Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill



It seems unlikely to go anywhere, given the government schedule due to Brexit. It's just another bit of sabre-rattling from the usual suspects, but gratuitously insulting to parents whose children are being routinley failed by state schools.

Gill has covered it on her blog:
Home Ed Bill: HL11 2017: FAQ

I think we have aptly demonstrated over the years that safety and wellbeing concerns for home educated children are spurious, though local authority officials often struggle to change hats effectively between that of Education Welfare [i.e. Truancy] Officer and their other role of taking action when appropriate regarding home educating families. The remedy for this is a better understanding of the current position though, not increased regulation.
The Bill received a massively biased plug from our friends at the BBC Editorial team today on BBC Radio 4 at 1100:

Out of School, out of sight

Nobody knows exactly how many children are being educated at home because parents are under no obligation to tell the authorities - registration isn't mandatory, although there were close to 30,000 children on the voluntary registers kept by local authorities in 2016/17 academic year. This represented a 97 per cent increase on the 2011 figures. Councils point to a number of reasons for the increase, including the fact that more parents are removing their children from school to avoid prosecution for poor attendance, or because the pupil might be at risk of exclusion.

. . . It's an issue Lord Soley hopes to address through his private members bill, which would make it mandatory to register home educated pupils with the local authority, who would monitor their 'educational, physical and emotional development.' Currently, a parent of a school-age child must ensure he or she gets a full-time education, 'either by regular attendance at school or otherwise,' and that it must be suitable to their age and ability. Lord Soley says that whilst most parents do a good job of teaching their children at home, the voluntary system can leave some families slipping through the net.
Most of the programme featured people with 'concern's' about home education. The contributions from those concerned about Bill were, frankly, on the weak side. There was no mention of the law on education and, yes, they even managed to cite the Dylan Seabridge case.

There was no attempt at a balanced view.


Usual tripe by people who don't get human rights law and the fourfold foundation, as explained by Andrew Adonis in a previous Westminster debate.

Same story in Scotland with another frankly clownish performance at the parliamentary education committee this morning by a bunch of so-called service prociders, the ICO and clueless MSPs (with a couple of notable exceptions).


BBC biased 'journalism' shocker

Gill has blogged this:

BBC biased journalism shocker. Six pro-regulation people interviewed for show; only one anti

This biased and unbalanced show interviews *six* people who are calling for tighter regulation for home education, and only *one* person to counter that call, London home educator Vicky Price. The interview with this lady is used by the programme to subtly pour scorn on the concept of unschooling, although she managed to make the excellent point that if home educated children are to be officially asked whether or not they want to attend school, then so should school children. The question was edited out of the programme but the answer was still powerful.
It is worth listening to this weeks Feedback which featured complaints about the programme.

It starts at or around 1650:

‘And we hear from one listener dissatisfied with Winifred Robinson's latest programme on home education, 'Out of School, Out of Sight'. Fee Berry speaks to Roger Bolton about her view that the programme should have been more carefully balanced.’

Apparently they want to interview Winifred Robinson next week . . .


Lords Written Questions on Home Education

Questions asked by crossbencher Lord Warner, presumably related to the Soley bill.

Home Education:Written question - HL2410

To ask Her Majesty's Government what guidance they provide to local authorities to ensure that children receiving home education achieve key milestones in their education.

Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton Answered on: 02 November 2017
Departmental guidance for local councils on elective home education, copy attached, is published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elective-home-education. It gives advice on the legal framework under which education may be provided, and the processes which are relevant for local councils seeking to identify children who may not be receiving a suitable full-time education. However, the guidance document does not set out detailed advice on educational outcomes, because parents have a substantial degree of flexibility in terms of educational content and whether to enter children for examinations. Local councils which assess the educational provision made for a child educated at home need to decide whether it meets the requirement in section 7 of the Education Act 1996, that the education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitudes, and any special educational needs.

Home Education: Written Question - HL2300

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many children were receiving home education in each of the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what arrangements are in place to ensure that this education enables children to experience a broad and balanced curriculum as required by legislation.

Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton Answered on: 31 October 2017
No information is collected centrally on the numbers of children in England being educated at home.
Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, parents are responsible for ensuring that a child of compulsory school age receives an efficient full-time education suitable to his or her age, ability, aptitudes, also any special educational needs and disabilities that the child has.
There is no specific legal requirement for a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ and parents who educate children at home have freedom to devise their own curriculum and pedagogical approach. Local councils have a duty to identify, so far as possible, children who are not receiving an education which meets the requirements in section 7, and as part of that process will consider the educational provision made when it appears that it may not be suitable for the child in question.


Second reading in the House of Lords

Second reading in the House of Lords

HEF blog post: Soley bill sends lords a-leaping to wrong conclusions

Lots of vitriol from the usual fascist suspects, same old wild allegations with no evidence. It begs the (rhetorical) question, what exactly is the purpose of a state school?

Give Lord Lucas his due (and we have been critical of him on these forums in the past), he was on the ball, but some of the others seemed to be channelling the East German Stasi.

It's clear that the exposure of the now infamously fake statistics and lies in the biased Badman review still stings, especially those ermine-clad New Labour peers who continue to fleece the taxpayer from different coloured benches without the bother of having to be 'elected'.

The UK government now promises new guidance for E&W following public consultation, but the omniscient Lords claim the home ed problem is acute in Scotland too. They certainly do know how to poke a hornets' nest and can expect a Brexit-sized headache.

As legislators, you'd expect them to get the terminology right and to realise that 'home schooling' appears nowhere in the Education Act. It's 'education otherwise' in E&W and known as elective home education in guidance. Schooling and education are not synonymous and never have been.

The TES headline enthusiastically over-egged the govt guidance promise as DfE promises crackdown on home schooling

The government has said it is going to publish tougher guidance on home schooling.

Speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon, school system minister Lord Agnew said the Department for Education would strengthen the guidance for local authorities and parents on home education.

According to the DfE, the strengthened guidance will "help parents understand their responsibilities in delivering home education and make sure local authorities are clear on the action they can take".‎

The government intends to publish draft guidance to gather views from the education sector and parents on home-schooling via a public consultation, which will be launched shortly.
Evidently we are a radicalisation risk. :yawn: How radical is it to want to keep children safe from abuse and dumbing down by the child warehousing industry? How radical is it to value family life above flipping burgers and stacking supermarket shelves on minimum wage for state-subsidised corporations? How telling is it that so many teachers hoe educate their own children?

Ironically *Schools* Week got the terminology right in its headline: DfE to draft clearer home education guidance

The government will revise its guidance on home education, the academies minister Lord Agnew has said.
According to the minister, the Department for Education plans to draft and consult on revised guidance documents on elective home education for local authorities and parents.

The changes will make clearer to councils the powers available to them and will inform parents about their rights and responsibilities.
But :brick:

...parents are not obliged to tell councils, which are responsible for the education of all children living in their areas, of their choice.
Just as parents are not obliged to tell councils they are vegetarian (at least for now). It is patently untrue that councils are responsible for the education of all children in their area - they just need to provide free school places for parents who want them. It is parents who are responsible in law for ensuring their children are educated, a duty that is hampered by failing schools and councils, whose sub-standard offerings have led to an increase in home education.

As a result, councils encounter “difficulties” in tracking pupils making it difficult for them to fulfil their duty to identify children who are not receiving “a suitable education”, Agnew said.

“As a consequence, central collection of numbers of home-educated children in England is hampered.”
Home educated children are not, by definition, pupils. Maybe they should focus on the pupils not receiving a suitable education in schools. A novel idea, admittedly.

A “concerted effort” to make existing legal arrangements work more effectively is needed, he said, but councils have also called for changes to the guidance.
Councils really need to familiarise themselves with the Human Rights Act and Equality Act and should be careful what they wish for. If they seek to impose a parent licensing scheme, they need to be prepared for legal action by families whose children's safety has been compromised and needs left unmet by state schools.


2nd reading of the bill debate in the House of Lords: Lord Soley's first contribution

More from Gill...

