We work to support families who are concerned about the lack of safety mitigations in schools, and the risk which Covid-19 would pose to the health of members of their household. In addition to running a Facebook group in which members provide each other with excellent mutual support, and providing a 1 to 1 support service for acute and advanced cases, we offer below some general support advice below.
It’s intended audience is parents and carers communicating with their child/ren’s school/s regarding safety concerns, those negotiating alternative learning arrangements or authorised absence from school, and those consider whether Elective Home Education is an appropriate option for their family.
Communicating With Your Child’s School
It is helpful to be familiar with the Department of Education Operational Guidance for schools during Covid-19, as this explains the context of you school’s decisions about safety and attendance which affect your family.
You should also gain access to the full Covid risk assessment for your child’s school. While many schools do post a copy of the risk assessment on their website, this may not be the full document, nor the most recent one. It is therefore prudent to request the current and complete risk assessment directly from the school.
It is crucial to work with your child’s school as far as possible, and attempt to jointly create plans for your child’s education during the pandemic. You may find your school is sympathetic to your situation and perspective: we have found some schools have been incredibly supportive in making accommodations, providing home learning or authorising absence while local case rates are high.
Try to maintain a good relationship with your child’s school and keep the lines of communication comfortably open. Even if you are not in agreement with the school’s approach, it is far easier and less stressful to find solutions within an amicable relationship. Should communication from the school decrease, you must ensure that you continue to send them regular correspondence and keep a record of it.
What to do if your relationship with your child’s school deteriorates
Sadly, some parents encounter behaviour from their school or local authority which could reasonably be described as bullying or harassment. Examples of such behaviour include unwarranted social service referrals, or unannounced home visits under the guise of safeguarding concerns without prior discussion or justification. In this situation, it is best to formalise your communication in writing, and to insist that the school or local authority do the same. You should maintain a thorough record of these communications to ensure that the individuals you interact with maintain professional boundaries, or that they can be held accountable for their actions should they fail to behave appropriately.
Should your school or local authority wish to obtain sight of your medical records, they must obtain signed formal written consent from your before doing so, as must the medical professionals responsible for your care before releasing any of your personal data. Should you have any concerns regarding the way in which your data has been handled, the Information Commissioners Office is the governing body responsible for upholding General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the UK.
Ensure that you remain polite in all instances – but be firm and clear. If you are described as “anxious”, correct the misconception, and bring the focus back to the failure to mitigate or attend your child’s needs. If the same description should be applied again by the same person, request that they desist inferring that you have diagnosable clinical condition: state directly “I do not have anxiety”, and again request that the urgent matters of safety, authorised absence and provision of online learning be attended urgently.
If there is information which you believe the school or local authority hold and which you are not party to – such as the number of cases which have occurred in your child/ren’s school – it is possible to make a Freedom of information request for that data. Details on how to make a Freedom of Information request can be found here, and a facility to track and record your requests is available for free at WhatDoTheyKnow.com
Personal information – that which is specific to your child and any communications which have occured with respect to their education to or from the school and Local Authority – can be obtained by a Subject Access Request. You should include emails and information correspondence in your request to ensure that you obtain as full a picture as possible of your data. A template letter for making a Subject Access Request can be found here
Elective Home Education
In the face of pressure to return their school or be fined, some of our members make the decision to remove their child from the school roll (deregister) and educate their children at home. Should you decide that elective home education is the right choice for your family, you should ensure that you are familiar with the applicable law and statutory guidance.
We recommend that you connect with local and national home education support networks, for which Facebook groups are a fantastic resource. As a start, some links to home education groups can be found here.
Please be aware that although many children with Education and Health Care Plans are educated at home, in some instances it may be possible for the local authority to compel the attendance of a child who has an EHCP, depending on the content of the plan. We strongly recommend that you seek advice within the home education community if you are considering home education and your child has, or is being assessed for, an EHCP.
Any deregistration – or removal from the school roll – must be by letter. Many home education groups and websites have templates, and it is important to use them: a de-registration is a legal instruction, and must include specific wording to ensure it is properly understood and the instruction is followed.
A school cannot remove a child from their register unless they are missing for 28 days with no communication from their parent or carer. Neither the school or local authority can ask you to deregister your child, nor can they place overt or tacit pressure on you to do so. De-registrations which take place under such circumstances is described as “off-rolling” – this is unlawful, and is considered a serious matter by Ofsted, who would wish parents in this position to report the matter to them should the school refuse to reverse the situation. You can complain to Ofsted here.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your child receives a full-time, efficient education which is appropriate to their age, ability and aptitude, and take account of any Special Educational Needs your child may have. As this is a legal obligation, it is important for you to keep a record of the education you provide to your child.
You should brainstorm, research and plan to formulate an approach to your child at the centre of their education. To achieve this, you will need to first work understand your child’s educational needs and preferred styles of learning.
You should ensure that you understand the limits of your responsibility to respond to the local authority’s informal enquiries. For example, you are not obliged to send children’s work for assessment. Knowing your rights and responsibilities around elective home education will help to make sense of what may be asked of you by those in authority, which requests you need to comply with, and in what manner.
We hope that this guide has answered some your questions and concerns around dealing with your school or local authority, or if you are considering electively home educating your child.