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BRIEFING PAPER Number 5108, 13 February 2018
Home education in England in England
By David Foster
PHOTO REDACTED DUE TO third party
RIGHTS OR OTHER LEGAL ISSUES
Contents: 1. Current position 2. Proposals for reform 3. Issues and reports
www.parliament.uk/commons-library | intranet.parliament.uk/commons-library | [email protected]
2 Home education in England
1. Current position
1.1 The right of parents to home educate their children
1.2 Parental responsibilities
1.3 Responsibilities of local authorities
School attendance orders
1.4 Funding and support
1.5 Children with special educational needs
2. Proposals for reform
2.1 The Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill 2017-19
Updated guidance on home education
2.2 Past proposal for the registration of home educators
The 2009 Badman Report
Children Schools and Families Bill
3. Issues and reports
3.1 Education Committee report
3.2 Unregistered schools
3.3 Wood report
3.4 Casey Review
Cover page image copyright: Homework, by Chris Yarzab. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 / image cropped.
3 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 Summary This briefing provides information on home education in England, and outlines current and past proposals for reform. It also notes issues raised with regards to home education and briefly summarises the relevant sections of selected reports. Education is a devolved issue; the briefing covers the position in England only. Current position Parents have the right to decide to teach their children at home at any stage up to the end of compulsory school age. This right applies equally for the parents of children with special educational needs (SEN). Home education may also be used to meet the requirement to participate in education or training up to the age of 18. Parents who choose to home-educate their children are responsible for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child's age, ability, aptitude and any SEN they may have. They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and do not have to follow the National Curriculum
. The parents of home educated children must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examination
s. Government guidance encourages authorities to take a flexible approach to providing financial support to the parents of home educated children with SEN, however, and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice states that authorities should fund the SEN needs of home educated children where it is appropriate to do so. Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, they do have duties to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to intervene if it appears that they are not. Intervention could, for example, take the form of issuing a school attendance order, although Government guidance on home education encourages authorities to address the issue informally before serving such a notice. As part of their safeguarding duties local authorities have powers to insist on seeing a child to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern, but this does not extend to seeing and questioning children for the purpose of establishing whether they are receiving a suitable education. Proposals for reform and updated guidance In June 2017 Lord Soley introduced the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to be placed under a duty to monitor the development of children receiving home education and to conduct annual assessments. The Bill also provides for parents of home educated children to be required to register with the local authority
. The Bill is a Private Member's Bill and, as such, is unlikely to pass into law unless supported by the Government. The Government has stated that it is "keeping an open mind on the Bill". It has also, however, expressed a belief that local authorities already have the powers they need to act in cases where children are not being well educated at home, and that the focus initially should be on making the existing legal arrangements work better. In this regard, the Government has announced that it intends to consult on revised guidance on home education for parents and local authorities, with the drafts expected to be produced for consultation "in the next few weeks."
4 Home education in England Unregistered schools There has been an increased focus in recent years on the potential safeguarding risks posed by unregistered schools. In a series of letters to the Secretary of State raising such concerns, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, also expressed a belief that there was a link between the growth of unregistered schools and an increase in the number of home educated children. Many of those operating unregistered schools, he said, are "exploiting weakness in the current legislation" and "unscrupulously using the freedoms that parents have to home educate their children as a cover for their activities." Wood Report In May 2016, the Government published the report of a review of local children safeguarding boards conducted by Alan Wood. The report cited concerns about "the lack of effective statutory provision about children in unregistered school settings or receiving home education." It concluded that the current guidance on home education needed to be reviewed to enable local authorities to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities. The Government's response to the report did not explicitly mention home education. Casey Review In December 2016, Dame Louise Casey published the report of her review into opportunity and integration. The report stated that parents should continue to have the right to home educate their children, but raised a number of "difficulties and risks" associated with home education including: · That the current definition of a "suitable education" runs counter to efforts to foster British values in schools and building cohesive communities. · That some people may be misusing the right to home educate their children to place them in unregistered schools. · That the current framework means that local authorities have no sure way of knowing the extent of home education or the suitability of the education provided, and also limits the extent to which authorities can be aware of any arising Child Protection
issues. Education Committee Report In 2012 the Education Committee published a report on home education. The report cited evidence of a "postcode lottery" for home educators caused by inconsistency in local authority practice, and found that over half of authorities had ultra vires statements on their websites concerning home education. The report recommended that the Government should review the guidance on home education and that the state should meet the cost of home educated children sitting public examinations. The Government response rejected both these recommendations.
