Press Release: DCSF Diana Johnson announces a new support package for home educating families

Diana Johnson announces a new support package for home educating families 09 October 2009

-More support for home educated children with special educational needs-

-Better access to public exams and further education-

– Improved access to music lessons, school libraries, work experience and sports facilities-

-Better monitoring so that every home educated child stays safe-

Schools Minister Diana Johnson has today announced better access to qualifications and more support for home educated children with special educational needs (SEN), signalling the start of a new relationship between local authorities and families who choose to educate at home.

The commitment comes as Children’s Secretary Ed Balls today sent the Government’s full response to Graham Badman’s Review of Elective Home Education to the Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee. The response sets out a new support package for home educated children, which includes better access to GCSEs, vocational qualifications and further education. The proposed changes to monitoring arrangements will also make sure that the right checks and balances are in place so all children receive a suitable education, in a safe environment.

Key features of the new support package include:

– More flexible access to public examinations and exam centres for home educated children, so their parents no longer have to rely on ad hoc arrangements with schools or colleges that can be a long way from home
– More tailored support for home educated children with special educational needs
– Better support for home educated young people who want to go to college
– Improved access to music lessons, school libraries, work experience, sports and other specialist facilities in schools and colleges
– A commitment from the Government to look at arrangements for flexi-schooling, so that home educated children can have the option to attend school on a part-time basis.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools Diana Johnson said:

“The vast majority of home educating parents offer their children a good education, and the support we have outlined today will help them and their children. It is right that home educated children should have access to things like school libraries, sports facilities and music lessons and also have more tailored support for special educational needs.

“We’ve always been clear that parents have the right to educate their children at home. There are no plans to change this, and we understand parents choose to home educate for a number of different reasons.

“But we know there are a small number of cases where local authorities have concerns for the safety of home educated children. The Government has a responsibility to make sure that the safety – and rights – of vulnerable children are protected, which is why we are looking at how we can put in place better checks and balances, so we can be confident every child is safe and learning.”
Chief Executive of National Children’s Bureau Sir Paul Ennals said:

“Home educated children with special educational needs have long needed better support. I warmly welcome the measures announced today to improve the support available to these children”.

Today’s response reiterates the Government’s support for statutory arrangements for the registration and monitoring of home education, so that all children are kept safe and receive a good education. The proposals are currently the subject of a public consultation, which closes on 19 October.
Graham Badman has today also written to the Select Committee setting out the results from a snapshot survey of local authorities, which received 74 responses.
Graham Badman said:

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has accepted my review in full and will provide the resources needed to support home educators to do their job in the best possible way.

“The package as a whole will give home educated children far greater access to FE colleges, exam centres, school facilities and wider educational opportunities, while ensuring that they are prepared for life in the wider community as adults. Local authorities say that most home education is good, but they need stronger powers to deal with cases where it is poor and to step in if they have concerns for a child’s safety. I am glad that the Government is consulting on arrangements to make sure that all home educated children have access to a good and safe education.”

The response also outlines that more work will be done to clarify what is ‘suitable and effective’ home education to support new guidance to local authorities on supporting and monitoring home educators. This will emphasise how local authorities can work with home educating parents to make sure that the needs of all children, including those with special educational needs, can be met in the home environment where appropriate. The guidance will take account of findings from the Lamb Inquiry, to be published later this year.

Editor’s Notes
This press notice relates to ‘England’
1. The report to the Secretary of State for Children Schools and Families on the Review of Elective Home Education in England is available here:
2. The Government’s full response to the review and Ed Balls’s letter to Graham Badman is available here:
3. Graham Badman has today written to the Select Committee setting out results from a snapshot survey of local authorities, which received 74 responses. This is available here:
4. The press release on the publication of Graham Badman’s review can be found here:
5. Parents do not currently have to register a child as home educated, although they are encouraged to do so. They have to notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child to educate them at home and the school must then notify the local authority. The DCSF issued guidance on home education for local authorities in November 2007.
6. All parents are required by law to provide a suitable education for their child. Where this is not happening, local authorities can intervene and issue a school attendance order.
7. Where there are child protection concerns the local authority has a duty to investigate.
8. As parents are not required to register home educated children (unless they are leaving a school’s rolls) there are no official statistics on the numbers of home educated children. A study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills in 2006 estimated around 20,000 children were known to local authorities. A recent snapshot survey of local authorities estimates that there are around 24,000 home educated children known to local authorities. The figure may be substantially higher.
9. The Government is clear that home education should be a positive choice for parents and that it cannot be right that some home educators feel they have to remove their children from school because of bullying or because of special educational needs provision. For this reason the response sets out plans to require local authorities to analyse carefully the reasons that parents choose to home educate, and to examine carefully the services and support they need.
The Government is committed to improving SEN provision in schools, and the pioneering £31m ‘Achievement for All’ pilot project will provide innovative teaching and support for young people with special educational needs in 450 schools across the country.

On top of a commitment to improving SEN provision, the Government has provided over £3 million to help tackle bullying this year alone, and current policy gives schools the tough powers they need to take action. Every school must have policies in place to prevent and tackle bullying and our support for schools offers a range of proven strategies developed by the major anti-bullying experts. Parents will also be able to complain to the new independent Local Government Ombudsman on issues like bullying or SEN provision if their initial complaint to the school has not been handled properly

Contact Details
Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288,
Press Notice 2009/0180

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