Written November 2023 based on the 2019 England EHE guidance, whilst this can apply to Wales it is important to read the Welsh 2023 EHE guidance updates HERE to understand the differences in EHE guidance.
This is a brutally honest and a little bit sweary post about the reasons you should not allow the EHE team into your home, meet them elsewhere, take their phone calls and why you shouldn’t allow them to speak to your child, plus why you should never provide samples of learning.
We will discuss why you should make the LA EHE team act within the law. Some of you will be offended by this post (especially if you have had a visit and felt it went ok), if that’s you then please take a step back, get a cuppa and a biscuit, come back and reread it.
Being told you cocked up or were wrong with your understanding of this isn’t nice for anyone and we do not want to be cruel but this really is important and affects more than just you. We will try to explain why we encourage all Home Educators to keep the LA communication in writing only. If you are an LA reading this, please consider that out of the hundreds of LAs around the UK at any given time only around 4 are acting wholly within the law. 4!!! the concerning part here is that next month they won’t be the same LAs, as staff leave or local policy changes, there is no predictability. And without predictability we have to take this approach across all LAs. Please try to keep reading this with an open mind and understand why we take the approach that we do.
LAs have the legal duty to identify children missing education, once they have basic info about the home ed then that is that duty over with.
In response to LA informal enquiries a provision and resource report is more than adequate to satisfy the LA (in this post LA and EHE refer to the same department, the person responsible for home ed).
NOTE: If you have a notice to satisfy, SAO, custody case etc. then the situation should receive personalised advice which we are happy to give.
Always communicate and respond to the LA, never ignore their communications. But do it in writing. If they phone just say you are busy and can they email you. If they leave an answerphone message you should email in. If they write you requesting a meeting you can use the info on our site to respond.
BUT REMEMBER you are in charge of the suitability of the home education, not the LA, and there is no legal basis for the LA to dictate how you communicate with them.
CHOOSING to keep communication in writing should not be a trigger for the LA to take further action. It is a choice, not a refusal to engage etc.
Every example below is a real case. Every thing below has happened. Thousands and thousands of times.
It just isn’t their job, and many LAs are lying sods and do immeasurable harm.
It’s as simple as that!
Educational Freedom exists purely because of bad LAs causing harm. Take that in, we would not exist if LAs behaved appropriately. We would not be volunteering dozens of hours a week if LAs acted within the law.
10 years ago our creators were admin of home ed groups, those groups were inundated with thousands of requests for help, help that often required the same replies. So we created the Educational Freedom website with all of that info and to provide FREE info, support, advice and one to one help. The website and subsequent Facebook groups and pages were designed with the ethos of making LAs act within the law, to make them behave, to stop the harm, stop the unnecesary SAOs.
My team and I were putting in 60 hour weeks each! with no pay! digging people out of the holes created by having a visit. Luckily those cases have declined dramatically as more and more people saw how bad the LAs were and started to keep their communications in writing.
Pre the 2019 changes to the EHE guidance you could say no to a visit and that was the end of it. Most LAs didn’t ask for more info. Some did, and they weren’t entitled to it. So we focused on helping them, and those with really bad LAs who served automatic SAOs when you said no to a visit. Then the EHE guidance changed (the LA could still only make informal enquiries) and not providing any info became a reason to believe the education wasn’t suitable. So we and other organisations started to recommend people provide written info about the provision in lieu of a visit.
Most LAs accept written info in lieu of a meeting, however some still call SS if you choose not to have a visit (we of course work on those cases and have won them all). So whilst rare now it does still happen but we can easily deal with it for you. Do not let the LA threats pressure you in to a meeting, they make these threats so the majority comply, if the majority comply they then have grounds to change their policy which can then affect government policy. These kind of LAs say things like ‘but Dawn down the street has a visit, therefore you must be hiding something’ they will play you against each other.
Remember always provide info in writing as no response will trigger concerns.
What you do affects all other home educators!
As the 2019 guidance settled in and LA staff changed, and the Portsmouth case happened, we faced a new battle, one in which LAs demand supporting samples to back up a report.
