The Review of Elective Home Education - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


The monitoring recommendation

64. In order to enable local authority officers to assess the efficiency and suitability of elective home education, the Badman Report recommends that "designated local authority officers should:

    —have the right of access to the home;

    —have the right to speak with each child alone if deemed appropriate or, if a child is particularly vulnerable or has particular communication needs, in the company of a trusted person who is not the home educator or the parent/carer" (recommendation 7).

Notably, the Report continues: "In doing so, officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well". In this respect the Report attributes a safeguarding function to its recommendation on monitoring.[79]

65. The Children, Schools and Families Bill provides that a local authority officer should see a child, the parent and the place (or at least one of the places) where the education is to be provided, and do so at least once in any registration period. Where a local authority officer considered that someone other than the parent was primarily responsible for the home education provision then the officer would be under a duty to see that other person as well, at least once in any registration period.[80]

66. The Bill suggests that a home educated child should be interviewed with the parent present each year. It provides that unless the child or a parent of the child objects the local authority officer may meet with the child away from the child's parent. The Bill also provides that, should a home educating family not comply with these provisions, and the local authority could not otherwise ascertain the suitability of the home education provision, the family's registration could be revoked. [81]

67. The Bill provides that a local authority must give at least two weeks' written notice of a proposed meeting or of a visit to a place where education is provided for the child.[82]

Local authority duties in relation to safeguarding

68. 'Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children' is defined as:

    —protecting children from maltreatment;

    —preventing impairment of children's health or development; and

    —ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care and undertaking that role so as to enable those children to have optimum life chances and to enter adulthood successfully.

In day-to-day use the term 'safeguarding' is often used interchangeably with that of 'child protection'. Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. It refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or are at risk of suffering, significant harm.[83]

69. In seeking to establish the existing responsibilities of local authorities as regards the safeguarding of home educated children, the statutes listed below are relevant.

  • Section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989. This places a general duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need.
  • Section 47(1) of the Children Act 1989. This requires, where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the local authority "to make such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child's welfare".
  • Section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002. This places a general duty on local education authorities to make arrangements for ensuring "that their functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children".
  • Section 176(1) of the Education Act 2002. This requires local authorities to have regard to Government guidance about "consultation with pupils in connection with the taking of decisions affecting them". Despite the reference to 'pupils', local authority functions in this respect are defined in the Act as including the provision of education otherwise than at school.
  • The Children Act 2004, which requires local authorities to support the reforms introduced by the Every Child Matters agenda. Section 10 states:

    (1) Each children's services authority in England must make arrangements to promote co-operation between [the authority and relevant parties].

    (2) The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority's area so far as relating to—

    (a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;

    (b) protection from harm and neglect;

    (c) education, training and recreation;

    (d) the contribution made by them to society; and

    (e) social and economic well-being.

Section 53(1), which amends the Children Act 1989, requires local authorities, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare, to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings regarding the provision of services or action to be taken, and give due consideration to those wishes and feelings.

70. From the evidence that we received for our inquiry it was apparent that this framework of statutes, along with related guidelines, had sowed confusion in the minds of those responsible for implementing them. We would suggest that this is not surprising.

71. The Department's guidelines on home education repeatedly emphasise that the legislation outlined above does not extend local authorities' functions in relation to home education provision. It remains the case that the only circumstances under which a local authority could insist on seeing a child is where there were clear grounds for concern regarding the child's welfare. Otherwise, the only requirement on local authority officers is that, should they have child protection concerns in the normal course of their work, they inform social care services.[84] On this interpretation, local authorities are not required to seek out those home educated children who are not known to them or who they are no longer in contact with in order to attest to the welfare of those children.[85] Indeed, the guidelines emphasise that, in responding to any enquiries from a local authority relating to educational provision, a home educating family may do so in a number of ways, not necessarily including face-to-face meetings between a local authority officer and the home educated child (e.g. they might instead send written reports on the education being provided, or samples of the child's work).[86] Although case law suggests that it "would be sensible to do so", home educating families are not required to respond to such enquiries in the first place.[87]

