CME: did this slip under the radar?
1. There is wide agreement about the outcomes we all want for every child – they should be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.
Well that's a good start! Better than "Everyone agrees..." at least.
4. Children not receiving a suitable education are at increased risk of a range of negative outcomes that could have long term damaging consequences for their life chances. For example they are at risk of not attaining the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in life, and are at significant risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) once they have reached the compulsory school leaving age. They could also be more vulnerable in one way or another.
Self-employment completely overlooked again, sigh. You don't need qualifications in order to be highly skilled, or to be paid for that skill.
7. This document is issued under the section 436A (inserted before section 437 in Chapter 2, Part 6 of the Education Act 1996 (school attendance) as amended by the Education and Inspections Act 2006), which provides that local authorities must have regard to statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
This point sets out exactly how statutory guidance is the law. We need to pay as much attention to it as we do to the rest of the Acts of Parliament (which are available from OPSI) because it carries the same legal weight. It took me ages (and a bit of help from my friends) to properly understand that.
9. Section 436A requires all local authorities to make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children residing in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. In relation to children, by ‘suitable education’ we mean efficient full-time education suitable to her/his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have.
So with the imminent implementation of the Contactpoint abomination, I'd like to know why some Local Authorities are calling for us to be forced to register with them? Surely that will be completely unnecessary. Also, why are they asking for a precise definition of 'suitable education' when they've got one there?
10. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school, for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision.
So it doesn't apply to us, unless they have reason to believe our provision might not be suitable.
Here's a convoluted bit of doublespeak:
15. ContactPoint, to be implemented across England by mid 2009, will help local authorities discharge the duty by recording the place where a child is being educated, where that is known. Where it is known that a child is being educated at home, that would also be recorded. This will enable local authorities to focus their efforts on identifying children who are not receiving a suitable education, and putting in place the necessary support.
How can you support something that doesn't want or need supporting? How can such support be called 'necessary'?
Sections 17 and 18 detail all the many ways they can 'work closely with colleagues' to fulfil their 'duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education', including:
· Health (Strategic Health Authorities, Primary Care Trusts)
· Police and police authorities
· Housing providers
· HM Revenue and Customs
· providers of Connexions
· statutory and voluntary youth services
· the Fire and Rescue Service
· voluntary and community organisations, including faith groups
And I do struggle with this concept of a child being 'at risk of not receiving a suitable education':
21. The purpose of the duty is to make sure that children not receiving, or at risk of not receiving, a suitable education are identified quickly, and effective tracking systems and support arrangements are put in place.
Surely, the provision is either suitable - or it's not? How can it possibly be 'at risk of not being suitable'? What does this mean? (Answers in the comments box please, if you know.)
23. In order to implement these changes, local authorities should select, according to local circumstances, from the practical model of process steps described later in this guidance (from paragraph 57 onwards). These process steps reflect practice that local authorities have already demonstrated as being effective. The key processes are:
· receive information about a child;
· check if place of education already known;
· log details on database;
· locate and contact family;
· determine child’s needs;
· identify and access available provision and places;
· monitor attendance for all provision; and
· track and reconcile movements.
That sounds fine to me. I don't mind being contacted to determine my child's needs. "I'm attending to them all, thanks, due to me being her parent. Bye!" Oh wait: is the document suggesting that it's... not my job to determine my child's needs? In that case, how does it think my children have managed to survive thus far?
25. It is often lack of consistency across local authority boundaries that allow a child to get “lost” when moving from one area to the other, or between agencies/services. Vulnerable children are often already identified and monitored by other teams and agencies within the authority, and those receiving a suitable education are monitored by schools and other teams when being educated otherwise than at school. The processes in this guidance are designed to close any gaps, and minimise the risks that are part of transition points, by ensuring there is a clear route in place, understood by all parties involved, and for them to notify a named person(s) when a child is identified as not receiving a suitable education.
We're already 'being monitored'? Not according to the current guidelines for Local Authorities on elective home education, which state:
Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.
Home education features in the following point:
31. Some children living in certain circumstances face more obstacles to achieving the 5 ECM Outcomes and this can include not receiving a suitable education. Amongst these are (this list is not exclusive): .... [25 other groups listed]
· children who do not receive a suitable education whilst being educated at home
Oh, this is good:
55. Local authorities, with their partners, have a range of approaches to reducing the risk of children not receiving a suitable education, and of avoiding contact with agencies with responsibilities for ensuring their safety and well-being. Existing good practice broadly falls into four categories where the local authority introduces measures to: ...
· identify children who are not receiving a suitable education at home and use existing section 437 powers to issue a school attendance order if needed;
It's about time something official acknowledged the existing powers. What's the point of the review, then? (I know, it's been asked before..)
Here's a 'Practical model of process steps' that I remember being debated on the lists when it was first mooted:
That looks ok.. does it? Hmm. It is a bit ambiguous, surprise surprise. It doesn't make a completely closed loop between 'Receive information about a child', 'Check if place of education already known', 'Child is being educated outside state funded provision (e.g. home education, independent schools)' and 'Log details on database', does it?
I like some elements of point 73:
73. When raising awareness with partner agencies it is useful to remind them that parents may lawfully educate their children at home . Where a local authority is satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable full time education, the child is not the target of this duty. However, the local authority does have the power to issue a school attendance order if it appears that the parent is not providing a suitable education. Education of children at home by their parents is not in itself a cause for concern about the child’s welfare.
- but not the part that says: "Where a local authority is satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable full time education , the child is not the target of this duty." It should say: "Where a local authority has no reason to believe that a child's educational provision may not be suitable, the child is not the target of this duty," but I see that Carlotta has already expertly analysed this discrepancy straight away, in which she says: "Parents are now clearly essentially only there to appear to be doing the bidding of the state and implementing the state's version of suitability."
Seems that this guidance is suggesting that it's not my job to determine my child's needs. Carlotta is dead right when she says:
"This should be headline news. If we ignore the paradoxical nightmare above, something constitutionally hugely significant has happened, and this needs to be pointed out to the ptb at the DCSF. Parents are now unable to enact essential principles of freedom of thought and conscience and are essentially in a huge regard, subject to indoctrination by the state."
Section 436A reads as follows:
In Chapter 2 of Part 6 of EA 1996 (school attendance) before the cross-heading preceding section 437 insert—
“Children not receiving suitable education
Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education
(1) A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.
(2) In exercising their functions under this section a local education authority must have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.
(3) In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.”
and the 'guidance given from time to time' - i.e. the CME statutory guidance [opens Word.doc] we're working on today, does appear to instruct local authorities to decide what constitutes a suitable education instead of allowing parents to do it. It's preposterous, isn't it?
Taken literally, we'd have to check every little educational thing our children did - or didn't do - with our local authority to ascertain whether or not they deem it suitable!
But then this guidance does refer back to the 2007 Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf]:
87. Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 requires local authorities to make arrangements to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children who are not pupils at schools and who are not otherwise receiving suitable education. In order to comply with this duty local authorities need to make arrangements which will as far as possible enable them to determine whether any children who are not pupils at schools, such as those being educated at home, are receiving suitable education. In order to do this local authorities should make inquiries with parents educating children at home about the educational provision being made for them. The procedures to be followed with respect to such investigations are set out in the EHE Guidelines, 2.7-2.11 and 3.4-3.6.
Here are the relevant sections of the 2007 guidelines:
2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home
education on a routine basis.
However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. This section states that:
“If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.”
Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.
2.8 Prior to serving a notice under section 437(1), local authorities are encouraged to address the situation informally. 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. Such a request is not the same as a notice under section 437(1), and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures. Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but it would be sensible for them to do so. (Phillips v Brown 1980)
2.9 Section 437(3) refers to the serving of school attendance orders:
(a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and
(b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school, the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a “school attendance order”), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.”
2.10 A school attendance order should be served after all reasonable steps have been taken to try to resolve the situation. At any stage following the issue of the Order, parents may present evidence to the local authority that they are now providing an appropriate education and apply to have the Order revoked. If the local authority refuses to revoke the Order, parents can choose to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. If the local authority prosecutes the parents for not complying with the Order, then it will be for a court to decide whether or not the education being provided is suitable and efficient. The court can revoke the Order if it is satisfied that the parent is fulfilling his or her duty. It can also revoke the Order where it imposes an education supervision order. Detailed information about school attendance orders is contained in Ensuring Regular School Attendance paragraphs 6 to 16.4
2.11 Where the authority imposes a time limit, every effort should be made to make sure that both the parents and the named senior officer with responsibility for elective home education in the local authority are available throughout this period. In particular the Department recommends that the time limit does not expire during or near to school holidays when there may be no appropriate point of contact for parents within the local authority.
3.4 Local authorities should acknowledge that learning takes place in a wide variety of environments and not only in the home. However, if it appears that a suitable education is not being provided, the local authority should seek to gather any relevant information that will assist them in reaching a properly informed judgement. This should include seeking from the parents any further information that they wish to provide which explains how they are providing a suitable education. Parents should be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns that the authority has. The child should also be given the opportunity, but not required, to attend any meeting that may be arranged or invited to express his or her views in some other way. Parents are under no duty to respond to such requests for information or a meeting, but it would be sensible for them to do so.
3.5 If it appears to a local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education it may wish to contact the parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact and copied to the parents stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are, to give the parents an opportunity to address them. Where concerns about the suitability of the education being provided for the child have been identified, more frequent contact may be required while those concerns are being addressed. Where concerns merit frequent contact, the authority should discuss them with the child’s parents, with a view to helping them provide a suitable education that meets the best interests of the child.
3.6 Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision that they are making for the child’s education during a home visit but parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or choose not to meet at all. 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. Where local authorities are not able to visit homes, they should, in the vast majority of cases, be able to discuss and evaluate the parents’ educational provision by alternative means. If they choose not to meet, parents may be asked to provide evidence that they are providing a suitable education. If a local authority asks parents for information they are under no duty to comply although it would be sensible for them to do so. 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.
So we have: "If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education," which still exists in Section 437 of the 1996 Act, and "Where a local authority is satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable full time education, the child is not the target of this duty," from this guidance, which backs up the later added Section 436a: "(1) A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but — .. (b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school."
So actually, Section 436a and Section 437 directly contradict each other even without the added complication provided by the statutory and the non-statutory guidance, don't they? (I notice the 'Relevant legislation' section in Appendix 2 makes no mention of either section!)
So it's going to come down, in individual cases, to the ability of the parents to persuade the local authorities - when asked to do so - that their provision is suitable. I think I might be starting to see why the local authorities are asking for clarity regarding suitability, then, although any education professional worth their salary really ought to be able to recognise "efficient full-time education suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he/she may have."
How has this state of affairs come to pass? Was it deliberate? I'd welcome anyone's opinion about it, but I've got to finish the post at this point, because we need to get ready for our home ed meeting.