Children's Social Care + Ofsted

Legal references on this page apply to England.


This page began as an exploration of how social workers might become involved in the lives of home educating families. By 2017 1 in 5 local authorities are rated inadequate and have substantial outside intervention measures in place, which I have analysed in detail here. Decision-making in children’s social care Quantitative data analysis July 2016

The attitude of some Ofsted personnel continues to be an issue for home educators. I monitor Ofsted inspections of local authority children's services since it seems to have an impact on the way home educating families are treated.

Scroll down or click here for home education quotes from Ofsted inspection reports.

Ofsted's remit expanded greatly in 2007 and has continued to grow, for example with the joint special educational needs and disability inspections, and the joint CQC "deep dive" thematic inspections which are being undertaken separately from the safeguarding inspections.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, former head of Ofsted, had a particular obsession with how children were being educated if they were not in settings inspected by Ofsted. In media interviews he frequently mixed up references to home education, illegal schools, and alternative provision. Scroll down or click here for links from my blog as shown below.

My blog also discusses other topics which could influence the children's workforce and which may affect home educators: Local Government Association and Illegal Schools September 2016; NSPCC Common Themes Serious Case Reviews May 2016; NSPCC Meeting 2 April 2016; NSPCC Meeting February 2016; Changes to NSPCC Page on Home Education and SCRs January 2016; Issues With Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Serious Case Reviews January 2016; New Government Advice on Safeguarding and Information Sharing March 2015.

Introduction Law Children's Social Care Professor Luke Clements.

Home Education and Child Protection

As I explain here, once parents notify the school that they are home educating, this could prompt a review of the family's circumstances which might include prior child protection concerns or outstanding problems with the school.

Once the school has received the appropriate written notification from parents regarding home education, the law does not provide for the school to keep a pupil on roll while "background checks" are carried out. More

Where the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan (formerly known as "being on the Child Protection Register") local authorities are required to exercise their functions with regard to promoting the safety and welfare of the child. There is no provision in law which prevents children on a Child Protection Plan from being home educated. Proposals to change the law to permit this were dropped by the Government in 2010

4.7 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.
Government's Home Education Guidelines

Home Education and Social Services

As with all families, whether a child attends school or is home educated, children's social care services may become involved with a child when the family requests help for a child or where another agency or individual makes a child protection referral to social services.

The Department for Education has taken issue with Hackney for referring a family to social care simply because a child had not been "seen", querying "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". The Minister subsequently wrote that "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."

Ofsted New ILACS Inspection Framework 2018

At the end of November 2017, Ofsted published the framework for its new inspection regime ahead of a full rollout in January 2018, announcement here Click here for Framework, Evaluation Criteria, Inspector Guidance and Child Level Data Annex A. Read more here

Authorities judged to be ‘good’ or better will be inspected for a one-week short inspection every three years; authorities judge to be ‘requires improvement to be good’ will be inspected for two weeks every three years; authorities rated ‘inadequate’ will be visited quarterly. Authorities rated above ‘inadequate’ will also receive at least one focused visit between their short or standard inspections. Those rated ‘inadequate’ across all or most areas will repeat a full single inspection, while local authorities with only some areas ‘inadequate’ may be subject to a ‘post-monitoring single inspection’, which is a shorter inspection under the single inspection framework.

Ofsted Single Inspection Framework

In November 2013 Ofsted moved to the Single Inspection Framework (SIF) for local authorities. Local authorities get very little notice of these inspections.

Paragraph 77 of latest Ofsted Inspection Handbook (February 2017) says "The HMI with an education or learning background will contribute across the scope of the inspection, with a particular focus on tracking the experiences of children and young people receiving early help, the experiences of children missing and absent from education." Paragraph 115 also says inspectors will usually want to talk by telephone to the lead managers responsible for monitoring children missing from school and elective home education. Page 100 has more detail about CME questions, although it wrongly refers to the 2013 CME guidance which was actually substantially revised in September 2016. The latest Ofsted Framework (February 2017) says on page 45 that Ofsted will ask for the number of children who are electively home educated known to the authority.

