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6.24 Children who have been the Subject of Safeguarding Concerns in School and who are then Removed from School for Elective Home Education (EHE)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2016.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Referral Criteria
  3. Response


1. Introduction

In Hertfordshire, at any one time, there are between 500 and 700 children who are educated by their parents, rather than at school. This is known as Elective Home Education (EHE). The vast majority of these children are well cared for and cause no concern with respect to safeguarding. However, in a small minority of cases, children may be removed from school in order to avoid professional scrutiny.

The reasons parents choose to educate their child themselves vary. In this situation a child’s education becomes the responsibility of the parents (see Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities (DCSF (now the Department for Education))) but does not need to take place in school. Some of the reasons parents choose to undertake Elective Home Education are because:

  • The parent’s have strong philosophical or value based issues;
  • The parents have concerns about a child’s special needs;
  • The parents have concerns about bullying;
  • The parents wish to avoid prosecution for non-attendance;
  • The parents wish to avoid professional scrutiny.

Children, who are receiving EHE, are with agreement of the parent visited during each equivalent educational key stage by the Elective Home Education Adviser, who can offer advice and support to parents educating their child at home. There is however, no statutory requirement for parents to meet with the adviser.

The Elective Home Education Adviser offers a professional opinion as to whether the education being provided is suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and to any special needs he/she may have (Section 7 of The Education Act 1996). The adviser’s focus is primarily on the education being provided to the child although they may also become aware of welfare concerns when undertaking visits. It should be noted however that they have no statutory right of access and no right to see the child.

Following the death of Khyra Ishaq in Birmingham, the government commissioned the Graham Badman report into EHE, however, the recommendations of this report have not been implemented. Currently there is no compulsory register of EHE children although Hertfordshire County Council maintains a register of the children they are aware of. There are some children who have never been in school of whom there is no record. It was a finding of the Khyra Ishaq Serious Case Review (SCR) that social care staff were under the wrong impression that the child was receiving a much higher level of monitoring by the Education Welfare Team (the Hertfordshire County Council equivalent is the Attendance Team and the EHE Team) than was actually the case.


2. Referral Criteria

If a child is removed from school for EHE, the school notifies the Attendance Team. They alert the EHE team who offer to visit to discuss the arrangements that the parents propose to make for the child’s education.

It is important that whoever is visiting the home to discuss the child’s education with the parents is alert to any safeguarding issues if they arise.

Children in school may already be causing concern with respect to safeguarding. A child may have been the subject of a CAF or a CAF may have been offered to the family and refused. If a child in these circumstances is removed from school for EHE, the school should send a Service Request Form to Client Services who would then send it on to the Assessment Team where the child is living.

Some of the issues that might give rise to safeguarding concerns, especially when more than one issue has been identified and when they include parenting capacity, are:
  • Social isolation;
  • Poor presentation i.e. dirty and tired;
  • Poor behaviour and social skills;
  • Unmet health needs;
  • Parental alcoholism / mental illness / substance abuse etc;
  • Frequent changes of school;
  • Children with special educational needs;
  • Lateness and poor attendance.

Safeguarding concerns may have been present prior to the child’s removal from school for EHE or they may come to light afterwards. Also, existing concerns may escalate due to the intensity of the child / parent relationship. If an Elective Home Education Adviser has concerns following a visit they would refer these to Children's Services.

NB: Schools must not encourage parents to withdraw their children from school for EHE in order to avoid prosecution for poor attendance or as a way of managing challenging behaviour.

For further information about Hertfordshire’s EHE policy and procedures please click see Hertfordshire County Council website, Educating your Child at Home.


3. Response

On receipt of the referral, a Social Worker will be allocated to complete an Assessment. It is essential that the Social Worker speaks to:

  • All members of the household;
  • The child’s father/mother if he/she is absent from the household but still in contact with the child;
  • All professionals involved with the family;
  • The child, who should be seen alone, away from the family home.

The Social Worker needs to be mindful that:

  • Once removed from school, the child is not being seen on a daily basis and no longer has access to a range of trusted adults with whom to share concerns about their welfare;
  • The child may only receive a visit once during each educational key stage from the Elective Home Education Advisor who has no statutory right of access.

If the education provided by the parents is deemed to be unsuitable the child is deemed to be missing education and, a referral will be made by the EHE Team to the Children Missing Education Officer ensure that the matter of the child’s education provision is followed up.

Adult Care Services, Health Care Workers, the Police, Voluntary Sector workers and members of the public who know families whose children are receiving EHE should inform the EHE Team of any concerns they have about a parent’s ability to provide suitable education on grounds such as:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse;
  • Mental illness;
  • Incidents of domestic violence;
  • Previous offences against children.

This would generate a referral to the Assessment Team where the child is living so that the child’s circumstances can be fully explored.

Professionals, such as GP's or Health Visitors and others listed above, who are in contact with a family where a child is educated at home should be mindful of the fact that the child is not being seen on a daily basis and does not have access to a range of trusted adults with whom to share concerns about their welfare. If these professionals have any concerns about the child’s safety or welfare they should ensure that the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Child Protection Procedures are followed.

End