Letters to LAs

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Table of Contents

Letters to LAs

79 Hammersmith and Fulham

From Stephen Bishop to London Borough Hammersmith and Fulham, cc Tracey Shield Subject Official sensitive, Attachment lbhfletter080415.doc
Pl find attached letter

A resident of your authority, x, has written to us regarding the home education of her x, who is x. x has complained that in exchanges about the education of x the authority has placed excessive pressure on her to agree to a meeting at which you could see x. She has also complained that the authority has said that the education report she provided about the education which x is receiving needs to be endorsed by an 'education professional.' As you are aware, parents are not obliged to agree to a meeting nor is there any legal requirement for endorsement of documentation by parents.
I should be grateful for your comments on this so we can consider whether the authority is acting reasonably in this case.
We have made it clear to x that it is for the authority to decide whether the information it holds following any informal enquiries justifies the issue of an order under s.437(1) of the Education Act 1996, or a school attendance order - not for DfE. We have also informed her of her right to seek a decision from the Secretary of State under s.442(3) of the Act.
Link


78 Minimum Numbers

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield, ENQUIRIES, Registration, Subject Minimum numbers
An educational institution must be registered as an independent school if it has five or more pupils of compulsory school age, or just one child with a statement/EHC or is looked after.
An adult educating five of his or her own children would not have to be registered because it would not be regarded as an 'educational institution' in the first place. However if there were children from another family present, it would be.
Link

77 SAO Advice

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield Re SAO Advice, 6 March 2015
If informal attempts to get evidence about the child's education fail to demonstrate the education is full-time and suitable, the authority is entitled to (indeed it should) serve a s.437(1) order requiring the parent to satisfy the authority that the child is receiving suitable education. If the response to this does not satisfy the authority, or there is no response, and the authority thinks that the only way the child will receive suitable education is to attend school (ie it is 'expedient' that the child attends school), then the authority ought to serve a school attendance order on the parent.
So yes, if all else fails you would be right to start the SAO process. It would then be for the parent to demonstrate to the court that the education being provided is suitable (assuming the parent responds to the SAO by refusing to send the child to school and the LA ends up prosecuting for non-compliance, and the parent has not in the meantime suddenly produced evidence of suitable education).
Link

76 AEHEP Launch

From Stephen Bishop Re AEHEP launch, 27 February 2015
Thanks. I'm glad it went well, and you certainly had plenty of advice on how to take things forwards! No doubt we shall be in touch again.
Link

Query + AEHEP Launch

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield Re Elective Home Education query, 2 February 2015
Yes I have had the info on the AEHEP launch and will be there on the 26th. I will reply to your query in the next day or so, if that's OK.

8 February: Further to your query, about what LAs should do in situations where they have no information about the education that is or isn't being provided, it is certainly true that the legal provisions are not clearly worded to give a straightforward answer to this and it can be argued that since the s.437(1) duty is trigggered by it appearing that a child is not receiving suitable education, then the absence of any information is not sufficient to trigger s.437(1) action. We think this is true so far as making an order under s.437(1) is concerned. But we are satisfied that the interpretation of the law in Phillips vs Brown case does give local authorities grounds to make informal enquiries of a family where there is no information. Based on the respone (if any), the authority can then decide whether the test n s.437(1) for making an order is satisfied. It is consistent with the judgement to take the view that the absence of convincing evidence in response to an informal enquiry is sufficient to meet the test. This cannot be regarded as oppressive since the parents have an adequate opportunity to demonstrate suitability.

9 February: Yes I'm sure it will be an interesting discussion!
Link


74 Westminster Scrutiny Committee

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield to Westminster City Council, Subject Re Letter from x re EHE attachment westminsterEHE3111214.pdf, 31 December 2014
Thank you. Please find attached reply; a copy is being sent by post also.
Happy new year for 2015.

ELECTIVE HOME EDUCATION - 24 NOVEMBER SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Thank you for your letter of 5 December about this meeting; and thank you also for arranging for me to attend. I am sorry that this reply is rather tardy.
The meeting was very useful for the department in presenting a range of concerns at officer and elected member level about the current arrangements for home education, and the sometimes difficult situations which local authorities find themselves in as a consequence. The points you have listed in your letter illustrate the scale of these tensions. We welcome the fact that in your particular authority there is a desire to see a more productive relationship with home educators through improved communication.
As to the future, we have been keeping ministers informed of our discussions with the various bodies and they are considering what next steps might be. Home educators themselves have been taking a keen interest in the discussions, as shown by a number of FOI requests we have received. As I indicated at the meeting, it is unlikely that any changes would take place rapidly, and there would be full public consultation in the event that ministers did decide that changes to guidance or legislation should be proposed.
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73 Advisor Role Statutory?

From Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield Subject Home Education 28 November 2014
An education authority has two clear initial statutory duties relating to home education:
The duty under s.436A of the 1996 Act to make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities of children in their area who are not receiving suitable education (for any reason, including inadequate home education). Then, under s.437(1) if it appears that a child is not receiving suitable education the authority must serve a notice requiring the parent to satisfy the authority that the child is receiving suitable education.
It is up to each local authority to decide how to discharge these duties; there are wide variations in how they go about it and I don't think one can say that particular structures or posts are required. Certainly there is no requirement to 'advise' parents on home education, so one cannot say the post of an advisor is a statutory one. But plainly an authority does have a statutory role in home education and it should be able to explain how its arrangements meet those statutory duties.
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72 Confidential

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield Re Confidential 26 November 2014
I don't know how used you are to dealing with FOI requests; if not you should consult your own lawyers. I can only say that in dealing with EHE requests under FOI we follow the normal procedure which is to obtain the documents in scope (once any clarification about time period etc has been obtained), and then consider whether any of the exemptions allowed under the Act apply. As I mentioned we are currently considering whether s.35 - development of government policy - exemption applies in relation to correspondence about our EHE discussions; but in general there is no basis for exempting correspondence or internal papers relating to EHE, except for the redaction of personal information under s.40. We therefore release most things we are asked for under FOI. If you have a very large volume of documents you might consider whether you can say that the cost is excessive - though you then have to give the requestor a chance to narrow the request.
You might wish to bear in mind this email chain is itself subject to FOI!
Link

71 FI Contact Details

From Allan, South Division, Academies Group, DFE, cc Stephen Bishop
You asked for contact details of people within the Department who may be able to help on travellers and home education.
With apologies for not being able to speak to them in advance, I am copying in x who may be able to answer queries on Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, and Stephen may be able to help you on the home education issue.
Stephen
x is the Principal Officer Education and Early Years at x and his request has come through me as his contact at DfE on the Academies side of things.

From Stephen Bishop Re FI Contact Details 24 November 2014
Yes I am an appropriate contact for elective home education.
Link


Flexischooling Guidance Request

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield Re flexischooling guidance request 12 November 2014
You made an enquiry about the flexi-schooling section of the EHE guidance which was removed last year. It had been replaced by a web paragraph about attendance codes but with the change from a DfE website to gov.uk, this has disappeared. However, the Department's position on flexischooling can be summarised as follows:
Flexi-schooling is legal as part of a regime to deliver 'full-time education suitable to a child's age, ability and aptitudes'
However it is up to a school to decide whether to accept the continued registration of a pupil on a flexi-schooling basis;
If a pupil is flexi-schooled, the pupil should be marked Code C authorised absence in the attendance register for the period s/he is educated at home. This is because during such periods the school is not responsible for the child's welfare. Code B (off-site educational activity) should not be used for such periods of home schooling
Following that guidance on codes may discourage schools from agreeing to flexi-schooling but there is no reason why this should adversely affect Ofsted views of the school if what is happening is discussed openly with inspectors. There is at least one school which has over 50% flexi-schooled pupils.
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69 Updated LA Guidelines

From Tracey Shield DfE cc Stephen Bishop Subject Re: Elective Home Education 11 November 2014
Thank you for the update regarding the case of x. I look forward to receiving a copy of your updated elective home education guidelines when they are published in January.
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68 Guidelines Current

From Stephen Bishop cc Tracey Shield Subject EHE 26 October 2015
I have been passed your email - this is a quick reply as I am on leave. The Department's published guidelines on EHE are still valid and are now at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elective-home-education
I think that they fairly clearly set out what is expected of LAs. However if you have any queries please email me after my return on 3 November.
Link

67 Staffordshire Query Registration

From Stephen Bishop DfE 20 October 2014 cc Tracey Shield DfE Subject CME
Thank you for your letter of 7 October. A reply was sent to your original letter on 10 August but appears not to have been received. I enclose a scanned copy of the reply taken from our correspondence system; this is only the text and is not on headed paper but I hope will suffice.

"From Stephen Bishop DfE to Staffordshire County Council August 2014
Thank you for your letter of 17 July to the Secretary of State
So far as home education is concerned, there are no plans to revive the registration scheme which was proposed some years ago. The government believes that the current arrangements strike the correct balance between the rights of parents and the role of local authorities. We are aware that there are concerns among local authorities on the safeguarding aspects of home education, and we have begun discussions with some local authority interests about current powers and guidance - for example with the Association of Directors of Children's Services. We are also attending the East Midlands EHE Forum in Stafford in November to hear from people there.
It is correct that local authorities have no statutory right to pupil names - indeed this Department does not gather them either. I am afraid that we cannot usefully comment on the points you made about data from DWP or HMRC."
Link


66 AEHEP EHE Support Group Meeting

A meeting was held in Stafford on April 24th 2015 with some members of the AEHEP committee and some home education representatives. Participant's view Official Notes + Action Points Overview More about the AEHEP on my blog

65 Staffs Safeguarding Police 2

Dear Staffordshire Police, Could you please clarify the definition of non-engagement with the LA?
Non-engagement are those that elect to be home educated and just disappear where there is a safeguarding concern. There are numerous scenarios where this could apply, e.g. left the country, moved area, used it as a tool to avoid prosecution with poor attendance, child come to harm etc. Link

64 Staffs Stoke Safeguarding Police

[see also FOI 62 for more background]