However, despite the handbook and framework clearly stating that the focus is on children for whom a school place cannot be found or who are on roll with a school but not receiving full-time education, the Children Missing Education section of the inspection reports has often included irrelevant or inappropriate judgements about the elective home education service. This was recognised and addressed by Ofsted in March 2015, when they told inspectors that 'the statutory duty on local authorities (LAs) to identify as far as possible those children not receiving a suitable education does not extend to home-educated children'

The latest revised Ofsted Inspection Handbook on page 65 point 2.05 under Performance information required to support the inspection says that Ofsted will ask LAs about the number of home educated children known to the LA. Point 2.05 can also be found on page 47 in the Ofsted Framework and Evaluation Schedule February 2017. (NB 2.06 does NOT refer to elective home education)

Background: Ofsted FOI 2012 Ofsted memo 2013 Michael Wilshaw at Education Committee February 2013 Ofsted Home Education Exams Support 2013 "We will be asking if local authorities are supporting children at home and funding access to qualifications and examinations".

In 2015 Ofsted increased the number of inspectors on a visit (now normally 8, 7 from social care and 1 from education) Ofsted has been consistently late with these inspections.

NB the Ofsted Report on Children Missing Out on Education November 2013 had a disclaimer at the foot of page 7 "This report does not apply to pupils whose parents have taken the decision to electively home educate them."

Ofsted Home Education Guidance 2015

At the end of March 2015 I received a message from Matthew Brazier (Ofsted’s social care policy team) confirming that Ofsted had provided inspectors with new advice and guidance about elective home education. I was provided with a summary which I put online via my blog and website. The message went on to say that the issue "will be addressed again during training for inspectors this month (and in other meetings). We expect to see an increased, and consistent, clarity in the references to home education in the inspection reports."

Ofsted FOIOfsted Advice NoteOn November 20th 2015 Ofsted released the full unpublished advice note via FOI [Link] I have reproduced it below:

Ofsted Elective home education (EHE) – advice for inspectors

The single inspection framework requires local authorities (LAs), as part of the Annex A return, to provide the number of children who are electively home educated as known to the authority.

The data we receive about home-educated children, alongside a report in respect of children not in full-time education, are important elements of evidence for inspectors to evaluate how effectively local authorities monitor the progress and safety of children who may be vulnerable and/or need support.

However, home-educated children are not, by definition, all in need of protection and help.

It is crucial that inspectors take the following into account during single inspections:

  • Ofsted does not have a mandate to inspect the quality of EHE.
  • The statutory duty on LAs to identify as far as possible those children not receiving a suitable education does not extend to home-educated children; LAs do not have a duty to evaluate the quality of the education provided for home educated children - e.g. through routine visits - although they may intervene if it appears that the education is unsuitable.
  • Home visits may only take place with the consent of the parent, unless there is a safeguarding concern which would justify the use of safeguarding powers to carry out a home visit whatever the child’s mode of education
  • The guidance does, however, encourage LAs as a matter of good practice to build positive relationships with home educators; this is likely to increase access to educational support for children and parents when they need it and provide a sound basis for responding to any concerns that may arise
  • The departmental guidelines on EHE explain that LAs should provide accessible, clear written information that sets out the legal position, roles and responsibilities of LAs and parents in relation to EHE. They can provide advice and support services, and may offer a registration facility but this must be voluntary.

Reports must, as far as possible, avoid any ambiguity which may lead to a misunderstanding of either the extent of local authority duties or Ofsted’s expectations in relation to home educated children.