72. There is, then, arguably a tension between current legislation, particularly the Every Child Matters legislation, and the emphasis of the guidelines on the limited applicability of these statutes to home education. This in itself renders home education something of an anomaly and may well account in large part for the apparent confusion of local authority officers. Added to this are the reforms under section 157 of the Education Act 2002 intended to increase the regulation of independent schools, including specifically in relation to safeguarding, which similarly leave out home education.[88] Note also part 4 of the Education and Skills Act 2008, which extends section 157(1)(a)-(c) of the Education Act 2002 to part-time education and a far wider range of non-school based educational institutions, but does not enable regulation of home education.[89]

73. The law relating to the duties and powers of local authorities with regard to home educated children has become very complex and difficult to interpret. This is reflected in the Department's existing guidelines on home education. The Department should take the opportunity provided by the Children, Schools and Families Bill to provide a definitive, succinct statement of the applicability of the Children Act 2004 and the Every Child Matters outcomes to home educated children. The Department should then provide guidelines that better enable local authorities to translate the law into practice, especially in relation to the safeguarding of home educated children as well as children with no record of school attendance.

Views on the principle of access to the family

Home visits

74. All but one of the home educators who contacted us flatly rejected the monitoring recommendation. In their view, along with the recommendation for registration, it turns the premise of 'innocent until proven guilty' on its head. The comment of one group of parents was that:

    There is an overall assumption in [the Badman Report] that parents have to prove themselves to not be abusing their children…".[90]

Within this context they regarded the monitoring recommendation as a threat to civil liberties and highly intrusive of family life. The following home educator wrote in strong terms:

    Not even the police have right of entry to a private home without first having reasonable grounds for suspicion and a warrant to enter the home. I will fight tooth and nail to protect my family's right to privacy and I will not be submitting to such visits should this recommendation become law.[91]

75. One home educator suggested that a revived health visitor system would be a better means of addressing safeguarding concerns.[92] Health visitors are in a similar position to local authority home education teams of not having right of entry to the home. As part of the trusted NHS brand, though, they are normally welcomed by parents, especially in pregnancy or in the early weeks following birth. If health visitors are refused entry and believe there is a serious risk to the child they refer the matter to social care services and/or inform members of the primary health care team, who may later come into contact with the child and family. If any family refuses to access preventative services for their child this is documented and reported to managers.[93]

76. As others pointed out, while local authorities do have powers to intervene where there are grounds for concern about a child's welfare (Children Act 1989), this relies on the local authority being aware of any such problems in the first place. Evidence suggests that the school is an important site in terms of identifying the abuse or neglect of a pupil,[94] a safety net that is not available to home educated children. The NSPCC in particular raised concerns in this regard. It stated that: "…if a child who is being abused is not afforded opportunities outwith the house, then the slim chances of them being identified become even smaller than they already are…no concern is raised because the child or the environment in which they are cared for is not seen".[95]

77. One local authority officer with whom we met explicitly stated that she did not believe it was her responsibility to monitor home educating families in the sense of going out and finding safeguarding problems. She also stated that, as a home education advisor, she did not want to be held solely accountable if a home educated child came to harm. Along with the social workers who submitted evidence to our inquiry, some of them current or former home educators, she did not see how annual visits alone would improve on existing legislation from a safeguarding point of view.[96] On this matter these social workers, as with other home educators, feared that, in the hands of inadequately prepared staff, the monitoring recommendation would result in an increase in false positive referrals of home educating families to social care services. They noted the consequent risk that attention and resources would be diverted from children in higher risk groups.[97]

78. Comments from other local authority officers reflected their greater unease at the status quo—they did worry when a parent refused to meet with local authority staff or when a family moved to avoid contact, and therefore did want the right to meet with home educating families. The following comments from two local authority officers reflected this concern:

