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When accepting LA visits. Guidelines?

(39 Posts)
reinforce Tue 10-Feb-15 11:36:20

Just wondering if there are any general guidelines for dealing with LAs, if you decide to accept annual visits from them. Any general advice aside from the EHE guidelines I mean that we could point people in the direction of (other than don't accept visits, and keep everything in writing grin).

A friend of mine, and an experienced, long standing home educator, had a visit from the LA yesterday. The LA had said it was an 'information' visit to drop off some leaflets and give information they might find useful as home educators, not an education visit.
Apparently, and according to other home educators visited in this last month, this was just to get in the door, a safeguarding check via stealth. They didn't have any information other than some general leaflets handed to them on the way out, but wanted to see her two sons, mentioned safeguarding a lot (ticked boxes to say they had been seen), and said they would be asking them if they liked home education, and other questions.

This kind of thing doesn't sound ideal to me?

Velvetbee Tue 10-Feb-15 13:04:49

Nor me. Seems pointless for them and you, you're hardly going to point out the cupboard you keep the children in are you? And if they are being abused they're unlikely to tell the stranger sitting on the sofa with mummy.
Someone more sensible will be along with decent advice soon.

streakybacon Tue 10-Feb-15 17:09:05

Personally I wouldn't have let them in. If anyone comes to the door who I don't want to see, I tell them that I'm expecting visitors in a few minutes so it's not convenient to talk. If it was someone from the HE team 'being helpful and bringing information leaflets' I'd accept them with a cheery thank you and send them on their way. But they wouldn't get in, not without prior arrangement.

reinforce Tue 10-Feb-15 19:57:11

They did arrange in advance, they weren't doorstepped. Sorry I didn't make that clear reading back.

The leaflets I think they said seemed to be a way to get an appointment (there was even one about five-a-day, and other non connected info!). They found themselves being asked questions about their educational philosophy and curriculum, and then they wanted to see and question the children. Some questions they said were inappropriate, and they told the LA so, but I'm not sure what those were exactly, questions more suited to new home educators and the like I think, not people whose children have never been to school.

Saracen Tue 10-Feb-15 20:41:01

Hmm, here is some advice I have heard given, by people who have had problems:

Ask about their background. How and why did they come to do this job? Is it because of a genuine interest in home education, or is this a truancy officer who has been drafted in unwillingly to plug a gap in staffing? I think you may be able to tell straightaway in a phone conversation whether they actually like and approve of home ed and know much about it. Ask what books they have read about home ed, whether they've been on any training courses, what they know specifically about aspects of home ed which might be relevant to you - autonomous education, ASD, etc.

Don't be put off or reassured by other parents' experiences of this particular person. Frequently, people have wildly different reactions to an LA EHE visitor, according to whether the person understands their children, approves of how they educate their children, and so on. He or she may be very supportive toward some families and downright bullying toward others. Few staff are universally disliked or universally welcomed. You have to decide for yourself.

Decide whether meeting the EHE visitor involves any risk to your child. If so, consider meeting without the kids the first time, so you can decide whether you trust them to meet your kids another time. (By "risk" I mean, for example, the possibility that the LA person may say something undermining: telling the kids their reading isn't up to scratch, or trying to persuade children to return to school against their wishes, or telling loners they must join group activities, or saying that the child will be sent back to school if the education is found wanting.)

If you think you might feel intimidated, invite another local HE parent to join you for moral support, and as a witness to what happens.

Mention that you are in contact with other HE parents, or have a printed copy of the government guidelines with you and let it be seen. This will indicate that you cannot be easily misled or pushed around.

Ask for a written report afterward. Sometimes people find that LA records of the meeting are dramatically different from the parent's understanding of what happened!

If you think it at all likely that the LA might ever take you to court, don't accept a home visit. HE barrister Ian Dowty observes that if you do so, the LA can select whatever "evidence" they like to use against you, while ignoring anything that doesn't support their case. They can misinterpret what they see or could even fabricate things. If you submit written information instead, you are in control of which evidence is presented. (Very few families are ever taken to court, so I wouldn't want to make anyone unduly paranoid. But if you have reason to believe you might be targeted by the LA, a visit seems risky.)

Saracen Tue 10-Feb-15 20:46:13

Oh, here's an idea which could possibly prevent the situation you described above:

Send in regular Freedom of Information requests for all the paperwork used in relation to home education visits/assessments. In my area, this reveals that clapping eyes on the child is a very high priority. There's a tick box on the home visit proforma: "child seen?" and it is made clear that LA staff should press to meet the child ASAP after withdrawal from school.

