Sunday, 29 March 2009


Elective Home Education Consultation Response
Q2 To what extent do you agree or disagree that the policy’s section on the law makes clear a family’s legal position regarding elective home education?
Please select one option only
Strongly agree
Neither agree or disagree
Stongly Disagree
Don't know
Q3 To what extent do you agree or disagree that the policy’s section on activity undertaken by the local authority makes clear what contact a home educating family in Leicestershire should expect to have with the local authority?
Please select one option only
Strongly agree
Neither agree or disagree
Stongly Disagree
Don't know
Q4 To what extent do you agree or disagree that the frequently asked questions cover most of the queries a family who is considering elective home education may need to ask?
Please select one option only
Strongly agree
Neither agree or disagree
Disagree Stongly Disagree

Don't know
Q5 To what extent do you agree or disagree that the parental guidelines, provide enough information to support a family in making the decision whether or not to home educate?
Please select one option only
Strongly agree
Neither agree or disagree
Stongly Disagree
Don't know
Q6 To what extent do you agree or disagree that the Home Education Plan will help parents consider what they need to provide in terms of time, resources and activities?
Please select one option only
Strongly agree
Neither agree or disagree
Stongly Disagree
Don't know
Q7 Are there any comments you wish to make?
Please type in CAPITALS in the box

The section is misleading due to the selective use of case law. Case law highlighting the rights of parents has been omitted. For instance, in the case of R V Surrey Quarter Sessions Appeals Committee, ex parte tweedie (1963), Lord Parker held that:

'... An education authority should not, as a matter of policy, insist on inspection in the home as the only method of satisfying themselves that the children were receiving full time education.

‘however, case law (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported] judicial review byLord Justice Donaldson, as he then was) has established that an LEA may make informal enquiries of parents. Lord Donaldson said:

"of course such a request is not the same as a notice under s 37 (1) of the education act 1944 (now s 437 (1) of the 1996 education act) and the parents will be under no duty to comply. However it would be sensible for them to do so. If parents give no information or adopt the course ………. Of merely stating that they are discharging their duty without giving any details of how they are doing so, the lea will have to consider and decide whether it ‘appears’ to it that the parents are in breach of s 36. (now s7 of the 1996 education act.)"

This is not made clear in the draft policy. As a consequence the document lies by omission. It is difficult not to conclude that the authority is being extremely selective in order to imply that an LA has more powers in law than it actually has.

‘there is no legal requirement for the LEA to make continual enquiries. Once in receipt of a reasonable account of the educational provision, their legal obligation is fulfilled and no further contact is necessary.’*

The dfes acknowledge this on their web site (see

‘Educating Children at Home
4. LEAs have no automatic right of access to parents' home. Parents may wish to offer an alternative way of demonstrating that they are providing suitable education, for example through showing examples of work and agreeing to a meeting at another venue. ‘

Or providing written information in a form sufficiently comprehensive to establish competence and intention, and beyond the bare assertion that education is taking place which Lord Donaldson determined was inadequate.

Moreover, insistence or assumption of a home visit by the LEA is a breach of article 8 of the ECHR (the right to privacy and respect for family life).

It would be helpful if LEAs carry out their duty to accept information provided in any reasonable and adequate form, by not making a priori assumptions of the normalcy of any particular form this might take, but on first approach to present parents with the free choice the law supports.

The accompanying section in the guidance document is not a complete and fair statement of the law, as it does not make clear that the LE has no legal right to inspect home education unless:

437. - (1) … 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.’ *

This is the Local Authorities only legal duty with regards to home education.

The guidelines also imply otherwise than that:
’Provided the child is not a registered pupil at a school, the parent is bound by no other constraints. In particular, there is no obligation:

To seek permission to educate 'otherwise';
To take the initiative in informing the lea;
To have regular contact with the lea;
To meet with the lea;
To have premises equipped to any particular standard;
To have any specific qualifications;
To cover the same syllabus as any school;
To adopt the national curriculum;
To make detailed plans in advance;
To observe school hours, days or terms;
To have a fixed timetable;
To give formal lessons;
To produce examples of ‘work’ for inspection;
To reproduce school type peer group socialisation;
To match school, age-specific standards.’*

And therefore the guidelines are not truthful and are not likely to promote good relationships with any home educator who is aware of the legal position. And most home educators will find this out eventually through contact with other home educators.

This information is inaccurate as it does not state that unless they have evidence that a suitable education is not taking place the local authority can only make informal enquiries of home educators.

(as an aside, the council might like to note that the wording of the questions in the consultation questionnaire could have been improved. So, it would have been better to state that question 3 referred to section six; trying to relate the questions to the relevant documentation was at times difficult.)


‘An officer will contact you to arrange a visit’ this statement is misleading, as it should point out all the legal ways that a home educator can supply information about the education the child is receiving. Visits are not compulsory. Again, provision of misinformation is likely to alienate the home education community, engender distrust and mean that the council will fail in it’s objective to establish good working relationships with home educators.