    I have a family where we haven't seen the children for five years. We have no rights to see those children in the current situation. Clearly, our concern that we haven't seen them does not constitute a risk of significant harm and therefore we can't raise a question with social care… That's not sufficient. It is a limbo situation.[98]

    …[this local authority was] able to provide evidence [to the Badman review] that home education was being used inappropriately by misguided or negligent parents, or parents with mental health problems. Whilst these cases may not necessarily meet the thresholds for social care to intervene, there is no mechanism for engaging with these parents as they have withdrawn their children precisely to avoid external agencies.[99]

79. The officers taking this position did not necessarily want a more overt safeguarding role for themselves. Their support for the recommendation that home educating families be required to meet with them related to their role in advising on educational provision. Like the local authority officer noted above, they still saw their safeguarding role as being one of, where necessary, passing on relevant information to social care services.[100] The issue then is the level of the threshold for social care services to intervene in a given case—or the efficiency with which a local authority co-ordinates relevant support for a home educating family as necessary, such as parenting advisors or youth workers.

80. We do not believe that annual home visits by local authority officers to home educating families would represent an improvement on existing safeguarding legislation. However, the wider evidence that we received illustrated the potential value of the requirement for annual meetings between home educating families and local authority officers for the purpose of supporting home education provision. We believe that local authorities need a guaranteed means of engaging with these families.

81. Accordingly, we recommend that home educating families be required to meet with their local authority officer within three months of the child's home education commencing and thereafter on an annual basis.

82. The Children, Schools and Families Bill does not stipulate that meetings between home educating families and local authority officers have to take place in the family home, unless that is the only place that a child's education is provided. We are not convinced that these meetings need take place in the family home under any circumstances. We believe that two weeks is sufficient notice of a meeting.

83. As is already the case with many voluntary arrangements between home educating families and local authorities, the primary purpose of these meetings should be to offer guidance and support to and gather feedback from families, not inspection or to impose school-based frameworks. Local authority officers should focus on matters of educational provision, but be trained to be able to identify signs of harm and know who to refer the family to in such instances.

84. The Badman Report does acknowledge the need for training in relation to safeguarding matters. Recommendation 9 of the Report states that all local authority officers and others engaged in the monitoring and support of home education must be suitably trained, and that this training must include awareness of safeguarding issues. Recommendation 22 states that these officers should be suitably qualified and experienced to refer children to social care services where they believe it appropriate. The Department has confirmed that funding will be available for the training of local authority officers—it estimates that £350,000 would be required in the first year and £280,000 required on an ongoing basis for the entirety of officers' training pertaining to the registration and monitoring proposals.[101]


85. As outlined, the monitoring recommendation also advocated giving local authority officers the power to interview a child away from the child's parents. In his evidence to us, Mr Badman maintained that this power need not be regarded as draconian:

    …of course, I understand the sensitivities of interviewing the child and the child alone, but I hope that…it is, in a sense, the last resort—that proper relationships are established and that it would only be in extremis that a local authority would want to use the powers. We have those powers, but it does not mean that we need to exercise them.

    I make the point in the Report…that, if you educate at home, it is still first and foremost a home. …officers need to respect that, and they need to caveat their approach by asking, "Have I assessed the risk appropriately? Do I need to do this?"…[102]

This element of the monitoring recommendation was nevertheless particularly disconcerting for some home educating parents.

