19 January 2009

Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators!

Following some friends I've just joined the Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators! group on Facebook because I believe the right to educate your child at home is vital.

Following that I read the article on he BBC News and dug a bit deeper to find some press releases from the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and Education Otherwise's response.

The DCSF Press Release:

The Government has published revised guidance on children missing education and launched a review of home education. This will ensure that everything possible is being done to guarantee all children their right to a balanced education in a safe, healthy environment. The guidance makes clear that local authorities have a duty to make arrangements to enable them to establish that every school-age child is receiving a suitable education, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of parents and local authorities to provide a suitable education for children.

A public consultation gathered a wide range of views – including many on home education. Some local authorities and children’s organisations expressed concerns about the current system’s ability to adequately support and monitor the education, safety and wellbeing of home educated children. The review of home education will investigate the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It will look at safeguarding and how any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of children are dealt with. There are no plans to change parents’ well established rights to educate their children at home.It will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for parents who home educate and of local authority systems for supporting children and families. It will also make recommendations for improvements, where necessary.

Delyth Morgan said:
"Making sure children are safe, well and receive a good education is our most serious responsibility. Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I’m sure, the vast majority do a good job. However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need. And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated."

"This review will look at whether the right systems are in place that allow local authorities and other agencies to ensure that any concerns about the safety, welfare or education of home educated children are addressed quickly and effectively. The review will of course talk to home educating families to ensure their views and experiences are heard."

Head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, Diana Sutton, said:
"We welcome the Government’s decision to review the guidance on home education. We believe the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is outdated. We support the view set out by the London (LA) Children’s Safeguarding Leads network that the government should review the legislation to balance the parents’ rights to home educate their children, the local authorities’ duty to safeguard children and the child’s right to protection. We welcome the fact that this review will look at where local authorities have concerns about the safety and welfare, or education, of a home educated child and what systems are in place to deal with those concerns."

A central part of the Government’s commitment for all children is that, no matter what their background or circumstances, they have the right to achieve the five 'Every Child Matters outcomes': Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; Achieve economic wellbeing.

The Elective Home Education Review will investigate:
  • Whether local authorities and other public agencies are able to effectively discharge their duties and responsibilities for safeguarding and ensuring a suitable education for all children.
  • Whether home educating parents are receiving the support and advice they want to ensure they provide a good, balanced education for their children.
  • Consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude
The guidance on children missing education is the first step in clarifying expectations in respect of the current system for supporting and monitoring home education. It also makes clear that parents' right to home educate is not being altered and that suitable home education can take many forms.Home education is just one area highlighted in the guidance, as it describes many circumstances which can lead to children missing education. The guidance describes how important it is for local authorities to tackle all problems around children missing education, in order to meet the vision set out in the Children's Plan, particularly keeping all children safe from harm. Graham Badman, former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council will lead the review, which is expected to conclude in May 2009.

Graham Badman said:
"I am delighted to have been asked to lead this important review. Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education. By the same token, local authorities are charged with ensuring that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes and abilities. By discussing all the issues with home educating families, local authorities and other key stakeholders I will investigate whether the current system adequately supports these rights and responsibilities and if not, I will make recommendations for improvements."

Editor's Notes:
This press notice relates to 'England'
  1. Revised guidance to Local Authorities on their duty to identify Children Not Receiving a Suitable Education, can be viewed here: Resources and practice - Every Child Matters.
  2. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 placed a duty on all local authorities to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education.
  3. Parents do not have to register a child as home educated, although they are encouraged to do so. They have to notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child to educate them at home and the school must then notify the local authority. The DCSF issued guidance on home education for local authorities in November 2007.
  4. All parents are required by law to provide a suitable education for their child. Where this is not happening, local authorities can intervene and issue a school attendance order.
  5. Where there are child protection concerns the local authority has a duty to investigate.
  6. As parents are not required to register home educated children (unless they are leaving a school’s rolls) there are no official statistics on the numbers of home educated children. A study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in 2006 estimated around 20,000 children were known to local authorities. The figure may be substantially higher.
Education Otherwise's Response:

Response to “Morgan: Action to Ensure Children’s Education & Welfare” 19 January 2009

Education Otherwise (EO) has today expressed its dismay at the decision by
DCSF to launch yet another investigation into home education and at statements
contained in the press release announcing the review (1).

Education Otherwise and home educating families have contributed to three
major consultations on the guidance to local authorities since 2005. The latest
guidance was issued in autumn 2007 (2).

Annette Taberner, member of EO’s Government Policy Group said "It has become
clear to us that the Department and many local authorities have a very poor
understanding of home education and the law which applies to it. No other
community would be expected to suffer the prejudice and discrimination which
our community has to endure. Our community will be infuriated by these latest
statements. Many hours of time and much public money has been expended in
consultations. Ministers need to prioritise time to engage in meaningful
discussions with our organisation which has thirty years of experience helping
families who chose to exercise their right to educate their children at home."

Statements on links between home education forced marriage and child welfare
made in select committee hearings and by the London Safeguarding Board have
already been challenged by Education Otherwise. The charity requested sight of
the alleged evidence upon which the statements were made but no evidence has
been forthcoming. (3)

Education Otherwise continues to assert that the current legislation is adequate
but poorly understood.

Education Otherwise finds the implication from Government and local authorities
that home educated children are at risk purely because they are home educated

Ann Newstead, spokesperson for the charity said "The assumption that a child is
safe and adequately educated if in the state system is simply not born out by an
increasing number of families in the UK."

Notes to Editors

  1. DCSF Press Release "Morgan: Action to Ensure Children’s Education & Welfare"
  2. DCSF Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities in England -
  3. Alleged link between HE and forced marriage - http://www.freedomforchildrentogrow.org/hascr.htm

Education Otherwise is the oldest and largest organisation that provides support
and information for families whose children are being educated outside school:

4th November 2008 EO meet with House of Lords Minister for Children Schools
and Families:

29th August 2008 EO meet with DCSF to discuss the consultation in England on
children not receiving suitable education:

National Foundation for Educational Research report "Support for Children Who
Are Educated At Home:

Full explanation of the law relating to home education:

Follow this link to add your views to the consultation - http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1605&external=no&menu=1

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