Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 14 OCTOBER 2009
Q120 Mr Stuart: Would you support
the idea that a sumwhether it is the full amount allocated
to the local authority for that child's education or a lower amountshould
be available as a right for home educators to use to support the
education of their children? As you may have heard, one of the
earlier witnesses talked about spending £1,000 just to pay
for his child to sit GCSEs, which seems quite wrong.
Peter Traves: If we had a registration
process that told us exactly how many children were in the authority,
we would hopefully be funded by government for all children in
our local authority for their education. For those children who
were not in school, we could use that money both to support those
parents and engage with parents as to how that money could be
Chairman: Paul, do you have a view on
Sir Paul Ennals: As I understand
it, that is part of the package that was proposed by the Minister
this weekthat a small proportion of age-weighted pupil
unit be allocated not direct to the parent but to the service,
to enable better support that has been sadly lacking in most authorities
up to now. I think that is probably the right model.
Mr Stuart: Can I press on that?
Chairman: No. I will call you if we have
the time. Paul has been waiting patiently for his question.
Q121 Paul Holmes: The home educators
we had earlier had some wide, divergent views on different things.
What they all generally agreed on was that, with a few shining
exceptions, most local authorities were very bad at providing
support for home educators. Is that a true and fair assessment?
Sir Paul Ennals: I would probably
sway it slightly the other way. I think it is a very mixed picture.
We have Staffordshire and West Sussex, and we are hearing that
Somerset and North Yorkshire are very good. A number of authorities
are very good, but a number are pretty poor as well.
Q122 Chairman: Do you want to name
Sir Paul Ennals: No, I don't think
Q123 Chairman: Why is it that everyone
wants to name the good ones but never the bad ones?
Sir Paul Ennals: For very good
reasonspartly motivational reasons.
Q124 Chairman: Philip, do you want
to name anyone or do you have a comment on that?
Philip Noyes: No, I couldn't,
if I wanted to.
Chairman: Peter, I am not asking the
same question. Just answer Paul's question.
Peter Traves: I think it's a mixed
picture at the moment. To be honest I don't think it has consistently
had a high enough profile in local authorities. I don't think
enough resource has consistently gone into it. Clearly, there
are authorities which do very well. I wouldn't dare name other
authorities and probably wouldn't be in a position to know. We
have had to work hard in the local authorities I have worked in
to catch up on this issue. If this is going to work, it goes back
to my original point that I do think some statutory guidance or
even legislation would help us, but it won't be the answer unless
we actually increase the expertise within local authorities and,
most important of all, engage in a positive dialogue rather than
a dialogue of suspicion with home educators.
Q125 Chairman: Should Ofsted find
out who is good and who is bad? Don't bury your head in your hands.
Peter Traves: Chair, you are asking
us to name authorities. Without having a really complex process
of analysing each individual authority it is really hard to give
a name. That is part of the reason why I don't think that would
be a proportionate response, to be frank.
Q126 Chairman: Peter, Hansard
didn't pick up the fact that you buried your head in your hands.
What about my mentioning Ofsted caused that?
Peter Traves: If parents find
it intimidatingand some parents dothat a local authority
officer goes in, I think the idea of an Ofsted inspector going
Chairman: Going in to you to find out
if you're working well with them.
Peter Traves: Sorry, Chair. That
is perfectly reasonable and I think Ofsted is planning to do so.
Ellie Evans: They have started
Chairman: Ah, so you misinterpreted my
Peter Traves: Yes, I did entirely.
Ellie Evans: With regard to the
Ofsted side of things, it is very difficult if we do not have
an idea of suitable education. I would be very interested in the
criteria that Ofsted come up with. I haven't seen them, as yet.
Q127 Paul Holmes: Peter, you touched
on this point before the last bout: if the Badman recommendations
lead to all local authorities having to look again at support
for home education, how is it going to be funded? The Minister
suggested on Monday, and DCSF has suggested, that the money is
already there but local authorities aren't using it. If you are
going to have proper training for everyone who is involved; if
you are going to provide more support and more access to facilities;
if you are going to pay for exam entries and all the rest of it,
is the money already there but you're just not spending it?
Peter Traves: It depends what
you mean by the money being already there. Local authorities spend
the money that they are given, as you know, Paul. It would be
up to local authorities, if there were no additional resources,
to vire money from one part to another out of existing resources.
One point about knowing precisely how many children are educated
at home is that it would give us a much better idea of how much
resource we ought to allocate to that issue.
Paul Holmes: But DCSF has said the proposal
would be cost-neutral.
Peter Traves: It is not unusual
for the DCSF to say that. I understand that.
Chairman: It would say that, wouldn't
Peter Traves: We have clearly
reached a period of significant financial constraint. If the figures
are anywhere near as high as Graham Badman is suggesting, local
authorities will need to look at their current allocation of resources
and say that they need to vire resources according to that.
Q128 Chairman: But you're missing
out at the moment, aren't you? The money flows with the child
to the school90% of it to the school now. Presumably, you
are saving a lot of money if those people do not pitch up and
ask for education, are you not? Or the Government are.
Peter Traves: Yes, but we don't
know how much at the moment, Barry.
Chairman: It's £150,000, which is
a lot of money.
Peter Traves: If that is right.
Q129 Paul Holmes: What about something
simple that I don't really see would cost money? Home educators
are incensed about the difficulty of finding an examination centre.
Why is that so difficult?
Peter Traves: I don't see why
it should be so difficult. To be honest, that doesn't cost huge
amounts of money, and there is no reason why we couldn'twe
already have schools and other places where we run exams. We have
colleges that run exams. I don't think that's impossible. Do you,
Ellie Evans: We could certainly
look at also using alternative providers that register as examination
centres. But going back to costing, there was an indication that
money is already there, but you have to draw it down. It is not
the case that we are already getting money for home-educated children.
We are not. The money has to be drawn down. Therefore, you would
effectively be going back to the central pot and drawing the money
Q130 Paul Holmes: But if home educators
keep going to local authorities and saying, "I want help
to pay exam fees," and the local authority by and large says,
"You can't have it," why are they not drawing down the
money, if it is there?
Ellie Evans: I think that is something
that needs to be explored, but the actual inference is interesting.
I noticed in the response from the DCSF that said that they `believe'
that the money is already there. That is different from saying
that the money is already there.
Q131 Chairman: But you agree it is
wrong, is it not? The gentleman said that he had to pay for all
the examinations. Why on earth would that be justifiable? It wouldn't,
would it? We are drawing stumps in four minutes. Is there anything
we haven't asked you that you wish you had been asked, or is there
anything you want to tell the Committee before we wind up?
Ellie Evans: Local authorities
are standing there and getting some criticism and what have you
because the money is there but they have not actually allocated
resources, but the must-dos, indicator sets and so on are the
things that they have to focus on within the financial constraints
that they find themselves working with. A legislative framework
around this would make it a must-do. That is something that needs
to be considered.
Chairman: Paul, last word?
Sir Paul Ennals: No.
Peter Traves: I think the must-do
is that we are already responsible for all children, and for those
five outcomes. That ought to be driving the approach on this.
We already have a responsibility for those children in broad terms.
Philip Noyes: No.
Chairman: Peter, may I apologise and
say that you have been a better witness than I could ever have
expected from the person who was supposed to be here. Keep in
touch. This is a short, sharp report, but we want to make it a
good one. If we can draw on your expertise, we will remain in
communication with you. Thank you very much.