Dealing with the LA
Most of the information below applies to England.
Once you have been contacted by the Local Authority it is important to understand that they are not always honest, we wish this wasn’t the case, but despite many home educators and organisations working with each LA, they still do not seem to understand how threatening their letters sound, or how intrusive their questioning is. And despite Education Select Committees telling them that cold calling, on the phone or doorstepping, are not acceptable ways to communicate, they still do it.
Be armed with the knowledge, read our website, and read the EHE guidance.
You NEVER have to allow anyone from the council into your home. And you do not have to speak to them on the phone. You can politely ask them to keep all communication in writing.
Ideally the first contact will be a welcome letter, offering information about local groups and activities. They should be honest that they have no duty to monitor or assess, and should be upfront that you’re able to choose how you respond to informal enquiries.
Their informal enquiries shouldn’t really be any more often than annually, home educators deem anything more often as an attempt to monitor.
Once you receive communication, we strongly urge you to always respond (unless of course the letter/email doesn’t require a response). And the response should always be in writing.
We and most home educators, urge you to keep communication in writing, that way there is a paper trail, which can be used as evidence should things become messy. Most LAs will respect your choice to not have a visit or phone calls, please contact us if you run into any difficulty.
As mentioned above, some LAs are not honest in their communication, some threatening SAOs if you do not have a visit, others claiming they have to monitor you every few months, and some claim you have to provide photos and video evidence of your child learning. You don’t have to do any of the above. If you have looked through the rest of our site and looked at the template letters but still don’t know how to respond to the LA, then do contact us.
The first communication can often come with extensive forms to fill in, asking for information that has nothing to do with home education, many are very school type education focused. We suggest ignoring the forms and offering a report on the provision once you’ve settled in. Some will accept this, others will want information straight away. Either way, you can use our sample report as a guide, along with this letter. You should not include contact information or log in details to any website, tutor or group (home ed or otherwise).
You may be asked why you are home educating, you can reply to this, as it is to ensure you were not forced out of school, or that you have removed your child without any idea about home education. If you wish to respond, you can say ‘because we chose to’.
The LA should respond, thanking you for the information and that they will talk to you in a year.
Unfortunately some will push for more information, if you’re not sure about your report, or if they’re entitled to more, you can contact us. You do not (and we suggest you don’t) have to include photos or other kinds of evidence of the provision.
Annual contact by letter asking how you are doing and if you’d update them is deemed acceptable amongst home educators. A brief written update using our template is more than adequate.
If the LA deems the education as not suitable, they should tell you why, giving you chance to rectify it, or explain why they’re wrong. If they are still not happy they will serve a notice to satisfy, to which we strongly urge your respond with a very detailed report (remember home ed doesn’t have to resemble school at home and the LA have to respect that). If for any reason this is still not deemed as suitable they can serve a school attendance order. Unfortunately some LAs do this without valid reason, we are here to support you, but don’t panic, as the majority don’t do this. If you are served an SAO you can refuse to abide by it and go to court. We suggest you go armed with lots of information and evidence of a suitable education, as well as the ehe guidance highlighted up showing that the LA can not force any particular style of education etc. Luckily SAO’s are rare, and most concerns, with our support are rectified quickly.
This is just a very brief explanation, please continue to read through our site, ensuring you are fully armed with all the knowledge.
If you are an LA reading this, please consider carefully why we have to recommend families keep contact in writing, why the forms are not suitable to home education and why calling yourselves monitoring teachers etc is not creating a healthy image to home educators. We are more than happy to liaise with you, for free, to bring your policy inline with the EHE guidance and law.