2nd reading of the bill debate in the House of Lords: Lord Soley's first contribution

So we're not only registered, we are now also to be certified? The reason I am addressing the debate word by word in this way is because very often the clues as to the real plans behind such proposals leak out in throw-away words such as these. There is a huge difference between registration and certification. The one is simply a process of adding names to a list (which is happening anyway as a result of section 436A) and the other includes a process of approval - and its opposite, disapproval.
The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2016/17

“The existence of unregistered schools is harder to detect because there is no record of children who have never been in school. There is no requirement to register a child who is home educated. The current statutory guidance sets out that parents can decline the offer of a home visit by the local authority. Tensions between belief systems and British values create a motivation for some communities to try avoiding the educational and safeguarding standards that are expected of schools. While this manifests itself in different ways, the root cause is the same. This matters, because the British values of democracy, tolerance, individual liberty, mutual respect and the rule of law are the principles that keep society free from the radical and extreme views that can often lead to violence.”
These values, of course, include the freedom to educate your child free from interference by the state. I.e. refuse a visit by the local authority.

“. . . In 2010, we raised a number of concerns about home education and vulnerable children in our report ‘Children missing from education’.15 Home-educated children can be isolated, which makes them hard to protect if they are at risk at home. This year, we visited four local authority areas to gain a better understanding of home education, including the challenges of safeguarding children in these circumstances. All local authorities visited identified that the number of home educated children is growing. This is partly due to the communities that have moved into these areas. In some cases, this is because of disputes between parents and their children’s school. There were some local areas that were aware of schools advising parents that they should home educate their child to avoid exclusion. Local authorities were not always informed when a child was taken off roll. When this happens, it can lead to a delay in engaging with the child and their family and can potentially leave the child at risk. Providing capacity to oversee the growing number of home-educated children is becoming a challenge for local authorities. In 2016, the DfE amended the regulations relating to pupil registration and updated the statutory guidance in this area. However, more recently the DfE has committed to revise the guidance to make the powers that councils have more explicit and set out the rights and responsibilities of parents.”
I read into this that they want to make it a lot more difficult to refuse a home visit but don’t see how they can do this without changing the law.
A couple of snippets on the attitude of the UK Government towards home education have found there way into the public domain.

First this interesting comment about the Department for Education’s position on home education revealed via FOI:


‘gov view is that LA’s need to stretch the guidance and they want case law to be tested’…

As I read this the Department for Education is looking at wording the local authority guidance much more closely. I think they may do this in order to trigger a legal fight between a parent and a local authority. The proponents of home education monitoring would, presumably, hope for a legal ruling that the parents should provide information on their home education when requested. That would get the Government out of a position whereby it would have to enact primary legislation to require monitoring – something it clearly does not want to do.

Also there was some discussion around unregistered faith schools and home education on the BBC ‘Sunday’ programme on R4 this morning 14 January. Broadcast starts at 37 minutes:

Bar Mitzvahs in Old Age, Unregistered Faith Schools, 21st-Century Mosques

Comment at 40 minutes: D of E has ‘no plans to change law in the next two years’ on Unregistered Faith Schools.

That also reinforces the point about not wanting to change primary legislation.

Going back to the case law issue civil servants play a very long game. Senior mandarins at the D of E are perfectly capable of manipulating new 'guidance' in order to make it easier for a local authority to take a family to court for not responding to a request for information. A public consultation on new guidance is due this year and the wording in it will need to be very closely looked at. The overall trend across Britain is to continually narrow family freedom. That's civil service led and backed by those of a left wing political persuasion. The interesting bit is the position of the Conservative party. I would speculate that, given enough pressure from home educators, they can be persuaded to hold the line.

Whether or not they do that depends on us.


Letters in the Times

Several letters in the Times in response to the 'shadows' article in which a useful idiot jumped on the home education bashing bandwagon. The first one is especially impressive and gets the terminology and the law completely right (unlike the useful idiot who wrote the article).

Sir, The education law in England and Wales is admirably balanced in its distribution of duties. Parents have a duty to “cause” their children to receive efficient and suitable education; the secretary of state has a duty to promote the education of the people of England and Wales; local authorities are required to ensure that “efficient education” is available; governing bodies of maintained schools must promote high standards of education at those schools.