Samples = copies of work. Examples = Johnny has learned to use the 3 times table.
They are calling you a liar. They are saying they need you to prove you haven’t lied in your report.
However, who’s to say any work you show them was truly done by that child?
How does showing a couple of samples really represent the whole education?
What happens to the families who don’t do formal work?
What happens if the kid has anxiety and really can’t cope with their learning being shared?
The EHE guidance does not stipulate how you should respond to the LA, it does not state that you must provide evidence to back up written information.
Remember the LA above that used Dawn as an example? They now say ‘well she showed us all Brad’s workbooks, therefore we think you are hiding something’.
REMEMBER What you do affects other home edders!
There’s so many risks to meeting with or talking to the LA: they call social services for non reasons, they serve school attendance orders for the most bizarre reasons, they lie, they bully, they intimidate, they harass. They turn up unannounced, they call the police for no reason, they claim the education isn’t suitable because it doesn’t fit that one persons ideals. If you have kept communication in writing you will find an LA person who says ‘you must have a timetable’ won’t put that in writing. If they do then we can support you to invalidate those claims. An LA is less likely to lie on paper.
You are relying on a single person to decide in an hour that what you’ve done with your children over a year is suitable. You are also relying on their notes being accurate and truly reflect what was discussed.
There is no legal definition of ‘suitable’, beyond being appropriate and suitable to age, ability, aptitude and SEN. You are expected to provide an education that ‘equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the wider country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.’ and ‘1. to prepare the children for life in a modern civilised society; and 2. to enable them to achieve their full potential’
We don’t want that description to be any more detailed as it will limit the freedom to do what is right for each child, but it does mean you are at the mercy of that one EHE person. You have to hope they like your wallpaper, pet, tattoos, job, neighbours, garden, toys, dust, shoes etc, you have to hope they respect your home ed approach, that they have knowledge of your approach and that they don’t try telling you what to do, because often if you don’t carry out their ‘recommendations’ you’ll be served an SAO!
Kids don’t like strangers usually, so inviting one into your house, or sharing their work is intrusive and disrespectful of the kid. What happens when the EHE person makes your kid read to them, recite the times table, are quizzed on something, and the kid doesn’t want to talk? You’re told that home ed isn’t suitable as your child needs to be in school to learn to talk to strangers.
What happens if your kid has SEN and is unable to interact at all? You’re served an SAO, SS are called and you’re dragged through 2 years of harassment, all because you let them in thinking you had nothing to hide.
You might have nothing to hide but you have everything to protect.
Sam left school unable to write, he worked hard and he now puts pen to paper. School failed him massively. And what you’re doing is working, you and Sam are over the moon with how well he is doing. The first EHE visit went ok, but the EHE wrote in the report ‘a suitable education was not seen, will revisit in 3 months’, even though you showed lots of progress being made in the couple of weeks since leaving school. Their next visit felt less friendly, they made suggestions that were not suitable/you’d already tried. But the EHE saw it as you failing ‘Sam’s writing is not adequate for his age or ability. Mum refuses to use the recommended materials suggested. I have made a referral to social services as I do not believe the home is a safe place.’ They ask for another visit in a months time, Sam is now petrified he’s going to be forced back into school. The family reach out to us and we support them, no more visits and the parents write a report describing why the education is suitable. The social worker agreed there were no concerns in an unannounced phone call. And the family are left alone by EHE and SS. But this could all be avoided if you had written a provision report instead ‘When Sam was deregistered he was unable to write, he could not write his name, he has worked hard and with our support can now confidently write short sentences. We achieved this by using x resource …. The progress and confidence Sam has made assures me that the education is suitable to his age, ability, aptitude and SEN’. This short statement leaves no where for the LA to pick fault or cause you harm.
Letting them do something that isn’t their job screws all home edders over.
It’s selfish, it’s naive, and it’s dangerous to let an LA do something that isn’t in their remit, especially once you know the harm and dangers.
