The Local Government Association Lobbies Peers

What’s been said?

On 24 January 2018, the Local Government Association [LGA] published a briefing on Home Education to the House of Lords.

The LGA is an organisation which maintains communication between different authorities and represents the interests of local government to national government.

Why does it matter?

This briefing gives a useful overview of the group’s thinking and concerns relating to EHE. Many of us may only be familiar with a few local authorities through our own dealings with them, but this shows how LA staff share a common agenda and wish to exert influence upon policy nationally.

It would have been known before the briefing was published [HoL calendar] that Lord Storey was taking questions on the topic of safeguarding children not attending school.

During the second reading of Lord Soley’s Bill on 24 November 2017, Lord Agnew of Oulton (Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education) had stated that the Government intended to revise the guidance documents on EHE and would soon be consulting on this.

This guidance is of great significance to LAs as this is essentially the manual they refer to to get an idea of how statutory material translates into practice on the ground. Many LAs have complained in the past that the guidance gives them insufficient authority to fulfil what they believe to be their responsibilities.

Seeing the Government has said they do not intend to change the law on home education but do intend to update the guidance, those hoping for increased powers for LAs probably deemed this a suitable moment to make their voices heard in the current debate.

Key themes from the briefing are below. Many will be familiar to us already:

  • concern about lack of registration
  • the need for powers to enter homes/see children (to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education and to meet their duties to safeguard)
  • the need for a clearer definition of what constitutes a school
  • the demand for compulsory registration “to prevent children from disappearing from the oversight of services designed to keep them safe”.

The remaining background information restates their main areas of concern:

  • number of home-schooled children – refers to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services October 17 survey re numbers and year on year increase.
  • registration requirements
  • illegal schools
  • protecting children.

The briefing also highlights the need for LAs to be provided with sufficient funding to carry out  any new responsibilities.

What can I do?

Although this briefing will not directly affect the progress of Lord Soley’s bill, reading it could raise your awareness of the key issues regarding HE as seen from a LA point of view.

Many of the concerns expressed are not new, but it’s helpful to think them through and prepare suitable answers.

Particularly noteworthy are:

a) It does not currently fall within the remit of a LA to inspect the quality of education. It is required to intervene only if there are reasonable grounds to believe that education is not taking place.

b) Safeguarding is not the responsibility of the Department for Education although it is frequently presented as such. Conflation of these two issues was a problem in the days of Badman and remains so today.