Contact: (name and contact details removed)

May 2015 / Page 1 of 1

Home Education Quotes from Ofsted Inspection Reports

Inspection Reports in SIF [Single Inspection Framework up to end 2017] since Ofsted's new home education guidance issued in April 2015:

  1. December 2017 to January 2018 Manchester, Norfolk, Doncaster, Sandwell, Cumbria, Somerset, Buckinghamshire, Rotherham
  2. September to December 2017 Blackburn with Darwen, Camden, Poole, Richmond, Shropshire, South Tyneside
  3. September 2017 Croydon, Leicester, North Lincolnshire, Walsall
  4. January to August 2017 Barnet, Bath and North East Somerset, Bedford, Bracknell Forest, Central Bedfordshire, Coventry, East Riding, Gloucestershire, Harrow, Islington, Kent, Knowsley, Leicestershire, Merton, Newcastle, North Somerset, North Tyneside, Redcar and Cleveland, Rutland, South Gloucestershire, Southwark, Stockport, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Warwickshire, West Berkshire, Wigan, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire, York
  5. January to December 2016 Birmingham, Bromley, Bury, Cheshire West and Chester, City of London, Cornwall, Dorset, Dudley, Durham, Ealing, Gateshead, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Havering, Isles of Scilly, Kensington and Chelsea, Kirklees, Lewisham, Luton, Middlesbrough, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Reading, Redbridge, Sefton, Slough, Solihull, Southend, Stockton on Tees, Suffolk, Tameside, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Triborough, Wakefield, Wandsworth, West Sussex, Westminster, Wirral
  6. July August 2017 Central Bedfordshire, North Somerset, Stockport, Merton, Warwickshire, Bracknell Forest, Islington, Newcastle, Bath and North East Somerset, Barnet, West Berkshire
  7. June 2017 Kent, Gloucestershire, Derby, North Tyneside, Southwark, Knowsley, Coventry, Tower Hamlets, Redcar and Cleveland, Bedford
  8. March 2017 Harrow Wigan Wolverhampton
  9. February 2017 South Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Rutland, East Riding, Worcestershire, Havering, Tameside
  10. November 2016 Birmingham, Redbridge, Milton Keynes, Kirklees
  11. September 2016 Wakefield, Wirral, Hackney, City of London
  12. July August 2016 Solihull, Southend, Greenwich, Reading, Stockton, Ealing, Telford and Wrekin
  13. June 2016 Sefton Bromley Cornwall Isles of Scilly
  14. April May 2016 Northumberland, Northamptonshire, Durham, Bury, Dorset and Thurrock
  15. March 2016 Gateshead, Triborough (Hammersmith Westminster Kensington) Luton, Dudley
  16. January February 2016 Suffolk, Slough, Wandsworth, Cheshire West and Chester, Middlesbrough
  17. January 2016 Lewisham and West Sussex
  18. June 2015 to January 2016 Brighton, Salford, Nottinghamshire, Sunderland, Kingston on Thames, Stoke on Trent, Darlington, Wiltshire, Peterborough, Cheshire East, Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Medway, Brent, Torbay, Wokingham

Deep Dive Multi-Agency Inspections CSE + Missing Children

Joint targeted area inspections include a ‘deep dive’ investigation – an evaluation of children and young people’s experiences covering Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HMI Constabulary and HMI Probation. The first theme examined was children at risk of sexual exploitation and those missing from home, school or care, which was examined in five inspections with the findings drawn together in this report Time to listen’- A Joined Up Approach to Child Sexual Exploitation and Missing Children.

NB, "Children not in full-time school education" on page 11 of Deep Dive Guidance Child sexual exploitation and children missing from home, care or education, January 2016, is NOT elective home education but "the same as item 2.06 in Annex A of Ofsted’s single inspection framework for local authorities" ie "a report on children, for whom the local authority is responsible, who are of school age and who are not in receipt of full-time school education at the time of inspection. This report should include for each child: type of educational provision that they are receiving, including home tuition, number of hours provision per week (in particular whether they are receiving more or less than 25 hours per week), type of exclusion (if the child has been excluded), date when alternative provision commenced."