Do you allow social workers into your home every year to check on bedding and food?
Do you allow the police in twice a year to check you’re not breaking the law?
Do you visit the doctor when you’re healthy?
No you don’t! And we are sure you’d be calling anyone out for doing so.
Sue your local EHE person might be lovely and friendly and support all styles, but she leaves due to management forcing her to demand school at home from home edders. Bob takes over and serves dozens of SAO’s for the most bizarre reasons including ‘the front gate was in disrepair therefore I could not get into the property’.
Families start to choose not to meet him and he serves SAOs on them too as ‘you’ve always had a visit and must be hiding something now.’
This is only resolved when families come together, and with our support, work with the LA to educate Bob on where he is going wrong. Just as things start to improve Bob leaves, Dodi then comes in, they are an ex head teacher and send out a ‘welcome’ letter to every home educator in their area, this letter out right lies about their legal duty, Dodi’s job title is now home education teacher, they claim visits are mandatory as are timetables and marked work. Dodi has no interest in working with families to improve the service. Families move out of the area to avoid the LA, others give in and meet them, but many fight, Dodi ends up leaving those who fought them alone, but now focuses on those who agreed to a visit, and now turns up every 3 months unannounced and stays for 2-3 hours. New to home ed families hear the horror stories and are too scared to say no to a meeting. This is not healthy.
Or Dave the CME officer who also covers EHE is nice to the structured families and horrid to the unschoolers.
Karen the EHE consultant manager is nice to the families in the fancy houses but calls social services on those on a low income. Based literally on post code! She doesn’t even give families a chance to respond to her ‘concerns.’
Avril turns up unannounced on dozens of families doorstep in a week, she is a ‘welfare officer’ she states that pre covid the EHE person would conduct welfare checks (the EHE person tells us that he is appalled that Avril made this claim), and that the EHE will make his normal enquiries but she is there to check the child is safe, we find out she planned on doing this to every EHE family despite not a single family having any welfare concerns flagged. She is swiftly told by the majority that this is not acceptable, but some families already let her into their home and one family now has an active SS case as she didn’t believe the kid was ok because he wasn’t at home! Many families were left petrified and threatened with SAOs as the education wasn’t suitable despite Avril asking nothing about the education. If you are ever doorstepped like this you can just say ‘we do not know who you are, you are welcome to email us and we will respond accordingly’ and close the door.
We have families currently battling an LA who insists EHE visits are a legal requirement and that home education must be recorded and documented to match the national curriculum, there are various staff who send threatening sounding letters. Families who do not understand visits are optional, or do not understand the harm visits can do, are allowing the staff into their home. What happens next is pot luck on which EHE person comes out. Some families are told the next visit will be in 4 months as they didn’t see enough evidence of learning (despite the half hour visit consisting mostly of the EHE person babbling on about their qualifications). But some families receive a written follow up report that clearly ignores everything the family told the EHE person, these reports have contained some out right lies, and he family now have a formal notice to satisfy, we have supported those families to write replies using our report writing guide. Standing up for themselves has meant the LA has backed off from them.
Your LA asks for an update about the Home Educational provision, they send you a form that asks questions such as ‘what are the parents qualifications’ or ‘provide a copy of your timetable and curriculum’, they ask for the name and address of everyone involved in the education, they also state you must include 3 photos or videos of your child’s maths, another 3 for english, and more to ‘provide traceable evidence of all other subjects’, then horrifically they ask ‘photos must be provided evidencing your child socialises. Include names and ages of the children in the photo’. Our generic advice is to provide your own written report rather than filling in their forms. This is for many reasons, firstly writing your own report gives you the opportunity to write as much or as little as is relevant on any particular subject, it allows you to leave their ultra vires questions unanswered without massive blank spaces which they would pick up on and question why you haven’t answered them. It also allows you to control the narrative. You do not legally have to respond in the way the LA demands. But the example we are sharing here wrote their own report using our guide, it included everything the LA needs to be satisfied the child is not missing education, however the parent was scared to rock the boat so they also included some photos of the child’s ‘work’ this child mostly learned from doing, the photos were of lego whilst learning fractions, and some photos of books the child has read. The EHE team completely disregarded the report, and wrote stating ‘inadequate information and evidence’ it went on to talk about how one photo of fractions with lego did not demonstrate a full time education and that the book photos did not prove the child could read them. The family tried arguing this on the phone with them, and were asked to have the child read to them over the phone, the parents said no. A formal notice to satisfy was received a few days later. At this point they approached us for help, we wrote a formal email reminding the EHE of the law, that the parents report suitably described the education and that unless they had further concerns we would consider this matter closed. Very luckily the EHE person dropped the case with a simple ‘ok’ as a response, they literally wrote ‘ok’ and signed off.