86. Home educators argued that the recommendation does not respect the child's privacy and that interviews would be stressful for many children, whether for reasons of shyness or the child having been traumatised by his or her time at school.[103] One of the justifications that the Badman Report puts forward for the recommendation is to give the child a voice.[104] Home educators noted that there is no discussion in the Report as to whether the child could refuse to be interviewed.[105] On this the Children, Schools and Families Bill is somewhat disingenuous—allowing a parent or a child to refuse such an interview, but making refusal a potential grounds for the local authority to revoke registration to home educate should it not be able to ascertain the necessary information by other means.[106]

87. Other concerns related to the conditions under which interviews with a child might be conducted. The following comment by a home educator encompassed the points raised by a number of others on this matter:

    The judicial system acknowledges problems with child testimony and strict protocols surround its elicitation in legal cases. … The proposal offers the opportunity for a local authority officer to abuse a child, to make false accusations against the parent, and for the child or the parent to make false accusations against the local authority officer. Interviews with a child alone should take place only in cases where criminal activity is suspected, should be videotaped, and ideally should be undertaken in the presence of an independent expert who can ensure that the child is not led, and that the interview process itself is not unnecessarily damaging to the child.[107]

88. Many of the local authority officers who we met themselves had reservations about this aspect of the Badman Report. While several of them could think of instances where a home educated child had clearly not been able to speak freely in front of his or her parents, they typically regarded seeing a child alone as outside their remit and as a right best left with social care services. One officer stated that if she were to speak with a child away from the child's parents she would anyway want a social worker present.[108]

89. We do not believe that local authority officers responsible for liaising with home educating families should be given the right to interview a child away from the child's parents. That right should be reserved for colleagues who have primary responsibility for child safeguarding, including social care services and the police. A parent's or child's refusal for such an interview to take place should not be included as grounds for revoking registration to home educate. Any related concerns on the part of the home education team should be passed to social care services.

Monitoring where the child has special educational needs

90. Where the home educated child has special educational needs (SEN), further issues are raised in relation to the monitoring recommendation. The National Autistic Society notes that the population of home educated children is likely to include a relatively high proportion of children with autism. This, it suggests, is due to the difficulties that many children with autism face at school, whether with regard to a lack of understanding within schools of the condition, difficulty accessing the necessary support, the pressures of social interaction in a school setting, or bullying.[109]

91. Carole Rutherford, co-founder of Autism in Mind, a national campaign and support group for parents and carers living with autism, elaborated on the added considerations for these families in relation to home visits and interviews:

    Children with autism find change very difficult and often hold fixed and rigid views about people and the places where they are used to coming into contact with that person. If a child is used to seeing a professional/teacher therapist in school then bringing that person into their home places that person out of context in their minds, and they can find it very difficult to interact with that person even though they are well used to doing so in school.[110]

92. On this point it should be noted that the Badman Report also recommends that local authorities should where appropriate commission the monitoring and support of home educating families through the local Children's Trust, "thereby facilitating the use of expertise from other agencies and organisations including the voluntary sector" (recommendation 6). In response, the Department has stated that statutory guidance would set out how local authorities should go about commissioning, to ensure that suitably qualified and experienced people took on that role.[111]

93. It is not clear from the Badman Report, the Department's registration and monitoring proposals or its full response to the Badman Report that sufficient attention has been paid to the conduct of monitoring where a home educated child has special educational needs. The Department must set out how its proposals around the training of local authority staff and commissioning of expertise from other agencies would encompass the particular concerns of these families.

Resource implications

94. Baroness Morgan has stated that the Department does not expect the registration and monitoring recommendations in the Badman Report "to place any significant additional burdens on local authorities" since "most already monitor home education".[112] It is the case that most authorities already operate a voluntary system of registration and monitoring, which may or may not involve home visits. However, the registration and monitoring proposals might be expected to increase costs by revealing a larger population of home educating families and requiring more intensive monitoring than some local authorities currently conduct—as well as, potentially, increasing the number of false positive referrals to social care services and the number of pupils moving from home education into school.[113]

95. The Department has estimated that the costs of registration and monitoring would be as follows:

Estimated population of home educated children

Total maximum costs in first year
Total maximum ongoing costs

DCSF, Impact Assessment, November 2009, pp 83-90.