5 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 1. Current position 1.1 The right of parents to home educate their children In England, education is compulsory but schooling is not. Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, the responsibility for a child's education rests with their parents: 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. Parents have the right to decide to teach their children at home at any stage up to the end of compulsory school age.1 `Elective home education' or `home schooling' are terms used to describe home education for children of compulsory school age. Box 1: The number of home educated children There are not official statistics for the number of home educated children, although press reports have suggested an increase in recent years.2 The report of the Casey Review, published in 2016, cited research from 2014 that suggested there were around 27,000 registered home educated children in England. The report stated that the number of unregistered home educated children was unknown and "thought to be several multiples" of the registered number.3 Current guidance on elective home education, which was published in 2007, states that parents may choose home education for a number of reasons, including: · distance or access to a local school · religious or cultural beliefs
· philosophical or ideological views · dissatisfaction with the system · bullying · as a short term intervention for a particular reason · a child's unwillingness or inability to go to school · special educational needs · parents' desire for a closer relationship with their children.4 1 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.1-2.3. 2 PQ 118117, 15 December 2017. For example, see: Number of children home taught doubles in six years amid increased competition for school places, Daily Telegraph
, 7 July 2017. 3 Dame Louise Casey, The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration, December 2016, p119. 4 As above, para 1.4.
6 Home education in England Children whose parents elect to educate them at home are not registered at mainstream schools or special schools.5 Although some local authorities operate voluntary registration schemes, there is also no legal obligation to register that a child is being educated at home.6 1.2 Parental responsibilities Where a parent decides to withdraw their child from school and educate them at home they are required to notify the school; the school must then notify the local authority. Parents do not need to inform the council unless their child has an education, health and care (EHC) plan. Similarly, parents of children who have never attended school are not required to inform the local authority if they decide to home educate their child.7 Box 2: Removing pupils from admissions registers Under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, schools can lawfully delete a pupil's name from the register under fifteen grounds, including where the child has stopped attending and the school has received written notification from the parent that they are "receiving education otherwise than at school."8 In July 2015, Michael Wilshaw, the then Chief Inspector of Schools, raised concerns with the Secretary of State that "potentially high numbers of pupils" were having their name deleted from school admissions registers "without either the schools or the local authorities having an accurate understanding of where those pupils have gone." He stated that this made it "difficult, if not impossible, for schools and local authorities to distinguish the minority of children who may be at risk from the majority who will be safe and receiving a suitable education in mainstream schools, registered independent schools or in their home."9 In response to the concerns, the Government launched a consultation in January 2016 on amending the pupil registration regulations to require schools to inform the local authority whenever they are about to delete a pupil's name from the admission register. Schools would, among other things, also be required to record details of the pupil's residence and the name of the person with whom they will reside.10 These changes were implemented by the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 and came into force at the start of the 2016-17 academic year. Further information is included in updated statutory guidance from the Department for Education on children missing education.11 Parents who choose home education are responsible, under the Education Act 1996, for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child's age, ability and aptitude.12 They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and do not have to follow the National Curriculum.13 5 As above, para 1.2. 6 PQ 47136, 1 November 2016. 7 Home education, Gov.uk, last accessed 9 January 2017. 8 Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, regulation 8. 9 Ofsted, Advice letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, on the latest position with schools in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets, 14 July 2015. 10 Department for Education, Improving information in identifying children missing education: Government consultation, January 2016. 11 Department for Education, Children missing education: Statutory guidance for local authorities, September 2016. 12 Education Act 1996, section 7. 13 Home education, Gov.uk, last accessed 9 January 2017.