From Julie Ferrie Freedom of Information Corporate Communications Staffordshire Police To E Farmer, April 1 2015
The force’s response to your enquiry is as follows: A recent FOI request has highlighted that Jenny Dodd of the Elective Home Education dept at Entrust has been in contact with Detective Chief Inspector Jav Oomer of Staffordshire Police force. Please could Staffordshire Police make available all correspondence between Jenny Dodd and DCI Jav Oomer? Also could any internal recommendations and notes, meeting notes and policy changes made as a result of these communications please be provided? I can confirm that Staffordshire Police holds the requested information. Please see attached copies of four emails between Jenny Dodd and Detective Chief Inspector Javid Oomer. Javid Oomer is the Chair of the joint Policy and Procedures Sub Group for both Staffordshire and Stoke Safeguarding Children's Boards. As part of the role it was identified through a number of national documents, including serious case reviews, that across the country there may be gaps in safeguarding those children that are educated at home that do not engage with the local authority. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) produced guidance in March 2014 entitled 'Home Education: Learning from Case Reviews'. As a result of this, a scoping exercise was carried out across Staffordshire (including Stoke-on-Trent) to consider arrangements for those families that have not engaged, i.e. taken children from school to be home educated and then have no further contact with the local authority. This exercise was not considering the wider elective home education community. I want to provide some context in relation to the data referred to in the attached email dated 2 September 2014 (JD1) where it is suggested that approximately 200 cases may come into this scope. You will note that this is very early in the academic year and is a reflection of the ratio of families that had not engaged at that time. The current position indicates that around 8% of families (less than 40) have not yet engaged with the local authorities having taken children from school education. Please note that I have not provided a copy of the flowchart mentioned in the emails. The flowchart has not been finalised and has to be agreed by both children’s boards. The flowchart will then be published on the websites of Staffordshire and Stoke Safeguarding Children’s Boards. I am therefore applying the exemption under Section 22 (Information intended for future publication).

From Jenny Dodd Staffordshire, to Javid Oomer, Staffordshire Police, FW: Information following EHE meeting 02.09.2014, September 04, 2014
Hi Javid, I attempted to email you following our meeting on Tuesday but clearly needed the correct email address; hence me forwarding this original email; please see email below. Best wishes, Jenny
From: Dodd, Jenny (Entrust) Sent: 02 September 2014 16:11 To: 'javid.oomer@staffordshire.gov.uk' Subject: Information following EHE meeting 02.09.2014 Hi Javid, Thanks for the opportunity to have a heads up re task and finish group meeting on 16th October. I’ve had a look at numbers that we would be referring onto the MASH and it would be approximately 44% of the 490 so about 200 referrals.

From Jenny Dodd Staffordshire, to Javid Oomer, Staffordshire Police, Task and Finish Group 16th October, October 6th 2014 Attachments: CME Conference del pack FINAL 150714.pdf(4.5 MB). Dear Javid, I’ve been forwarded this document; area of interest is pages 19 to 27 where you will find a presentation by Independent Chair of Lancashire and Rochdale Safeguarding Boards. She comments on the rise of SCR’s involving children who are electively home educated. I thought it prudent you had sight of this prior to the task and finish group meeting that is organised for the 16th October. FYI: I have met with EHE officer from Stoke-on-Trent to work on a flow chart to fit in with our processes in preparation for the meeting.

From Jenny Dodd Staffordshire, to Javid Oomer, Staffordshire Police, MASH flowchart, October 15th 2014. Attachments: File Name MASH flowchart.docx(104.7 KB)
Dear Javid, Please see attached flowchart that Jo Softly (SOT) and me have put together ahead of tomorrow’s task and finish group meeting at 2.30pm. I’ll bring some copies to the meeting.

From Jenny Dodd Staffordshire, to Javid Oomer, Staffordshire Police, sscb.admin@staffordshire.gov.uk, Jo.Softley@stoke.gov.uk. Task and finish group flow chart EHE, December 23rd 2014. Attachments: File Name image001.png(13.4 KB) EHE task finish group flowchart 231214.docx(109.5 KB)
Dear Javid, Please see attached the flow chart that was discussed at the task and finish group meeting on 16th October. Apologies for the delay but there has been some negotiation needed to ensure it is fit for purpose. I am led to believe that it is.

Link See also CME Safeguarding Home Education Staffordshire December 2014


63 AEHEP Launch Event

Read an account of the launch event for the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals here More about the AEHEP on my blog.

62 Midlands Forum + Staffs, Stoke, Safeguarding

29 page pdf via Link emails between Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire regarding home education, safeguarding, AEHEP, West Midlands Working Group, DfE etc, released February 2015, includes some background to FOI 64.

61 Midlands Forum Information

To Telford and Wrekin LA from Jenny Dodd ElectiveHomeEducation@staffordshire.gov.uk March 11th 2014, subject West Midlands Regional EHE Forum 11th April 2014
Helen Sadler from Leicester City has kindly offered to lead a session in the morning developing on from the last forum. She has requested that we come prepared with examples of scenarios where the guidance for LAs has been inadequate to support you in carrying out your role

To Telford and Wrekin LA from Jenny Dodd June 25th 2014, subject Elective Home Education Data Form, attachments ehe-analysis_blank.doc
Thank you all for your continuing support at the forum held on June 20th. The working party will reconvene to look at all of the comments to put together a cohesive argument for Stephen Bishop's attention in November.
Just to confirm that the forum voted for Kate Clegg (Worcestershire) and Jenny Dodd (Staffordshire) to represent the forum on the steering group to set up a National Association for EHE professionals.
Please find attached the data proforma that was agreed would be populated and sent back to Jenny Dodd by beginning of September to compare LA data.
The next forum is November 21st at the Kingston Centre, Stafford.

To Telford and Wrekin LA from Jenny Dodd Staffordshire October 6th 2014, subject West Midlands Regional Elective Home Education Forum
Thank you all for your continued interest and participation in the Forum meetings. The next one is on Friday 21 November 2014, with refreshments in conservatory at 9.30 am and meeting starting at 10.00 am. We are expecting Stephen Bishop (DfE) who has agreed to come up to meet with us and discuss the EHE guidance document. He is prepared to listen to our concerns where we feel the guidance isn't clear and therefore is not helpful to us as we attempt to carry out our duties. I'd like to thank Helen again for helping to organise this.
As a result of the June Forum we have collated the ideas to present to Stephen Bishop (DfE). I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who are members of the Forum Working Party who have given their valuable time to do this. I will share the document with Stephen prior to the meeting so he has time to consider the document before he meets us. I believe this will form a constructive way forward and allow us to make the best use of the time that Stephen will be with us. We will provide a copy of the document in the Forum pack.
Please bring with you a copy of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities to use for reference.
I appreciate that we are all very busy but this may be an opportunity to make that change that will support us to carry out our statutory duties. We will need to make a prompt start as we have a full programme organised for the day; updates on EHE matters, National Association news. Stephen is due to join us shortly after we start the morning session. There will also be an opportunity later in the day to have a surgery to discuss issues that individuals may be struggling with as well as the normal networking opportunities at lunch time.
Please see below booking details for the West Midlands EHE Regional Forum.
Booking Code EHEB14003001 Date 21 November 2014 Venue Entrust Kingston Centre Fairway Stafford ST16 3TW Times 10.00 - 15.00 Cost £50.00.
Elective Home Education Forum Friday 21 November 2014 Programme 9.30- - 10.00 Refreshments and Registration. Tea and coffee available in the conservatory. 10.00 - 11.00 Updates EHE Matters (procedures/policy) National Association, Data. 11.00 - 12.00 Stephen Bishop - EHE Guidelines. 12.00 - 13.00 Lunch and Networking. 13.00 - 14.30 Stephen Bishop EHE Guidelines (continued) 14.30 - 15.00 EHE Surgery, Evaluation, Next Forum
Link, Telford

See also Link, Cheshire East + "topics have included: The Law and EHE guidance; De-registration process; College placements and careers advice; Work experience placements; Access to examination centres; RPA/funding; Parental guidance and working in partnership" from Link, Shropshire


Association Elective Home Education Professionals Launch

NEW FOI December 24th 2014 "internal correspondence within the Department and external correspondence to and from the Department, for the period 16th October 2014 to the present date regarding the Association for Elective Home Education Professionals". UPDATED FEBRUARY 19TH 2015

From Jenny Dodd, Entrust to Stephen Bishop DfE, cc Tracey Shield DfE, January 7th 2015 subject Association of EHE Professionals (AEHEP)
If you recall I invited you both to come along to the launch of the AEHEP which takes place on February 26th between 1.00 and 3.00 at Westminster. We really appreciate that you have put the date in the diary and hope that you can join a small panel to discuss DfE view and take some questions from the floor, we anticipate talk around 5 minutes.
Have you seen the article in the Guardian on 31st December where Barry Sheerman has called for a debate on the state of home education?

From Stephen Bishop DfE to Jenny Dodd, Entrust, cc Tracey Shield DfE, January 7th 2015 re Association of EHE Professionals (AEHEP)
Yes, we have seen the Guardian article recently. It remains to be seen whether there will be any Parliamentary debate as he wishes in the immediate future.
I will be coming on the 26th February and am happy to join a panel discussion, although how much I will be able to say about DfE's position will depend on what is happening at that time. Tracey is, I am afraid, unable to come up to London on this occasion.
Thanks. Perhaps you will let me know the actual venue for the launch in due course. Link

From Stephen Bishop DfE to Jenny Dodd Entrust subject AEHEP event 26 February, January 9th 2015
We have just found via Fiona Nicholson's website a list of attendees for this event as follows:
List of speakers for launch national body home education professionals Feb 26th
Graham Stuart Lord Lucas Nick Gibb (to be confirmed) Daniel Monk, Reader in Law, Birkbeck College, University College of London Stephen Bishop, Department for Education, Lead in EHE Policy Members of the AEHEP committee including Jenny Dodd (Chair), Dave Harvey (Vice Chair)
I have spoken to Nick Gibb's office and they are not aware that there is any question of his attending. Can you shed any light on how his name has appeared, even on a tbc basis?

From Jenny Dodd Entrust to Stephen Bishop DfE Re AEHEP event 26 February, January 9th 2015
Graham Stuart had said that he would invite an education minister possibly Nick Gibb.

From Stephen Bishop DfE to Jenny Dodd Entrust subject AEHEP event 26 February, January 9th 2015
Okay, I'll tell his office that, but so far it doesn't seem to have happened.

From Jenny Dodd Entrust to Stephen Bishop DfE Re AEHEP event 26 February, January 9th 2015
I am due to meet with Graham next Tuesday so will clarify the situation with him then. Link

From Kevin Grant Bromley to Stephen Bishop DfE January 19th 2015 Subject FW AEHEP Launch 26.02.15 at Westminster Final Details
Please see below details of the AEHEP launch that you have kindly agreed to attend as a guest panel member and speaker. If you have any questions, please do let me know. I look forward to seeing you again on the day.
ssociation of Elective Home Education Professionals (AEHEP) Official Launch, at the Palace of Westminster, from 1300 on Thursday 26th February 2015
Dear colleague
Further to our previous email, please see below for further details of the AEHEP official launch at the Palace of Westminster on Thursday 26th February 2015, from 1300.
It is suggested that attendees should allow sufficient time to travel through security, and we advise arriving between 12.00 and 12.20 to allow for this. Please wear an ID badge or equivalent and bring a minimum of luggage, and you should enter the building at the CROMWELL ROAD ENTRANCE (number 7 on the attached map) where you will be met by a representative of the AEHEP Committee and directed to ROOM 14. During the event, time will be available for participants to present questions to the panel, and there will be the opportunity to network. It is anticipated that the room will close around 1630.
The speakers on the panel who have confirmed are:
Graham Stuart, M.P. Lord Lucas, House of Lords Daniel Monk, Reader in Law, Birkbeck, University of London Stephen Bishop, Department for Education, Lead in EHE policy Members of the AEHEP committee, including Jenny Dodd (Chair), Dave Harvey (Vice Chair), Kevin Grant (Secretary) Also expected to be present will be representatives from the NSPCC.
We look forward to welcoming you on the day, and hope you enjoy and benefit from this event. Please contact Kevin Grant at kevin.grant@grovelandscentre.org.uk if you have any questions.
Thank you and kind regards
Jenny Dodd, Dave Harvey, Kevin Grant and the committee members of the AEHEP

From Stephen Bishop DfE to Kevin Grant re AEHEP Launch 26.02.15 at Westminster Final Details January 19th 2015
If these instructions have been sent to other people, I suggest you correct the reference to Cromwell Road, which should be to Cromwell Green. Cromwell Road is in Kensington.

From Kevin Grant Bromley to Stephen Bishop DfE January 19th 2015 re AEHEP Launch 26.02.15 at Westminster Final Details
Thank you Stephen, I was passing on the details forwarded to me but I will make a correction....going via Kensington would mean an unnecessary diversion! Link


See also Minister's Letter to Graham Stuart MP June 2013, also available as a web page; and FOIs here and here


Possible Parliamentary Debate 2015

Barry Sheerman: May I ask the Leader of the House for an early debate on home schooling when the House returns after Christmas? For many people home schooling is a good way of educating their child, but for many others it is not. Has he seen the estimates that suggest we do not know where up to 100,000 children in our country are, what curriculum they are pursuing, or about their supervision, safety and security? In an age when we are ever more worried about child abuse and child protection, may we have an early debate, because that area has got out of hand?
Link 11 Dec 2014 Column 996

How to contact your MP about Barry Sheerman's views Link Read about Barry Sheerman's talk at the Institute of Education here

60 Midlands Forum/National Association

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Jenny Dodd Staffordshire cc Tracey Shield DfE November 24th 2014
Thank you both for taking the time to come down. I do hope that you had a good journey back. The national association is in it's infancy and will be known as Association of Elective Home Education Professionals (AEHEP). We are planning to hold a launch on Thursday 26th February from 1.00 to 3.00pm at Westminster and hope that you both can join us to discuss DfE view and take some questions from the floor? I'll send information about the association so that you can be kept in the loop
Link via this page

(List of speakers for the launch of the National Body for Home Education Professionals on February 26th Graham Stuart; Lord Lucas; Nick Gibb (to be confirmed); Barry Sheerman (to be confirmed); Daniel Monk; Stephen Bishop; Members of the AEHEP committee, including Jenny Dodd (Chair), Dave Harvey (Vice Chair). I have been invited to attend and have permission to report back. Apparently the NSPCC has also been invited.


59 Midlands Forum

To Jenny Dodd Staffordshire from Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield DfE 24 November 2014
Many thanks for arranging for us to come to the meeting on Friday. It certainly gave us a good deal to think about. As I indicated we are talking to others as well, and the timing of future developments is unclear but it was very useful to us and I hope your members also felt that it was a useful exchange of views. Perhaps you would let us have details of your national organisation when you are able.
Link via this page


58 Midlands Forum

To Jenny Dodd Staffordshire from Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield DfE November 14th 2014
How I expect things to go when Tracey and I are there is that I will kick off by speaking for 10 minutes or so setting out how government has got to where it is over the past 7-10 years, and posing some particular problem areas we are aware of. We will then ask those participating to say what changes they would like to see in either legislation or guidance, illustrating need preferably by reference to actual cases; and also whether they are aware of problems other than those I will have mentioned. There is a particular connnection with safeguarding and possibly radicalisation but not limited to those. I expect there will be more discussion of individual LAs' circumstances over lunch.

I shall be making it clear that we cannot yet tell what the outcome will be, because ministers have authorised us to start discussions with LAs but there is no commitment to change or any particular timetable. I should say that we have FOI requests relating to this and other LA discussions, from the EHE lobby.
Link via this page


57 Midlands Forum

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Jenny Dodd Staffordshire cc Tracey Shield DfE, November 14th 2014
Sorry to trouble you again but thought it would be useful to have some idea of how you wanted to play next week when you come along to Stafford to ensure it is a productive visit? We are hoping that we can have an honest discussion around the issues we have collated

It would be very useful if we can discuss some key issues which are causing tensions around LA's asking for information about the educational provision where home educators believe that it is sufficient simply to tell the LA they are home educating and that contact should only be made if the LA has concerns raised. The other is the definition of what is deemed suitable and efficient education. And finally if you could let us know what the expected outcomes might look like around these discussions.
Link via this page via this page


56 ADCS

To Katy Block ADCS from Stephen Bishop DfE, September 14th 2014
Thank you for facilitating the meeting on Friday. It was useful to me to hear some comments from senior people in local authorities, and that will add to the more practical information we hope to get from the EHE forums. As you might imagine, nothing visible will happen for a few months while we are gathering information, and of course I cannot say what actually might happen before ministers have considered the issues.
Link via this page


55 ADCS

To Katy Block ADCS from Stephen Bishop DfE September 1st 2014
I was waiting to hear from you for confirmation, but yes I am expecting to be there at 11am on Friday 12th. Rachael's email below suggested a 45 minute slot but 30 minutes would be fine if that's easier. I don't have any specific papers but I will be talking partly about the DfE EHE guidance (at:Link and it might be useful to let members have a copy of that with the agenda. I would aim to be there by 10.45
Link via this page


54 ADCS

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Katy Block ADCS aUGUST 29TH 2014
I can't remember if I came back to you on this meeting or not (it's been a long week)! Debbie Barnes, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee is keen for you to attend our next meeting is at 11am on 12 September at the Laycock Centre in Islington, London. I am told we usually put guest speakers at the top of the agenda so you can bob out once your item is done. Do you have any papers you wish to submit ahead of the meeting (I'll be sending the agenda out at the end of next week). Let me know what you think, feel free to give me a call if that's easier?
Link via this page


53 ADCS

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Rachael Hitchinson ADCS, cc Jackie McHanwell Assistant Director Independent Education and School Governance, Tracey Shield DfE, Peter Swift Deputy Director Independent Schools and School Governance DfE, Katy Block ADCS August 4th 2014
Thanks for your email. Yes - good idea - let's go for the front end - say 11am for 45 minutes? The meeting is under a new chair (Debbie Barnes, DCS Lincolnshire) and there will be a new Policy Officer by then. I am leaving for a new position in the North ast and I'm being replaced by Katy Block (copied in). Katy starts a week today- so I will ask her to get in touch to doubly confirm.
Link via this page


52 ADCS

To Rachel Hitchinson ADCS from Stephen Bishop DfE August 4th 2014
I think we would like to attend the meeting on September 12th, if it is possible to have a slot in which we can air the main problems as we see them, and seek reactions. I have put it in my diary - there might be more than one of us. Obviously we would only attend for that item, I wonder if it might be possible for us to attend at the beginning only or the end only, although obviously that is for you to decide.
Link


51 ADCS

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Rachel Hitchinson ADCS July 2014
I'm acutely aware that I didn't get back to you on this one - my apologies. Attached are a few reflections from members of the ADCSs. I thought I would let you see them in their fullest rather than edit them. If you are quoting anywhere - please remove any names or references to local authorities but if you want to follow up the comments with further questions, our members would be more than happy to help.


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59 ADCS

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Rachel Hitchinson ADCS July 2014
Kate has passed this letter on to me as Policy Office for the Educational Achievement Policy Committee. I have asked the committee for views on the topic and given them a deadline of next Tuesday for responses. It maybe something that warrants discussion at one of our policy committees but I will be in touch further next week.
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49 London Forum Minutes

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Suggestions from members for discussion: process for EHE students with statement of SEN, Mary Helmore, Barnet; collecting and distributing EHE summary information for comparison purposes, General interest; Establishment of the Eastern Counties/Herts EHE support group. Anna Shaw, Herts; Report and summary of the AEHEP meeting in Staffordshire on 16th October 2014, Kevin Grant Bromley; Concerns raised surrounding parents using EHE to 'school hop' and declaring EHE to avoid SAOs. Elaine Grant (Croydon); Revision of the 2007 EHE Guidance under consideration by DfE-update; Short presentation by Steven Bishop (ADCS and policy lead re EHE for DfE) relating to 2007 EHE Guidelines followed by Q and A; Case study for discussion, EHE reviews and parental mental health concerns. Elaine Grant (Croydon); Proposed LHEO terms of reference, comments requested. See draft copy attached; LA staff threatened with department closure or reduction of service, Ellie Evans (West Sussex)

The next LHEO meeting will be kindly hosted by Kent Authority on Monday 2nd March 2015.

DRAFT COPY prepared July 2014 (DB, KG, PS, EG) Terms of reference for London Home Education Officers (LHEO) Forum

1. Mission statement

1. LHEO exists to ensure that children in elective home education are receiving efficient full time education in a safe environment within the region represented by the professional members.

2. Membership

2.1 Membership of LHEO is open to any individual who is an LA employee or commissioned by the LA and has a remit to work directly with EHE families
2.2. LHEO welcomes members from the south east of England
2.3 Heads of service are welcome to accompany their representatives at LHEO meetings and others by invitation
2.4 No membership subscription shall be payable

3. Objectives

3.1 To protect and promote the rights of children and young people to receive an efficient and suitable education
3.2 Establish and develop strong working partnership with home educating families
Consult with and be consulted by national policy makers
3.4 Facilitate the exchange of experience, knowledge and good practice between LHEO members
3.5 Enable the identification and dissemination of shared issue, concerns and priorities for development
Encourage good operational links across the region to support positive engagements of families with EHE professionals
3.7 Identify and promote the professional needs of LHEO members
3.8 Establish and develop strong working partnerships with other groups interested in promoting EHE
3.9 To disseminate information to the membership on developments in EHE and related areas
3.10 To act as a channel of communication between LHEO members and the national body (AEHEP)

Governance

4.1 LHEO will be administered by four officers of the membership at any one time
4.2. Two of those members will be nominated by the membership as the LHEO representatives to sit on the national association.
4.3 Notes or minutes of the meeting will be taken when agreed by the members, will be distributed
4.4 LHEO meets at least 3 times a year. All meetings will be chaired by the nominated chairperson.
4.5 Meeting venues will be shared by the local authorities in the group.

5 Duties of the administrator

5.1 Maintain the membership list
5.2 Prepare the agenda for meetings
5.3 To collect and circulate any relevant information to the LHEO members
5.6 Deal with correspondence
5.7 Co-ordinate information for LHEO members in terms of professional development and training.

6 Points of clarification

LHEO members understand that there is no one 'correct' educational system. All children learn in different ways and at varying rates. It is vital that parents and children choose a type of education that is right for them, and it is important that LHEO members understand and are supportive of many differing approaches or ways of educating which are all equally feasible and legally valid. The role of LHEO is not to advise parents how to educate their children or to promote registration at school.

7. Review of Terms of Reference

7.1 Terms of reference will be reviewed annually or when legislation changes. To be reviewed July 2015


48 Midlands Forum

To Jenny Dodd Staffordshire from Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield DfE and Helen Sadler Leicester, October 6th 2014
Thanks - this is very helpful to have the document now. I had an interesting discussion at an ADCS committee meeting on 22 September. I will be in touch at the start of November just to confirm times etc, but Tracey and I look forward to seeing you and your colleagues on the 21st.
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47 Midlands Forum

DfE Guidance: Anomalies for Stephen Bishop 2014 compiled by West Midlands Forum working group on behalf of the members of the West Midlands Elective Home Education Forum

[Click here for summary]

This document should be the basis for supporting Local Authorities to develop their policies and strategies in meeting their stautory duties with regard to Electively Home Educated children and young people and was written in 2007. Many similar guidelines from central government have been recently updated (CME, Attendance, Safeguarding, and SEND etc) and in anticipation that this will happen with the EHE guidelines, The West Midlands Forum for EHE officers have collated these suggestions which may assist with any such future update

The guidelines are detailed but without clarity. The document is long and ambiguous in parts leading to various interpretations. Local Authorities and home educators need the guidelines to be clear and accessible to enable them to fulfil their roles effectively in the best interests of home learners. Many aspects of the ambiguities could only be changed by a change in law. Some ambiguities could be resolved by citing case law which has set precedence of future expectations.

The voice of the child is not implicit in these guidelines

Part 1

1.3 Consider that it states clearly the statutory responsibilities, the legislative and roles and responsibilities of LA's and parents.
1.4 not necessary

Part 2

2.3 not clear what 'efficient' education is - better if quote full case law based on Harrison case what court deemed efficient: Harrison and Harrison versus Stevenson 1982:
"While it was accepted that autonomous learning was recognised by educationalists as legitimate, the court added: In our judgement "education" demands at least an element of supervision; merely to allow a child to follow its own devices in the hope that it will acquire knowledge by imitation, experiment or experience in its own way and in its own good time is neither systematic nor instructive...such a course would not be education but, but at best, child minding."

It elaborates and court held:
"We regard the fundamental academic skills of writing, reading and arithmetic as fundamental to any education for life in the modern world - essential for communication, research or self-education. We should not in the ordinary cas, regard a system of education as suitable for any child capable of learning such skills, if it failed to instill in the child the ability to read, write or cope with arithmetical problems, leaving it to time, chance and the inclination of the child to determine whether, if ever, the child ever achieved even elementary proficiency in these skills.

IMPORTANT to quote

Efficient education should include a systematic approach to learning the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy.

2.4 needs to say efficient and suitable end of paragraph? - what is DfE's interpretation of full-time education? Registration would be good but would involve a change of law. Possibly look at all children of statutory school age being registered with LA.

2.5 Legal position needs to spell out and not left to interpretation. Needs to include the interpretation of what an efficient education is as defined in case law by Harrison and Harrison versus Stevenson as above.

2.6 Very confusing and needs re-wording 'as far as possible.' Section - CME identify EHE determine suitable education. Last sentence causes a great deal of confusion and damage to fragile relationships with community as there is an extremely hostile element.

New CME document November 2013 last sentence doesn't appear to relat to the new CME document and can cause charities to actively dissuade families to engage with LA's.

2.7 Need information in guidance of HOW - it's going to appear to LA that education is not suitable.

Also perhaps clarify definition of routine monitoring.

It would be helpful if it stated in black and white that LA's have the right to ask for information.

2.8 add in 'insufficient' and 'parents are in breach of their duty' and give reasons for request for information. Most obvious cause of action if the LA has (suggest adding) insufficient information that makes it appear that parents are not providing an efficient and suitable education - in other words in breach of their duty.

In last sentence state why it would be sensible for parents to provide information or explain to LA's why not spelled out.

2.9 Very clear - the LAW.
2.10 'reasonable steps' give examples of what these could be (Consider: - comment on letter on Eeucation Otherwise website suggesting "educational work is property of child and won't share with LA and as well it states it is neither the LA duty, nor right to pass the home education as satisfactory, but rather to act if it appears that I am failing in my duty to provide a full-time education suited to my child's age, aptitude, ability and special educational needs. Should a court decide whether this is the case, it will be my task to present such information and evidence as would be sufficient to convince a reasonable person, on the balance of probabilities only, that a suitable education is taking place. The Court will receive evidence in any reasonable form. I consider that the information I have already supplied to you is sufficient to fulfil this criteria.")

2.12 Concern - safeguarding/welfare of children - this means that it's no-one's responsibility to see child is safe and well. Children can go under ground - Khyra Ishaq?
Who and how? Exemplar parent provides written information child no where to be found, no-one would know.

2.13 Needs to be taken out as it is no longer relevant under the present government.
2.14 can be used by parents who don't fully understand the roles of EHE officers and safeguarding teams - consider a reword.
2.16 Need child's voice as they can sue parents if believe they haven't received an efficient education so in turn the LA but this isn't about service it's about the rights of the child.

2.17 mentions Contact Point - non existent.

Part 3

3.1 Very concerned here as we agree consult with home Ed and organisations for positive engagement but have real concerns that some of these charities organisations are actively discouraging and frightening those new to home education not to engage with the LA - believe that these organisations need to be held to account if it then discovered that the child is not receiving an efficient education.
Need some form of Quality Assurande of these organisations as 3.12 null and void as charities are not encouraging trusting relationships.

3.3. This has training implications and LA officers would prefer professional training rather than charities/individuals set themselves up as trainers. This is where the setting up of a national body will be vital; ability to invite Daniel Monk and others.

3.4 Give an indication of time scales, possibly a flow chart of process. Unclear meaning/interpretation "if it appears" for example the LA has insufficient information to determine...
Ensure that it is clear that where the guidance states "should" it means must as the LA has a duty to carry out. May help home educators to be clear about what LA's must do so avoid ultra vires claims against LA officers.

This section actually states that the LA should seek to gather any relevant information that will assist them in reaching a properly informed judgement.
Which law underpins this? Make it clear that CME/EHE are two sides of same coin. Is this to do with the 436A Education Act 1996 inserted Education and Inspections Act 2006? If so- refer to Phillips versus Brown 1980.

3.6 Too vague and doesn't consider the child's voice. Ambiguity in not allowing access to home/child is not the same as not engaging with the LA but it reads as though it is.

*3.6 could include 5.1 and 5.2 (as rest of part 5 is irrelevant)
3.7 refer to 5.1 but 5.2 could do with review in part.
3.10 How is the DfE expecting us to be informed by parents at the point of coming out of school. Schools have to inform us not parents.
3.12 Concern here that schools are now seeking to persuade families as a result of attendance regulations near exclusion and where they struggle to meet child's needs especially emotional needs. Problem with insuffient number of school places (numbers trebling)
3.13 Doesn't make clear what the parents role is as educators. Better to say what parents do have to do rather than not ie what is an efficient education
3.13 and 3.15 needs to include case law to identify what education should include.
3.16 Timescales - How long do we keep going before taking action?
3.18 Irrelevant due to new code of practice.

