Triborough in breach of Elective Home Education guidance

Daniel Gordon made this Freedom of Information request to Westminster City Council

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Dear Westminster City Council,

In a recent petition to highlight your boroughs insistence on meeting with home educating parents the following points were made:

Local Authorities have a duty to make enquiries should it 'appear' the educational provision may not be suitable. They have no duty to monitor. However, the triborough services expect families to meet them or provide a professional endorsement of the provision, from the beginning of communications, before any appearance of concerns. This is not in accordance with the EHE guidance.

The triborough have served School Attendance Orders on Home Educating families because they have chosen not to meet the LAs ultra vires demands. None of the cases, to our knowledge, were any any specific concerns raised about the educational provision.

The LA cite that it is agreed in their policy and letters that families should meet the LA or provide a professional endorsement and that providing a report (written by the parents) is not adequate. However according to the EHE guidance, it is the family’s decision how they wish to respond to communication from the LA, yet this LA are not respecting the parents’ rights.

Liz Truss MP and Graham Stuart MP have told the triborough services to adhere to the guidance, but they have not taken this advice and continue to lack respect for the government written guidance.

We request that the triborough bring their policy and procedures in line with the law and that families are respected in their choice of preferred method of communication and respect be given to reports provided by the parents. We ask that the procedures within the EHE guidance are followed in full, and that the automatic expectation of guilt and demanding of evidence cease.

The triborough is the only LA in the country (that we are aware of) to serve SAOs on families without actual 'appearance' of the education being unsuitable, the SAO's are based purely on the family excersicing their right not to meet the LA.

Please find below two quotes; the first from a letter written by Westminster EHE team to one of the family's concerned and the second from the SAO letter, neither of which respect the parents right to choose as per section 3.6 of the guidance (which follows directly on from already having conducted informal enquiries and there being an appearance of the education not being suitable) (the following is not meant to be used prior to concerns) :

'Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision that they are making for the child's education during a home visit, but parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or they may choose not to meet at all. Where a parent elects not to allow access to their home or their child, this alone does not constitute a ground for concern about the education provision provided. Where local authorities are not able to visit homes, they should be able to discuss and evaluate the parents' educational provision by alternative means, as is done in the vast majority of cases. If the parent chooses not to meet, they may, legally be asked to provide evidence that they are providing suitable education. If a local authority asks the parent to provide information, the parent is under no duty to comply, although it would be sensible for them to do so. Parents might prefer 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, which is well within their legal rights to do so. '

Quote from letter: 'Thank you for the comprehensive report you have provided in relation to the provision you are making for your [child]. As our procedures confirm, we usually meet with children and their parents who are home educating. Although written information can be helpful, it is a statement of intent and not, by itself, a satisfactory means of ascertaining that a child is in receipt of suitable education. As you are aware, we cannot of course insist on a meeting with you and you have, to date, declined to meet with the Home Education Adviser, either at your home, these offices or any alternative venue of your choosing. We have therefore confirmed we would consider information from an education professional who knows [child] (maybe one of the teachers [child] currently engages with at one of the classes [child] attends) who would be prepared to provide a formal opinion regarding the provision being made.

Quote from SAO letter '1) You could agree to meet with the Home Education Adviser, at any venue of your choice or 2) You could provide written confirmation from one of the independent education professionals currently involved in [child's] home education program.

In the absence of either of these, the position of the Local Authority, in line with the agreed relevant policies and procedures, is that we have been unable to be satisfied that [child] is in receipt of suitable education. A School Attendance Order is therefore attached (a hard copy will be put in the post). To reiterate, we remain committed to resolving matters without resorting to legal action and would urge you to reconsider the options that have been outlined. As previously explained, the significant majority of families we work with are prepared to meet with the Home Education Adviser and have been doing so for a number of years. If you felt able to reconsider and change your mind about meeting with the Home Education Adviser we would, of course, be prepared to facilitate a meeting. Additionally, the alternative option, information from an education professional involved with [child] who would be prepared to provide verification of the suitability of the provision, may also be something you would be prepared to consider.'

Under the FOI Act please send me details of numbers of parents whose children were
not registered at a school who have been served by your local education authority with a School Attendance Order for failing to satisfy the authority their child is receiving suitable education.

Please send figures for each of the following years: 2011, 2012,
2013, and 2014.

Additionally, please send numbers of notices of intention to serve
a School Attendance Order.

For the same years, please send statistics of numbers of parents
who have been prosecuted for not complying with a School Attendance
Order.

Yours faithfully,

Daniel Gordon

J Butkiene, Westminster City Council

Information request
Our reference: 1325734

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Mpande Kapotwe, Westminster City Council

Information request
Our reference: 1325734

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
Dear Mr Gordon
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your request for information that was received on 14
September 2015.
 
Request summary
Under the FOI Act please send me details of numbers of parents whose
children were not registered at a school who have been served by your
local education authority with a School Attendance Order for failing to
satisfy the authority their child is receiving suitable education.

Please send figures for each of the following years: 2011, 2012,2013, and
2014.

Additionally, please send numbers of notices of intention to serve a
School Attendance Order.

For the same years, please send statistics of numbers of parents who have
been prosecuted for not complying with a School Attendance Order.
 
We are dealing with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
and we aim to send a response by 12 October 2015.
 
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J Butkiene
Westminster City Council
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C Barnard, Westminster City Council

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Information request
Our reference: 1325734

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Dear Mr Gordon
 
Thank you for your request for information received on 14 September 2015.
 
Please find attached our response to your request.

If you are dissatisfied with your response please send your Internal
Review request to the email address below

[1][Westminster City Council request email]

 
Yours sincerely
 
 
C Barnard
Knowledge & Information Management Team
Westminster City Council
Tel: 0207 641 3921
Email: [2][Westminster City Council request email]
Web: [3]www.westminster.gov.uk
 
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