7 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 With regards to what constitutes an "efficient" and "suitable" education, the guidance states: An "efficient" and "suitable" education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but "efficient" has been broadly described in case law as an education that "achieves that which it sets out to achieve", and a "suitable" education is one that "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 if he wishes to do so".14 Parents can choose to employ private tutors to assist them in providing suitable education, but there is no requirement for them to do so.15 They can also ask the school to teach their child part time but the school does not have to accept the request.16 Learning may take place in a variety of locations and does not have to be limited to the child's home.17 Further information on the requirements of a full-time efficient education is provided in the guidance on home education (paras 3.133.16). Box 3: Home education and raising the participation age Following the raising of the participation age, Young People
must do one of the following until they are 18: · Stay in full-time education; · Start an apprenticeship or traineeship; or · Spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training. Young people may be educated at home to meet the requirement to participate. Statutory guidance published by the Department for Education explains that for young people attending education outside of a school the definition of full-time education is usually at least 540 hours of planned learning (around 18 hours a week). For young people who are home educated, however, no hourly requirement applies and the amount and content of the home education is determined by the home educator.18 1.3 Responsibilities of local authorities Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, under the Education Act 1996 they do have duties to: · make arrangements to enable them to identify, as far as is possible, children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education; and 14 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.2-2.3. 15 As above, para 1.2. 16 Home education, Gov.uk, last accessed 9 January 2017. 17 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, para 1.2. 18 Department for Education, Participation of young people in education, employment or training: Statutory guidance for local authorities, September 2016, p17.
8 Home education in England · to intervene if it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education.19 Local authorities also have a duty to make arrangements to ensure that their education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.20 These powers allow authorities to insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern.21 However, the guidance on home education makes clear that these powers "do not bestow on local authorities the ability to see and question children subject to elective home education in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education."22 The guidance on home education additionally recommends that local authorities should: · Have a written Policy Statement
on elective home education, and be willing and able to provide guidance for parents who request it. · Provide clear details of their complaints procedure and deal with any complaints in a sensitive and timely manner.23 In its 2012 report, Support for Home Education (see section 3.4 below), the Education Committee outlined the role of local authorities as follows: The role of the local authority is clear with regard to home education. They have two duties: to provide support for home educating families (at a level decided by local authorities themselves), and if families wish it; and to intervene with families if the local authority is given reason to believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education. It is not the role of the local authority routinely to monitor whether a suitable education is being provided, and local authorities should not act as if it is, or cause parents to believe that it is.24 School attendance orders If it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education the local authority can, under section 437 of the Education Act 1996, serve a notice on the parents requiring them to satisfy the local authority within a specified period (which must be at least 15 school days) that the child is receiving a suitable education. The guidance on home education encourages councils to address the issue informally before serving such a notice.25 If a notice is served and the parents fail to satisfy the local authority that the child is receiving a suitable education, or the authority believes that 19 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.5-2.8. 20 Education Act 2002, section 175(1). 21 Children's Act 1989, Section 47. 22 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.12-2.15. 23 As above, para 3.1. 24 Education Committee, Support for Home Education, 18 December 2012, HC 559-I 2012-13, para 10. 25 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.7-2.8.