Previous governments have investigated adjusting this balance and have concluded that such changes are likely to bring unintended consequences, exposing local authorities to undesirable liabilities.

Sir Peter Newsam (letter, March 3) is mistaken: the law regarding parental duties is unchanged since 1944 (save for a clause about special educational needs in the 1996 Education Act). Parents’ duties regarding education may be discharged by sending their children to school, by teaching them at home, or by other means, and this choice has never been subject to the whims of a local authority. The law does not give local authorities an unconditional right of entry to private homes to inspect the education provided by parents any more than it gives them a right of entry to inspect the food that parents prepare for their children, unless (in both cases) there are genuine concerns.
Dr Jeremy Yallop

Sir, The law has never regulated home schooling. A parental duty to educate a child is enshrined in the Education Act 1944 s.36 “either by attendance at school or otherwise”. It is not a parental right, rather a responsibility to ensure a child receives a good education.

Various non-legislative initiatives have tried to bring home schooling under some form of regulation. A local authority representative may ask to visit your house but you do not have to agree to it, and it is not likely to be requested anyway if your child has never attended school at all.
Lyndsey Simpson
Leyland, Lancs

Sir, I have only ever come across socially and emotionally well-rounded products of home schooling, which is more than I can say about many saddening failures in those respects within the state system. Parents tell me that their two chief objections to state education are the increasingly Soviet-style intrusions into parental nurturing and educating, and the imposition of new views of the purpose of education with accompanying “values” that emanate from an aggressively secular vision of the world. And I do not know of any Church of England primary or secondary schools that are in the business of training a new generation of Crusaders.
The Rev R C Paget
Brenchley, Kent

Sir, Alice Thomson (“Take home schooling out of the shadows”, Feb 28) seems to assume that the state must always protect children from their parents. If children are to be “safe as well as literate and numerate”, as she puts it, then schools are where the state should be looking, because for too many children in too many schools this is manifestly not the case. The state should sort out the schools for which it does have responsibility before interfering in home education.
John Allen
Shrivenham, Oxon


Home Education: Public Consultation:Written question - 134170

Home Education: Public Consultation:Written question - 134170

Department for EducationHome Education: Public Consultation

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when the Government's consultation on the guidance on home education for parents and local authorities is planned to begin; how long that consultation is planned to last; and what the timetable is for the Government to respond to that consultation.

Answered by: Anne Milton Answered on: 29 March 2018
We aim to start the consultation process within the next few weeks, once the necessary documentation has been prepared. The consultation period will be proportionate, as required by the consultation principles document published by the Cabinet Office. That document also sets out that a response to consultation will normally be made within 12 weeks; but in any event, it is planned that the final version of revised guidance will be issued as soon as responses received during the consultation period have been considered fully.
This is the one we're all waiting for.

The D of E have hinted problems with children being coerced into home education by head teachers looking to improve results and home educated children being taught at illegal schools.

They have not hinted at a problem with home education per se. They have, however ( and I can't find the link) made a reference to an audit of their existing powers.

Lord Lucas asked this question recently:


Department for Education
Pupils: Registration


To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of recent amendments to the Pupil Registration Regulation requiring schools to improve the information provided to local authorities when a child is removed from school rolls.

Answered by: Lord Agnew of Oulton
Answered on: 19 March 2018

Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and in suitable education. That is why, in September 2016, the department amended the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, to include further duties on schools to improve the information they provide to local authorities when a child is removed from their roll. This will better enable local authorities to carry out vital enquiries to ensure children are safe from harm.

The government has committed to reviewing the impact of the regulation changes by September 2019.
That appears to confirm the position that the D of E do not support a change in the legislation.

What ever the D of E do with the guidance will be key. In the Isle of Man they are playing havoc with non statutory guidance. The D of E will obviously be more sensible and measured. However, they only have to slightly adjust the wording to make a big difference to the way we are treated.

If the guidance is bad for home education I suggest we all scream foul at the tops of our voices!