If you can think how to word your requests, you can get hold of internal memos relating to LA policy on these matters. It can be very enlightening. Then share all this on local lists.

VashtaNerada Tue 10-Feb-15 20:59:04

I have a friend who worked in children's services who has some horrible stories about ppl using HE as a cover for abuse or neglect (obv a tiny minority of those who home educate, I'm not casting aspersions!!). I would let them do their job and visit occasionally. Then they can spend their energy on children who really need their help.

reinforce Tue 10-Feb-15 21:34:52

Thank you, Saracen. Some excellent ideas and advice there.

I would always recommend, even with the best EHE dept, not undertaking a visit alone without another adult present.

reinforce Tue 10-Feb-15 21:40:36

Vashta, with respect <ahem>, those are second-hand, very inaccurate anecdotes. Not helpful here, or what my OP was about or asked for.

biscuit

Saracen Tue 10-Feb-15 21:45:08

But it isn't their job, Nerada, and that is part of the problem. Assessing education is their job. Assessing the risk of abuse and neglect is Social Services' job. It requires a high level of training and experience.

Given that HE parents are statistically no more likely to be abusing or neglecting their children than are any other parents, sending untrained LA staff round for a quick gander at the children once a year is not going to uncover any but the most blatant cases of abuse by parents who aren't good at hiding abuse. And such cases will have been noticed by neighbours, acquaintances, and relatives already. These are the people who see the children on a regular basis.

For example, the SCR into Khya Ishaq's death identified the confusion between the roles of the EHE team and Social Services as a factor in the tragedy. There had already been referrals made by other people to SS, who didn't act decisively. One of the reasons they didn't act was because they thought the home ed staff were keeping an eye on the family. But the home ed staff were in no realistic position to do that. It wasn't their responsibility, they likely wouldn't have known what they were doing, and anyway they had no powers to demand sight of the children, as SS could have done.

Of course if an EHE visitor happens to notice anything worrying when they are going about their proper business of looking at educational matters, they should report it. Anyone should, any time. But it's daft to have a policy of sending untrained people round for the specific purpose of trying to spot danger signs when there is no preexisting reason to believe a problem exists. It isn't very efficient either. We don't have door-to-door checks on every family in the country because it isn't a good use of resources. Attention needs to be focused on those families where a potential problem has been spotted, not on everybody.

VashtaNerada Tue 10-Feb-15 21:49:30

Sorry, misunderstood - thought you were asking whether it's worth meeting the LA. I think it is (takes a village to raise a child etc etc).
Been a long day though so if I missed the point and said anything biscuit-worthy will respectfully bow out! grin

VashtaNerada Tue 10-Feb-15 21:52:08

Definitely a long day as also thought this was in chat. Back to chat I go... as you were...

morethanpotatoprints Tue 10-Feb-15 22:04:14

We usually just submit a report, annually when requested.
However, I received a letter a few days ago telling me that a man I've never heard of is coming to see me in March and he's looking forward to meeting dd shock
It does say a lot further down the letter that we can submit written evidence and cancel the appointment, but this is after they go into great detail about what a great teacher this man is.
Needless to say appointment is being cancelled, how can a teacher know anything about H.ed, just from being a teacher?
I'm definitely going to ask about his H.ed credentials and experience.

AmantesSuntAmentes Tue 10-Feb-15 23:19:36

As an aside, I refused visits (preferring written communication). So, the ehe co-ordinator reported me to SS. SS refused to visit because 'home education alone, is not a cause for concern and not good enough reason to visit a family' grin

I do meet with the ehe people these days (different area) but due to past exprience, I do not trust them - every meeting is recorded by me and meetings are held (at my request) in a public place, rather than in my/ my dcs home. I have been doorstepped - I have refused entry.

I would say that to have a third party present is a good idea. Only have to hand work which you are happy to share. Have a copy of your educational philosophy to hand and your resources listed. If you don't wish your children to be interrogated, have something to keep them busy in another room. Have confidence in what you're doing and how you're doing it! Ensure you are happy that your DC are receiving an appropriate education and make no apologies for your individual style or approach in achieving that smile

TheSporkforeatingkyriarchy Wed 11-Feb-15 01:16:04

Saracen makes a lot of really good points.