9 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 it is expedient that the child attends school, then the authority will serve a school attendance order requiring the child to become a registered pupil at a named school. The parents can be prosecuted if they do not comply with the Order. At any stage following the issuing of the Order the child's parents can give evidence to the local authority that the child is now receiving a suitable education and apply to have the Order revoked. If the local authority refuses, parents can refer the matter to the Secretary of State. If a local authority prosecutes a child's parents for failing to comply with a school attendance order, the courts will decide whether the education being provided is suitable and efficient.26 Further information about the duties of local authorities with regards to home educated children are outlined in the guidance on home education (paras 2.5-2.17). 1.4 Funding and support Parents who choose to educate their children at home must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations. The home education guidance notes
that local authorities do not receive funding to support home educating families, but encourages them to provide support where resources permit: As a minimum, local authorities should provide written information (which is also available through the internet) on elective home education that is clear and accurate and which sets out the legal position
. Some local authorities may be able to offer additional support to home educating parents, but this will vary depending on their resources.27 The Gov.uk website allows users to search for information from their local council concerning home education by inputting their postcode at: Home education: get information from your council. Flexi-schooling Flexi-schooling describes an approach which offers part-time attendance at school to parents who may wish to part-educate their child at home. In February 2013, the Department for Education issued "categorical" advice that a school could not agree to a flexi-schooling arrangement. However, in March 2013 this advice was amended to state that "where parents have entered in to flexi-schooling arrangements, schools may continue to offer those arrangements".28 The then Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State for Education and Childcare, Elizabeth Truss, outlined the then Government's policy on flexi-schooling in response to a parliamentary question on 10 June 2013: 26 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras 2.7-2.10. 27 Department for Children, Schools and Families, Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, November 2007, paras paras 2.4 and 5.2. 28 Department for Education, Clarification on flexi-schooling, 22 March 2013, website [taken on 27 March 2013].
10 Home education in England Elizabeth Truss: Flexi-schooling is a combination of attendance at school and home education. Schools may enter into flexischooling arrangements provided they correctly mark children as absent in attendance registers when they are being educated at home.29 The current Department for Education non-statutory guidance on school attendance, last updated in November 2016, states that as a rule schools can't place pupils on part-time timetables but that "in very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary parttime timetable to meet a pupil's individual needs".30 The Gov.uk webpage on home education states that while head teachers must accept if a parent plans to take their child out of school completely, they can refuse if the parent wants to send their child to school some of the time.31 1.5 Children with special educational needs Parents' right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has special educational needs (SEN), but the education provided must be "suitable to the child's age, ability, aptitude and SEN."32 The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice, last updated in January 2015, notes that local authorities do not have a duty to assess every home educated child to see whether they have SEN. The guidance states, however, that local authorities should "work in partnership with, and support, parents" to ensure that the SEN of home educated children are met where: · the local authority already knows that a child has SEN; or · the child's parents have drawn the child's needs to the attention of the authority.33 Under the reformed system for special educational needs, where parents and the local authority agree that home education is the right provision for a child with an EHC plan, the plan should make clear that the child will be educated at home. If it does, then the local authority must arrange the special educational provision
set out in the plan. Where a child's EHC plan names a school and the parents decide to educate them at home, the local authority does not have to make the special educational needs provision set out in the plan provided that it is satisfied that the arrangements made by the parents are suitable. The authority must review the plan annually "to assure itself that the provision set out in it continues to be appropriate and that the child's SEN continue to be met."34 29 HC Deb 10 June 2013, c130W. 30 Department for Education, School attendance: Guidance for maintained schools, academies, independent schools and local authorities, November 2016, p22. 31 Home education, Gov.uk, last updated 25 October 2016. 32 Department for Education and Department of Health, Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, January 2015, p214. 33 As above, p214. 34 As above, pp214-5.
11 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 If a child is being removed from a special school to be home educated, the local authority must give consent for their name to be removed from the register. The SEND Code of Practice states that this "should not be a lengthy or complex process."35 Funding Guidance to local authorities on funding provision for home educated children with SEN notes that parents assume financial responsibility for their child's education, but encourages local authorities to take a flexible approach: It remains the case that when parents choose to electively home educate their children they assume financial responsibility for their children's education. However, the Department continues to recommend that local authorities should take a flexible approach to support for home educating parents where appropriate.36 The SEND Code of Practice states that local authorities should fund the SEN needs of home educated children where it is appropriate to do so [emphasis added]: Local authorities should work in partnership with, and support, parents to ensure that the SEN of these children are met where the local authority already knows the children have SEN or the parents have drawn the children's special needs to the authority's attention. Local authorities do not have a duty under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to assess every home educated child to see whether or not they have SEN. The high needs block of the Dedicated Schools Grant is intended to fund provision for all relevant children and young people in the authority's area, including home educated children. Local authorities should fund the SEN needs of home educated children where it is appropriate to do so. Guidance is available to local authorities from the Department for Education on funding provision for home educated children.37 The guidance on funding provision for home educated children with SEN additionally states that local authorities can financially support the parents of children with statements of SEN which name a school, and the parents of children with SEN but without statements. It notes that parents should not be expected to pay Ј10,000 before they receive any support: As regards children with statements of SEN which name schools as the appropriate placement for a child but parents decide to educate such a child at home, it remains the local authority's duty to ensure that the child's needs are met through the provision made by the parents. The local authority can support parents financially in these circumstances under section 319 or section 19 of the Education Act 1996 (this would fall under either paragraph 18 or paragraph 20 of Schedule 2 to the School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2012). In deciding how much support is needed, the local authority should be aware that, unlike schools, parents do not receive base funding from the public 35 As above, p215. 36 Revised funding guidance for local authorities on home educated children, para 2, last accessed 10 January 2017. 37 Department for Education and Department of Health, Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, January 2015, pp214-5.
