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A message from Patrick Leeson:

1 December 2015 weekly update

1 December 2015

This week we have detailed information on the revised Elective Home Education (EHE) policy that was agreed by Cabinet on Monday 30 November 2015 and actions schools can take with EHE requests.

Dear Colleagues

Elective Home Education Policy 

KCC has revised its policy on Elective Home Education and the new policy was finally approved by Cabinet on 30 November 2015.

We have seen a significant increase in the number of children and young people being educated at home by their parents. A large proportion of the increase is made up of young people aged 14-16 and many of these have a history of persistent absence, under-achievement, exclusion and referral to Children's Social Care. In these cases the Local Authority may have some concern about the suitability of the education provided at home, and not in school.

The revised policy is designed to make improvements to the way in which Kent engages and works with EHE families to ensure that suitable education is being provided for all children of parent(s) who elect to home educate.

The role of the Local Authority is to provide support for home educating families if they wish it; to ascertain whether suitable education is being provided (by a range of means including home visits) and to intervene with families if the Local Authority has reason to believe that a child may not be receiving a suitable education or there are concerns about their welfare.

There are currently about 1300 children and young people being educated at home. There were 964 new referrals in the past year, equivalent to 80 referrals per month. In response to this increased number of children and young people being home educated there has been a renewed focus on engaging with families earlier. Current practice has shown that some families have been using EHE as a last resort and were not choosing this option pro-actively. There is good reason to believe, therefore, that home education is not the first preference for many of these families. Of the 964 referrals to the EHE Service in 2014-15 the subsequent work, advice and support for these families resulted in 366 children and young people being helped to return to school.

In response to consultation with parents we have further amended the policy to emphasise the right of parents to educate their children at home and focus on working with and seeking to support EHE parents where they wish to engage. KCC's EHE website has also been substantially redesigned in order to provide improved support and advice to parents.

Focus of the Revised Elective Home Education Policy

As well as improving access to information, learning materials and support and advice that an EHE family may need, the Local Authority will want to be assured that suitable education is being provided especially where the following conditions apply:

a)  The child has a history of persistent unauthorised absence from school (by persistent absence, KCC mean absence of 15% or higher);
b)  The child has a record of poor attainment at school as measured by progression in performance using prior attainment, school assessments and National Curriculum Test Results as the basis for assessment;
c)  The child has previously been permanently excluded from school(s) or has a history of fixed term exclusion whilst at school;
d)  The child has been referred to Early Help and/or to Children's Social Care.

Where one or more of these conditions are met, KCC expects parents who elect to home educate, to participate in a meeting with an EHE Officer and the child at a mutually convenient time and place in order to satisfy KCC of the suitability of the education provision. From past experience, the presence of one or more of these factors is a strong indication that the child in question may well not be engaging in or receiving a suitable education and may be seriously under-achieving. Education will not be recorded by KCC as suitable if the meeting with the parents or carers is not held.

The expectation is that this meeting will help to ensure that informed decisions have been made and that an informed judgement on suitability of provision can be made. Where there has been no engagement with KCC officers, and one of the conditions above have been met, the education provision will not be recorded as suitable. It will be recorded that there has been no opportunity to speak to the child and see sufficient evidence regarding their education and the child's name will be added to the Children Missing Education register.

Children 'Missing Education' who are registered EHE will remain on the Children Missing Education register until KCC is satisfied that suitable education is being provided, including through a meeting which involves engagement with the child and parent.

Where there is evidence that a suitable education is not being provided, and after a period of time in which the parent has been asked to improve the educational programme and the expectations for a suitable education are still not being met, KCC will take steps to issue a School Attendance Order.

At the same time Kent County Council recognises that most parents who elect to educate their child(ren) at home do provide suitable education and this is to be commended.

Actions by Schools

Schools are asked to take every step to avoid a decision by parents to home educate in situations where more could be done to address problems and improve concerns. The Policy asks schools to ensure there is a cooling off period before a child's name is removed from the school roll. Can I ask schools to please involve Early Help or the EHE Team to work with families who may be about to decide to home educate, or where there are home-school issues that could be mediated and improved. And lastly can I please ask schools to be helpful where we are working with a family of a home educated child or young person and there is a wish to return to school. Many of these children and young people are among our most vulnerable learners and we must do everything we can to secure the best educational chances for them.

For more information and advice please contact the Head of Fair Access, or, Access to Education Manager.

Thank you.

Patrick Leeson
Corporate Director for Education and Young People's Services.