Case Study 3 LA Draft Guidance

Preliminary Notice in School Attendance Order Process

In case study 3 of the proposed new home education guidance for local authorities the LA has some follow-up questions about literacy and numeracy progress after receiving the parents’ written report. We are told that “Efforts to resolve this informally are unsuccessful and so Angela issues a preliminary notice (section 437(1) of the 1996 Act)” Scroll down to see my comments.

Are Case Studies Helpful

The consultation document says “We have updated the EHE guidance for local authorities to include case studies on EHE topics that can sometimes cause misinterpretation and result in queries being raised to the Department. Through these case studies, we have tried to clarify a few factors within the process of EHE”

The consultation asks whether you think the case studies are helpful. I would say it depends what you mean by helpful. If you are a local authority wanting to carry out “routine annual reviews” and you have accepted written reports in the past but now want to put a stop to this approach, then I presume you will find case study 3 helpful, in fact you may even have written it.

Remember though that the Department interprets helpful as meaning fewer queries because the guidance will have made things clearer. However case study 3 is vague and imprecise at a number of key points, for example there is nothing about what “informal efforts” might might look like or whether the formal notice has anything – or nothing – to do with the Early Help referral. The waters are further muddied with a passing reference to “additional information provided” after the meeting, implying that the meeting itself may not have been sufficient (or indeed necessary) This case study will only INCREASE the amount of work for the Department.

Relevant Consultation Questions

  • Q28 Have you found the inclusion of case studies in the EHE guidance for local authorities helpful?
  • Q29 Are there other issues you would like to see us address through case studies or further information that illustrates your answer above?


The Department for Education plans to issue new non-statutory guidance on home education and has published a draft for comment. The deadline for giving your views is January 18th 2024, more information here including a link to all the documents

My Comments

  • The first thing that strikes me is the casual reference to “a routine annual review” – paragraph 6.3 of the draft refers more neutrally to annual engagement” – presumably to escape any charge of “routine monitoring”
  • “Engagement” is the new buzz word that can mean anything you want it to mean – it appears 14 times in the new draft
  • Each year for the past two years parents have sent a written report about their daughter’s home education and no concerns or queries have arisen on either occasion, however THIS time the LA DOES have follow up questions
  • Case Study 3 is in a different category from Case Studies 1 and 2, because it appears in a section of the draft guidance headed What local authorities do when it appears that suitable EHE is not being received – hence it hinges on when to escalate from informal to formal enquiries (the “routine annual review” is here presented as part of the INFORMAL stage)
  • The LA’s follow up questions happen to be about “numeracy and literacy learning and the progress being made” with the LA requesting “information on literacy and numeracy progress”
  • For the purpose of this case study it is necessary that the family be shown not to have provided ANY information about literacy and numeracy the first time round and then REFUSING to provide further information; it specifically says parents “are only willing to provide the submitted report”
  • It is NOT specifically stated that the LA said there had to be a meeting and/or that the family had to provide examples/samples of written work, nevertheless, once it has been escalated to formal inquiries – the preliminary notice under s437 (1) (scroll down for my School Attendance Order page) it turns out that a meeting can fix things after all
  • To muddy the waters further, it transpires that there has been a referral to Early Help, hinting at some problem in or with the family and thereby providing further justification for a meeting
  • The meeting in Case Study 3 is NOT in-person, rather it is a detailed virtual call”, possibly for those of us who had been speculating how LAs could afford all the travel and time involved in hundreds and hundreds of in-person “engagements” (albeit presented here as a special favour to parents who are unwilling to meet in person)
  • It has to be a virtual call rather than a phone call though to leave some ambiguity as to whether the “detailed examples of literacy and numeracy work” relate to answering the LA’s questions in some detail – which could have been done via email or in a phone call, if we disregard the wild card Early Help referral, or whether they actually do shared screen or hold up samples of written work to prove that it has been completed