The document then outlines a visiting programme as if the council was legally entitled to do such a thing. This is entirely ultra vires and, arguably, deceptive. The document proposes a time for an official first home visit, which you have no right in law to make unless the family wants the visit. Even if they do consent to a visit, eight weeks gives no time for the child to deschool; a well accepted process necessary to effective home education. The family have no obligation in law to record the child progress. You have no right to have a further visit in a month unless you think education is unsatisfactory. The LE has no legal right to make a further visit in a year. There is no legal requirement for the lea to make continual enquiries. Once in receipt of a reasonable account of the educational provision, the LE’s legal obligation is fulfilled and no further contact is necessary.
The LA does not seem to have understood the government’s guidelines to local authorities in respect of elective home education:

‘2.7 Local Authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.’

By ommission, the level of misinformation in this paragraph is extremely worrying, as it raises serious questions about the competence, in particular the knowledge, of those engaged in the consultation. Possibly councillors and the audit commission need to be alerted to the poor quality of the information being dissemintated, albeit in draft form, by the council.

Moreover, you do not make it clear that the parents have no need to be involved in the annual review of a SEN statement and that the statement does not apply to home education.

The section on teaching methods is good.

It is not necessary to keep a record in order to return to full time education. Any school seeking to provide an efficient and suitable education will assess the child on entry.

Other useful websites that should be added are:


The fundamental flaw with the parental guidelines is that they fail to take into account the diversity of appraoches to home education that parents adopt to provide an efficient and suitable education. Underpinning the guidelines is an assumption that home education involves reproducing how education is delivered in schools at home. Undoubtedly some home educators seek to do this, however, many do not. The guidelines do not reflect different philosophies and learning approaches though the law allows for this diversity. This omission will alienate many home educators and these guidelines will be seen as irrelevant by them.

This failure to recognise that home education is not simply school education carried out in another enviroment is carried forward in the draft home education plan.

The shortcomings of the guidelines are exacerbated by them containing too much inaccurate information. In practice there is, in fact, little the Local Authority can do to support home educators – indeed, given the current financial climate there is little prospect that the council will be seeking to change this situation. Accordingly, it would be much more supportive to be more honest and less manipulative in the literature that the council produce.


It is not made clear that completion of this form is not compulsary and that evidence can be given in any of the ways suggested in the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities. i.e. parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.

It does not tell the reader that if the child has never attended school it is not necessary to inform the LA of the decision to home educate. It should make very clear that no advantage or support will come from informing the LA.

There is no one ‘correct’ educational system as children learn in different ways, so a pro forma education plan is wholly inapropriate. What the council should have said is that the LA understands that there are different learning styles and that they are supportive of parents adopting different approaches.

For example, throughout the education plan there is a presumption that parents will plan the content of their child’s education. However, this very idea is counter to the notion of ‘autonomous home education’, an approach that is more empowering for the child, but means that the sort of long-term planning envisaged by the council is anathema.

Elective Home Education Report
The first statement about the meaning of suitable education is factually incorrect. What is states is the definition of an efficient education. The definition of a suitable education is one that allows the child to achieve their full potential (Harrison and Harrison versus Stephinson, 1981). Again, it is worrying that errors of fact have not been identified prior to dissemination of the draft policy to the public.

The form implies that the Home Education Officer has a legal right to hold discussions with the child – this is not true.

We note that the report refers to the five Every Child Matters outcomes. The council will know that these five outcomes are underpinned by a set of PSA targets. It is highly unlikely that most parents (whether home educators or not) are aware of these targets. Thus it seems very unreasonable to expect children to know the underlying PSA targets. Fairness would also dictate that childen in school be tested on their knowledge of these outcomes. Is this now council policy?

Assessing knowledge of the five outcomes is impossible without an understanding of the underlying targets and indicators. This is because the wording of the five outcomes is rather general and they only become meaningful once the targets and associated indicators are considered. Yet once this is done, there is no real rationale for asking home educated children about progress towards the outcomes. For instance, for ’be healthy’ there seems little point in asking home educated children about school lunches (PSA 12, indicator 2). Indeed, it would seem to be unfair to expect a Home Education Officer to come to a reasonable judgement on the basis a conversation with a child about whether targets and indicators primarily aimed at school children are being met.

A copy any notes made by the Home Education Officer must be sent in full to the parents before any written report is produced if the council is to avoid lots of freedom of information requests.

As a council tax payer I am alarmed that the local authority are producing documents that may open them to an unecessary legal challenge because they are an incomplete statement of the law.

* quoted from ahed (action for home education). Retrived from

Details here:


Carlotta said...

Thank you so much for putting it all together in one place. Will be really useful. I always forget the ex parte Tweedie case too.

Maire said...

That is how I feel about your blog,the more we can collate information and make it simpler to compose an argument the better.

Unknown said...

Brilliant! A really excellent response, I hope the council really take notice.

Maire said...

Thanks Becky,so do I.

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