We really don’t have any interest in any dialogue whatsoever with the LA so have played the traveller card. We sent the following to Guy Darvill, the lawyer at Staffordshire CC, today.
As you well know a local authority has no duty to monitor the provision of education otherwise than at school. Do not overstate the duties or powers of the local authority with us and do not threaten my family again.
Previous involvement with the Elective Home Education team in Staffordshire has left us with absolutely no confidence in their knowledge, skills or professionalism. We have no intention of engaging with them again.
We have no fixed abode and the address you have on file for us is a care of address. We are not currently within the county borders of Staffordshire so not under your remit.
I do not expect to hear from you again.
We’ve been over to pick up post today and have received a third letter from the EHE team. They’ve upped the ante now and this one threatens us with a School Attendance Order.
This is despite the fact the letter says ‘We have asked you in both letters to volunteer information’. They’ve also included another copy of the initial contact form which still states ‘you are not legally obliged to provide us with any information’ in bold text. You can’t really tell people they have a choice not to respond to you then get upset when they choose not to.
They can ‘begin to consider’ anything they want. It’s an empty threat anyway, they don’t even know if we’re currently moored in Staffordshire or not. We’ve ignored previous correspondence from them and this is just an unpleasant attempt to illicit a response us. We still have no intention of engaging with them. If we did I can’t imagine a time when threatening my family would result in anything other than an extremely hostile response anyway.
It will be interesting to see what we get next…
We’ve received another letter from the Elective Home Education team. It’s essentially the same as the previous letter and will be met with the same lack of response.
We’ve been expecting to hear from Staffordshire Elective Home Education team, after a bizarre referral to First Response back in February, and finally received a letter and questionnaire from them today.
To be fair though as first contact goes the letter, aside from getting one our childrens names wrong, is considerably better than the initial letters they used to send out. At the top of each page of the questionnaire, in bold text, it also states ‘Please note: you are not legally obliged to provide us with any information.‘ This is something we’re well aware of but a welcome addition for families new to home educating and with less understanding of the extent of Local Authority responsibilities and powers.
The letter states we ‘requested that First Response inform the Service that you do no wish to receive support’. Whilst it’s correct we don’t want anything to do the the EHE team I did not ask First Response to inform the EHE team of anything. I was very clear with the staff at First Response that whilst I acknowledged a referral to the EHE team was likely it was not something I was requesting.
It goes on to state the Local Authority’s duty to identify children not receiving suitable education and asks us to voluntarily provide information. This paragraph is spoilt though by the thinly veiled threat ‘…that no further steps need to be taken.’ It’s a bit of a contradiction to make it clear that there is no legal obligation to provide information but threaten ‘further steps’ if you choose not to.
A number of childrens’ services in Staffordshire have been outsourced to Entrust (registered company number 04440463 and previously known as Capita), a profit making private company. Whilst the letter is printed on Staffordshire CC headed paper it appears Elective Home Education now come under the remit of Entrust as well. Our previous experiences of Staffordshire’s Elective Home Education team have given us no reason to engage with them again. To find out their services have been oursourced to a company driven primarily by profit margins rather what is best for individual children does nothing to change our minds.
The Local Authority can offer us nothing that we can’t get elsewhere with no strings attached. It doesn’t really warrant a repsonse.
We’ve received a letter from the First Response team. It doesn’t contain any details of my conversation with them as I requested but it does confirm they will be taking no action.
It also states they’ve referred us to the Elective Home Education team so I expect we’ll be hearing from them shortly…
An answer phone message was left today on my wife’s phone. The message said it was nothing to worry about but they were calling from Social Services and could she call them back.
I looked up the number they called from and it belonged to First Response (part of Staffordshire’s frontline child protection and safeguarding service). I called them back and spoke to a lady named Jacky Clegg. I asked who had made the referral to First Response and what it was about. She told me the referral had come from my wife’s health visitor (who technically wasn’t her health visitor as my wife had never opted in to the health visitor service after our daughter was born) and was due to the fact our 9 month old daughter was not registered at a local doctors practice. Jacky told me that they recognised that the NHS is an opt in service and there’s no mandatory requirement to register with a local GP but that they ‘like people to’.
None of our children have ever been registered with a GP for two reasons. The first one being the fact that none of them have ever had any long term or recurring illness. The second is the fact we live aboard a narrowboat and live a semi nomadic lifestyle. On the rare occasion any of us have needed to go to a minor injuries unit or see a GP we have never encountered any problems filling out the yellow form and being seen as an out of areas patient.
I asked if they had the same concerns about our sons not being registered at a GP but was told that they were both registered at a local GP. I told her that was strange considering neither my wife or myself have ever registered them at that or any other practice. It means the Local Authority either have incorrect records about our children or someone has registered them with a GP without our permission. In either case it does nothing to endear me to engaging with them.
Jacky then went on to inform me that another concern they had was that neither of our sons appeared to be registered at any of the schools in the area. I confirmed that this was correct but said I would not not be engaging in any conversation about how we chose to parent or educate our children.
Jacky was insistent that the Local Authority needed to come and speak to my wife, myself and our children and assess their educational provision. I told her this was not the case and that the Local Authority had no duty to monitor the provision of children educated otherwise than at school.
Jacky then passed me on to Kathy Payne, the team supervisor. Kathy attempted to exert authority and clearly expected compliance but quickly conceded that the Local Authority have no duty or requirement to meet with parents of children educated otherwise than at school. I again told her I would not be engaging in any conversation about how we parent or educate our children. I was told they would be making a referral to the Elective Home Education team but that they had no real grounds for concern.
I asked Kathy for a copy of the audio recording of my conversation with her and Jacky but was told this would not be possible (thought I suspect it would have to be made available through a subject access request). I’ll be making a point of recording any future conversations myself regardless.
She has agreed to write to me outlining our conversation and the fact there are no actual concerns and will be no action taken.