To consider the attached report.
The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance introduced the report and commented that home schooling was a decision for parents. They could use private tutors to support this but there was no requirement to do so. The Council had made it clear to parents of the financial and educational impacts of the choice to home school, but this was a decision for themselves. All children were entitled to be home schooled unless there was a School Attendance Order in place. However, if there was a safeguarding issue, the Council would need to intervene. If the child had an EHCP provision would need to be made to ensure their SEND needs were being met. Parents were provided with a named Support Officer at the Council who would be able to provide support. If there were other areas of concern, contacts would be provided to establish support networks.
The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance informed the Committee of the numerous ways a child could be educated if parents did not wish their child to attend mainstream schooling, such as flexible schooling. Where Officers were aware that a child was being home schooled a questionnaire was sent out to the parents. There was no requirement for home schooled children to follow the National Curriculum, but suitable questions were asked to ensure the child was being educated effectively.
The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance spoke of the difficulties in obtaining information about children who were home educated. The Council sought to gather information on home educated children and everything they received was always welcomed. Any concerns identified by Officers or parents were raised with the family of the child. However, if concerns remained this would be referred to the Family Education Panel to reach a decision. However, it was very rare that stage was reached.
There had been 190 EHE (Electively Home Educated) cases classed last year. There were now 208 which would need reviewing, particularly during the pandemic and 93 cases had been closed last year. The levels of home schooling fluctuated depending on the school year the child was in. The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance stated that there were many reasons why a parent might choose to home school. Some may have been due to the pandemic and the resulting impact on the anxiety and health of the child. However, there were a number of other possible reasons such as dissatisfaction with the system and it was difficult to determine what the reasons were.
The Committee were assured that Officers continually monitored children with social care issues who were home schooled and many had returned to school. The Government had proposed a register for Local Authorities to track children who were home schooled and enable a clear policy to be established. The Council had made it clear to parents who chose to home school that if they then wanted to return their child to mainstream education, they may not be allocated their preferred choice of school.
Councillor Maitland enquired what the category was for children not wishing to attend school or parents not wishing their child to attend school. The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance replied that this was a complicated issue. There were some children with anxiety and the Council would refer them to the Medical Educational Panel if there were significant issues.
Councillor Hornby asked how Trafford compared to other Boroughs in respect of this. The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance replied that the levels in Trafford were very comparable to other Local Authorities. When the comparison had been completed it could be shared with Members.
Councillor Blackburn asked if there were issues with EHE children having difficulties in qualifying for further or higher education in later life. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance commented that the questionnaire highlighted that they were not disadvantaged. When they reached an appropriate age EHE children would be referred to Careers Advisors who would provide support.
Councillor Blackburn further asked if a family chose not to enrol their child for an exam, how an assessment would be conducted on what they had learned. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance responded that this would be a decision for the parent to determine.
Councillor Blackburn enquired if there were any young people who were home schooled which the Council were not aware of. The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance acknowledged that this was a legitimate concern. It was difficult to monitor as Government regulations did not allow for that level of scrutiny. The Council needed to ensure that a child’s education complied with the Department for Education’s guidelines.
Councillor Blackburn asked if safeguarding procedures were adequate. The Director of Education, Quality, Standards and Performance responded that if there were any concerns, then home visits would be conducted.
Councillor Duncan asked whether there was a minimum requirement for parents to home school and, if so, whether schools checked that level. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance clarified that there was no requirement in respect of this. The number of EHC was monitored at each school.
Councillor Whitham asked how new arrivals to the Borough were monitored and captured within the system. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance replied that they would be requested to proceed through the monitoring process and the guidelines of the process were available on the Council’s website. Councillor Whitham requested that guidelines be shared and this was agreed.
Councillor Whetton asked if Officers had contact with any parents with an extremist religious position which could affect their education. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance commented that she was not aware of this from an EHC perspective. There was, however, a Panel which scrutinised data and information received by the Council. This allowed the Council to ensure children were not missed. The Corporate Director, Children’s Services added that it was the duty of Local Authorities to prevent radicalisation and Trafford had Panels to ensure this.
Councillor Acton asked a question regarding traveller’s education as they moved around regularly and how the Council responded to this. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance commented that the Council previously had an offer for minority groups. One of the current Council Officers did have a supportive relationship with them. Traveller sites would be visited but it was difficult to perform those visits with current staff capacity.
Councillor Welton enquired whether there were any networks for EHC parents and how formal they were. The Director, Education, Quality, Standards and Performance confirmed that the Council did not hold any rigorous monitoring in respect of this. However, the Council held regular network meetings with EHC parent groups which were very useful and informative.
1) That the report be noted.
2) Information be circulated to Members on levels of EHC compared to other Local Authorities.
3) Information be shared to Members on how the Council monitored new arrivals and how their education is monitored.