Radio Five Live – The AIM Response

May 13, 2007

Dear Mr. Worricker

I am writing to you on behalf of Autism-in-Mind (AIM) a national parent support group. After listening to your show this morning I am both sadden and angry by the comments that Tony Mooney has once again made about home education and the ‘type’ of parent whom he believes is likely to successfully home educate their children. This is discrimination of the worst kind. Parents who have seen their child abused by the system and taken them out of school because of this are committed to making learning not only an enjoyable experience for their children, but one that equips them for life and does not scar them for life in the way our system can and is doing. There was however no mention of children with SEN during this mornings program. There are now a growing number of parents who are home educating because their children’s needs are not being met by the system. A fact I know that you are already fully aware of. I would never allow anyone like Mr. Mooney into my home purely because he has no knowledge of autism and how that is likely to affect my son. There are many sides against his arguments that were not debated.

I am actually quite surprised that your program was so loaded in favour of the state system when I myself took part in a report for your show The Five Live Report: The Curious Battle on Sunday 26th September 2004, where you exposed what was happening to children with autism within the State System. You managed to persuade Lord Filkin, who was then the Minister responsible for children with Special Educational Needs to investigate claims that increasing numbers of parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome are being falsely accused of abuse.

Debbie Storey almost had both her children taken into care after being accused of consciously or unconsciously using her children to meet their own needs. This claim was made because Debbie, who sadly died on May 24th two years ago, took her two sons who have Aspergers Syndrome, out of the system and was home educating them. She was home educating because her Local Authority was failing to meet the needs of her children. Debbie was a member of AIM and an ardent home educator and campaigner. Debbie fought for the right to home educate her children. After listening to your program today I feel very sad that home education is now being portrayed in such a negative way, by someone who has so obviously embarked on a one man crusade to malign a method of education which has probably saved the lives of many children, my own son included.

I feel that Fiona Nicholson and her son were set up to fail this morning in an argument which was very one sided and weighted in favour of the system. They actually came across as the most informed and coherent during the whole discussion. It would be fine if the system was meeting the needs of all children but clearly it is not. This fact was reported on by the Education and Skills Select Committee only last year.

AIM supports many parents who are now home educating their autistic children, they are not all middle class. They are home educating because the system is failing to provide their children with the support which they require to be successfully educated. In fact Professor John McBeath of Cambridge University stated in a report he co-wrote for the National Union of Teachers, stated that ‘Including children with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms can be “a form of abuse”,

In the light of today’s program AIM is requesting that you revisit home education at the earliest opportunity and give parent who are home educating their SEN children a platform to put right the wrongs of what was stated by Mr. Mooney this morning.

Carole Rutherford – Co-Founder of AIM

Mother of two home educated sons with autism

Tony Mooney – Who is he?

May 13, 2007

Tony Moony is at it again – slagging off home ed and home educators. In the words of someone else who was very much in your face and in your space last year ‘Who is he?’

Good Question and here is a little bit of background to Mr Moony


of a

private tutor

By Tony Mooney, who teaches maths and science to children of the New Labour elite when their independent schools fail to satisfy …

A headmistress of a prestigious private girl’s school recently wrote to parents saying she was concerned to discover the high number of girls at her school receiving outside tutoring. She concluded her very forthright letter by saying, “I would be far happier if no girl from here were tutored.”

To discuss her concerns Libby talks to Tony Mooney, a former head teacher at two boys secondary schools who took up tutoring when he retired 8 years ago…

In many cases, the parents are not equipped to push their child along, especially in the final two years of schooling. Few parents can afford to employ home tutors…The ones who can afford it seek help from home tutors for GCSE work….

Mr Moony had his say about us YET AGAIN on Five Live during the Worricker Program. Fiona Nicholson Chair of The EO Government Policy Group and her son Theo were also asked to take part but clearly the program was loaded in favour of sending our children to school


May 13, 2007

Yes we have a Consultation but it is not the Consultation we were expecting.

On 8th May AIM received the following e-mail

On 8th May the Department for Education and Skills published a consultation on guidelines for local authorities on elective home education. The publication of this consultation follows discussions with several groups representing home educators and with local authorities. Following these discussions it has been decided not to propose any changes to monitoring arrangements or legislation so this consultation is solely on the issuing of guidelines.

The guidelines set out our view on the best approach to balancing the rights of parents and the obligations of local authorities. The consultation will run until 31st July, and the document can be found at or you can reply by email to I look forward to your response.


Helen White

 We can not afford to ignore this Consultation and must make sure that the guidelines are crystal clear and not open to miss-use by LA’s.

AIM intends to question the right of an LA to maintain a statement for a child with SEN – we want the same rights as any other home educator and that is the right to be left in peace to educate our children.

Home Education A Feasibility Study

February 24, 2007

The Prevalence of Home Education

in England: A Feasibility Study

Vicky Hopwood, Louise O’Neill,Gabriela Castro and Beth Hodgson
York Consulting Ltd
Research Report RR827RESEARCH

Read this report here

UK is accused of failing children

February 14, 2007

UK has been accused of failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrial countries.
The Unicef report looked at 40 indicators including poverty, relationships with parents and health. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and
Finland head the list.
Children’s charities have condemned the findings. The government says it has made progress on child well-being through several initiatives. The
UK rated highly for education but was in the bottom third for all of the other categories.
A spokesman for the
UK government said its initiatives in areas such as poverty, pregnancy rates, teenage smoking, drinking and risky sexual behaviour had helped improve children’s welfare.
Unicef – the United Nations’ children’s organisation – says the report, titled Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries, is the first study of childhood across the world’s industrialised nations. Unicef
UK executive director David Bull said all the countries had weaknesses that needed to be addressed.
“By comparing the performance of countries we see what is possible with a commitment to supporting every child to fulfil his or her full potential,” he said. The Children’s Society has launched a website to coincide with the report,, which allows children to answer a series of surveys about their lives. The society’s chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: “We simply cannot ignore these shocking findings. “Unicef’s report is a wake-up call to the fact that, despite being a rich country, the
UK is failing children and young people in a number of crucial ways.”
The Children’s Commissioner for
England, Professor Al Aynsley-Green, said he was not surprised by the report’s findings.
“It’s very much in line with what children and young people are telling me about their lives today, and I think the shocking conclusion is that as a nation we have been failing our children and young people.” ‘Failed generation’ Colette Marshall, UK director of Save the Children, said it was “shameful” to see the
UK at the bottom of the table.
“This report shows clearly that despite the
UK’s wealth, we are failing to give children the best possible start in life,” she said.
UK government is not investing enough in the wellbeing of children, especially to combat poverty and deprivation.”
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne accused Chancellor Gordon Brown of having “failed this generation of children”. “After 10 years of his welfare and education policies, our children today have the lowest wellbeing in the developed world,” said Mr Osborne. A government spokesman said it regarded the improvement of the life of British children as a matter of particular importance. “Nobody can dispute that improving children’s well-being is a real priority for this government,” she said. “We recognise that Unicef does vital work in this area. But in many cases the data used is several years old and does not reflect more recent improvements in the
UK, such as the continuing fall in the teenage pregnancy rate or in the proportion of children living in workless households.
“We are working hard to improve all children’s life chances and the report confirms that children’s educational attainment at 15 in the
UK compares well with many other EU countries.”