12 Home education in England purse in support of SEN, and should not therefore be expected to pay Ј10,000 before they receive any support. Children with SEN but without statements may also be educated at home. In these circumstances local authorities should consider whether they require support from the public purse. This provision can also be made under section 319 or section 19 of the Education Act 1996.38 38 Revised funding guidance for local authorities on home educated children, paras 56.
13 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 2. Proposals for reform 2.1 The Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill 2017-19 In June 2017 Lord Soley introduced the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to be placed under a duty to "to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development
of children receiving elective home education in their area" and to "assess annually each child receiving elective home education in their area." Parents of home educated children would also be required to register with the local authority. The Bill is a Private Member's Bill and, as such, is unlikely to pass into law unless supported by the Government. The Lords Second Reading debate on the Bill took place on 24 November 2017. Introducing the Bill, Lord Soley expressed his support for home education, but raised concerns that the lack of a requirement to register home-educated children could potentially be exploited by parents seeking to abuse their children. He also raised concerns about the lack of support offered to home educating parents. The Bill, he said, "tries to strike a delicate balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child" and that what he really wanted was "a system where the majority of parents who home educate very well and want to be left alone are not caused any hassle by the Bill." Lord Soley also outlined his intention to seek to amend the Bill in Committee, including to remove the references to local authorities checking a child's physical and emotional development.39 Updated guidance on home education Responding to the debate, the Minister, Lord Agnew, noted a "significant increase" in the number of home educated children in recent years and said that this "raises questions
about the adequacy of the current arrangements for ensuring that these children receive a suitable education." The Government was persuaded, he said, "that the changing landscape of home education gives sufficient cause to look at the possibility of reform." The Minister argued that initially what was needed was "a concerted effort to make the existing legal arrangements work better in the interests of parents, of local authorities and most of all the children themselves." Referring to local authorities being able to act in cases where children are not being well educated at home, he said that the Government believed that they "already have the tools for the job." The Minister did announce, however, that the Government would consult on revised guidance on home education for parents and local authorities: I can confirm to noble Lords today that we intend to publish a draft of revised guidance document
s on elective home education 39 HL Deb 24 November 2017, cc435-440.
14 Home education in England for local authorities and for parents, and consult on them. It will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to put forward their views. We will carefully consider all responses and then publish the two guidance documents in their final form.40 In response to parliamentary questions in January 2018, Lord Agnew highlighted evidence that 80-90% of home educated children had previously been in school and so were known to local authorities (see box 2). He added that legal advice received by the Government since November 2017 indicated that "local authorities' powers in relation to home often go further than is appreciated." The Government would, he said, reflect this in the updated guidance on home education, the drafts of which he expected to be produced for consultation "in the next few weeks."41 The Minister also said that he would like to look at making examination facilities available more easily for home-educated children. He finished by saying that the Government was "keeping an open mind on the Bill."42 The Lords agreed without a vote to give the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill 2017-19 a second reading. Further information on the Bill is available in a briefing produced by the Lords Library ahead of its Second Reading. 2.2 Past proposal for the registration of home educators The 2009 Badman Report In January 2009, Graham Badman, the former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council
, was asked by the then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to review whether the right systems were in place to allow local authorities to ensure that concerns about the safety, welfare or education of home educated children were addressed quickly and effectively.43 The report, Review of Elective Home Education, was published on 11 June 2009.44 It made 28 recommendations, including that a compulsory annual registration scheme for home educators should be established. Under the proposed registration scheme, all parents planning to home educate their children would have to inform the local authority; the authority could refuse registration if there was clear evidence of safeguarding concerns. The review further recommended that parents should be asked to submit a statement of their intended approach to the child's education, including what they aimed to achieve over the following 12 months
. Local authority officials would have the right to access the home to 40 HL Deb 24 November 2017, cc464-467. 41 HL Deb 24 January 2018, cc1013-5. 42 HL Deb 24 January 2018, cc1013-5. 43 "Morgan: Action to ensure children's education and welfare", DCSF Press Notice 19 January 2009. 44 Graham Badman, The Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England, HC 610, June 2009.
