Suitable Education in New Guidance 2

The new draft guidance provides a checklist for “suitable education” even though it opens by saying “A local authority could consider the following in its assessment of suitability” rather than “should” or “must”. “Assessment of suitability” is new and new points have also been introduced about literacy and numeracy.

The government wants to change the home education guidance for local authorities and has published a draft showing the proposed new version. There is a public consultation which will run till January 2024. Scroll down for a link to my Starting Page with all the consultation documents. 

Relevant Consultation Questions

  • Q14 Does the guidance clearly set out the factors that should be considered when assessing whether education appears suitable?
  • Q15 Is it helpful to provide separate sections on (i) how local authorities decide whether a child appears to be receiving suitable education and (ii) what to do when it appears that suitable education is not being received?
  • Q16 Is the guidance clear on what is considered a proportionate level of engagement between local authorities and parents when establishing whether home education appears to be suitable as part of the informal process?
  • Q17 Do you have any comments regarding how suitable education is outlined in the guidance or further information that illustrates your answers above?

My Comments

  1. The current guidance already has a bullet point list which is broadly the same (although in the 2019 guidance it appears much later in the document at paragraph 9.4.) There is a link to my page on the current guidance at the foot of the page.
  2. Although much remains the same there are subtle shifts which have a significant impact overall
  3. New points have been introduced about literacy and numeracy, which I have highlighted below
  4. Prescribing standards for the child to be achieving NOW in order that they might have more choices LATER is new
  5. The suggestion that the local authority should be measuring the child’s levels of literacy and numeracy is also new and has massive implications if LAs feel parents are not co-operating to the fullest extent
  6. “Assessment of suitability” is the big idea in the new draft guidance. The bullet point list in the current (2019) guidance says “The term ‘suitable’ should be seen in the following light” whereas the new draft specifically talks about “assessment of suitability” – implying that this is an active process of gathering the evidence required to complete the assessment and make a judgement of “suitability”

Bullet Point List in Paragraph 3.9

I have reproduced 3.9 a – g below. Where I have left anything out – because it was just taking up too much space – I show there is something missing by putting …

  • a. a suitable education enables a child to participate fully in life in the UK by including sufficient secular education. This means that even if the EHE is primarily designed to equip a child for life within a smaller community it should not foreclose the child’s options in later life to adopt some other mode of living, and to be capable of living on an autonomous basis so far as the individual chooses to do so. For instance, a suitably educated child should be literate in English and numerate appropriate to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and any SEN they may have;”
  • b. notwithstanding (a), the EHE provision does not need to follow specific content such as the National Curriculum, or the requirement in academy funding agreements for a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum, nor the independent school standards prescribed by the Secretary of State. Conversely, however, if the EHE does consist of one or more of those, then that would likely constitute strong indication that it was ‘suitable’ in terms of s.7;”
  • c. parents should be able to provide information to the local authority so they can establish the child’s levels of literacy and numeracy and whether they are appropriate to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN. This information may include detail on how the parents plan to support the child’s acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills. Although it may be a good starting point to assess whether the EHE has produced attainment in line with the national expected norms for children of the same age, it must be borne in mind that the s.7 requirement is that the education is suitable to the child’s ability and aptitude as well as their age. If a child’s aptitude is significantly above or below what might be regarded as ‘average’ then allowances must be made for that; and similarly, the EHE may legitimately cater specifically for particular aptitudes which a child has, even if that means reducing other content;”
  • d. if a family taught children values or behaviour which were in conflict with ‘Fundamental British Values’ as defined in government guidance (for example by seeking to promote extremism, or advocating violence towards people on the basis of their protected characteristics under equality law)
  • e. factors such as isolation from a child’s peers can indicate possible unsuitability. Suitable education is not simply a matter of academic learning but should also involve social opportunities;”
  • f. any assessment of suitability should consider the environment in which EHE is being provided. Most obviously, home accommodation and/or learning environments which are unsafe, excessively noisy and/or cramped are likely to make it very difficult for a child to learn and make satisfactory progress. Environmental factors such as these may therefore prevent a child receiving suitable education and should be considered in assessing suitability in a specific case if present on a significant scale if an unregistered independent education inspection uncovers potentially unsafe premises (such as due to health and safety concerns) then this will be considered when assessing the suitability of a child’s education if that child attends the setting as part of their EHE provision”
  • g. local authorities should not set rigid criteria for suitability which have the effect of forcing parents to undertake education in particular ways, for example in terms of the pattern of a typical day, subjects to be followed and so on. It would not be appropriate for local authorities to only view suitable EHE as essentially ‘school at home’. Some parents may decide that a formal approach is necessary; others may decide to make a more informal provision that is more appropriate to the child. Whatever the views of the parents, the key focus for the authority should be on suitability for the child in question and progress that is being made.”

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