To receive a report of the Director of Children’s Services providing an update on new guidance around Elective Home Education and an overview of the Hampshire position.
The Select Committee received a report and presentation from the Director of Children’s Services on Elective Home Education (EHE) in Hampshire (Item 7 in the Minute Book). Members were taken through the slides and details around the new guidance on EHE from the Department for Education were highlighted. It was heard that the new guidance had been welcomed and was in two parts, for both local authorities and parents, which provided greater clarity. Key extracts from the guidance were explained. Officers informed Members on implications of the guidance and it was heard that local authorities should now consult the parents of the child when establishing the suitability of home education, and prompt action and early intervention was crucial. The use of school attendance proceedings and robust policies and procedures were also explained.
Members heard that the number of children in Hampshire currently receiving EHE was 1,715 which was a significant increase from 7/8 years ago where numbers were approximately 400 and this increase was expected to continue. It was explained that there were also differences in numbers between the district areas in Hampshire.
The work of the EHE team was detailed and it was heard that priority was given to children who were most vulnerable. Officers highlighted the work of the EHE coordinator and the administrative team, and services offered such as bespoke telephone or email guidance for parents. The importance of the team maintaining good links with EHE parent groups and health and social care was also noted.
In concluding, Members noted that going forward there would be an increase in the number of home visits, increased EHE team capacity in response to the rising numbers of home educated children and a continued focus on the most vulnerable children. Officers also highlighted joint working with other south-east authorities in order to have a common definition of “suitable education”.
In response to questions, Members heard:
· That the guidance had been welcome to provide clarity on the need for annual assessments and home visits to home educated children, to be made by local authorities.
· That school funding for local authorities was based on the number of children in school, and home educated children didn’t count towards this funding. With the new guidance and funding needed for administration functions and home visits to parents, this would put additional pressure on the schools forum budget.
· That parents could apply for an EHCP if their child was home educated and the organisation SENDIAS could support parents with this.
· That if an EHCP was taken out whilst the child was in mainstream school, then if that child was subsequently home educated, the parent would have to prove that the EHCP was still being met under the new EHE guidance.
· That the large increase in home educated children could be attributed to a number of factors which included: rise in use of social media, parents being more aware of their right to home educate, narrowing of school curriculum, dissatisfaction with the school system, bullying and school attendance. 30% of children did go back to school every three months, so the total number of home educated children did fluctuate every month.
· That it would be useful for school governors to offer an exit interview to parents who had decided to home educate their child, and this would also help to provide a clearer picture of reasons behind this decision.
· That there was an increase in the number of children being home educated between Year 10 and Year 11 in the summer of 2019, and it was doubtful as to whether these children did undertake their GCSE exams.
An additional recommendation was proposed by Councillor Jackie Porter and seconded by Councillor Kirsty North:
That the Select Committee:
- ‘Recommend that the Executive Lead Member write to the Secretary of State for Education to seek funding from the Department for Education to be held by the Local Authority for each child educated at home, so that the Local Authority has the budget to exercise their functions as described by the new EHE Guidance 2019’
A vote was held, with the outcome:
The additional recommendation was thus carried.
a) That the Children and Young People Select Committee considered the report and noted the next steps being taken by the department.
b) That the Children and Young People Select Committee recommend that the Executive Lead Member write to the Secretary of State for Education to seek funding from the Department for Education to be held by the Local Authority for each child educated at home, so that the local Authority has the budget to exercise their functions as described by the new EHE Guidance 2019.