All JTAI links are posted here. See also Ofsted link JTAI February to August 2016

Deep Dive Multi-Agency Inspections Domestic Abuse

JTAI Framework and Guidance August 2016 The theme from September 2016 to March 2017 was domestic abuse

Salford, October 2016 (Comment on verdict here)

Lincolnshire December 2016 (Comment on verdict here)

Wiltshire December 2016 (Comment on verdict here)

Hampshire January 2017 (Comment on verdict here)

Bradford April 2017 (Comment on verdict here)

Hounslow published June 2017 comment on verdict here

Deep Dive Multi-Agency Inspections Living with Neglect

JTAI Framework and Guidance April 2017

The theme from May 2017 to December 2017 is children living with neglect which also includes links to inspection reports.

Wokingham July 2017. More

Peterborough August 2017. Social workers limited time to spend with families More

Cheshire West and Chester November 2017, most children receive timely and appropriate action to reduce the risk and impact of neglect but lack of clear measures for monitoring progress in plans for children experiencing neglect More

Bristol December 2017

Stockton on Tees January 2018

Haringey January 2018 More (Parents spoken to by inspectors stated that there is insufficient early help, and that too much onus is put on statutory social work services ... A significant intelligence gap exists in relation to the submission of Merlin reports handled by the police in the MASH due to an absence of police national database (PND) checks being conducted prior to a referral being made. The reason for this is that at the time of the inspection there were no staff trained in the MASH to access this information. Previous backlogs have been managed through a decision to file approximately 600 Merlin reports without sharing them further, on the basis that the child had not come to notice for six weeks following the original Merlin submission. Concerns are compounded as managers and senior leaders were unaware of this gap until it was highlighted by inspectors)

Working Together Guidance 2015

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013 was replaced in March 2015 by this document. By far the biggest change was between the 2010 Guidance and the 2013 Guidance, therefore the vast majority of what is said about the 2013 guidance below applies equally to the 2015 guidance. Click here for my blog post on the new information sharing guidance signposted in the 2015 Working Together.

There is no mention of home education in the 2015 guidance (or in the previous 2013 guidance)

The 2013 (and subsequent 2015) guidance removed large sections of non-statutory practice guidance. The distinction between initial and core assessments was replaced by ongoing locally developed assessments of need. Local Safeguarding Children Boards are free to use any model for Serious Case Reviews ie the Government has drawn back from a previous idea that all SCRS should use systems methodology. The focus is on multi-agency co-operation and early intervention.

Concerns were expressed at the removal of timescales in the draft guidance and some statutory timescales were reinstated for key elements of a children in need assessment, including a decision about the type of response required within one working day of receiving a referral, and 45 days time limit for assessment. Requirements around the reporting of allegations were tightened up.

Local Government Lawyer Briefing "A child in need assessment now sits alongside a child protection enquiry as a "statutory assessment". Every such assessment has the social worker assessing parental behaviour and potentially supplanting the parent as the arbiter of the child's interests...The last reference to consent is prior to a referral to social care. The reference to "significant harm" as the threshold for compulsion has gone.

Revised Working Together 2017

The Government is consulting on changes to Working Together to Safeguard Children. DfE says "These revisions are being made largely to reflect the legislative changes introduced through the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and new 'child death review' guidance." The consultation closes on December 31st 2017.

Wood Review LSCBs

In its response to the review carried out by Alan Wood (May 2016) the Government confirmed that it will scrap Local Serious Case Reviews and amend Local Safeguarding Children Boards. This was taken up in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 but the majority of provisions in the Act have no commencement date. The Wood Review also briefly mentioned home education but this was not picked up by the Government. More.

Alan Wood was Director of Hackney Children's Services from 2001 to 2015, and President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services from 2014-15. Under Wood, Hackney handed control of education to The Learning Trust, a not-for-profit organisation, many of whose employees now work for the council.