The Impact Assessment notes that these costings contain no allowance for in-year monitoring and that a spread of assumptions in relation to this will need to be added. It also works on the assumption that the number of home educated children "is unlikely to exceed 40,000".

96. An analysis put forward elsewhere of the cost implications of the recommendations in the Badman Report suggests that they would require a minimum £60-150 million per annum increase in state education spending. This figure is based on the assumption that local authorities would be required to register and monitor 50,000 home educated children, only around 20,000 of whom are already voluntarily registered with a local authority and therefore likely subject to some monitoring, albeit potentially 'light touch' compared with that recommended in the Badman Report.[114]

97. Many home educators maintained that the registration and monitoring recommendations contained in the Badman Report amounted to "a blanket screening programme for a normal risk population" and therefore represented a waste of resources.[115] Several cited the situation in New Zealand, where the Education Review Office recently announced the discontinuation of its regular reviews (inspections) of home education provision on the grounds that it was not cost effective.[116] The Office will now carry out reviews "only when requested by the Secretary for Education, or in other particular circumstances".[117]

98. Given the evidence that we have received and the nature of the registration and monitoring proposals presented in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, we do not believe that the Department has put forward a realistic appraisal of the likely costs of those proposals.

79   See also, DCSF consultation, Home Education-registration and monitoring proposals, 11 June 2009.  Back

80   Schedule 1, section 19E(3). Back

81   Schedule 1, section 19E(4). See also, DCSF, DCSF Response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England, October 2009. Back

82   Schedule 1, section 19E(5). Back

83   DCSF, Working Together to Safeguard Children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, 2006. paragraphs 1.18-1.20. Back

84   DCSF, Elective Home Education: guidelines for local authorities, 2007, paragraph 4.7. Back

85   DCSF, Elective Home Education: guidelines for local authorities, 2007, paragraphs 2.12-2.16. Back

86   DCSF, Elective Home Education: guidelines for local authorities, 2007, paragraph 3.6. Back

87   Philips v Brown (unreported transcript 424/78 QB (DC)) 20 June 1980, cited in DCSF, Elective Home Education: guidelines for local authorities, 2007, paragraphs 2.8, 3.4, 3.6. Back

88   An independent school is an establishment that provides education either for five or more pupils of compulsory school age or for one or more pupils if they have a statement of special educational need or are in public care. Independent schools in England must satisfy a range of standards, covering: the quality of education provided; the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils; the welfare, health and safety of pupils; the suitability of proprietors and staff; the premises and accommodation; and the provision of information and the way in which complaints are handled. These standards are examined before an application for registration is approved and thereafter through inspection every three years (or where the Department has concerns about a school or where a material change is proposed by the school, such as a change of address). Inspections are conducted by Ofsted or by independent inspectorates whose work is monitored by Ofsted to ensure quality and consistency (though Ofsted inspects the welfare of boarders in all independent schools). Inspections are based around the standards for registration and a school's 'School Information and Evaluation Form', which should be keep up-to-date on an ongoing basis. See, The Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003; Ofsted, The framework for inspecting education in independent schools, September 2009.  Back

89   Monk, D, 'Regulating home education: negotiating standards, anomalies and rights', Child and Family Law Quarterly, May 2009. Back

90   EHE 64, paragraph 5.3 (Isle of Wight Learning Zone). See also, EHE 11, paragraph 6 (Mark Dennison); EHE 28, paragraph 3.2.1 (Sue Gerrard); EHE 32, paragraph 2.4 (S J Sherwood); EHE 69, section 2 (Stephen Quinton) Back

91   EHE 25, paragraph 8 (Louise Walters). See also, Ev 49, paragraph 6.5 (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE 8 (Carol Mathews and Nick Weir); EHE 9, paragraph 3 (Alexandra Barnes); EHE 26, paragraph 8 (Dirk and Angela Roth); EHE 28, paragraph 4.7 (Sue Gerrard); EHE 79, paragraph 2.2a (David Watson); EHE 85, paragraph 3.9 (group of home educating parents); EHE 86, paragraph 8 (Andrew Thorpe) Back

92   EHE 28, paragraph 5.1 (Sue Gerrard) Back

93   Information provided by the Department of Health. Back

94   EHE 178, paragraph 5.1 (Institute of Education, University of London) Back

95   Ev 89-90. See also, Ev 4, paragraph 28 (DCSF) Back

96   Annex 2; Ev 48, paragraph 6.3 (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE 61 (Hilary Searing); EHE 92, paragraphs 3.4, 6.1 (Ms C Archer). See also, EHE 20, paragraph 2.3.2 (Bristol Home Educators' Forum) Back

97   EHE 64, paragraph 4.9 (Isle of Wight Learning Zone); EHE 66, paragraph 2.4 (Nicholas Hill); EHE 140, section 5 (Paul Shabajee and Sarah Raynes) Back

98   Q 98 (Ellie Evans) Back

99   EHE 163, paragraph 3.5 (local authority officer); Annex 2 Back

100   Annex 2 Back

101   HC Deb, 3 November 2009, col 947W. See also, DCSF, DCSF Response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England, October 2009. Back

102   Q 33 Back

103   Ev 48, paragraph 6.1 (Home Education Centre, Somerset); EHE 60, paragraph 2.3 (members of a Christian home educating group); EHE 176 (Millie Redshaw). See also, EHE 18, paragraph 7 (Louise Thorn); EHE 48, paragraph 9 (Central London Home Educators); EHE 79, paragraph 2.2d (David Watson); EHE 116, paragraphs 7-8 (Miss Emma Whitford) Back

104   paragraph 3.3. Back

105   EHE 24, paragraph 6.5 (Marie Stafford). See also, EHE 33, paragraph 5.1 (Home Service) Back

106   Schedule 1, section 19F(e); Explanatory Notes to the Children, Schools and Families Bill [Bill 8 (2009-10)-EN], paragraph 122. Back

107   EHE 28, paragraph 4.8 (Sue Gerrard) Back

108   Annex 2 Back

109   EHE 155, paragraphs 19-21  Back

110   Ev 60 (Carole Rutherford). See also, for example, EHE 141, paragraph 3.16 (Ann Newstead) Back

111   DCSF, DCSF Response to the Badman Review of Elective Home Education in England, October 2009. Back

112   HC Deb, 29 June 2009, col 6W. Back

113   See, EHE 164, paragraphs 72-75 (Autonomous Education UK) Back

114   EHE 35 (Michael Crawshaw). See also, Ev 45, paragraph 4.6 (Home Education Advisory Service) Back

115   EHE 36, paragraph 1.4 (Philip and Sarah McNeill); EHE 51, paragraph 3.2 (Gloucestershire Home Educators); EHE 102, paragraph 10 (Cumbrian Home Educators); EHE 161 (Rainbow-Leaf Lovejoy) Back

116   EHE 48, paragraph 4 (Central London Home Educators); EHE 53, paragraph 4 (Group of home educating families in Yorkshire); EHE 67, paragraph 4e (Greater Manchester Home Educating Network); EHE 82 (Dr L Safran); EHE 100, paragraph 2.6 (HERA-Home Education Research Association); EHE 105, paragraph 18 (S G Marshall and L Daley); EHE 109, section 3 (Tom King); EHE 115 (ReactivEO) Back

117   New Zealand Education Review Office, Note that these reviews were for the purpose of assessing educational provision against that outlined in the parent's application to home educate. Applications are made to the Ministry of Education and must demonstrate that the child "will be taught as regularly and as well as in a registered school". The decision was in line with other measures by the Ministry to reduce expenditure-for example, schools performing consistently well and that have demonstrated competence in using self review to improve the teaching and learning of pupils will be exempt from the current three-yearly inspections and will instead be reviewed every four to five years.  Back

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