Elective Home Education. Policy and Procedures

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1 Elective Home Education Policy and Procedures

2 Contents 1. Principles of Elective Home Education 2. Rationale 3. Parents Rights and Responsibilities The Law relating to EHE 4. Electing to home educate 5. The Head Teacher s Duty 6. The Local Authority s Duty 7. Special Educational Needs 8. The Role of the Local Authority 9. Procedures on notification of Elective Home Education 10. Safeguarding 11. Possible adverse effect of the policy 12. Monitoring implementation NB This policy should be read in conjunction with the RBC: Elective Home Education (EHE) - Information and Guidance for Parents and Carers The Children Missing Education Policy and Procedures Safeguarding Children Missing Pupils Procedures in Reading 2 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

3 1. Principles 1.1 Reading Borough Directorate of Education and Children Services recognises that parents have the right to choose to home educate in accordance with the Education Act Reading Borough Council seeks to foster positive relationships with Elective Home Education families (EHE) built on mutual respect so that the best interests of the child are safeguarded. 1.2 This policy document applies to those children whose parents/carers 1 have chosen to home educate their children. It does not refer to children who have a home tutor provided by the Local Authority. It sets out parents rights to educate their children at home and their responsibilities, the legal duties and responsibilities of Headteachers and those of the Local Authority. The policy contributes to Reading Borough Council s overall aim of ensuring that all children and young people: Are healthy Stay safe Enjoy and achieve Make a positive contribution Achieve economic well-being 2. Rationale The Local Authority acknowledges that: 2.1 All children have a right to an education that is appropriate to their age, ability and aptitude. 2.2 All children have the right to receive a suitable education. 2.3 All children and young people receiving EHE should be encouraged to achieve their full potential so that they can take advantage of the opportunities offered to them in Local Authority throughout life and become valued as responsible and equal members of their community. 2.4 Parents have the legal responsibility for ensuring that their children are properly educated and have the right to choose to educate their child, other than at school, according to their philosophical, ideological or religious views and beliefs. 2.5 Parents have the right to choose how to educate their children. 2.6 The Local Authority has a legal duty to ensure that all children of compulsory school age receive a suitable education. [Education Act 1996, section 436a] 1 For the purposes of this document, parents refers to anyone who has parental responsibility and anyone who has the actual day to day care of the child 3 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

4 2.7 The Local Authority aims to encourage a positive working relationship with parents who choose to withdraw their child from school, for the purpose of home education. 2.8 Where parents decide to educate at home, they may need time to establish their home education practice. Therefore, if required, our dialogue with parents will be supportive and regular. 2.9 As well as their educational needs, we have the responsibility to take the personal, health and welfare interests of individual children into account, at all times. 3. Parents Rights and Responsibilities (The Law relating to EHE) 3.1 The Local Authority recognises that home educating parents and carers are responsible for ensuring that their child receives an efficient and suitable education. The Local Authority is not responsible for prescribing the ways parents should educate. 3.2 Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that: The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable: (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Section 9 of the Education Act 1996 states that: In exercising or performing all of their respective powers and duties under the Education Acts the Secretary of State, local education authorities and the funding authorities shall have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure. The right of a parent to choose to home educate is therefore enshrined in law. This legal duty is underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 2 of Protocol 1, which states that: No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect 4 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

5 the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions. 3.3 Case law 2 defines a suitable education as one which: primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child s options in later years to adopt some other form of life he wishes to do so 3.4 Case law 2 defines an efficient education as one which: Achieves what it sets out to achieve. 4. Electing to home educate 4.1 Providing a child is not a registered pupil at a school the parent is not required to: seek permission to educate other than at school take the initiative in informing the Local Authority have regular contact with the Local Authority meet with the Local Authority 4.2 When a child is already registered in a school, the parents must formally deregister them by writing to the headteacher stating their intention to home educate other than at school. 5. The Head Teacher s Duty 5.1 It is the duty of the headteacher to inform the Local Authority within 10 school days when a parent has confirmed in writing his or her decision to educate his or her child otherwise than at school. On receipt of the letter, the pupil s name will be deleted from the admission register and recorded on a register kept by Reading Education Welfare Service of children being home educated. 5.2 If a parent does not inform the Headteacher in writing a child will remain on roll and the parent may be liable to prosecution for non-attendance. 5.3 The DCSF guidelines make it explicit that: Schools must not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home as a way of avoiding an exclusion or because the child has a poor attendance record. In the case of exclusion, they must follow the statutory guidance. If the pupil has a poor attendance record, the 2 Phillips and Brown revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

