outcome and grateful to everyone who made efforts towards achieving it, but the price of freedom being eternal vigilence I see it as being a battle won, not the war.
When every parent and every child in the UK has a real, informed choice about whether and how to make use of state schooling, that will be a state of affairs to thoroughly celebrate.