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EO letter to DCSF 21 February 2010:
School Attendance Orders and Special Educational Needs

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To: nigel.fulton@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk, hardip.begol@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

"Several days ago I sent an email on behalf of Education Otherwise which posed a number of questions about the recent guidance on home education and special needs.

We recognise that it may take time to answer the previous questions, but we now need to focus on one particular area of the guidance, namely paragraph 12.

We are receiving a great deal of correspondence from worried families on this issue and would welcome clarification from the Department at the earliest possible opportunity.

"12. Where a local authority decides that the provision parents are making for a child with a statement is suitable its duty to review the statement at least annually continues. Both at the time parents start home educating a child with a statement who has previously been attending school and at the time of subsequent annual reviews local authorities must be able to see the provision that is being made for the child in the place or one of the places where it is being made. If local authorities are denied access to the child and are unable to see the provision that it being made they cannot fulfil their duty of ensuring that the provision is suitable for the child and meets his or her SEN and should issue a school attendance order."

Can you confirm that DCSF is by means of this letter issuing guidance to local authorities stating that where a child with special needs is not seen by the authority and where the family will not permit access to the family home, that a School Attendance Order should be issued.

Is this DCSF policy?

Could you point me to the primary or secondary legislation which currently permits this?

Or are home educators misreading paragraph 12?

Would it be possible for the Department to explain by means of a flowchart the procedural steps which should be followed by the local authority where a home educated child has a statement of special needs but where the family prefers that the child is not interviewed by the local authority or where the family does not wish to grant the authority access to the family home.

The reason for requesting a flowchart is that we do not know how to interpret paragraph 12.

We do not know whether to interpret paragraph 12 as saying "if you are denied access to the child and are THEREFORE unable to see the provision" or whether to interpret it as "if you are denied access to the child AND HAVE NO OTHER MEANS of seeing the provision."

We believe that the guidance is open to both interpretations.

As you will be aware, current guidance in this area does not say that the home must be visited as part of the annual review of the statement of special needs. Paragraph 9.36 of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice states that "the review meeting should take place in the most appropriate location, such as LEA offices, a hospital or the parents’ home."

Paragraph 9:8 of the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice further states that at the time of Annual Review for children with statements who have had home tuition, "reports should be obtained from all those who have been involved in the child’s educational progress during the preceding year." In the case of education at home by parents, this has been understood as parents providing a report on how the child's special needs are being met by home education.

The situation where the statement can be reviewed by means of parents providing a report is clearly quite different from the situation where a school attendance order must be issued if the child and home are not seen as part of the annual review process.

Many thanks for your help

I look forward to hearing from you

Fiona Nicholson
on behalf of Education Otherwise Disability Group"

References

LA weekly email 18th February sent to Directors of Children's Services and ccd to Chief Executives
Special Educational Needs Code of Practice 2001


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