Within the same LA above, a family filled in the forms and sent dozens of photos, the education was deemed unsuitable as ‘sports do not appear to be part of the education’, the form did not ask about sports. A quick email sorted that, but 3 months later the family were sent a formal notice to satisfy as the LA decided they ‘hadn’t processed or finalised the initial form’ and the photos were deemed unsuitable as they were of different things to those mentioned in the form. With a few emails back and forth we managed to get the EHE person to stop demanding photos, and to take a more common sense approach to the information being provided.
There’s no consistency or predictability within each LA or around the country. It’s a stupid risk and one which we are here to help pick up the pieces from but you can help yourself by making the LA keep communication in writing.
We work for free, as do other groups, 24/7/365 digging people out of holes that could be avoided and quite frankly I’m fed up of it. I’d prefer to be spending my time helping families with the fun stuff rather than fighting a court case because the EHE decided a reading book wasn’t age appropriate (it belonged to a sibling), or talking with social workers because the EHE person didn’t like the kid playing in the garden in bare feet, or helping a family battle the EHE who contradicts themselves on their forced 3 monthly visits who serves an SAO because the family are not cooperating (1st visit told to use CGP books, 2nd visit told CGP aren’t appropriate, 3rd visit family started to stand up for themselves and told the EHE, 4th visit kid is thriving unschooling EHE didn’t like it).
We work tirelessly behind the scenes, working with LAs and local home ed groups, working to improve the LA service, we spend weeks and months on them, quite often to find that member of staff comes round and see they’re acting outside the law, they approach management and the next thing we know is that EHE person no longer works there. And the next person isn’t interested in working with families.
We talk to EHE, social workers, schools, lengthy conversations with families who are struggling, ex’s, venues, groups, you name it we are supporting them, and my team work their bloody arses off.
So yeah, we get passionate, sometimes seen as a bit aggressive when we talk about this stuff, we might appear over the top, and you might initially be scared, or put off with being told what you did was wrong, but we (and by we I mean the vast majority of home ed group admins and members) say something to protect you. And we are here when/if it goes tits up. It is not about you as a person, it’s about us as a community. A community constantly under attack.
Yes you have the right to choose what to do, but your actions have consequences on us all. You have the right to home educate and the right to educate in the way you see fit because of those who fought this fight before us and because of us who continue the fight. Some respect is appreciated. Without those battling the LAs and government the right to home educate would have gone a long time ago.
In an ideal world, LAs would act within the law, home edders would be safe to reach out to the EHE person for support without risk, and we would all be respected, but that’s not the case. There’s is virtually no reason to ever ask the LA for something that national or local home ed groups can not help with quicker and safer. If you want/need praise/confirmation that you’re doing ok then ask in a home ed group. If you want a resource ask in a group. EHE staff are rarely trained, they do not specialise in alternative education, they do not have disability training, and many have not even read the EHE guidance!
So yeah, that’s why we say never to meet, talk with or give samples of work.
You are responsible for your child, not the LA or the government, but they do have duties you must therefore always respond to them. Just do it in writing.
There is a government consultation about proposed new EHE (England) guidance. We will be producing a guide ASAP to help you respond, so no need to rush in.
For now, have a read, BUT DO NOT PANIC ABOUT THE PROPOSED CHANGES: