1. That the report be noted.
2. That the EHE service considers some of the suggestions made by the Committee and that they will map EHE ethnicity data against school population data in future reports.
3. That the call for an over-due national register for EHE is endorsed by the Committee, emphasising that the devolved duties to LAs would need to be adequately funded by central government.
4. Elective Home Education (EHE) Report
4.1 Ruth Griffiths (Service Manager for Access, Inclusion and Participation) introduced the report, which was summarising events and actions of the EHE service during the pandemic period up to August 2021. There had been a significant rise in the numbers of electively home educated (EHE) pupils, but this has now dropped back to steady numbers as families have become more comfortable again with sending their children to school. The EHE service has received a lot of support from the Attendance team to manage these Covid-related fluctuations. As well as Covid-related reasons for choosing EHE, there has been a rise in anxiety and mental health needs as stated reasons for withdrawing from schools. The EHE officer was able to effectively communicate with many families via WhatsApp or MS Teams during lockdown and this will be continued. Closer relationships with the SEN team, social care teams and Lewisham College in particular were also forged. One positive outcome is that more young people who are EHE can now complete their GCSEs in the borough. Another is that families are better supported to identify alternatives for post-16 education.
4.2 The following was noted in response to questions from the Committee:
1. A recently released report on EHE from the Association of Directors of Children Services highlighted that many families choose EHE for philosophical reasons or because of lifestyle choices, and this is likely to also be the case for some families in Lewisham. If there was a compulsory national registration process, it would be possible to ask for detailed reasons for choices made. The EHE service uses a questionnaire for the families they are in touch with regarding their motivations.
2. The LA doesn’t operate a voluntary registration scheme, but schools are on board and notify the LA when families choose de-registration. Whilst there was no obligation to do so, it is hoped that private schools in the area know about the EHE service and will engage in notifications also.
3. It was suggested that the EHE service provide families with signposting information to the school nursing team and food banks run by local schools to ensure that EHE children and young people (CYP) have access to support. This would also address some of the safeguarding concerns. Although officers were sometimes able to signpost families to charities and other organisations who might be able to support families financially and practically, this was beyond the remit of the service and not always possible.
4. The service is aware that some of the CYP who are EHE are the most vulnerable and that EHE may be a diversion tactic where behaviour, emotional wellbeing, attendance or the shadow of exclusion needs to be addressed. This is particularly the case where CYP are educated in out of borough schools. There are no available monitoring data that confirm how many of those who choose EHE have previously been on managed moves, have been excluded or were at risk of exclusion, but it was ... view the full minutes text for item 4