6 school and local authority must address the issues behind the absenteeism and use the other remedies available to them The Local Authority s Duty 6.1 The legal duty of Local Authorities is concerned only with children who appear not to be receiving a suitable education. However, case Law 4 established that a Local Authority may make informal enquiries of parents who are educating their children at home to establish that a suitable education is being provided. 6.2 Sections 437 and 443 of the Education Act 1996, dealing with school attendance orders, confers a duty on the Local Authority if it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving a suitable education. 6.3 The law also sets out the arrangements that a Local Authority will make in order to carry out its legal duties under the Act i.e. if it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving a suitable education If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving 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. Education Act 1996 s437 and s443. The difficulties faced by Local Authorities were summed up by Ofsted in 2010: The 1944 Education Act set out a parent s right to educate their child at home; this was confirmed in the 1996 Education Act. However, the parent is not required to inform either the local authority or any other public body that they are educating the child at home unless the child is to be removed from a special school. Local authorities therefore encounter serious barriers in carrying out their statutory duty to establish the identities, so far as it is possible to do so, of children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education and finding out whether home-educated children are receiving an education which is suitable, efficient and full-time, as required by the 1996 Education Act. The lack of definition in legislation or guidance about what constitutes a suitable education presents authorities with a further barrier to fulfilling their duties. (Local Authorities and Home Education) At the heart of these difficulties lie the following facts: 3 DCSF (2007) Elective Home Education: guidelines for Local Authorities 4 Phillips and Brown revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

7 Parents are not obliged to register their children as being home educated. Many cases may be unknown to the Authority, particularly if a child has never been to school. Parents are not obliged to inform the Local Authority of any change of address. On this basis, children could disappear. The requirements on parents are, at best, ambiguous. There is no statutory right to see the parent or the child or to enter the place at which the child is educated, including the home. Monitoring is not required in law and it is therefore difficult to engage with parents who are resistant or resentful of Local Authority contact. The above might lead a Local Authority to decide not to engage with monitoring Elective Home Education. However, despite clear difficulties and impediments, this Local Authority will do all it can to monitor each case which comes to its attention. This is viewed as important in order to safeguard children and to ensure that a suitable educational experience is provided, so children are enabled eventually to take their place in society and to contribute to it. Monitoring also provides the opportunity to offer parents advice and to signpost opportunities available. This is not a statutory role but is clearly desirable in the interests of supporting the children and families. The Local Authority subscribes strongly to its responsibility to act as Champion for the Child. 7. Special Educational Needs 7.1 Parents of a child who has a Statement of Special Educational Needs can educate them at home. However, if the child is on the roll of a special school the child s name may not be removed from the register of that school without the Local Authority s consent. Consent may not unreasonably be withheld. 7.2 The Local Authority s statutory duty to undertake an annual review of children with statements of special educational needs continues for those who are home educated. This review includes assessing whether the statement is still appropriate, requires amendment or might cease to be maintained. 7.3 Parents who home educate are entitled to apply for their child to be statemented through the normal Local Authority channels 7.4 If a child attends a special school then his/her name cannot be removed from roll until the Local Authority gives permission. 7.5 The Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 9 (2) 1996 states: a child who has under arrangements made by a Local Authority become a registered pupil at a Special School shall not be removed from the admission register of that school without the consent of the 7 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