For us, the big problem has been that the person in charge of arranging/doing visits has changed so many times that any arrangements have to be rehashed every time because nothing seems to be passed down.

My general guidelines is write a report/education philosophy and at the top include a bitesize amount of the legislation and setting the guidelines for interactions (so, for us, no doorstepping and appointments must be confirmed by email or phone not just sending a letter and hoping I've gotten it, all interactions must include both DP and I, I will send a report by email before they arrive to be read to make best use of time) and covering general information. Neutral meeting points is good for many.

I write ridiculously long reports (with heavy use of my uni skills and copy and paste to cover multiple kids) especially after a previous one said that for them in our area they essentially file them and if anyone asks the just send a copy of it (in my situation - a disabled autistic parent with autistic DC whose dealt with medical professionals being uppity and blaming HE/my being an immigrant/my disabilities for everything - that was kinda comforting that I could use them to get out of talking about education in those situations where it wasn't relevant).

I had a slight problem with the last one as I couldn't tell if he hadn't fully read my report or was trying to catch me out by asking the kids wrong stuff about it. For example, I was very clear that the kids are part of one organization, that said organization was important to them and to us, I named them repeatedly throughout the report for various things and he started asking about another completely different ones that use similar name for junior members (Cadets which dozens of places use, but the guy asked about uniformed services and then Scouts, neither of which were right, and the former all my DC are way too young for). And he got a bit pushy about DS1 (who is ten and autistic) to apply next year to secondary schools 'just in case he ends up wanting to go', but only - repeatedly - recommended we apply to the high stress/known to be horrible with learning support one that isn't even our local one (exam entry academy on the other side of the city) even after DS1 repeatedly said he has no interest -- he wants to go to the UTC at 14 which we're supporting and working towards with him and I've been gathering the learning support for which has so far been positive from other kids who were HE and have additional learning needs. I don't think I'll see him again though knowing our council it'll be someone new by the next time the get around to us (every 2-3 years on average, though I got the feeling from this and others locally that they make a push to get kids who are HE in primary into schools for secondary).

Nigglenaggle Thu 12-Feb-15 21:06:45

Grr the questioning of the children annoys me. Do they go into schools and ask the children if they are happy there??

fuzzpig Thu 12-Feb-15 22:13:51

I don't really mind the idea of a visit in principle (and it seems they do happen in our LEA as DH overheard a customer talking about their visit - was very quick and painless apparently, so fingers crossed)

But... would they judge us terribly for a very messy house? (Serious question!) blush

Saracen Fri 13-Feb-15 09:50:02

It's pot luck, depending on the prejudices of the person who visits. Our LA used to say something in their HE guidance about children requiring an orderly environment with a "dedicated workspace"! I don't think they really understand home education. Not happening in my house.

fuzzpig Fri 13-Feb-15 10:02:36

TBH I think most people would judge the state of our house! I'm starting to tackle it and wanting to home ed is a good incentive.

Also (sorry for hijacking OP!) one thing DH was concerned about was being able to show evidence etc - is there a good way of storing/organising things the DCs do? DS doesn't really write much yet, but that's one of the reasons I want to take him out really (he is falling behind due to speech disorder and needs more one to one help) so I don't really know how much we will actually be recording (not a worry for DD who never stops writing!)?

FionaJNicholson Mon 16-Feb-15 16:38:00

Hi, in relation to the OP, it could be that the safeguarding board or some council scrutiny panel has said try and get in to see all the children. Is it OK to say which LA this is, we may have heard something on the grapevine.

reinforce Mon 16-Feb-15 16:56:43

That sounds interesting.

Yes, this is Leeds LA and a few people mention similar experiences.

maggi Mon 16-Feb-15 17:19:54

our LA has no money and has openly decided not to contact HE'ers for some years. But if we contact them they will make appointments or help over the phone for specific issues we have.

FionaJNicholson Tue 17-Feb-15 18:35:56

the internet informs me that Leeds "organise safeguarding visits at the point of the child becoming EHE" www.leeds.gov.uk/docs/22%20-%20Elective%20Home%20Education%20-%20September%202014.pdf

streakybacon Tue 17-Feb-15 18:46:40

*If a practitioner working in a partner agency is aware or believes
that a child is home educated, they should inform the local authority asap. If a
child is neither on a school roll or on the EHE list, they will be listed as CME.*

shock

Nigglenaggle Tue 17-Feb-15 20:28:16

What's CME?

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