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We are writing to you as the parent/carer of a registered home educated child to inform you of the proposed changes to the Essex Home Education Advice (HEA) service.
As you may be aware, the Council is facing continuing cuts to funding from the government, but increased pressure on its budgets due to rising inflation, changes in the level of education funding received by the council and increasing demand for its services.
We need to review all services to decide whether or not they continue to represent a cost effective way for us to spend public money.
Parents who choose to home educate are required to ensure that their children receive a suitable education. The Council is not required to assist with this but it currently does provide some limited support via the HEA service.
It is proposed that the HEA service will be replaced by web based support and optional workshops as set out in this letter.
The Council currently provides a HEA service which provides limited support to parents who home educate. The service consists of two staff members who offer advice and guidance through the support available and discuss appropriate provision for the child. This takes place through an annual assessment which is offered to help parents monitor the progress of their child's learning, conducted through visits to the home or parents submitting an annual plan. The current number of children in Essex who are registered as home educated is around 700. The service makes an appointment to visit all children at least annually.
Our understanding is that some parents find the service very helpful but others do not place the same value on the service. In particular arranged visits are cancelled or parents are unavailable when the advisors visit. Advisors do not have a formal role in enforcing the law requiring all children to be educated, but they can make referrals to the Local Authority Education Welfare Officers.
The proposal is to remove the HEA service with effect from March 2015. Instead we propose to provide support through the enhancement of the current elective Home Education website to provide further advice and guidance. In addition, workshop based sessions will be introduced for elective home educators to attend on a voluntary basis with or without their child(ren). The workshops will be designed to offer support and will focus on learning techniques and specific topics. It is intended that home educating parents will be consulted, prior to these workshops being offered, to ascertain their views on the topics and the frequency (eg termly, bi-annually) This could lead to those parents who value the service having more support than they currently receive.
Education Welfare Officers will continue to take action where there are concerns that parents who are home educating are not providing a suitable education. In these cases, Education Welfare Service will - as now - informally request evidence of suitable education provision and take formal enforcement steps if parents fail to respond.
The proposed changes would enable the Council to continue to meet its statutory obligations in respect of children receiving a suitable education and safeguarding* whilst respecting the rights of parents who opt to electively home educate and do not feel that they require any support with this role.
If you have any questions or concerns relating to the proposed changes, please contact us (details below) by 29th October. All responses will be considered before the final decision is taken in December 2014, which will be communicated to you via a letter.
Please send your questions or concerns to:
Essex County Council County Hall Market Road Chelmsford CM1 1QH
*Note 1: Statutory responsibilities. 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:
If it appears to a local authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving a 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.
LAs also have a duty under section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred upon them in their capacity as local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.