Home educating families strongly believe that relations between themselves, their children and those representatives of authority they might encounter are positive and constructive.
This list of issues has been compiled from the experiences of many home educators encounters with the authorities over more than 10 years and are intended to be helpful.
The purpose of a truancy sweep:
The purpose of a truancy sweep is limited to finding children who are truanting from schools at which they are lawfully registered and return them.
Encountering an officer on the street:
few home educating families have any dealings with either the police or local authority representatives and find such rare encounters as they do have to be intimidating and stressful.
From time to time non-uniformed officers have been known to approach home educated children 'out and about' during school hours.
In common with other parents home educating parents, may instruct their children to run from an unidentified stranger who approaches them. Children may not give the officer the opportunity to identify his or her self. Such behaviour should not be interpreted as suspicious.
Home educating families often take advantage of off peak holidays either within the UK or elsewhere. There are no rules regarding term times for home education, indeed only rarely do home educating families follow 'normal' term time routines.
Quite often such holidays have significant educational purpose. However even where this is not the case holidays may still be taken during 'normal' school term times.
Therefore, families taking holidays during term time should not be hindered from doing so. They should not be threatened with prosecution under anti-truancy legislation. Neither should they be stigmatised, detained when at transport terminals.
Collecting data on home educated children:
There are no police or local authority powers to use truancy sweeps to collect data on home educated children.
Paragraph 4.20 the 2002 home Office guidance to the crime and disorder act 1998 says:
"No further action should be taken where children indicate that they are home educated - unless the constable has reason to doubt that this is the case."
Once the home educated status of the child has been established the child and their parents should be allowed to continue on their way. No further action should be taken.
The refusal by either a parent or child to identify themselves should not be thought of as suspicious or uncooperative. Many home educating families hold their privacy in very high regard and it is common for them to be reluctant to hand over such information to local authority representatives. There is no legal requirement for them to do so.
Is the child listed on a register:
As there is no obligation to be registered with the Local Authority the vast majority of home educated children do not appear on Local Authority registers.
Consequently neither should it be expected that either the child or parent would have an ID card or papers issued by the local authority as proof of their home educated status.
Refusing to give a name or address:
There is no obligation for either home educated children or their parents to identify themselves to the local authority so they can be added to a register.
Out and about during school hours:
There are no rules about when or how home education should be conducted. It is therefore perfectly normal to find a home educated child 'out and about' during normal school hours. This should not of itself be construed as truancy or neglect, even if the child is not undertaking an educational activity.
Home educating families may educate at any time of the day. The presence of a child 'out and about' during normal school hours does not mean the child is not receiving a suitable education and no such inference should be made.
Is the child at risk by being out and about:
It is normal to see children out and about during weekends, early evening and school holidays, therefore, unless there is some particular reason why the officer or local authority representative (EWO) feels that the child is at some specific risk or the child asks for assistance, there is no reason to assume that the child requires assistance and subsequent removal to a place of safety simply because he or she is 'out and about' during school hours.
If in doubt:
If there are any further doubts about the safety of a child alone it may be considered reasonable to ask the child for a contact phone number or suggest to the child that a call to a parent would be helpful and reassuring to all concerned.
© Mike Fortune-Wood 2011