February 5, 2007



‘Freedom for Children to Grow’ 

By now many of you will be aware that the DfES are planning to hold a consultation wrapped around home education. The DfES has not released an official title for the consultation and the launch date also appears to have been delayed. This gives us a window of opportunity to inform ourselves as to exactly what might be planned and to act to protect our historic freedoms. Forewarned is forearmed EO has been aware that this consultation was in the pipe line since being asked to attend a meeting with DfES on December 19th last year. At that meeting EO found out that the consultation will is probably going to look at the following three areas, there may be more. 

Compulsory registration of all home educators.  

A definition of “suitable” education [ as per 1996 Education Act Section 7 ] which may move away from what home educators regard as “suitable to the child” and shade into age- specific standards and a broad and balanced curriculum.  

Monitoring of standards and formally introducing measures of “progress” and “educational outcomes”  

If this goes any further than the consultation stage then this has the ability to have a big impact on all home educators. EO is aware that there are questions being asked as to what EO intends to do faced with the threat of this consultation. Education Otherwise are taking this very seriously and during the last few weeks have been building a ‘Campaign’ website, which will enable as many home educators as possible to be kept up to date with any important outcomes or changes. It will also enable all home educators to take an active part in our national campaign. 

EO is thrilled with the new site which will be the hub of the national home education campaign ‘Freedom for Children to Grow’  

http://www.freedomf orchildrentogrow .org/index. htm 

This site is now live and ready to use as a resource for all home educators. It is not exclusively for EO members it has been designed to be a useful tool for anyone who home educates. We are hoping that it will help anyone wanting to be involved in an active campaign to do so. Everyone can play a very important role in the campaign and can add their voices and a wealth of experience to the cause. There has already been a great deal of behind the scenes action taking place. EO now has an active Campaign Team who is hoping to have lots of requests from home educators to join the Campaign.

You can mail the team here he1campaignteam@  

There are also Regional Workshops being organised so that home educators can meet with members of the EO Government Policy Team and find out what the results of this consultation may mean to them and how they can actively participate. The new website is a wonderful resource where home educators can now read letters written and communications to press that EO has already penned since learning about the consultation.  

You may also wish to read the Briefing Paper written by the EO Government Policy Group and published on January 17th you can find it here http://tinyurl. com/3bog2o  

It is very informative and gives a comprehensive background of events leading up to this consultation. 

We would love to hear your comments about the new site, which has been built entirely by EO volunteers who have been working hard to make sure that the site was live by the time EO held its AGM. We made it! We hope you will find the new site both user friendly and informative.      

Special Needs Practice Illegal

January 19, 2007

A council has been told that the way it is treating children with more serious special educational needs is illegal. Surrey County Council has been ordered by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to amend the special needs “statements” it has issued. Parents had complained that the extra help their children should receive was not specified, as it should be. Campaigners say similar malpractice is going on elsewhere. The councils argue they are devolving funding to schools. Parents are said to have made complaints about Hertfordshire, the London boroughs of Ealing and Southwark, Reading, Windsor and
Maidenhead, Kent and Bedfordshire, among others.
Surrey, according to the letter sent to the council by the DfES, had adopted “a blanket policy of never quantifying special educational provision in children’s statements”.
The whole point of a statement, which is issued after an assessment of more difficult SEN cases, is to set out a child’s needs and the special educational provision that will meet those needs. The courts have ruled this must be “specific, detailed and quantified”. The department’s letter said it did not appear that
Surrey was failing in its duty to assess children.
But it was not clear from the statements it was then issuing “how the school and the child’s parents are to know what the authority has determined should be provided for the child”. The letter, from Phil Snell of the department’s SEN division, said the education secretary was satisfied
Surrey was failing to discharge its duty as set out in the 1996 Education Act.
It was dated 4 January and gave the council five working days to confirm it would comply with the law and 15 working days to send amendment notices to parents – explaining to them why it was making changes and what their rights were. Mr Snell asked
Surrey to confirm how many statements would need amending in this way.
Ongoing The department said on Friday it had received “a positive and helpful response” from Surrey County Council to the concerns raised in its letter. It added: “That correspondence is continuing.” There was no immediate comment from the council. Marion Strudwick of the charity SOS!SEN, which helps parents in such cases, said Mr Snell’s letter was useful ammunition. If
Surrey did not comply with the law it could now be challenged in the High Court.
“Phil Snell’s letter is quite powerful,” she said. “It’s an important move to stop this trend of saying, ‘OK we will just give the money to the schools and let them decide what to do with it’,” she said. Legal action She said
Surrey was one of the worst offenders but other authorities had also adopted similar policies.
Instead of detailed statements, they used vague phrases such as saying a child would “have some specialist teaching”, without saying how much or who would provide it. The school might be told it would receive funding for this – but without the amount being specified or ring-fenced. “It’s a practice that local authorities are trying to get away with far too much,” she said.  


January 18, 2007




Research and Advice Commissioned by the Department for

Education and Skills

The situation regarding the current policy,

provision and practice in Elective Home

Education for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller



Fact Page:

Subject: “The situation regarding the current policy, provision and practice in

Elective Home Education (EHE) for Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children.”

Commissioning Agent and Property of:

Ethnic Minority Achievement Unit

Department for Education and Skills

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street


London SW1P 3BT

DfES Contact details:

Sheila Longstaff

Ethnic Minority Achievement Unit

Tel: 020 7925 5431


All the un-attributed information and views expressed in this document are those of

the author alone and they do not necessarily reflect in any way the views, position or

policies of the Department for Education and Skills.


Arthur Ivatts – Consultant to DfES

Tel: 01457 872764


1. Executive Summary

2. Background and philosophical position

3. Background to the research

4. Current situation and Research Data Analysis

5. Issues arising

6. Conclusions and Recommendations

Annex 1: 2005 School Census data on the attainment of Gypsy/Roma and

Travellers of Irish heritage.