8 Authority or, if that Authority refuses to consent, without a direction of the Secretary of State. In the case of pupils with dual enrolment at a school and Local Authority-run referral unit or special school, the consent of both proprietors is required. 8. The Role of the Local Authority 8.1 This section sets out the arrangements the Local Authority will make in order to carry out its statutory duties for children who are educated at home. 8.2 In order to carry out these duties, the Local Authority will: Provide a named EHE Co-ordinator to liaise with parents. The named officer will be suitably qualified to monitor the quality of education being provided and will be able to make an assessment against the legal definition; Provide information for parents enquiring about, or who are already, educating children at home. This information will be made available in community languages and alternative formats on request; Maintain a register of pupils being educated at home. As this is not a statutory duty it is acknowledged that this list may be incomplete. This will enable the named officer to make contact with parents to offer support and advice if requested; Recognise parents rights to decide upon the curriculum presented and the methods adopted; Ensure that the education provided is suitable; Recognise the rights of parents to choose how best to communicate how they are meeting their legal responsibilities; Inform parents if the education provided is suitable; Organise annual reviews for children with Statements of Special Educational Needs; Provide training, on the law and home education methods, for Officers who have contact with home-educating families; Encourage, consult and develop relationships with interested parties; Adhere to the Local Authority complaints procedure if a complaint is received. 8.3 If it appears to the Local Authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education the Local Authority may, after offering support and allowing parents a reasonable amount of time to address concerns, issue a school attendance order requiring the child to attend a named school. 8.4 The Local Authority may also receive information that a child is either not attending school and/or being home educated from a number of sources. These include: the Admissions team; Social Care; Truancy Patrols; Health services; Housing or other Local Authorities. If a child is not on roll at a school, the 8 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

9 Children Missing Education Officer should investigate. It should not be assumed that home education is being provided until a parent states that this is the case. 8.5 Parents need to be aware that any person nominated by the Authority to monitor and assess home education has a duty to report on any matters relating to health and safety or child protection issues. 9. Procedures on notification of Elective Home Education 9.1 An initial visit will always be made by the Elective Home Education Coordinator. Before arranging the initial home visit, the EHE Co-ordinator will seek to answer the following questions: Is the child in the care of a Local Authority? (This can be checked with Social Care). If yes, then contact with the allocated Social Worker must be made before contacting the family. Other Local Authority services involved with Children in Care must also be informed if a child is educated at home. Does the child have a statement of special education needs? (This can be checked with the Special Educational Needs Assessment Team). If yes, then contact must be made with the case worker before contacting the family. The requirements of the Statement must be met through Elective Home Education. Is the child known to Social Care? Does the child have a Child Protection Plan? Is the child a Child in Need? (This can be checked via the Social Care Access & Assessment Team). If yes, then contact must be made with the allocated Social Worker before contacting the family. If the child has been known to Social Care, but the case is not currently active, then a memo/letter must be sent to the Social Care Assessment Team informing them that the child is now educated at home. In all cases, the officer designated to monitor the family must be informed and, briefed as appropriate Is the child a Gypsy/Roma/Traveller child? This may not be apparent until contact with the family is made. If yes, then this information must be recorded and shared with anyone connected to the case. NB Exchange of data with the School Admissions Team, Schools and SEN, ensures that all families electing to home educate are known to the EHE Co-ordinator and can receive information about the policy providing that they have been on a school roll. 9 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

10 9.2 Initial contact with the family by the Elective Home Education Coordinator: The Elective Home Education Co-ordinator will send an appointment letter, or make personal contact, so that initial contact with the family can be made within one month of receiving information that the child is being home educated. This should allow time for the parent to prepare for the visit. There should be as little delay as possible in making this initial visit and Reading Borough Council aims to ensure that this happens within 10 school days. An initial visit will be made by the Elective Home Education Coordinator. This will seek to establish a relationship with the parent and will provide information about their obligations. The parent will be given a copy of Reading Borough Council guidance: Elective Home Education (EHE) Information and Guidance for Parents and Carers. The parent should be invited to make a statement of their plans (what they are setting out to achieve). The parent is under no legal obligation to provide this information or to complete paperwork. The Elective Home Education Co-ordinator will seek to ensure basic information about the child and family is recorded. Other discussions may be held as appropriate, including the following: The parent s future intentions, for instance in relation to examinations; The Local Authority s process of monitoring, and the way it may assist the parent in doing the best possible job; Sources of help and advice. It may also be appropriate to discuss the parent s reasons for home educating. If the parent is not home-educating for philosophical reasons, it may be helpful to suggest ways of accessing a suitable and acceptable school place. If the child falls into a vulnerable group, including being known to Social Care, the Elective Home Education Co-ordinator can complete the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). The information will be forwarded to the CAF team. 10. Safeguarding 10.1 The Law says that a Local Education Authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred on them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This would include children who are Electively Home Educated. Given that the Local Authority has little legal right to inspect or monitor elective home education, this duty is also difficult to enact. 10 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