15 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 check that the child was safe and well and making progress against their learning statement.45 Amongst the report's other recommendations were: · that local authorities should provide more support to home educating families, for example through helping provide access to the national examinations system, sports facilities, libraries and music tuition;46 and · that the Government should review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a `suitable' and `efficient' education.47 The report received a hostile response from some home educators, who believed that the proposals were unnecessary and would allow the state an "unprecedented intrusion into family life".48 Government response In a written ministerial statement on 11 June 2009 the then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, announced a public consultation on proposals to establish a registration scheme for home educators so that they could be introduced to Parliament at the earliest opportunity.49 The consultation closed on 19 October 2009. In its full response to the Badman Review, published on 9 October 2009, the Government additionally stated that it would commission a review in early 2010 to clarify what constituted a suitable and efficient education. In the event, the review had not started when Parliament was dissolved for the 2010 general election. In its response the Government also agreed that home educators should have access to educational facilities and services such as work experience, libraries, and specialist music tuition. It stated that local authority staff supporting home educators would need to work with schools to see how such services could be provided.50 Children Schools and Families Bill The Children Schools and Families Bill was introduced in the House of Commons
on 19 November 2009. It sought to implement the recommendations of a number of independent reviews, including Graham Badman's Review of Elective Home Education in England.51 The Bill as introduced included provisions to introduce a new requirement for local authorities in England to keep a register of all children of compulsory school age in their area who were entirely educated at home. Authorities would be required to monitor those children to ensure that they were safe and well and receiving a suitable 45 As above, pp38 & 40. 46 As above, p41. 47 As above, p39. 48 For example, see "Get tough on home tuition to weed out abuse, says review", Guardian, 5 June 2009 and "No place like home", Sunday Times, 14 June 2009 p9. 49 HC Deb 11 June 2009 c44-5WS. 50 Department for Children Schools and Families, DCSF response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England, October 2009. 51 Children Schools and Families Bill, Bill 8 of Session 2009-2010
16 Home education in England education. The Bill also included powers to allow the procedural detail of the new registration scheme, and how it would operate, to be set out in regulations. The Badman Review had recommended that local authority officers should have the right to speak to a home educated child alone, if that was deemed appropriate. There were strong representations against this and the Government stressed that under the provisions in the Bill, the right to see the child alone would only be with the permission and agreement of the parent.52 Children, Schools and Families Committee inquiry Following a short inquiry, the Children, Schools and Families Committee published a report on home education on 16 December 2009, shortly after the publication of the Children, Schools and Families Bill.53 The report supported proposals to introduce annual registration for home educating families. However, in view of the concerns expressed by home educators, the report suggested that registration should be voluntary. It further recommended that the voluntary registration system should be reviewed after two years and that if the arrangements did not meet expectations then a system of compulsory registration should be introduced. The report also supported the requirement for home educating families to provide some form of statement of their intended approach to their child's education and stated that this should be supplemented by meetings between home educating families and local authority officers on at least an annual basis. The committee suggested that existing safeguarding legislation was the appropriate mechanism for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of home educated children, and that the proposed annual visits would offer little direct safeguarding benefit over and above this. The Committee strongly discouraged the notion that local authority home education teams should be given a more overt safeguarding role.54 Removal of the home education provisions from the Bill The Children's Schools and Families Bill provided for the registration system to come into effect from April 2011. However, the relevant provisions were removed from the Bill on 8 April 2010 because no agreement on them could be reached between the Government and opposition parties before the dissolution of Parliament for the 2010 general election.55 They were therefore not included in the Bill that became the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010. 52 HC Deb 19 November 2009 cc175-6 53 Children, Schools and Families Committee, The Review of Elective Home Education, 16 December 2009, HC 39-I. 54 As above. 55 DCSF, Statement on the Children, Schools and Families Bill, 7 April 2010.