What Replaced Every Child Matters?

Shortly after the 2010 General Election, a leaked memo revealed that the Government required a change of emphasis in all policy documents, replacing "Five outcomes/ECM" with "Help children achieve more" and replacing "safeguarding" with "child protection" to make it clearer that the new focus was on demonstrable improvements for the most vulnerable children rather than attempting to ensure the safety of every child.

The Munro Review made 15 recommendations aimed at shifting the child protection system from bureaucracy/compliance to a system which focuses more on whether children are being effectively helped and protected.

Statutory Guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education

Statutory Guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education was revised in September 2016 to incorporate Prevent duties around radicalisation. (More) Further revisions were announced in December 2017.

Child Deaths in Birmingham

Ofsted pointed out in 2013 that Birmingham would seem to be a prime example of the need for Serious Case Reviews to focus on systems and shared learning from mistakes rather than on scapegoating or paying a PR consultant to shift the blame elsewhere without addressing underlying issues.

The practice of sending the police to home educating families to carry out "safe and well checks" was strongly criticised in the Khyra Ishaq Serious Case Review. Additional recommendations from the Khyra Ishaq Serious Case Review focused on doctors as well as the police. It was stated that GPs should not rely on handwritten notes, that GPs should have safeguarding training, that GPs should have training in domestic abuse (since the GP didn't act on the mother's report of abuse) and also that the police should have safeguarding training. The Serious Case Review was badly written and was prepared free of charge by the NSPCC. It followed the line that the best method of defence was to attack. It is far more about deflecting blame than about a systems-based analysis of how the tragedy could have been predicted or prevented. For a better understanding of the implications of the case for Birmingham Children's Services it is recommended that readers study Mrs Justice King summary

When the Khyra Ishaq case was discussed by the Education Committee witnesses were reminded that the education welfare service in Birmingham did not follow basic rules on child protection. The Chair stated that "Social services did not follow the process, though—they did not even know the process. They thought that if a child was home educated, they did not have a welfare role. They thought that that welfare role was the home educated team's job, but it wasn't and it never was. It was quite clear in all the guidelines on home education and on children missing school, yet they were confused about the most basic functions of their role in protecting children."

Birmingham SCR October 3rd 2013 Keanu Williams: "We failed as senior managers, individual organisations and collectively as a Board to ensure staff knew what do to and were actually doing it...professionals in the various agencies involved had missed a significant number of opportunities to intervene and take action. They did not meet the standards of basic good practice when they should have reported their concerns, shared and analysed information and followed established procedures for Section 47 Enquiries (child protection investigations) and a range of assessments including medical assessments and Child Protection Conferences"

In 2016 it was confirmed that Birmingham children's services would be taken from council control and placed with a voluntary trust. More

CPS Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

Crown Prosecution Service Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse October 2013

National Statistics on Social Services Referrals Statistics on children referred to and assessed by children's social services, last updated November 2017

Reporting Serious Incidents to DfE

I received this from DfE March 27th 2015 in response to a query: “The LA are not responsible for reporting serious incidents to DfE. They report them to Ofsted who enter all cases onto a database which we have access to. The same procedures for reporting cases apply to children who are home educated as children who attend school. In other words all serious incidents are notified to Ofsted and we find out about them from there.”

Link Reference

This article is The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. click here
  2. "deep dive" thematic inspections
  3. my blog
  4. Introduction Law Children's Social Care
  5. More
  6. dropped by the Government in 2010
  7. taken issue with Hackney
  8. here
  9. latest Ofsted Framework
  10. told inspectors
  11. Ofsted Home Education Exams Support 2013
  12. Ofsted Report on Children Missing Out on Education
  13. South Tyneside presentation
  14. here
  15. More
  16. More
  17. Birmingham SCR October 3rd 2013 Keanu Williams
  19. Crown Prosecution Service Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse