Lancashire

The new procedures for Lancashire County Council (see here) are now in place and the EHE Support Workers and EHE Support Officers have been briefed on them.

We are thrilled that Lancashire are leading the way in implementing policies and procedures on Home Education that stick firmly to the legislation and show appropriate respect and understanding for Home Educators.

Our Understanding is that the process will work as follows: When a home educator becomes known to the County they will be in touch with you for an ‘informal inquiry’. You do not have to respond to this, but if you don’t they may feel they have reason to think you are not providing a suitable education and they will come and ask you again, so it is probably easier if you do. What they are after is some brief information that would cause “a reasonable person” to assume that you are not breaking the law with regard to your duty to provide a suitable education. This might be in the form of a few lines to explain the educational provision for your children to show a little of your thinking on the matter.

Suggestions:

1. A sentence about why you chose HE e.g. philosophical, religious, school doesn’t suit;

2. Information about your educational philosophy, this refers to your own approach to educating your child e.g. structured, semi-structured, autonomous.

3. Something about the resources you use and the activities you do: people, places, things, e.g. Granddad is good at woodwork, museums, parks and libraries, computer access, arts and craft materials;

4. Socialization and networking, e.g. Child goes to scouts/ local choir/ regular HE meeting/ plays with children outside school hours/ family – we are well networked with other home educators who provide us with support,etc. For children who were bullied or don’t enjoy “traditional” socialising this could be something like we are taking socialising at Jonny’s pace: this includes socialising with family and close friends and making available other opportunities such as x/y/z when J wants to take advantage of them. ie it doesn’t need to include lots of info but shows consideration for the needs of your child.

If you want to write more that’s fine but a few lines should be enough in most cases. If you would like to have visits from the EHE Support Officers and Workers they will be delighted to come round; that is up to you. They are there to provide help, advice and support where home educating families want it and otherwise to intervene only if they have reason to think that parents are not fulfilling their duty under Section 7 of the Education Act.

They will continue to contact ‘known’ families annually. Again, it is entirely up to you what you want to do for this. At the very least they would appreciate an e-mail or letter from you stating, “We are continuing with our HE.” (If you do not contact them at all, they will probably contact you again as they believe they have to keep the information in the database up-to-date.)

If a home educator comes to their attention because someone has reported them as ‘not providing a suitable education’, the officers will require more than this very basic information as under these circumstances they have a duty to find children who are missing education and do something about it. In these cases they should tell you what the concerns raised are and enable you to clarify whether you are providing a suitable education.

There are bound to be some ‘teething troubles’ in the beginning. Some of the staff have been working under a different system for many years and may find it difficult to adapt. If anyone feels like they are being pushed into something they do not want to do, e.g. have a visit, show the child’s work, or have the officer see or speak to the child, please be very firm and state to them that you know that this is not a requirement, and please let us know so that we can bring it to the attention of the department to try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

The County do not have all the required documentation in place and would like to hear home educators suggestions as to what they would like to have written in these. If you have a idea of what you would like a first contact letter to look like or any other letters, please let us or the EHE Department know. They will be having meetings around the County to gather such information as well as telling you about the limited support they are able to offer and letting you meet the officers.

There are three types of meeting planned:

1) Working alongside the Forum Group, the LA intends to provide development opportunities for the support officers to gain a deeper insight into the varied approaches that home educators adopt. We could do with a number of home educators with different approaches (e.g.structured, semi-structured, eclectic, autonomous) attending to give their views – people who want contact and people who don’t want any contact and everyone in between are all welcome. The meeting is about explaining how Home Education is carried out so that officers can recognize it when they see it. E.g. that just because an 8-year old autonomously educated child is not reading, it is not a sign of no education. (It is not about telling the EHE officers what they have done wrong in the past.) If anyone is interested in helping out with this, please contact us (i.e. not the County).

2) There will be an initial meeting, held somewhere central (please shout out if you would like central to be near you) to try and establish what home educators want in terms of documentation and future meetings. This will be followed by a few meetings around the county to enable more people to come and have their say along the same lines.

3) From then on, if Home Educators want them, there will be meetings around the County which will be drop-in sessions for people to go and ask for support and information surrounding HE and to let you know of other services, e.g. what the health service are providing in terms of vaccinations, how you can get help from the music service, etc.

The procedures, as they are now, are still a ‘work in progress’ and will be reviewed within 12 months. The County would appreciate having feedback on how they are working in the field. At the moment much of the support that Home Educators might want, the County cannot offer, e.g. exam centres, funding, extended library facilities, CRB checks. However, if we ask for them, then in the longer term it might be possible to arranged something for those who want it, so please go along to the meetings and say what you would like to have.

We would also appreciate people giving feedback to us on how things are working so that we can know if further work is needed.

The progress that the County has made in terms of the turnaround in Home Education policy is extraordinary. The key people working on this for the County are Mike Snelson, Acting Principal Advisor for Quality and Continuous Improvement and Frances Molloy, School Attendance Lead. They have put a lot of work into it and listened to us as stakeholders. We want to show our appreciation and respond enthusiastically to further encourage them by engaging in the work of setting up the new system. This is an achievement of home educators as well – many of us put in our responses to the consultation – 85 they had, which is huge! So pat yourselves and each other on the back and mark one up for real democracy.

Thank you to everyone who is helping us with this process. We have come such a long way and really are getting somewhere.

If you have any questions about any of this please don’t hesitate to ask.

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