17 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 3. Issues and reports 3.1 Education Committee report In December 2012, the Education Committee published a report into home education. The report focused on the support available to home educators, and the relationship between home educators and local authorities. The report: · Found that some local authorities may be acting outside the law and most had ultra vires statements on their websites with regards to home education [paras 10-12]. · Noted evidence that the guidance on home education was not clear enough as to what constitutes suitable and efficient education. The report concluded that the case law in this area was sufficient but recommended that the Department conduct a review of the guidance [paras 13-15]. · Found evidence of inconsistency in local authority practice across the county, leading to a `postcode lottery' for home educators. The report suggested that the establishment of a professional association/annual conference of home education officers could help spread best practice [para 16-21]. · Recommended against any system-wide changes to financial support for home educators but recommended that the Government should better explain where funding that is available can be obtained [para 34] · Recommended that the state should meet the cost of home educated children sitting public examinations [para 44] · Recommended that the Government monitor local authorities' provision of advance regarding transition to further education for home educatEd Young
people [paras 45-46]56 Government response The Government response to the report was published in March 2013. The Government stated that it had no plans to review or change the guidance on home education, and that it was not for the Government to audit local authorities on their performance on home education.57 The Government also rejected the Committee's recommendation that the cost of public examinations should be met by the state.58 3.2 Unregistered schools There has been an increased focus in recent years on the potential safeguarding risks posed by unregistered schools. It has also been suggested by some that there may be a link between the growth of 56 Education Committee, Support for Home Education, 18 December 2012, HC 559-I 2012-13. 57 Education Committee, Support for Home Education: Government Response to the Committee's Fifth Report of Session 201213, 18 March 2013, HC 1013, p2. 58 As above, p4
18 Home education in England such schools and the freedom of parents to home educate their children. In November 2015, the Department for Education published a call for evidence on out-of-school education settings, which set out proposals to require the registration of settings providing intensive out-of-school education. Under the proposals, a body would also be empowered to inspect such settings and there would be a power to impose sanctions where it was found that they had failed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The call for evidence made clear, however, that the proposals were "not about regulating the education that parents provide their children in their homes." It added: The government continues to respect the rights of parents to home educate their children, whether at home or in a combination of other settings, provided a suitable full-time education is being arranged.59 The consultation closed in January 2016 and the Government is yet to respond. In a series of letters to the Secretary of State, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, raised concerns about "the safety of children who are being educated in unregistered schools." He also expressed a belief that there was a link between an increase in the number of home educated children and the growth of unregistered schools.60 For example, in a letter of May 2016, he stated: Evidence inspectors have gathered over recent weeks has also reaffirmed my belief that there is a clear link between the growth of unregistered schools and the steep rise in the number of children recorded as being home educated in England over the past few years. I have previously voiced concern that many of those operating unregistered schools are unscrupulously using the freedoms that parents have to home educate their children as a cover for their activities. They are exploiting weaknesses in the current legislation to operate on the cusp of the law. Many are charging parents thousands of pounds to send their children to these unregistered schools. In doing so, many are providing a sub-standard education, placing children at risk and undermining the government's efforts to ensure that all schools are promoting British values, including tolerance and respect for others.61 The letter added that the Chief Inspector would welcome the opportunity for officials from Ofsted and the Department for Education to work together "on the current legal framework around home 59 Department for Education, Out-of-school education settings: call for evidence, November 2015, p7. 60 Ofsted, Advice letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, on unregistered schools, 11 December 2015 61 Ofsted, Advice letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, in respect of suspected illegal schools, 16 May 2016.
19 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 education to consider how the arrangements should be strengthened."62 3.3 Wood report In May 2016, the Government published the report of a review of local children safeguarding boards conducted by Alan Wood. The report stated that a number of Directors of Children's Services and chairs of local children safeguarding boards had raised "the lack of effective statutory provision about children in unregistered school settings or receiving home education". They pointed, the report said, "to the fact that public agencies do not have the right to gather information on the children in such settings and have no way of assessing the level of risk children face." The report argued that the issue of some home educating parents being unwilling to provide information to the local authority needed to be addressed urgently: The majority of parents who arrange home education for their children work closely with, and share information with, the local authority. However, this is a voluntary act on behalf of the parent and a number of parents are not willing to provide information to the local authority. In both of these cases [unregistered settings and home education] the local authority is not able to assess either the quality of education being received by the child or whether there are any safeguarding issues that require attention. This needs to be addressed urgently. New guidance should be provided which makes clear the responsibility of parents to ensure information about their child's education is provided to the local authority. It concluded that "the current guidance with regard to children who are educated at home which some parents of children who attend unregistered settings will claim needs urgent review in order to enable local authorities to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities and ensure the wellbeing of those children." The report also recommended that the DfE's safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education, should be reviewed to ensure it covers child protection and safeguarding issues in respect of unregistered school settings, independent schools and home education.63 The Government published its response to the Wood Report in May 2016. The response did not explicitly refer to home education.64 3.4 Casey Review In December 2016, Dame Louise Casey published the report of her review into opportunity and integration (The Casey Review). In a section 62 As above. 63 Department for Education, Wood review of local Safeguarding Children
boards, May 2016, pp32-5. 64 Department for Education, Wood review of LSCBs: government response, May 2016.
20 Home education in England on home education, the report noted a number of valid reasons why some parents may choose to home educate their child but stated that: While there are many proponents of the benefits and strengths of home education, there are a number of difficulties and risks associated with it and little evidence we could find to assess the educational attainment and socio-economic progress
made by home educated children.65 The report raised a number of issues associated with home education, including: · The definition of suitable education in existing guidance, as an education that "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...", runs counter to efforts "to foster British values in schools across the country and contrary to efforts on integration and building cohesive communities which are based on shared values
." · The lack of a requirement for parents to notify local authorities that they are home educating their child means that authorities do not "have any sure way of knowing the extent of home education in their locality, nor the quality or `suitability' of education being provided outside of school settings." · Some people may be "misusing the right to home educate and its light regulation to place their children in unregistered and illegal schools." · The current framework places "serious limitations" on the extent to which local authorities can be aware of any child protection issues arising from the nature of the education provided to a home educated child.66 The report also welcomed the Government's tightening of regulations on pupil registration (see box 2) but noted that it only had the potential to improve the tracking of children who had been attending school before they are withdrawn. The report stated that "further action is necessary to cover children who are home educated without ever having attended school otherwise there will always be a cohort of pupils who are not known to local authorities and the opportunity to abuse the system will remain."67 The report's section on home education concluded: Parents should continue to have the right to home educate their children but stronger safeguards are required to ensure the child's right to a decent and suitable education for life in Britain, and to protect them from harm. The evidence we have seen in this review shows it is too easy for children to be raised in a totally secluded environment that does not provide a suitable education or sufficient protection from harm. One case of this happening is one too many.68 65 Dame Louise Casey, The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration, December 2016, p119. 66 As above, pp118-20. 67 As above, p120. 68 As above, p120.
21 Commons Library Briefing, 13 February 2018 Government response On the day of its publication, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
, Sajid Javid, issued a written ministerial statement on the Casey Review. He stated that he would "carefully consider the findings in the review, in consultation with my Government colleagues and faith and community leaders, and will bring forward proposals in due course."69 69 HCWS319, 5 December 2016.
BRIEFING PAPER Number 5108 13 February 2018
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