Minister's Letter to Graham Stuart 2013
From Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families
To Graham Stuart MP
19 June 2013
Thank you for your letter of 20 May, addressed to the Secretary of State, about the changes to special educational needs (SEN) legislation in the Children and Families bill. I am replying as the minister responsible for the bill.
It was good to discuss the issue of home education with you at the report stage. I would like to reassure you that the bill would not restrict home education or increase the scrutiny expected of local authorities. The provisions in clause 22 and 23 of the bill are designed to ensure that a local authority responds where a child or young person's SEN are brought to its attention. Parents' option to home educate would remain. Clause 42, in fact, acts to preserve the option to home educate where a pupil has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), when, by definition, a child's SEN will have been brought to the attention of the authority. lt would do this by relieving the authority of its duty to provide where a parent chooses to home educate, although the local authority's responsibilities in respect of satisfying itself that provision is suitable would continue to apply. Clause 56 is intended to allow education for pupils with SEN to take place outside schools, while providing some protection to parents who want their child to remain in school.
Under current arrangements, and when provisions in the bill are enacted, subject to the will of Parliament, local authorities can provide support to parents of children with statements who are being home educated to help them meet the child's SEN. The department wrote to authorities about this, explaining that they are expected to consider whether their power to make special educational provision other than in school, including in the home environment, could be used to support parents when they are considering the suitability of provision being made by parents at home for children with SEN. Where an authority draws up a statement, or in future, an EHCP, which "names" home education as the right provision for the child, then it must make any additional special educational provision set out in part 3 of the statement.
During debate at the bill's report stage, we spoke about the position where parents take a child with a statement, or in future an EHCP, to home educate and the local authority's duty to assure itself that the provision the parents are making is suitable. I promised to write setting out the position.
I think at report stage we may have been talking at cross purposes. I entirely accept the point I think you were making that under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 there is no duty on local authorities to assure themselves that the provision being made by parents for home educated children is suitable. Under part IV of that act, however, there are duties on local authorities to assess a child's SEN, draw up a statement and arrange provision which meets the child's SEN and, where alternative provision is being made by the parent, to assure themselves that that provision is suitable. There are parallel arrangements in the bill.
Under clause 42 of the bill, as under section 324 of the Education Act 1996, the local authority has to secure the special educational provision in the EHCP, unless the child's parent or the young person has made suitable alternative arrangements. The local authority would have to assure itself that the parents are making suitable arrangements before its duty to arrange the special educational provision at the school named on the EHCP/statement was discharged. ln order to assure itself that the parental provision was suitable in accordance with clause 42(5), the local authority would not necessarily have to see the provision being made in the home any more than it currently does under section 324(5. lt has no right of access to the home anyway, but may be able to judge suitability through descriptions by the parents of what they are providing or through examples of the child's work. lf the authority is assured the provision is suitable, then it is relieved of its duty to make the special educational provision set out in the statement. It, however, remains under a duty to review the statement annually and should continue to be satisfied that suitable alternative arrangements are being maintained.
This is consistent with section 7 of the Education Act 1996, which says that the parents of children of compulsory school age shall cause them to receive efficient full time education which, among other things, is suitable to their SEN. Section 7 will continue to apply following royal assent for the bill. Local authorities would continue to have the power to arrange special educational provision to support parents in making suitable provision and, as I said during the report debate, I would strongly encourage local authorities to consider using this power when deciding whether parental provision is suitable. This power would be given by clause 56 of the bill. The parents of home educated children would also benefit, along with other parents, from the new duty on clinical commissioning groups to arrange the health provision set out in EHCPS.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families
Report + Third Reading: Ministerial Response to Graham Stuart MP June 11th 2013
Minister Ed Timpson at Report: My hon. Friend tabled amendments to part 3 in respect of children who are home-educated. I know, because we have discussed the issue, that he takes a keen interest in these matters, both as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on home education and as the Chair of the Select Committee on Education. He recently wrote to the Secretary of State about the Bill's implications for home educators. He will receive a reply shortly. In the meantime, I reassure him that the Bill will bring benefits to all children and young people with special educational needs, including those who are home-educated. In particular, clause 19 says that in exercising their functions under this part of the Bill, local authorities have to have regard to parents' views, wishes and feelings, which might, of course, include a wish for home education. [HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c217]
Minister Ed Timpson at Report: Parents will still have the right to educate their children at home. Where local authorities draw up education, health and care plans that say that home education is right for the child, the local authority will have a duty to arrange the special educational provision set out in the plan, in co-operation with the parents. [HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c217]
Minister Ed Timpson at Report: Clause 23 sets out which children and young people local authorities are responsible for under this part of the Bill. These will be children and young people who have already been identified by the authority or who have been brought to the authority’s attention as having, or possibly having, SEN. There is not that overarching forensic exercise of trying to locate each child.[HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c218]
Minister Ed Timpson at Report:Amendment 63 seeks to tie the definition of the suitability of any alternative arrangements that parents make for children with an EHC plan more closely to the definition of parents' right to home educate as set out in section 7 of the Education Act 1996. However, this is unnecessary as the provision in the amendment is already contained within the phrase "suitable alternative arrangements", so does not need to be spelled out in this way. Similarly, while I understand the concern that amendment 64 seeks to address, it is not necessary. Where a child has a plan that says that education provided in the home is the right provision for the child, the local authority could only cease the plan when it felt it was no longer necessary to meet the child’s needs, as set out in the legislation. [HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c218]
Minister Ed Timpson at Report: Where parents take a child out of school to home educate and are making suitable provision, as is the case now with statements, the local authority will be under a duty to review the plan annually to ensure that the provision that the parents are making continues to be suitable. The local authority could cease to maintain the plan only where it was decided it was no longer needed to meet the child's needs. Moreover, the new duty on commissioning bodies to arrange the health provision in the plan and the greater expectation that the social care provision will be made will mean that parents can expect that these will continue to be provided. There is further scope within the code of practice to provide clarity on these issues for local authorities, and no doubt my hon. Friend will want, through his connections with the home education lobby, to contribute to that consultation, which will be happening later this year. [HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c218]
Minister Ed Timpson at Report: Where a child has a plan that names a school as the appropriate environment in which to receive his or her education, parents will still be able to decide to home-educate; that is an important point. If they do, the local authority must assure itself that the parents are providing an education in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996 — that is, a full-time education that is suitable for the child's age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs. If the local authority is so assured, it will be relieved of its duty to make the special educational provision set out in the plan, just as it is now with regard to statements. However, local authorities will continue to have the power to help parents to make suitable provision in the home by providing support services. To take on the right hon. Gentleman's point, I would strongly encourage local authorities to consider exercising that power when making decisions about whether the provision being made by parents is suitable. [HC Deb, 11 June 2013, c217)]
Debat Report Commons June 2013
Report Commons June 2013
Home Education and SEN
Home Education and Statement SEN
Annual Review Statement SEN
What LAs Say About Home Education and SEN