Part 4

4.1 Relationships tricky when EHE groups actively discourage engagement with LA.
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46 Midlands Forum

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Jenny Dodd Staffordshire cc Tracey Shield DfE and Helen Sadler Leicester subject 2007 EHE Guidelines October 3rd 2014
I am looking forward to welcoming you and a colleague to the West Midlands Elective Home Education Officers Forum in Stafford on Friday November 21st. The document which is attached outlines our concerns about the current EHE guidelines. I thought it would be helpful for us to share our concerns with you prior to the forum so that we can make the most of the time available on the day. I appreciate that you have said that you will contact me again at the beginning of November but as the document has been collated it seems prudent to share it with you at this earlier opportunity.
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45 Midlands Forum

To Stephen Bishop DfE and Helen Sadler Leicester from Jenny Dodd Staffordshire cc Tracey Shield DfE May 23rd 2014
Helen Sadler has passed on your contact details to me as I chair the West Midlands EHE Regional Forum. I am delighted to learn that you are happy to come up to the forum and discuss the EHE guidance with us. The forum is taking place on Friday 21st November 2014 from 10.00am to 15.00pm. It is held at the Kingston Centre whch has easy access from the M6 and is a short taxi ride from the station. If you are driving parking is available at the centre. I do hope that this date and time is convenient to you and I very much look forward to hearing from you.
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44 Midlands Forum

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Helen Sadler Leicester Council cc Jenny Dodd Staffordshire, May 8th 2014
I hope you recall the conversation we had in the Easter holiday regarding the Staffordshire EHE Forum. At that time I explained that the Forum had agreed there were 'vaguenesses' that could be used by people, if they were so minded, to impede Local Authorities in enacting their statutory duty. I suggested to you that the Forum identify the vague areas, giving case studies of times this has been the case. You suggested that you attend the November Forum to discuss our identified areas of 'vagueness'. I have suggested this to Jenny Dodd, the organiser and host of the Forum and she welcomed the suggestion. She asked for your details so that she can invite you formally. I have copied her in so that she has your e-mail address. Will you agree to me passing on your direct telephone number? Link via this page


43 London Forum September 2014

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Kevin Grant Bromley, 11 September 2014, RE Department for Education response: Case Reference 2014/0050521, Category Orange Category
OK Stephen, thank you. I will post those out nearer the time. Apparently the offices are almost across the road from the train station in Bedford

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42 London Forum

To Kevin Grant Bromley from Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield DfE September 2014
Thanks for the confirmation. In fact I cannot come on the 23rd October as that will be within a two week leave period for me, so I will simply come to Bedford on 10 November. It is not actually very difficult to get to - I can come into Kings Cross and catch a train quite easily back up to Bedford from over the road at St Pancras without much trouble. Yes, if you let me have venue details for Bedford in due course that will be fine
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41 London Forum

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Kevin Grant Bromley September 11th 2014
I now have the confirmed date for Daniel Monk's training ('EHE and the Law'), to be held at Islington Town Hall, which will be on Thursday 23rd October from 10.30. As you are aware, the next meeting of the LHEO (London Home Education Officers) group will be at the Bedford Council Offices on Monday 10th November from 11.00. My preference would be for your attendance at the LHEO meeting in November, as the members would clearly like to meet you, but I quite understand that Islington is more convenient. Hope to meet you at one (or both?) of the occasions above. I can forward details of the venues once you let me know what's required. Thank you again
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40 London Forum

To Kevin Grant Bromley from Stephen Bishop DfE August 29 2014
Okay, I will await details re Daniel Monk. Yes you can assume I will attend in Bedford on 10 November. It would be best if I could have a slot at the beginning, shall we say 5 minutes presentation plus 15 minutes questions/discussion? Can you let me know actual venue for Bedford
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39 London Forum

To Stephen Bishop from Kevin Grant Bromley August 22nd 2014
Yes, that is fine. I will know the dates re Daniel Monk by mid September at the latest and will let you know as soon as I do. A further consideration. Are you interested in making any representation in the form of a short talk or Q/A session when we meet for the next LHEO (Bedford in 10th November)? I normally try to have a speaker or 'person of interest' regarding EHE and I know for sure that the members will be very interested in anything you have to say, even a 10 minute summary of something current in the world of EHE would be great. I understand that this may not be your normal responsibility, but feel I need to ask in case the opportunity passes me by!
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38 London Forum

To Stephen Bishop from Kevin Grant Bromley
Certainly I can agenda you for early in the meeting, no problem at all. We will almost certainly start at 11.00 on the day, so hopefully 11.30 be OK. I will forward the full details of the venue as soon as I have them, but it most likely to be Bedford Council Offices/Town Hall.

Thank you, look forward to meeting you then
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37 London Forum

To Kevin Grant, Bromley from Stephen Bishop DfE August 5 2014, cc Tracey Shield DfE
Thanks - can we say that we'll make a final decision when you can let me know the October meeting date? In the meantime I will note the 10 November in my calendar.
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36 London Forum August

To Stephen Bishop from Kevin Grant Bromley August 4 2014
Thank you for your reply to my offer concerning the input by Daniel Monk concerning EHE, and also to hopefully attend the next LHEO (London Home Education Officers) regional meeting, which is to be hosted by Bedford LA on Monday 10th November at 11.00. I will not be able to confirm the date re Daniel Monk until a week or two into September as I am currently off during the summer break, returning 01.09.2014. Daniel Monk (Birkbeck University, department of law) is perhaps the leading independent light regards EHE legislation, and has spoken previously to our group and otherse. We have asked him to provide some more in depth input regarding this topic from a legalistic point of view. As you are possibly aware, local authorities find this somethign of a grey area in terms of applying the law and guidance in practical terms. Daniel's expertise has helped clarified some issues for us. LHEO has been the chief contact point for many local authorities for EHE since it's inception, currently 35 LAs in London and the SE are members, with 55 individuals on the mailing list. Bromley were the originating borough and I maintain that position as organiser. We meet termly, hosting is at various locations around the region, meetings generally last 2 and a half hours and we discuss all things EHE, concerns, developments, case studies, etc. We would welcome wholeheartedly any contribution for the DfE at either/both of the occasions above, and it would perhaps give you the opportunity to meet a representative selection of the local authority staff responsible for applying the law 'on the ground' as it were.
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35 London Forum

To Kevin Grant Bromley from Stephen Bishop DfE August 2014
Thank you for your email dated 15 July about Elective Home Education. We would like to be able to attend one of the two events you mention but need a little more information about them. For the one in October, this depends on the actual date, as I am on leave for the second half of that month. For 10 November, I expect to be in London but whether I could attend would depend on the location and time, so that I can work out whether I could still go to the meeting I already have at 1pm in Westminster. Please reply to my personal work email below, not to the general DfE email account.
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34 London Forum

To DfE from Kevin Grant, Bromley, July 2014, subject EHE
Hello, I am responsible for maintaining a forum of LA EHE staff titled the London Home Educator Officers group (LHEO), representing 35 authorities in London and the South East. We are in the process of arranging training with Mr Daniel Monk of Birkbeck University School of Law, expected to take place in October 2014 at Islington Town Hall and would like to invite a representative of the DfE to attend and contribute to our session, an invitation which is extended to our next LHEO meeting on 10th November. Could you indicate if there would be interest from the DfE to attend either such occasion.
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33 Thurrock

To Thurrock Council, from Tracey Shield DfE, September 16th 2014
I have written to [] Children's Services, Thurrock Council on 6 August and 21 August regarding Thurrock Council's guidance relating to home education and the case of []. I enclose copies for your information. I would be grateful if you could arrange for a reply to be sent so that we can respond to []
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32 Thurrock

To Children's Services Thurrock, August 21st 2014 from Tracey Shield DfE
Further to my letter dated 6 August, details below, I would be grateful if you could provide a response at your earliest convenience.

I write regarding the guidance issued by Thurrock Council relating to home education and the case of [] It appears that the guidance issued by Thurrock Council does not accord fully with the Department's Guidelines. 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 unless there are safeguarding concerns; they should intervene only if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. Any procedures for dealing with home educating parents and children should be non-intrusive and timely, in order to provide a good foundation for the development of trusting relationships. In the early stages of elective home education parents' plans may not be detailed and they may not be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an efficient and suitable education provision. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision. In the case of [], has declined the authority's invitation to meet and discuss the home education of []. Parents are under no duty to comply with this request; [] has indicated that as the decision to educate her [] at home was only taken in May 2014 a suitable provision is still being developed. I would be grateful for your comments regarding Thurrock Council's home education policy, in particular the points outlined above and the decision to serve a school attendance order so early in the process.
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31 AEWM

To Stephen Bishop from the AEWM, August 20th 2014
Thank you for discussing the above with me today. As members of the Association of Education Welfare Management (AEWM) have raised some concerns about the new brief guidance on elective home education I would like to place the statement below on our website. Please let me know if you are happy with this or you would like me to amend/or add in any way. Several members have raised concern for the new guidance on the GOV.UK website, which confirms that parents can teach their children and home full-time or part-time (flexi-schooling) and wondered if this replaced the original DfE guidance. I have spoken to a member of the Independent Education and Boarding Team who has confirmed the original guidance is still in existence and that this new guidance is an addition. The team are liaising with the Association of Directors for Children's Services and home education regional forums in the SE and Eastern Midlands during the Autumn to discuss concerns raised regarding safeguarding with the view to possibly add further advice regarding safeguarding, however the legislation/guidance will not change in respect of parents not having to register with the LA or LAs not having the right to monitor the quality of the education on a routine basis.
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30 AEWM

To AEWM from Stephen Bishop DfE August 20th 2014
Thanks for sending me this. I would prefer that it read as follows:

Several members have raised concerns about the new guidance on the GOV.UK website, which confirms that parents can teach their children and home full time, or part-time (flexi-schooling) and wondered if this replaced the original DfE Guidance. I have spoken to a member of the Independent Education and Boarding Team in DfE who has confirmed that the original home education guidance is still in existence (at ), and that this new guidance is an addition, because the section on flexischooling has been removed from the main guidance document.

The DfE team is liaising with the Association of Directors of Children's Services and two regional home education officer forums during the autumn term to discuss concerns raised by local authorities regarding the interface between home education and safeguarding, and whether guidance on this particular aspect might change. However there are no plans for alteration in the current legislative framework for home education in the remainder of this Parliament.
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29 Barnsley

To Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council from Tracey Shield DfE, August 19th 2014
I refer to my letter to you dated 1 July 2014, details below. I would be grateful if you could provide a response. I write regarding the guidance issued by Barnsley Council relating to home education and the letter sent to you by Graham Stuart MP dated 23 May 2014. It appears that the guidance issued by Barnsley Council does not accord fully with the Department's guidelines. The council's website indicates that an assessor will visit the family approximately two months after the child's withdrawl from school and if a need for improvement is identified a further visit four to six weeks later. The home education information leaflet provided on the website indicates that an alternative would be for the parent to provide a written report outlining a plan for the development for the child's education. It is not clear whether the written report is an acceptable alternative for the council. Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis unless there are safeguarding concerns; they should intervene only if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. 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 parents any further information that they wish to provide which explains how they are providing a suitable education. Parents are under no duty to respond to requests for information or a meeting with an authority. I would be grateful for your comments regarding the Barnsley Council home education policy and in particular the points outlined above.
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28 Essex

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Education Welfare Service Essex, August 11th 2014
Many thanks for your reply. I will contact you on Wed 20th at around 12 noon if that is OK with you.
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27 Essex

To Stephen Bishop DfE from Education Welfare Service Essex CC, August 11th 2014
I understand that you have responsibility for the above area. I am currently reviewing the processes within Essex for elective home education and wonder if I could discuss the current guidance with you, could you kindly ring me on my mobile number below today or provide me with your phone number, I will then contact you next week as I am on leave from Tuesday to Friday this week
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26 Essex