11 In 2010, Ofsted said:... legislation has given local authorities statutory responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people within their boundaries. However, authorities cannot carry out these responsibilities effectively because they do not know of all the children in their area or where they are being educated. The local authorities visited were alerted by schools to children who were deregistered because their parents wanted to educate them at home and the authorities made contact with the parent. However, there was no reliable way to establish how many children were resident but invisible, having never entered the school system. Sharing information across a local authority depended largely on the quality of the professional relationships developed between education departments and health services 5 A number of recent, high-profile cases in which children have been murdered whilst being electively home-educated suggest the following. Home-educated children are subject to less monitoring and scrutiny than those who attend school. Services are less likely to become aware of the signs of abuse or neglect. Parents of children with special educational needs, particularly those with complex and/or profound needs, are likely to struggle with the practical and emotional difficulties of providing home education. Such parents may lack the support of others and become isolated. There have been examples where these parents have resorted to desperate measures in the face of overwhelming challenges. It is, therefore, vital to gather information about vulnerable children families and to share it systematically with relevant officers and workers. The following section provides information on the way this is to be done Action to be taken to Safeguard children The Elective Home Education Co-ordinator should have identified newly referred children who may be vulnerable. The following groups fall into this categories: Children in the care of a Local Authority. Children known to Social Care, including those who have a child protection plan or those who have been designated as children in need. Children who have previously been known to social care, but where the case is not currently active. 5 OfSTED June 2010 Local Authorities and Home Education 11 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

12 Children who have significant levels of special educational need, including those who have a statement or are awaiting one. Children who belong to Gypsy/Roma/Traveller groups. Children for whom a Common Assessment Framework (CAF) form has been created. Pregnant girls. This list is not exhaustive The Elective Home Education Co-ordinator will first report any concerns to the Elective Home Education Manager and the advice of the Named Officer within Children s Social Care will be sought where there are any Safeguarding concerns. If concerns continue the EHE Co-ordinator and the EHE Manager will brief those designated to monitor particular cases about the family background and any relevant issues. Where necessary, the Elective Home Education Manager will consult and brief the Head of School Improvement and, for particularly vulnerable cases, and the Head of Children s Social Care. In relation to vulnerable children, the following guidelines must be followed: The Elective Home Education Officer will establish the identity of the Lead Professional for each vulnerable child and will ensure those carrying out monitoring have access to all relevant paperwork, including the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) form. Following the initial visit of the Elective Home Education Co-ordinator, educational monitoring should be commenced as rapidly as possible and in all events in under a month. If it proves impossible to see the child, the provision must automatically be viewed as unsuitable. This should be explained to the parent. In these cases, strategy will be decided upon by mangers. If the situation is considered to be potentially unsafe, a referral should be made to the Access & Assessment Team in Children s Social Care without delay. If it is not possible to arrange monitoring at all, the case should be referred to the Elective Home Education Manager for decision on strategy. The Manager should consider making an immediate referral to Social Care or the Police and should consult senior managers in the Education Division as necessary. 11. Possible adverse impact of the policy 11.1 Not all parents understand the legal requirements and the implications of taking their child out of LA education provision. The legal framework relating to children with Statements of SEN may be a barrier to parents providing their children with a suitable home education Cultural and religious differences may lead parents and the LA Officers to have different interpretations of a suitable, efficient, full-time education 12 revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

13 11.3 Families whose children have never attended a LA school may be unaware of the EHE policy and Service. Proposals to reduce or eliminate the inequality/adverse impact Development of parent friendly information is available in a variety of formats (e.g. website). Multi-agency work to support families with additional needs, including SEN. (This may include the CAF process). Close working and information sharing to ensure that Traveller families are making well informed choices and are appropriately supported Raise awareness of the policy amongst professionals within Children s Action Teams and Children Social Care and external agencies, including the Voluntary Sector. 12. Monitoring Implementation The service will be reviewed on an annual basis and the policy will also be reviewed to reflect best practice in the light of further government guidance or legislation. Statistical analysis of equality information (age, gender, ethnicity and SEN) of home educating families will take place on an annual basis to identify any discernable trends; a thrice-yearly report is produced for the Head of School Improvement. Referrals to other services and through the CAF process will also be monitored to ensure support is targeted at home educating families with additional needs. Home educating parents and children will be asked to feedback on the effectiveness of the service and the accessibility of the policy. EHE Manager: Gill Dunlop Virtual Head Children Missing Out on Education Reading Borough Council Civic Offices Bridge Street Reading RG1 2LU revised January 2012 Reading Borough Council

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