Received a disgraceful letter from Lincolnshire County Council on the 5th April, trying to pretend that they have the right to demand “evidence” from home educating families on a yearly basis. I was incensed – so I wrote this formal complaint to the Director of Children’s Services. As yet, a week later, I have received no reply, but I will not let this drop. They are deliberate liars and bullies at worse; at best they are so misguided and ignorant of the law as to be completely incompetent. It’s a shambles.
Dear Mrs Barnes,
I have been given your details by David Coates as being the appropriate person to contact with concerns and a complaint over Lincs County Council’s revised home education policy and procedure.
I was dismayed and angered to receive the standard letter Ref IAT/DC/PP earlier this week, which provides incorrect and deeply misleading information to home educating parents, particularly with regard to ongoing monitoring of home education provision by Lincs County Council and its agents.
As you are no doubt aware, local authorities have no legal duty or remit whatsoever to monitor home education provision on an ongoing basis. In law, the LA is permitted to make informal enquiries when a home educated child first comes to their attention; provided the LA is able to establish at that point that a suitable education is being provided, parents are not legally required to provide any further information, at any time, and the LA should assume, unless it has evidence to the contrary, that the education provision will remain suitable.
Mr Coates and I had some email correspondence on this issue in Autumn last year; Mr Coates asserted the LA’s view that, because the education must be suited to the child’s age, aptitude and abilities, the LA must obtain regular/ongoing information about the education provision in order to assess its ongoing suitability as the child gets older. This is without any foundation in law and, further, is also without much foundation in common sense – since a) the legal responsibility for the suitability of the education rests with the parent, not the LA and b) in no way whatsoever could a local authority be a better judge of a child’s aptitude and abilities than the child’s own parents.
In the online version of your policy, at http://lincolnshirescb.proceduresonline.com/chapters/p_elec_home_educ.html#duty_la
it correctly states that “There is nothing in law which requires the LA to regularly monitor every child whose parent elects to home educate.” and points out that the legal duty of the LA applies only to cases where it appears that a suitable education is not being provided in the first instance.
Can you tell me why, therefore, the above referenced letter states, presumably deliberately misleadingly, “Lincs County Council maintains a register of all the young people, which it is aware of, who are home educated in the county and periodically monitors the education provision being provided. This is in order to carry out its statutory function in ensuring that all young people of compulsory school age receive a suitable education.” Why give the impression that you have a statutory function to monitor education provision when you have no such function, and your own procedural manual acknowledges so?
Further, the letter states that the LA “…now evaluates the education being provided for each home educated young person either through a home visit or by considering written evidence submitted by parents, on a yearly basis, rather than every two years.” Again, why so deliberately misleading? Of course the LA can *ask* for whatever information it likes, whenever it likes, but this sentence and the general tone of the letter clearly and I believe deliberately implies that parents are legally obliged to co-operate, which they are not.
I believe it is highly immoral to mislead parents in this fashion. I am fully aware of the law; others might not be. It is not the LA’s job to bully parents into compliance with non existing laws in order that the LA may tick a few unnecessary boxes.
I would appreciate it if you could therefore answer the following:
1. Please explain why Lincs County Council wishes to monitor home education provision on an ongoing basis when they have no duty/authority to do so in law. For what purpose do you wish to collect this information when it is not legally required? Please don’t use the “as the child grows up the suitability of the education might change” argument, because as I’ve already pointed out, this has no basis in law and doesn’t even make sense. If the intent is merely to reach out to parents who might want or welcome your assistance, why does your correspondence not make clear that all contact with the LA is voluntary?
2. Why was this standard letter misleading phrased, and what do you intend to do about correcting the misleading impression it has given to parents who received it?
3. How do you intend in future to make it clear to parents that, beyond the initial establishment by the LA that a suitable education is being provided, they are not obliged to have any further contact with the LA whatsoever and that your desire to collect “evidence” on a yearly basis is merely a request that they are free to ignore? If you do not intend to make that clear, why not?
4. As I believe it should state on my daughter’s record, following last year’s correspondence with Mr Coates, we personally will not be providing *any further information whatsoever, at any time* about our daughter’s education unless and until we choose to disclose it while seeking your assistance for some reason. We will not be co-operating with any further requests for evidence, and we are quite prepared to go through the courts if necessary, should you somewhat bizarrely decide that a school attendance order be served because we refuse to jump through ultra vires hoops. In order to allow adequate time to brief a solicitor, please confirm in writing what the LA’s stance will be next Autumn, all things being equal to now, when, according to your new policy, new evidence from us is “due”, and we refuse to provide it.
5. I note with some horror that in the online policy document it states that “all pupils will be visited at some point during Year 6 of their primary education and Year 9 of their secondary education.” – what arrogance, and again, how misleading! As you know full well, no home educating parent is obliged to permit a visit to their home or with their child – ever, unless there are safeguarding concerns. My daughter will be in year 9 of her education from September onwards. Please confirm in writing what the LA’s stance will be when we refuse this ultra vires, unwanted and unnecessary year 9 visit. Please also confirm that you will be amending this incorrect statement in the policy documentation.
I look forward to your full and comprehensive reply in due course, either by email or in writing – my address will, of course, be on your already substantial records about my daughter’s education.