To Essex from Stephen Bishop DfE cc Tracey Shield DfE, subject "re: elective home education", August 11th 2014
I should be grateful if you would contact me next week on the number below. However, I am not in on Monday 18th and the afternoon of the 21st is difficult
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25 Thurrock

To Children's Services, Thurrock Council, from Tracey Shield, DfE, August 6th 2014
I write regarding the guidance issued by Thurrock Council relating to home education and the case of []. It appears that the guidance issued by Thurrock Council does not accord fully with the Department's Guidelines. 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 unless there are safeguarding concerns; they should intervene only if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. Any procedures for dealing with home educating parents and children should be non-intrusive and timely, in order to provide a good foundation for the development of trusting relationships. In the early stages of elective home education parents' plans may not be detailed and they may not be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an efficient and suitable education provision. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision. In the case of [], has declined the authority's invitation to meet and discuss the home education of []. Parents are under no duty to comply with this request; [] has indicated that as the decision to educate her [] at home was only taken in May 2014 a suitable provision is still being developed. I would be grateful for your comments regarding Thurrock Council's home education policy, in particular the points outlined above and the decision to serve a school attendance order so early in the process.
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24 ADCS

To Association Directors Children's Services, from Stephen Bishop, Department for Education, July 1st 2014
ELECTIVE HOME EDUCATION
I am addressing this letter to you as ADCS policy officer, but please pass it to someone more appropriate in ADCSF if necessary. The Department publishes guidelines on elective home education. These can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elective-home-education Over the past year or so, a number of local authorities have expressed a view that their current powers are insufficient to deal with cases where children are being home educated as a way of avoiding safeguarding action. The Department, for its part, has taken the view that authorities' general power under s175 of the Education Act 2002 is sufficient to initiate action, which may then be progressed if necessary using more their specific powers on safeguarding and child protection. Following some recent correspondence, the Department wishes to discuss these issues with a representative organisation such as ADCS, with a view to agreeing what the Department could usefully include in any revised guidance to authorities about this aspect of home education. This would involve exploration of what is actually practicable, given that some of the problems are actually about knowing whether children exist at all, rather than their being home educated. Can I ask you to consider whether ADCS would wish to be involved in this and if so how? We should be happy to attend or organise a meeting as necessary.
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23 ADCS

To ?, from Stephen Bishop, Department for Education, Attachment ADCSEHE10712.pdf, 14 July 2014
We spoke - attached. Link


22 Barnsley

To Chief Executive, Barnsley Council, July 1 2014, from Tracey Shield, Department for Education
I write regarding the guidance issued by Barnsley Council relating to home education and the letter sent to you by Graham Stuart MP dated 23 May 2014. It appears that the guidance issued by Barnsley Council does not accord fully with the Department's guidelines. The council's website indicates that an assessor will visit the family approximately two months after the child's withdrawl from school and if a need for improvement is identified a further visit four to six weeks later. The home education information leaflet provided on the website indicates that an alternative would be for the parent to provide a written report outlining a plan for the development for the child's education. It is not clear whether the written report is an acceptable alternative for the council. Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis unless there are safeguarding concerns; they should intervene only if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. 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 parents any further information that they wish to provide which explains how they are providing a suitable education. Parents are under no duty to respond to requests for information or a meeting with an authority. I would be grateful for your comments regarding the Barnsley Council home education policy and in particular the points outlined above.
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DfE Westminster Council November 2014

"Ministers are agreed that the department should talk at official level to local authorities. SB has had meetings with ADCS policy committee, also talked to 1 LA in the north and visited 2 regional forums of local authorities. SB has come with no commitment about what might change and when it might change, he has come to listen to people's views..."
Report for November Meeting Notes from Home Educators Council Minutes

See also Guardian article December 31st 2014 and BBC 5 Live January 3rd 2015

Representative Bodies

Minister Nick Gibb: "The Department for Education officials have met with the policy committee of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services; officers of Darlington Borough Council; the children’s services scrutiny committee of the City of Westminster, and two regional forums of local authority elective home education officers; one for London and the South East and the other for the West Midlands" Link


Not Decided

Minister Nick Gibb: "We have not yet reached any conclusion as to whether any changes are needed to the Department’s guidance document or the current framework within which home education operates." Link Link

DfE Section 35 November 2014

DfE is delaying answering my FOI on what it's been saying to LAs on the grounds that s35 is engaged. More

The Information Commissioner explains that "Section 35(1)(a) covers any information relating to the formulation and development of government policy. There is no automatic public interest in withholding all such information. Public interest arguments should focus on potential damage to policymaking from the content of the specific information and the timing of the request. Arguments will be strongest when there is a live policy process to protect." More

If DfE were simply writing to LAs to say "follow the guidelines" then it would give me the data as it has done in the past, and the s35 exemption wouldn't come into play.

Nick Gibb

Minister Nick Gibb November 2014: "Local authorities' safeguarding powers are available for use for children receiving home education on the same basis as children attending school. The Department for Education's view has been that those safeguarding powers are adequate to deal with home educated children, and recent serious case reviews have not shown otherwise." Link

Minister Nick Gibb November 2014: "It is parents' responsibility to ensure that their children undergo full time education and to assist them with that, the state provides a wide-spread network of state funded schools. Parents have the freedom not to avail themselves of that service and to educate their children privately, or at home, and they do not have to notify those decisions to the state." Link

ADCS

Association Directors Children's Services talked to DfE September 2014 ("although the department does not have any immediate plans to review this policy, a series of conversations with stakeholders have now begun in order to assess whether it is still relevant given the government’s guidance has remained unchanged since 2007"). See also Representative Bodies FOI October 2014

Minister June 2013

To Graham Stuart MP
From Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families
June 19th 2013

"There is no duty on local authorities to assure themselves that the provision being made by parents for home educated children is suitable..."
Link


21 Thurrock

To Graham Farrant, Chief Executive Thurrock Council from Graham Stuart MP 13th October 2014 re Thurrock Council Policy on Elective Home Education

As the Chairman of the Education Select Committee and the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Gruop on Home Education, I am writing to raise concerns about the guidance produced by the Education Welfare Service at Thurrock Council entitled "Process for Elective Home Education", a copy of which is enclosed. This document contains multiple breaches of the Government Guidelines for Local Authorities on Elective Home Education (as amended 2013), a copy of which I also enclose for your reference.

Thurrock Council's "Process for Elective Home Education" ignores the central theme of the Government's Guidelines, which is stated in paragraph 2.3: "The responsibility for a child's education rests with his or her parents." Instead it imposes an unwarranted and ultra vires series of restrictions upon the rights of parents to educate their children as they see best.

I will address the breaches of the Guidelines in the order that they appear in the Council's document.

Breach (A)- the need for permission to home educate

Section 3 of the Council's document states:

"...The EHE Consultant will make an Initial Assessment as to the viability of the Elective Home Education...This includes ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the student is paramount as ensuring outcomes for children and young people are improved by the receipt of better care, services and education [sic]. Improved outcomes can only be achieved if children and young people are safe from harm."

Section 4 continues:

It may be the EHE Consultant's assessment that the Elective Home Education cannot proceed, in which case the parent/carer will be advised to keep the child on the roll...or to apply for a school place."

By contrast, Paragraph 2.4 of the Government Guidelines for Local Authorities states:

" Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home. Parents who choose to educate their children at home must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations. However, local authorities are encouraged to provide support where resources permit.

Instead of that support, the Council document misinforms parents that its officials must sanction their right to home educate their child before this can occur. This is a complete distortion of the legal situation.

Separately, the conflation of home education with a child safeguarding risk amounts to a serious stigma against parents. I have never seen any credible evidence that home education is a risk factor for child welfare nor, in cases where children have been harmed, any evidence that home education effectively hid abuse from the authorities.

Breach (B)- the need for ongoing EHE Consultant "assessment visits"

Section 5 of the Council document states:

"The case will remain open though no active casework will be required other than the update of EHE Consultant assessment visits for the duration of the Elective Home Education process.

Section 7 continues:

"The EHE Consultant will advise the Pupil Tracking Officer of all appointments and, after each visit, the EHE Consultant will provide a written report with judgement[sic] which will be sent to the family and a copy to the Pupil Tracking Officer for entry on the database."

By contrast, the Government Guidelines for Local Authorities are very clear that local authorities have no duty to monitor home educating families on a routine basis, but should instead only get involved if specific concerns are raised. They are not obliged, or indeed permitted, to screen families seeking reasons to intervene - still less to treat such families as "cases" or to produce reports making "judgements." This is emphasised at Paragraphs 2.7 and 2.8 of the Guidelines, which state:

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 (Government emphasis) 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.

Breach (C)- the consequences of a parental decision to decline assistance from EHE officers

Section 9 of the Council document states:

"In the event of a parent refusing to engage with the EHE Consultant or failure to provide work for the EHE Consultant to assess the provision will be deemed as inadequate (this is in the interests of the child). After 2 failed visits the EHE Consultant will request that the Pupil Tracking Officer sends a "failed appointment letter"...and we may need to consider a referral to Social Care. The EHE Consultant will offer one further visit and failure to engage will result in the case being referred to EWO and, depending on the level of concerns, Social Care."

Again, this is significantly different to the Government Guidelines for Local Authorities. These explain at Paragraph 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."

This wording should leave very little room for doubt. The Guidelines are clear that it is not acceptable to treat a parent's decision not to meet with a home education official as itself representing a basis for intervention - let alone threaten to involve social services, which would understandably terrify many parents.

the content of Thurrock Council's "Process for Elective Home Education" misrepresents the Council's duties and powers in relation to home education consistently, and fails to offer any constructive support to parents. I hope you will instruct your officials to make amendments to both this document and their working practices as a matter of priority.

The Department for Education shares my concerns about the Guidelines for Home Education being represented incorrectly to parents. I am therefore copying this letter to the Minister, Sam Gyimah. I am also copying in the leader of Thurrock Council and Thurrock's MP, Jackie Doyle Price.
Link


20 Wakefield

To Joanne Roney, Chief Executive Wakefield Council from Graham Stuart MP 13th October 2014 re Wakefield Council Policy on Elective Home Education

I am writing to raise concerns about the Home Education Policy of Wakefield Council. As the Chairman of the Education Select Committee and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education, I want to highlight correspondence I have received that was sent by your Council's Education and Welfare Servce to [] concerning [] who is home educated. A copy of this correspondence is enclosed. It states:

"Where parents choose not to accept visits [from home education officials], it is policy within Wakefield LA to seek information through a written report in order to be clear that a suitable education is in place. I note that you ask for a period of time to settle in, so I will write to you in approximately three months and ask that you provide a report of the education that is in place for [].

Please be aware that when parents decline visits we also have a policy to contact Social Care Direct to make them aware that a child is no longer in school and will not be seen by the Local Authority Home Education Team."

Shortly after receving this letter, [] had a surprise visit from social services insisting on entering her house. They told her on the doorstep that this was not the result of any complaint but was the result of her decision to decline a visit from the Council's Home Education team.

Crucially, the Government's Guidelines for Local Authorities on Elective Home Education (a copy of which is also enclosed) explain at Paragraph 3.6:

"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."

By insisting on visits from social services as a matter of course when home education visits are declined, Wakefield Council's policy misrepresents the provisions of the Government Guidelines.

The conflation of home education with a child safeguarding risk amounts to a serious stigma against parents, and the threat of involving social services as a matter of course in these circumstances is obviously extremely disturbing to parents. I have not seen any credible evidence that home education is a risk factor for child welfare, nor, where children have been harmed, any evidence that home education effectively hid abuse from the authorities.

The Department for Education shares my concern about the Guidelines for Home Education being represented incorrectly to parents. I am therefore copying this letter to the Minister, Sam Gyimah MP, local MP Mary Creagh and the leader of Wakefield Council, Peter Box.

Link


19 Triborough

To Councillor Danny Chalkley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Westminster from Graham Stuart MP 31 July 2014 re Elective Home Education in the TriBorough

I am writing regarding the approach adopted by officials in the TriBorough to home educating families.

I enclose letters I wrote to the TriBorough Head of ACE, Ms Elizabeth Spearman, on 8 May 2014 and 10 June 2014, in which I warned Ms Spearman that I believe the TriBorough's policy on home education is in contravention of the Government Guidelines for Local Authorities on Home Education. The Government Guidelines, which are statutory, are clear that local authorities have no duty to monitor home educating families on a routine basis, but should instead only get involved if specific concerns are raised. They are not obliged, or indeed permitted, pre-emptively to screen families to seek reasons to intervene.

Ms Spearman's replies of 20 May and 19 June, which I also enclose, have not reassured me that the TriBorough will change its policy to reflect the Government Guidelines properly.

Despite my repeated requests, Ms Spearman has not disclosed the legal advice on which her Department is basing its policy, which all the available evidence suggests to me has been formed in error. This advice allegedly states that the council can only discharge its responsibilities by arranging face to face meetings with parents/carers and the children being home educated.

In her letter of 19 June, Ms Spearman noted that in section 7 of the TriBorough's guidance to home educating parents, the word "usually" is used when referencing home visits, to imply that these are not conducted as a matter of course. This still does not make it sufficiently clear to parents that a meeting with the council' s home education team is optional. The Government Guidelines are very clear at Paragraph 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 tomeet 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."

I would be grateful if your intervention on this issue meant that I do not have to write to the TriBorough again.

Yours sincerely

Graham Stuart
Chairman, Education Select Committee
Chairman, All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education

Cc: Councillor Sue MacMillan, Cabinet Member for Education and Children, Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council
Councillor Elizabeth Campbell, Lead Member for Children's Services, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea


18 Kent

To Roger Gough from Graham Stuart MP July 3 2014 re Kent County Council Draft Elective Home Education Policy

I am writing to raise concerns regarding the Draft Elective Home Education Policy drawn up by Kent County Council, which I understand is scheduled to be considered by the Council's Cabinet on Monday. As the Chairman of the Education Select Committee and the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education, I believe that the Draft Policy is in breach of the Government's statutory guidelines on home education and that the Policy could be liable to legal challenge if implemented.

The Government Guidelines for Local Authorities on Elective Home Education (a copy of which is enclosed) are clear that local authorities have no statutory duty to monitor home educating families on a routine basis, but should instead only get involved if specific concerns are raised. They are not obliged, or indeed permitted, pre-emptively to screen families to see reasons to intervene.

This is emphasised at Paragraphs 2.4, 2.7 and 2.8 of Guidelines, which state (my emphasis underlined)

"2.4 Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home...

2.7Local 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 (Government emphasis) 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 be not 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.

The Government Guidelines go on to explain at Paragraph 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."

Kent County Council's Draft Policy includes the following provisions which breach those Guidelines:

  1. It opens: "The current law and formal guidance from the DfE requires that the LA seek to know all pupils who are electively home educated and to take action to ascertain whether a suitable and efficient education is not taking place and to take certain actions if this is not the case"(page 3).
  2. Council officials have to satisfy themselves regarding the suitability of the education that is being provided. Parents are also required to respond to their inquiries (page 5).
  3. There will be annual reviews of the suitability of parents' education provision by the Council (page 7).
  4. The Council imposes a requirement for parents to meet with an EHE officer, and bring their child/children with them to this meeting (page 5).
  5. If the offer of a visit is declined, the child's name will be added to the Children Missing Education register, and a reference will be made to Kent County Council's Children's Social Services Teams (page 7).
  6. Kent County Council will maintain a register of children being educated at home (page 5).

The conflation of home education with a child safeguarding risk amounts to a serious stigma against parents, and the threat of involving social services as a matter of course in these circumstances is unwarranted. I have never seen any credible evidence that home education is a risk factor for child welfare nor, where children are harmed, any evidence that home education meant that abuse was hidden from the authorities.

Regarding the proposed register of home educated children, this proposal was discussed and dropped by the Welsh administration in May, following an official consultation. This proposal was also considered by England in 2009, and was likewise abandoned here. Rather than pressing ahead with such a licensing scheme, I submit that it would be better for Kent County Council to concentrate on improving the support and resources available for Home Educating families, in accordance with their individual wishes. A registration scheme will contribute neither to an improved education for children nor to an improvement in their welfare.

The Department for Education shares my concern about the Guidelines for Home Education being represented incorrectly to parents. I am therefore copying this letter to the Minister, Elizabeth Truss. I am also copying the Leader of Kent County Council and all Kent MPs.

Yours sincerely

cc Elizabeth Truss MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare; Councillor Paul Carter OBE, Leader, Kent County Council; Julian Brazier TD MP; Right Honourable Greg Clark MP; Damian Collins MP; Rehman Chishti MP; Tracey Crouch MP; Charlie Elphicke MP; Right Honourable Michael Fallon MP; Sir Roger Gale MP; Helen Grant MP; Right Honourable Damian Green MP; Gordon Henderson MP; Adam Holloway MP; Gareth Johnson MP; Mark Reckless MP; Right Honourable Hugh Robertson MP; Laura Sandys MP; Right Honourable Sir John Stanley MP
Link


17 Kent

To Sarita from the office of Graham Stuart MP July 3 2014

Many thanks for your email earlier today. Graham has spoken to Councillor Roger Gough, the Kent Cabinet Member for Education, this afternoon to point out how seriously the Draft Policy is in breach of the Government's Guidelines. He has also written the attached letter which he hopes will ensure that the Council revisits this issue and does not bring the Draft Policy into force.
Link


Triborough + Hackney June 2014

From Elizabeth Truss MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare To Graham Stuart MP June 10 2014

Dear Graham

Thank you for your letter of 12 May, about home education in the Tri-borough service in London, and the case of [redacted] and Hackney Council.

The Department was approached by [redacted] about this issue and we have written to the Tri-borough to ask for its reasons for requesting a home visit to [redacted] and her son. Ms Elizabeth Spearman, Head of Children's Services at the Tri-borough service, has responded, explaining that they believe that their elective home education policy has been drawn up with due regard to legislation and Departmental guidance. The Tri-borough service is aware that they cannot insist on meeting with families, but have taken a view that the best way to fulfil their legal obligations would usually be through seeing a child, allowing them to form a professional view regarding the provision being made.

To date, [redacted] has declined to meet with the home education advisor at the Tri-borough, although she has provided a detailed report about the provision that she is making for her son. The Tri-borough service says that its policy could allow them to accept evidence from an educational professional involved with the family, who is prepared to provide a formal opinion regarding the provision being made, and has informed [redacted] of this. AS you know from Ms Spearman's letter of 20 May, the Tri-borough service has recently updated its Elective Home Education Guidance as the previous version did not accord fully with the legislative position - which is the conclusion we had reached before receiving the latest letter. It appears that the service still believes a meeting is essential even if it does not take place at home, for the reasons set out by Ms Spearman. I would not disagree that in many cases the authority may have good cause for concern; but that still does not amount to a right to insist on a meeting. We will therefore be taking this further with the Tri-borough and I will write to you again.

With regard to your second query, Hackney Council has responded to the Department's request for further information, and provided the following reasons for insisting on a home visit to [redacted]
a. Local authority responsibilities. On a number of occasions the authority tried to engage with [redacted] about the suitability of the education being provided but received only a two page educational philosophy, dated May 2012, with no further information from that date or any evidence that a suitable programme was in place for the children.
b. Safeguarding concerns. At the time of the section 17 assessment and home visit request, there were no current safeguarding concerns but the Council says that it determined that the lack of engagement from [redacted], given the previous safeguarding concerns, and the fact that [redacted] had only indicated her intention to home educate one of her five statutory age children, was sufficient cause for concern to initiate the home visit.
c. Making an order under section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996/School attendance order. We asked why this course had not been adopted; the authority said it had not been initiated as the Council would always work to engage with families, to offer guidance and support as outlined within the Department's Elective Home Education Guidance for Local Authorities.

In my view, the home visit was not justified because the authority could have followed the procedure set out in the legislation, which is that if it is not satisfied that a suitable education is being provided, it can serve an order requiring the parent to show that the education is suitable. If the parent does not, the authority can serve a school attendance order. At that point the parent can, if they wish, seek a determination from the Secretary of State.

In this case, the authority chose not to follow this route. As it did not act 'unreasonably' in the legal sense, there is no basis for the Secretary of State to intervene. However, we intend to make it clear to the authority that it has not been following the Department's guidelines or the procedure set out in legislation, and we intend to take up the issue of strengthening our guidance with the Association of Directors of Children's Services.

Thank you for writing on this important matter and I hope this letter is helpful to you.
Link


Barnsley June 2014

From Elizabeth Truss MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare to Graham Stuart MP June 10 2014

Dear Graham

Thank you for your letter of 23 May, copied to me and addressed to Ms Diana Terris, Chief Executive of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, about the authority's guidance on home education.

I agree that the regime set out in the extract you quoted suggests a more active role for the local authority than is envisaged in the Department's guidance document or the relevant legislation. Department officials will write to Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council about its guidance and the way it is implemented, and I will write again when we have received a response.

Thank you for writing on this important matter and I hope this letter is helpful to you.
Link


14 Midlands Forum

To [redacted] from Stephen Bishop DfE May 23 2014 cc [redacted name + leicester.gov.uk]
Thanks - we will get in touch at the beginning of November to confirm names. 11am will be good.
Link [See 44/45 Midlands Forum]


13 Midlands Forum

To [redacted] from Stephen Bishop DfE May 23 2014 cc [redacted name + leicester.gov.uk] Subject: 2007 EHE Guidelines
Yes, this date is fine. I and possibly another DfE person will come. Thanks for the travel notes; probably car will be easiest as we are based in Darlington. Perhaps you could let me know somewhen what time you would like us to turn up as possibly you will have other business you want to discuss without our being there?
Link [See 44/45 Midlands Forum]


12 Triborough

To Elizabeth Spearman, Triborough Hammersmith Westminster Kensington from Graham Stuart May 2014 re Tri Borough Elective Home Education Guidance and [redacted]

I am writing regarding the guidance issued by the Tri Borough group of London local authorities relating to Elective Home Education EHE) As the Chairman of the Education Select Committee and the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education, I have concerns about some apparent misrepresentations of the law contained in the guidance (a copy of which is enclosed for your reference).

Specifically, I would like to raise the sections of the guidance which state:

"The local education authority has a duty under section 199 of the Education Act 1993 (in England and Wales) to monitor the education provided."

and

"A local authority school improvement adviser (SIA) will visit your home to assess the quality of the education you are giving and, if necessary and in the light of his or her findings, make recommendations on how it could be improved."

The Education Act 1993 was repealed by the Education Act 1996. Under the 1996 Act, local authorities have no statutory duty to monitor home educating families on a routine basis. Instead they should intervene only if they have a reason for doing so. Tehy are not obliged, or indeed permitted, pre-emptively to seek reasons to intervene. This is confirmed by Paragraphs 2.7 and 2.8 of the Department for Education Guidelines for Local Authorities on Elective Home Education. These state in full:

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 be not 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."

The guidance issued by the Tri Borough therefore fundamentally misstates the powers and responsibilities of local authorities in this regard. I would be grateful to learn what actions you will take to amend the guidance so that it properly reflects both the law and the Department for Education's Guidelines. Rather than imposing a monitoring regime on home educating families, it would be better for the Tri Borough to concentrate on improving the support and resources available for home educating families, in accordance with their individual wishes.

On a related note, I have also been shown correspondence from your adviser Ms Kyria Parsons to [redacted] who is home educatig her son. in a letter dated 11 February 2014, Ms Parsons told [redacted]

"We are of the view that our statutory duties, under 437(1) Education Act 1996, can only be consistently and satisfactorily fulfilled through a face to face meeting with parents/carers and the child(ren) being home educated."

In the light of the Department's own Guidelines, I believe this view has been formed in error. Ms Parsons states in her letter that it has been taken on the basis of legal advice. I would be grateful for the opportunity to review the advice in question.

The Department for Education shares my concern about the Guidelines for Home Education being represented incorrectly to parents. I am therefore copying this letter to the Minister, Elizabeth Truss, whose office I expect will be in touch shortly. I am also copying the letter to Mark Field MP and Karen Buck MP.

Cc: Elizabeth Truss MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare; Mark Field MP; Karen Buck MP
Link


Derbyshire May 2014

To [redacted] from Stephen Bishop DfE May 8 2014
There's a difficult balance here, in that some settling in time is obviously sensible if premature judgements are not to be made but there's a danger that parents may simply be trying to put off doing anything or at least proving that they are doing anything. There's no legal requirement on this except that - on the letter of the law - parents should be providing a suitable full-time education without interruption after schooling ceases and home education begins. The Department is not going to say "three months bad, six months good" or indeed vice versa - especially as what is known about specific families may indicate that there are different answers in different cases. The authority really has to decide what's its policy is, preferably make that clear, and stick to it.
Link


10 Midlands

To [redacted] from Stephen Bishop DfE May 8 2014
Yes, it is below. However I am at meetings in London today.
Link [See 44/45 Midlands Forum]


Triborough April 2014

To [redacted] April 29 2014 From [redacted] cc Stephen Bishop DfE
We have been approached by [redacted] The Tri-Borough Service has requested a home visit to ascertain home school provision for her child. As you will be aware from DfE's guidelines on Elective Home Education, there is no legal provision for a home visit for this purpose unless there is a safeguarding concern. At this stage we only have the comments provided by [redacted] please could you provide the reasons why you have requested such a visit, so that we can consider whether the authority is acting reasonably. Regards
Link


Hackney March 2014

To Hackney from Stephen Bishop, DfE 21 March 2014
I am writing further to exchanges of correspondence between ... and yourself about this issue, arising from the ... case. We have seen your letters of...The minister responsible, Elizabeth Truss, has written to ... on an interim basis but we feel that before she can reach any final conclusions about the matter we need to ask for some further information. In your letters, you have explained about the lack of information obtained from ... and why this led the Council and the Trust to believe that a visit on ... pursuant to a s.17 assessment was necessary. We accept that there may well be a link between safeguarding and home education concerns in some cases; and the Department does not dispute that the authority should have the interests of children to the fore. What is not apparent to us at present is: a. whether there were any actual current - as opposed to past - concerns about safeguarding (not home education) which justified a s.17 assessment and a home visit based on safeguarding powers; b. why, if the information on home education of the children was as sparse as it seems, the authority did not go down the route clearly provided for in legislation and explained in the Department's guidelines ie service of a notice under s.437(1) requiring information on home education, and if the authority were to still not be satisfied, service of a school attendance order - which can be followed by prosecution if necessary. You quoted the relevant guidance in your letter of ... but so far as we can see this procedure was not followed. ... pointed this out in his letter of ... but the point was not directly addressed in your reply of ...Any other comments you wish to make would be useful as well. There is no fixed date for the minister to write again to ... but it would be helpful if you could let us have a reply in the next couple of weeks.
Link


Wokingham February 2014

To Wokingham from Stephen Bishop, DfE 10 February 2014
We spoke today about some correspondence we have received from ... via ... about home education, and in particular the powers of local authorities. He has drawn our attention to some revised internal guidance which you have drawn up for procedures when a child is known to taken out of school for home education. The tension between safeguarding considerations and the rights of parents to home educate is a matter of interest to the Department, and we told Mr that we would be contacting you for a copy of your revised guidance, as he had suggested. So it would be helpful for us to receive this, together with any other material or observations you think might be helpful. Our intention is to take this matter further with local authority interests, probably via the Association of Directors of Children's Services, and I hope you would have no objection to your material being used as part of that. As discussed, a reply after half term will be fine.
Link


Waltham Forest September 2014

To Waltham Forest from Stephen Bishop DfE 27 September 2013
The reason the school does not appear on the Ofsted site is that because it was only opened on 24 June, it has not yet had its first inspection report (pre-registration reports are not published). It will be fully inspected by Ofsted in the course of this academic year. So far as elective home education is concerned, there is no legal obligation on a parent to notify a local authority of a home educated pupil or that a pupil is being educated in an independent school. If a pupil is being educated at a school and is taken off the roll because the parent has notified the school that the child is being home educated, then the school, even if independent, must notify the LA. But that is a rather different matter.
Link


Norfolk September 2013

To Norfolk LA from Stephen Bishop, DfE 15 September 2013
Thank you. I am currently on leave but will look in detail at this when I return on 23 September. In the meantime I am pleased that further progress seems to have been made.
Link


Norfolk August 2013

To Norfolk LA from Stephen Bishop, DfE August 8 2013

We have previously exchanged emails about this case, and you confirmed that a school attendance order had not been served on [redacted] who is [redacted]. As you know [redacted] wrote to her MP [redacted] supplied a good deal of correspondence from herself and the authority and the local school, including a note of the 19 July 'fast-track' meeting, which she did not sign. [Redacted] has now written to [redacted] confirming that the home education being provided does not need to be registered or approved by the authority, but explaining that the Council has to identify pupils who are not receiving a suitable full-time education.
It appears that the Council is in a problematic situation given the wish of [redacted] father for her to be educated at school, whereas [redacted] wishes to exercise her right to educate [redacted] at home, as she has done for some years. The note of the fast track meeting says that an ESO is not recommended and it would be better for the parents to co-operate. I should be grateful if you could let us know what plans the authority has to take forward this case, given that it seems that (a) the parents hold opposed views and (b) no attempt has been made since the aborted January 29 meeting, to assess the quality of the home education provision which [redacted] is making for [redacted]
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Norfolk? July 2013

To [redacted]
From Stephen Bishop DfE
July 26 2013
[redacted]

Thanks for this confirmation which will enable us to do a reply.
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Norfolk July 2013

To Norfolk LA
From Stephen Bishop DfE

I spoke to you this afternoon about this case, which I discussed extensively with [redacted] yesterday. [Redacted] has written to [redacted] She has also discussed this with her at a constituency surgery. I am drafting a reply [redacted] The mother has sent us extensive copies of the correspondence between herself and the authority, including the invitation to a fast track meeting which was to have been held today. The one point which [redacted] was unable to clarify for me was whether a school attendance order has actually been served on [redacted] there is no sign of one in the correspndence we have been copied but I wanted to check this so that our reply could address the up to date situation. If you could let me know this as soon as you can, I'd be grateful.
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Norfolk? July 2013

To [redacted]
From Stephen Bishop DfE
July 18 2013

Dear [redacted]

I tried to phone you today, but understand you are out of the office until late afternoon. I will try and phone you again at about 4.45. I would like to talk to you about the current state of this case, which you have been dealing with. The child's mother [redacted] has written to [redacted] and she had previously discussed the case with [redacted] at a constituency surgery event. I am drafting a reply [redacted] but before finalising this I should like to discuss the current position. Thank you
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Link Reference

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