Annex 2: The terminology and groups covered



1.1 On an ad hoc basis, Traveller Education Services (TESs) have reported on the

seemingly marked increase year-on-year of the number of Gypsy/Roma and

Traveller families opting for Elective Home Education (EHE). This has been

expressed as a development causing concern given that it is suggested that EHE is

being used merely as a device to avoid school attendance without legal penalty. This

concern has also been related to the fact that a majority of the parents are judged to

be ill equipped to organise or deliver an education suited to their children’s ages,

aptitudes, abilities and any special needs they may have.

1.2 In November 2004 the DfES thus initiated a small-scale research project to

investigate the situation in regard to the current policy, provision and practice in EHE

for Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children. This initiative was seen as compatible with

the Department’s duties under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The

research was also timely as DfES draft guidance on EHE was being considered at

the time.

1.3 Two detailed separate questionnaires were sent to 23 local authorities. These

local authorities were identified by DfES as models of good practice for the inclusion

of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. One was sent to the TES and one to the

department/officer responsible for the approval and monitoring/inspection of EHE

provision. 16 responses were received from the EHE monitoring/ inspection official

and 20 were returned from the TES.1

1.4 Research findings provide a wide range of evidence that would justify the

concerns expressed by the TESs and other commentators including the Office for

Standards in Education (OFSTED). “There is a growing trend among Traveller

families for secondary-aged pupils, in particular, to be educated at home. The

adequacy, suitability and quality of such provision are very uneven and raise serious


1.5 The educational context of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities adds afurther dimension of concern to this development.3 In addition to many local

authorities traditionally neglecting their responsibilities to these communities, there

has always been reluctance by many families within some of these communities to

send their children to school, and particularly to secondary school. There are many

complex reasons underpinning this reluctance.

1.6 Within the 16 LAs which responded at the EHE monitoring/inspection level, it is

observed that there is a total of nearly 3,000 children registered as receiving EHE

and those at the secondary stage are over twice as many as the number in primary


1.7 The analysis shows that an estimate of 16% to 35% of those who have opted for

EHE within the sample are Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. The small sample

size and two different data sources account for the wide range of this estimate and it

1 The LA sample included a number of authorities identified by the DfES as models of good practice.

See DfES draft Guidance 2004/5.

2 “Provision and Support for Traveller Pupils” HMI 455 OFSTED November 2003, pp2.

3 See Annex 1. DfES 2005 School Census data for minority ethnic pupils. Published February 2006.


should, therefore, be treated with caution. It should also be noted that the rate of

option has increased year-on-year by approximately 40%4.

1.8 A very wide range of reasons are given for Gypsy/Roma and Traveller families

opting for EHE. Predominant among these are fear of cultural erosion, a judged lack

of relevance within the secondary school curriculum and the fear of racist and other

bullying.5 The practicalities of a nomadic lifestyle, is not seen as a significant causal

factor for most families.

1.9 Twenty five percent (25%) of responding LAs do not have a written policy on

EHE. While most LAs provide families with initial and post registration advice, only 2

gave practical help in the form of educational materials. All LAs write a report

following monitoring/inspection visits and a majority share these reports with the TES

and other departments/agencies on a need-to-know basis. More care appears to be

taken in relation of pupils with special educational needs (SEN).6

1.10 Over 62% of LAs reported that they do not always see the child during an

initial and or monitoring/inspection visit and that in one case this is neither recorded

nor reported to other agencies. There are also a number of these LAs within the

survey who visit without seeing the child and who just record this information without

passing it on to other agencies as a matter of routine. In the cases where the incident

is reported, the data do not provide information on the process, agency reported to,

and subsequent actions taken. (Within the existing legislation, the visiting officer has

no legal rights to see the child nor in relation to a right of access to the home to see

the teaching/learning situation/environment.)7

1.11 If a child has already been registered with a school then parents are legally

required to notify the school if they decide to withdraw the child and educate her/him

at home. They are not legally required to notify the local education authority unless

the child is registered at a special school.8 In the case of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller

children, a school may see the ‘without notice’ withdrawal of a child as linked to the

family’s legitimate nomadic lifestyle and so may not automatically notify other

agencies within the authority or log this with the national child Information Sharing

Index database. It is to be noted that if a child has never been registered with a

school, then there is no duty on the parent to notify the LA if they decide to educate,

or arrange to have educated, the child(ren) at home. The obligation to notify the

appropriate local authority is also not required under current legislation if the child:

has never attended a maintained school in that authority’s area; has finished primary

education at one school but has not started secondary education in another (and

other conditions) This situation could again be problematic in relation to Gypsy/Roma

4 In a study conducted by Lancashire County Council (September 2005) which involved more than

50% of LAs, it showed that 18% of children with an Irish Traveller heritage, opted for EHE at the

point of transfer to secondary school. In relation to Gypsy/Roma the rate was 26%. (overall for all

‘Traveller’ groups it was 14%) Of all of these children, 10% and 11% respectively were recorded as

living in housing. Lancashire County Council, Traveller Education Service, Preston. September 2005.

5 Other research evidence confirms the importance of racist and other bullying as a significant cause in

relation to EHE decisions. See:” Gypsy Traveller Students in Secondary School”, Chris Derrington and

Sally Kendall. Trentham Books, London, 2004. “Education other than at School: A Way Forward for

Gypsy/Travellers”. Research by Caroline Dyer, Amanda Anders, Charlotte Dean – Leeds University


6 DfES Guidance recommends that monitoring/inspection visits should take place at least once a year,

but it is for the authority to decide.

7 The same situation applies in Scotland. See Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Guidance issued

under Section 14 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000.

8 See DfES EHE Guidance.


and Traveller families in so many ways and particularly in light of their nomadic

lifestyle. Many children start school late and so it is possible that children from these

backgrounds at any age within Key Stages 1 and 2, could start their education at

home with no previous school registration and so with no duty on the parent to notify

the appropriate authorities. Many families travel between different local authorities

and it is the anxiety about secondary education that is so high with many families.

The current regulations clearly place these children in a very vulnerable situation.

1.12 There is significant variation in practice between LAs in relation to the time

taken between a request for registration and the initial monitoring/inspection visit and

between the latter and final approval or rejection. In many cases this can take up to

one term of school time or more during which time, Gypsy/Roma and Traveller

children usually receive no formal education.

1.13 It should be noted that only 56% of responsible officers within the sample LAs

had attended in-service training on EHE and that only 36% had attended any

training/briefing on Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities.9 This research finding

raises serious doubts about the quality of professional judgements being made by

officers during initial and or monitoring/inspection visits to families from these


1.14 Nearly half of the LAs (and 94% of TESs) expressed genuine concerns over

whether Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children in receipt of EHE were receiving fulltime

(20 hours per week) and appropriate educational provision, mainly due to

concerns over parents’ skills, especially in regard to literacy and numeracy. These

concerns also included issues surrounding; the level of parental commitment,

enthusiasm and motivation; the parents’ recognition on the children’s needs, attitudes

and aspirations; the opportunities in particular for Gypsy/Roma and Traveller girls;

the ‘unheard voice of the child’ in the decision making process;10 access to public

examinations; access to careers advice; access to support for work-experience and

the frequent difficulties encountered in monitoring/inspecting the provision given the

nomadic lifestyle of some families.11

1.15 A majority of TESs who had tried to reintegrate Gypsy/Roma and Traveller

children back into mainstream schools following a court action or parental choice,

noted problems at the secondary phase relating to the ethos of the school as not

being ‘Traveller-friendly’; the difficulties caused by the lack of previous education of

these children; reluctance on the part of parents and children to return to school and

the high levels of costly support needed. It is very interesting to note that nearly a

third of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children registered with EHE are sedentary in

housing. This is a very significant development given the rapid growth in numbers

over the last four years and the estimated total number of ‘housed’ Gypsies/Roma

and Travellers nationally.12

9 The DfES EHE guidance states that, “.LAs should organize training on the law and home education

methods for all education officers who are monitoring and or otherwise involved with EHE”.

10 DfES EHE Guidance says that “LAs may also wish to consider any views expressed by the child”.

11 The research by Dyer, Anders and Dean, talks about three models of such provision by Gypsy/Roma

and Traveller families in relation to EHE. The three possibilities (not mutually exclusive) are, Parent or

family member as teacher, appointment of tutors, and ‘cultural apprenticeship’. The latter is seen as the

weakest and the most common. It usually involves children working alongside their parents and

learning the skills of life for cultural survival. It is usually based on gender segregation and role and

makes little contribution to the development of literacy and numeracy skills.

12 Estimated by DfES and other informed sources, at 350,000 plus.



2.1 Concerns about the increasing number of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents

opting for Elective Home Education (EHE) as reported by Traveller Education

Services in the last few years, prompted the lead officer of the Ethnic Minority

Achievement Unit at the DfES to commission in-house research to investigate the

extent of this development and to assess the nature and quality of the provision for

the children involved and the policy implications.

2.2 The reader of this research paper is requested at the start to be aware of a

number of potential pitfalls in relation to the interpretation of the information and

research data presented about Gypsy/Roma, Traveller and travelling communities.

The specific focus on these particular groups within the context of the increasing

number who are being educated at home should in no way be interpreted as an

implicit statement of criticism of the families themselves or the provision of home

education. Readers are also advised to note the author’s concern regarding the

creation and or confirmation of stereotypes, either negative or positive, within the

context of a short research report constrained by the need for brevity. Further, that

the representation of these groups as a focus of Departmental concern should in no

way be seen as an implied cultural pathology or a deficit model of the lifestyle and

culture of all or any of these groups.


3.1 In November 2004 the DfES initiated a small-scale research project to investigate

the situation in regard to the current policy, provision and practice in EHE for

Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children. The methodology was the design of two

questionnaires for local authorities (LAs)13 for the collection of data and details of

current practice. While most of the analysis and comment is based on the in-house

research material, other relevant research findings have been taken into

consideration and appropriate footnote references given when used in the text.

3.2 The concerns by the Department as referred to above are linked to the longproblematic history surrounding the access, attendance and achievement of

Gypsy/Roma, Traveller and travelling children. There is extensive documentation

starting with the Plowden14 report, and including reports written by Her Majesty’sInspectors of Schools (HMI),

15 confirming a disturbing picture in relation to all these

three aspects of education for these communities. Official data stemming from the

school census16 continues to confirm this situation which has appeared to change

little over many years.

3.3 In addition to local authorities traditionally neglecting their responsibilities to these

communities, there has always been reluctance by many families within some of

these communities to send their children to school, and particularly to secondary

13 One questionnaire was designed for TESs to complete and the second one for the officer(s)

responsible for the inspection and or approval of home education provision.

14 ‘Children and their Primary Schools’, A report of the Central Advisory Council for Education

(England). HMSO 1967, London. This report is better known as the ‘Plowden Report’.

15 “The Education of Traveller Children” HMI Discussion Paper HMSO 1983.

“The Education of Travelling Children” Ref: HMR/12/96/NS OFSTED 1996.

“Provision and support for Traveller pupils”, HMI 455 OFSTED, November 2003.

16 The School Census includes specific data on minority ethnic pupils which is also inclusive of the two

relevant categories: Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish heritage.


school. There are many reasons underpinning this reluctance and racist bullying is

increasingly being revealed as an additional and significant causal factor.17

3.4 The dedicated work of Traveller Education Services (TESs) over many years has

resulted in more and more children attending primary school and transferring

successfully to secondary school. The ‘drop-out’ profile, however, at Key Stages 3

and 4 is still a matter for serious concern. In the two most recent OFSTED reports,18

attention has been drawn to the strong possibility of 12,000 secondary aged children

from these communities not being registered with any school.

3.5 Despite the best efforts of TESs and LA Educational Welfare Services, the overall

picture is still unacceptable. However, in the last several years a significant

development had been identified which appears to be adding a further element to

these justified concerns. This is the phenomena of a disproportionate number of

families opting to exercise their rights under the education acts, to educate their

children at home. It is strongly suggested by some informed observers that the

traditional Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities learnt about this legal possibility

from their association with New Travellers, many of whom are better informed on the

intricacies of the educational law surrounding school attendance. Irrespective of this,

however, the fact remains that all the evidence points to increasing numbers of

families making this decision for the education of their children.


A total of 23 local authorities were selected for inclusion in the survey. The return

rate was 16 (72.7%) for the LA questionnaire and 20 (91%) for the questionnaires

returned by TESs. In the interests of clarity for the reader, comment in relation to

statistical data follows each of the questions in tern.

The data analysis which follows is in two main sections starting with the analysis from

the questionnaires returned by the LAs EHE monitoring official. The second section

is that data stemming from the questionnaires returned by the TESs.

4.1 Analysis of Elective Home Education (EHE): Gypsy/Traveller pupil survey:

LA EHE monitoring officer Questionnaire

Q1: Total number of EHE children by phase of education

Phase Total number of


Primary 889

Secondary 2100

Total 2989

Base=15 LAs

Within the 15 LAs which responded to this question it is observed that there is a total

of nearly 3,000 children registered as receiving EHE and those at the secondary

stage are over double the number in primary education. These figures should be

treated with caution as many of them are estimates.

17 ‘Gypsy Traveller Students in Secondary School’, Chris Derrington and Sally Kendall. Trentham

Books, 2004.

18 “The Education of Travelling Children” Ref: HMR/12/96/NS OFSTED 1996.

“Provision and support for Traveller pupils”, HMI 455 OFSTED, November 2003.


The emphasis in statistics towards preference at the secondary level is given greater

detail in the table below which links numbers to Key Stages. Around a third of pupils

opting for EHE are at primary school (31%) although it is to be noted that only 9% of

pupils opting for EHE are at Key Stage One.

Q2: Number of EHE children in 03/04 academic year registered for EHE by year


Year Group Total number of


% Mean number per

responding LEA

Foundation 60 2 3.8

Year 1 105 3 6.6Year 2

122 4 7.6

Year 3 136 4 8.5Year 4

158 5 9.9

Year 5 205 7 12.8Year 6

183 6 11.4

Year 7 290 9 18.1Year 8

354 11 22.1

Year 9 389 13 24.3Year 10

489 16 30.6

Year 11 613 20 38.3

Total 3104 100 194

Base=16 LAs

Q3: Reasons for EHE registration for the estimated number of Travellers within

the EHE cohort

Reasons for EHE Registration Estimated number of Travellers

registered for EHE

Particular educational philosophy 123

Fear of cultural erosion 366

Coursework/curriculum stress 0

Curriculum relevance 363

Racist and other bullying 51

Exclusion/risk of exclusion 16

Attendance difficulties 2

Pressure of EWS/TES for non-attendance 3

Staff/pupil personality conflicts 6

Nomadic life-style/routines 29

Religious reasons 0

Lack of school places 0

Other 64

Total Estimated number of Traveller pupils in

EHE cohort


Base=15 LEAs

The data in response to Question 3 of the LA returns provide some important

insights into the motivations of families opting for EHE. It is important to note,

however, that it is not known whether these assessments are based on questions to

families or guesswork by LA officials completing the questionnaires. By far the most

significant reasons relate to ‘fear of cultural erosion’ (35.7%) and ‘curriculum

relevance’ (35.5%), although ‘particular educational philosophy’ (12%) was also seen


as a strong factor. In relative terms, ‘racist and other bullying’ (5%) features in low

profile, but it may be that LA officials would not be over-keen for this to be

acknowledged as a dimension of the LA’s schools. The practical considerations of a

nomadic lifestyle would seem to be a very low factor in electing for home education.

It could be argued that ‘fear of cultural erosion’ and ‘curriculum relevance’ are closely

related considerations in the process that families go through when assessing the

value of education. If this premise is accepted, then 71% of Traveller pupils

registered for EHE opted for EHE because of reasons reflecting the marked

mismatch in relation to the prescriptive cultural values of the communities and those

of the schools. Many families feel that schools are not offering what is seen as worthy

and desirable, particularly once literacy and numeracy skills have been secured

during the primary stages of education.

Q4-20: Does the LA…?

Does the LA… Yes




Have a written policy on EHE? 11 4

Provide initial advice to families asking to register

as EHE?

16 0

Have special arrangements made in relation to

timing/procedures for initial visit to Traveller


12 3

Apply LA criteria/principles about suitability of EHE

to all families?

15 1

Write reports for each monitoring/inspection visit 16 0

Share the above with TES if involves a Traveller


12 2

Always see the child/children during initial and

monitoring/inspection visits?

5 10

Provide the EHE family with educational


2 13

Provide advice to EHE registered families? 16 0

Have any concerns about EHE Traveller issues? 13 2

Additional information provided with answers to Question 4-20 included:

Of the 16 LAs that provide initial advice to families asking to register as EHE,

7 stated that they send written information or guidance to families and 5 visit

the families in person (or someone from LA does). 3 LAs stated that the

advice focuses on procedures, rights, responsibilities and requirements.

Of the 12 LAs that said special arrangements were made with regard to the

initial visit to the Traveller families the majority stated that the TES would be

involved in the visit (where appropriate). 2 LAs also said that they were

flexible with the timing of the visits.

5 LAs stated that the criteria they used with regard to the suitability of EHE

were based on the appropriateness of the provision.

Those 10 LAs that said they did not always see the child during their initial

and monitoring/inspection visits only 1 said that this was not recorded or

reported to other agencies. The majority of LAs that said they do see the

child also said that where this did not happen this would be recorded and



Of the LAs that state that they provide advice to EHE registered families,

advice tends to come from monitoring/inspection visits, from advisers, from

written material/guidance and advice over the phone. Families tend to be

provided with advice about where to get help/support/resources, information

about EHE processes and advice on the curriculum or appropriate education.

There are a number of key points with important policy implications stemming

from the data collected by this question. It is to be noted that 4 (25%) of the 16

LAs do not have a written policy on EHE. In addition, 10 (62.5%) reported that

they do not always see the child during an initial and or monitoring/inspection visit

and that in one case, this is neither recorded nor reported. Clearly there are also

a number of LAs who visit without seeing the child and who just record this

information. In the cases where the incident is reported, the data does not

provide information of the process, agency reported to, and subsequent actions.

Advice and information provided to families would seem to be supportive, but

may well be a hostage to the knowledge, skills and understanding of the parents

to put it to full use in the interests of the children’s education. It may also be the

case that many parents will have low level literacy skills.

Q6: Average time for dealing with requests about EHE

Average time period for: Number of LEAs

Time period between initial request and visit

2 weeks or less 3

2-8 weeks 10

8 weeks or more 2

Unspecific 1

Standard Time period between visit and decision/approval*

Less than a week 2

1-2 weeks 2

More than 2 weeks but less than 4 3

4 weeks or more 3

12 weeks or more 3

Other 2

*Note that many LAs stated that more/less frequent visits would be made on a case

to case basis although we do not know the criteria/checklist used for such decisions.

This table’s data reveals one or two issues with policy implications linked to

entitlement and child protection considerations. Firstly, at least 12 LAs take between

2 weeks and over 8 weeks to make an initial visit following a request for EHE

registration. Two LAs (12.5%) said that it was over 8 weeks. The time taken between

the initial visit and the approval decision can take 4 weeks or more (6 LAs) and, in

some cases, 12 weeks or more (3 LAs). Apart from the clearly established lack of

uniformity in the procedures between LAs, it is also the case that in a significant

number of cases, long delays may be encountered by families both in terms of time

of initial visit and decision/approval with up to the loss of a full school term. This is not

to say, however, that the children will necessarily be loosing out on purposeful

education during this period as some may still be in school and others may be

receiving education at home, but for some, the limbo period of uncertainty may not

always be used wisely by parents, and especially so, if the children are needed to

engage in domestic and or economic activities/duties within the family. In response to

Question 7, 12 (80%) LAs said that they made special arrangements when making

an initial visit to Traveller families and in most cases this involved liaison with the

Traveller Education Service. Question 8 was concerned with the criteria used to

assess the viability of the provision. Five LAs returned copies of policies detailing the


criteria applied and these will be analysed during stage two of the research. Fourteen

LAs in response to Question 9 said that they applied the same criteria irrespective of

the background of the family.

Q10: Frequency of monitoring/inspection visits once families have been

registered for EHE

12 of the 15 LAs that responded to this question stated that visits were made

each year although most commented that this would be more frequent if there

were felt to be problems. 2 LAs made 6 monthly visits and one said that it


A majority appear to visit the families once a year to assess the provision as to

whether it still complies with the requirements as judged by the LA. While the data in

this stage of the research does not provide information on the agenda and duration of

such visits, it is good that most LAs say that if they encountered areas of concern

then more frequent visits may be arranged. Again at this stage of the research it is

not known whether any assessment is made at such monitoring/inspection visit re the

progress the child(ren) has made during the year.

In response to Question 11 all 16 LAs said that written reports were made after each

visit, and all but three shared these reports with the TES. In one case this practice

was only used if there were concerns. Question 12 asked whether the written

reports were shared with other departments/agencies. Only 3 LAs said that they were

kept by the monitor/inspector, but the majority said that they were shared with other

departments. In most cases this involved special needs (and especially if the child

had a statement) and education welfare. In some cases the reports were also shared

with social services (if concerns), and health departments. One LA reported that all

such reports were seen by an Assistant Education Officer who would decide on the

basis of the content, who should receive a copy. Question 13 asked respondents

whether the child(ren) was always seen during an initial visit. Only 5 (33%) said yes

to this question and only 2 (13%) LAs said that this information would be reported to

another agency.

Question 14 a): Number of Traveller and non-Traveller children refused EHE


Only 6 LAs were able to give information for Q14 and most of these were

partial responses.

Of the 6 responding LAs, 1 responded that no children had been refused EHE

status in any of the academic years requested*.

5 LAs were able to give partial responses to this question:

o There were no reports of a child being refused EHE status in 2000/01

o 4 Traveller children, but no non-Traveller children were reported as

being refused EHE status in 2001/02

o In 2002/03 2 Traveller children and 1 non-Traveller child were refused

EHE status

o In 2003/04 8 Traveller children and 4 non-Traveller children were

refused EHE status.


* It is not clear whether there were really no children refused EHE status or whether

there was no available data on this.

It would seem apparent from the data that the availability of official records is not that

secure in terms of initial approvals and refusals following applications for EHE. Only

a third of LAs were able to provide only partial information. The number of refusals

within the 5 LAs who responded to this question increased each year for Traveller

families, but this may just reflect the increasing number of applications rather than a

toughing up of the criteria for acceptance although this might also have been the


Question 14 b): Number of Traveller and non-Traveller families prosecuted for

non-attendance after unsuccessful EHE applications:

Only 2 LAs were able to provide data for this question. One of these LAs only

gave data for 2003/04 in which no family was prosecuted*.

The other LA responded that no families were prosecuted in 2000/01 or

2001/02 but that in 2002/03 2 Traveller families and 1 non-Traveller family

was prosecuted and 3 Traveller families and 1 non-Traveller family in


*It is not clear whether there were really no families prosecuted or whether there

was no available data on this.

Question 14 c): Number of Traveller and non-Traveller children taken to court

for non-attendance after a monitoring/inspection visit:

Only 6 LAs responded to this question. Of these, 5 stated that no families

had been prosecuted for this reason*.

The remaining LA stated that no families were prosecuted until 2003/04 when

3 Traveller families were prosecuted for this reason.

*It is not clear whether there were really no families taken to court or whether

there was no available data on this.

Q15: Estimated cost of educational resources:

Only one LA was able to estimate a cost for providing educational

resources/books/materials to EHE families, the estimate was £10.

It may well be that of the other 15 LAs there were no costs involved on account of

there being no resources given to families.

Question 16: All LAs said that they provided advice to families electing for home

education and in at least one LA this was both oral and written.

Q17-18: Training and Briefing

Has any member of the EHE monitoring/inspection Yes

team… N % of responding LAs

Attended in-service/briefing on EHE? 9 56

Attended in-service/briefing on Traveller


5 36


This data raises serious doubts about the quality of professional judgements being

made by officers during initial and or monitoring/inspection visits to Traveller families.

Q19: Special Educational Needs

Where a child has a statement of special educational needs (SEN) 2 LAs

stated that the LA only approves or opposes the EHE request if the child is in

a special school – otherwise it is the parents’ choice and right to withdraw

their child. 2 LAs stated that the decision was made jointly between EHE and

SEN officers, 2 LAs stated that there was no change in the decision-making

process and 2 LAs stated that responsibility for that child was given to SEN.

6 LAs reported joint monitoring/inspection between SEN and EHE.

Despite a variety of practice, it seems clear that special attention is given in

cases that concern children with statements of special educational need.

Q19-20: Concerns/Issues

13 (81%) of LAs said that yes, they had concerns about EHE in regard to

Traveller issues.

7 (43%) of LAs noted concerns over whether EHE Traveller children were

receiving full and appropriate educational provision, mainly due to concerns

over the parents’ skills especially in literacy and numeracy.

3 (19%) of LAs noted concerns that there was a lack of commitment to

education and that often EHE was used as a way of legally withdrawing

children from school. 3 LAs were also concerned about increasing numbers

of Traveller families registering as EHE and the domino effect that this has in


5 LAs mentioned equal opportunities. Some felt that girls were particularly

disadvantaged and that the lack of appropriate educational provision

restricted the opportunities available to EHE Traveller children.

2 LAs mentioned difficulties in monitoring the children due to the nomadic

lifestyles of the families.

When asked about difficulties faced by Traveller families regarding

participation in public examinations for EHE children, the majority of LAs who

responded mentioned that EHE Traveller children do not take public exams or

SATs; 4 LAs also mentioned that exams/SATs are not applicable or relevant

to these families. 5 LAs mentioned practical difficulties such as funding,

coursework and finding somewhere to sit the examinations.

When asked about issues concerning work experience/careers guidance for

EHE Traveller children the majority of LAs stated that work experience or

employment was arranged informally through the families and communities.

4 LAs noted that Connexions or other advice was rarely used by these

families and 2 suggested problems with accessing further education. 5 LAs

also mentioned health & safety/insurance issues, some stating that they could

not arrange work experience as these pupils would not be covered by



4.2 Analysis of Elective Home Education (EHE): Gypsy, Roma and Traveller

Pupils’ survey: TES Questionnaire

Q1: Total number of Traveller children registered for EHE in the last 4

academic years

Academic Year Total number of EHEregistered



Mean number per

responding TES

2000/01 177 9.3

2001/02 260 13.7

2002/03 371 19.5

2003/04 458 24.1

Base=19 LAs

*3 LAs responded with estimates, one of which estimated between 40-50 pupils in

each year – this estimate is not included in the table above.

It is interesting to note that 3 (15%) of TESs could only estimate numbers of Traveller

pupils on EHE and one of these estimated relatively high numbers which have not

been included in the calculation. A serious question mark over the quality of the TES

database is raised in these three cases. It is not possible to compare this overall

statistical data with that contained within the LA responses as the questionnaire

return rates were different, as too, were the totals recorded for all children registered

as EHE. It should also be noted that the rate of option has increased year-on-year by

approximately 40%.

Q2: Total known numbers of Traveller children

20 TES responded giving estimates of the numbers of school-age Traveller

children in their LAs. 5 LAs stated that these were approximate or estimated


In all responding LAs there were a total of 10,010 school-age Traveller pupils

with an average of 500.5 per TES.

An estimated 58% of these Traveller children are enrolled in schools.

There are an estimated 462 Traveller children registered as being EHE, an

average of 23.1 per TES.

The TES reported that some 2952 children in total are registered for EHE –

Traveller children make up an estimated 16% of these pupils.

Q3: Occupational/ethnic backgrounds of EHE children



N %

Gypsy/Traveller 409 78

Roma 66 13

Fairground 5 1

Circus 0 0

New Traveller 24 5

Other 19 4

Total 523 100

Base=20 TES


By far the largest group opting for EHE is within the Gypsy/Traveller community –

nearly 80%. What is also significant and unexpected is the relatively high number of

Roma opting for EHE. It has always been assumed that their interest in coming to the

UK has been linked to their interest in the quality of education and the avoidance of

special schools. In addition, New Travellers feature as expected given their

traditional leaning towards EHE. What is also of interest is the relatively small

number of Fairground children registered as EHE.

Q4: Number of EHE-registered Traveller children in 2003/04 by year group

Of the 20 TES who could give numbers of Traveller children in their LAs, 18

were able to give a breakdown of EHE-registered Traveller children by year


Number of EHE-registered Traveller children in 2003/04 by year group

Year group N %

Foundation 0 0

Year 1 9 2

Year 2 4 1

Year 3 4 1

Year 4 7 2

Year 5 12 3

Year 6 18 4

Year 7 76 18

Year 8 89 21

Year 9 85 20

Year 10 75 17

Year 11 55 13

Total 434 100

Base=18 TES

While there are a number of Traveller children registered as EHE in the primary

years, it is clear that nearly 90% are in the secondary phase of education. The data

does not provide information on whether Key Stage 1 children are part of families

who are either nomadic and or coming from particular backgrounds. This will be

looked at in the second stage of the research. It should be noted, however, that at

Key Stage 2 there is a marked increase in children opting for EHE in years 5 and 6

(7% in total). The peak years are years 8 and 9 but the observed fall-off in years 10

and 11 could reflect a reality that some children may have dropped out of education

at this stage and or have no need to elect as at that age they feel immune from legal

action for non-attendance at school.

Q5: Reason for EHE registration of Traveller families (estimates)

15 TES were able to estimate figures for the reasons for EHE-registration of

Traveller families. The results from these TES are presented in the table


A further 2 TES responded but were unable to give numbers. They stated

that among the reasons for EHE registration of Traveller families were:

o Educational philosophy

o Fear of cultural erosion

o Coursework/curriculum stress


o Curriculum relevance

o Racist and other bullying

o Nomadic lifestyle/work routines

Reason for EHE registration Number %

Particular educational philosophy 50 10

Fear of ‘cultural erosion’ 165 34

Coursework/curriculum stress 4 1

Curriculum relevance 56 12

Racist and other bullying 67 14

Exclusion or risk of exclusion 12 2

Attendance difficulties 6 1

Pressure of EWS/TES for non-attendance 18 4

Staff/pupil conflict 10 2

Nomadic lifestyle/work routines 19 4

Religious reasons 10 2

Lack of school places 1 0

Other 67 14

Total 485 100

Base=15 TES

The data in response to Question 5 of the TES returns provides some further

important insights into the motivations of families opting for EHE. It is important to

note, however, that it is not known whether these assessments are based on

questions to families or guesswork by TES coordinators completing the

questionnaires. By far the most significant reasons seem to relate to ‘fear of cultural

erosion’ (34% [the same % as within the LA questionnaire returns]), ‘racist and other

bullying’ (14%) and ‘curriculum relevance’ (12%), although ‘particular educational

philosophy’ (10%) was also seen as a causal factor, but there is no evidence as to

what these might be or suggested to be since the author does not have access to the

returned questionnaires. It is important to note that the differences in alleged reasons

for choice of EHE given by the LEA and the TES may reflect the differences in the

quality of the relationships between the two professional groups and the Traveller

communities. Of particular note and importance to this study is the differences in the

numbers recorded for ‘racist and other bullying’ (4.9% for the former and 14% for the

latter). Again, the practical considerations of a nomadic lifestyle would seem to be a

low factor in electing for home education. Although on the basis of this data it could

still be argued that ‘fear of cultural erosion’ and ‘curriculum relevance’ are closely

related considerations in the process that families go through when assessing the

value of education (combined figure of 46% as opposed to 71% for the LA returns), it

also has to be recognised that fear of racist and other bullying features prominently in

the list of casual factors. It could also be argued that ‘staff/pupil conflict’ and

‘exclusion or risk of exclusion’ might well be linked to bullying and thus the casual

factor may in reality be even more significant. Within the 14% of responses under

‘other’, a majority said that parents sighted a combination of factors including cultural

erosion, racist bullying and curriculum relevance. Other reasons included health, the

withdrawal of girls prior to the onset of puberty, peer group pressure and in one case,

the fact threat the local secondary school was placed in special measures following

an OFSTED Section 10 inspection.

Q6-13: TES Policy

Does the TES… Yes




Have its own policy on EHE? 3 15


(If no to own policy) follow the LAs EHE policy? 13 0

Provide any initial advice for families opting for EHE? 16 2

Have any further contact with the family once they have

been referred to the LA monitoring/inspection person?

17 3

Provide the family with any educational






Asked to reintegrate Traveller pupils into schools where

the family has decided to end EHE?

16 4

Help find tutors for EHE families? 2 18

Attend in-service/briefing on EHE? 12 6

TES were asked about the nature of advice for families opting for EHE. The

most common response was that families were given advice about the pros

and cons of EHE education, usually with the aim of encouraging them to

leave the child in school. Two (2) TESs said that advice was given on the

practicalities of EHE such as their duties etc. and 2 TESs actually offered

practical support with applying for EHE (such as help with filling in forms).

Of the 17 TES that said that they do maintain contact with EHE Traveller

families, most said that the frequency of contact varied and would depend on

the situation. For example “Frequency depends on mobility and needs of

each individual”. 5 TESs said that they maintained regular contact.

Of those 16 TES that have been asked to reintegrate Traveller children back

into school, 3 stated that they had faced no particular problems with this.

However, many TESs did note problems relating to the ethos of the school as

not Traveller-friendly, the difficulties caused by the lack of education of these

children, reluctance on the part of parents and children to return to school and

the high levels of support needed.

Only 3 TESs had written policies, although the clear majority adopted the LA’s

standard policy. In addition, only one TES provided the families with educational

materials and books, although this was not thought to be above £20 per family.

Only 2 TESs helped the families to find tutors. Two thirds of TESs had

participated in relevant in-service training on EHE. This is in reverse contrast with

the LA officers responsible for initial approval and monitoring/inspection.

Q12: Impact of Traveller pupils opting for EHE

Of the 18 TES that responded to this question, 7 said that it had no or minimal

impact. A number of respondents pointed to the disappointment or frustration

of schools, usually primary schools, and the relief or encouragement of

secondary schools. Linked to this, 3 TESs stated that Traveller pupils opting

into EHE meant that schools became less able to respond to the needs of

Traveller pupils. Two (2) TESs also pointed to the impact on the schools

attendance figures and test results.

Q14: Frequency of active liaison between TES and monitoring/inspection


Frequency Number %

High 11 55

Average 4 20

Low 4 20

Non-existent 1 5


The data revealed in this table provides a variable picture, but over 50% of TESs

have a high level of liaison with the monitoring/inspection process. It still remains that

25% have either low or non-existent liaison with the quality assurance process. This

aspect of the findings will be looked at in greater detail during the second stage of the


Q15: Appropriateness of education

The vast majority of responding TES (94%) feel that Traveller children, on average,

are not receiving an education suited to their ages, aptitudes, abilities and any

special needs they may have.

Among the reasons behind this response many respondents mentioned that

Traveller parents often use EHE as an ‘escape route’ out of formal education

and that very little formal education is provided. A lack of basic skills among

parents was also often cited.

Q16-17: Special Educational Needs

Thirteen (13) out of 18 TESs replied that there were EHE Traveller children

who would be on the SEN register if they were at school.

Of these 13 TESs, many stated that the children had learning difficulties

(usually moderate or low-level rather than specific or severe).

Fifty (50)% of the responding TES stated that there were some EHE Traveller

children with statements of SEN. Most of these children have statements for

some form of learning difficulty.

Q18: Support for EHE Traveller families

Eleven (11) TESs responded that EHE Traveller families had received

support from formal organisational structures, 3 TESs said no support had

been received.

Forms of support ranged from providing families with a list of support

contacts, private tutors and joining Education Otherwise.


EHE Traveller children Number %

Of the total number of Traveller children registered for EHE in 03/04 how many


Housed 150 32%

Caravan/trailer dwelling 312 68%

Total 462 100

How many EHE Traveller families had other children at a local


128 28%

How many EHE Traveller pupils also registered with a local


0 0%

It is very interesting to note that nearly a third of Traveller children registered with

EHE are sedentary in housing. This is a very significant development given the rapid

growth in numbers over the last four years and the estimated total number of


‘housed’ Travellers nationally. It would seem from the data within this table that a

third of families are able to manage both school attendance and EHE for their

different children within the family and this may well be that younger children go to

primary school and then move to EHE once they approach and or reach secondary


Q22: Problems/issues faced by EHE Traveller families regarding participation

in public examinations

Of the 17 TES responses, the majority stated that no EHE Traveller families

have ever taken public examinations. For example: “Many of the students

who have opted out of LA provision do not feel the need to have their

curriculum validated by statutory and national tests”.

Four (4) TES respondents stated that due to problems of low attainment and

inappropriate curriculum, entering examinations was often not realistic for

these pupils and a further 4 stated that EHE Traveller families place little

importance on formal qualifications.

Q23: Problems/issues faced by Traveller families regarding access to work

experience opportunities and careers education/guidance

Seventeen (17) TESs gave responses to this question. Four (4) TESs

mentioned that work experience was minimal for this group and often linked

to their community. Four (4) TESs also mentioned difficulties with accessing

Connexions and/or Personal Advisers for these groups.

Two (2) TESs also mentioned gender inequalities and the fact that there were

fixed ideas in the families about what work boys and girls would do in life.

Two (2) TESs mentioned concerns with health and safety issues and funding



5.1 Existing legislation, which is also compliant with international law and

conventions, enshrines the rights of parents, guardians or legal carers to choose the

education for their children.19 This choice also includes the possibility of parents

educating their own children either themselves or through the employment of tutors.20

These rights are subject to compliance with a set of legal conditions which in the

main place a responsibility on parents to ensure that their children receive an efficient

and suitable education. A ‘suitable’ education is defined as one that “primarily equips

a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of

life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in

later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.. The law also

secures the right that the education that children receive is in accordance with the

wishes of their parents so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient

instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.21

19 See Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See also Section 7 of the

Education Act 1996.

20 See DfES Guidance. Parents are responsible for ensuring that such engaged people are suitable

persons to have access to their children. The onus of responsibility is on parents to request a CRB Basic

Disclosure check if they so choose.

21 Section 9 of the Education Act 1996.


In addition, local education authorities are seen as responsible for ensuring that

parents comply with this requirement.

5.2 If a child has already been registered with a school then parents are legally

required to notify their LA if they decide to withdraw the child and educate her/him at

home. In the case of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller children, a school may see the

‘without notice’ withdrawal of a child as linked to the family’s legitimate nomadic

lifestyle and so may not automatically notify other agencies within the authority or log

this with the national child Information Sharing Index database.

5.3 The LA has the duty to assess and approve such provision and to monitor it over

time. It is to be noted that if a child has never been registered with a school, then

there is no duty on the parent to notify the LA if they decide to educate, or arrange to

have educated, the child(ren) at home. This situation could again be problematic in

relation to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families in that many children start school late

and so it is possible that many children from these backgrounds at any age within

Key Stages 1 and 2 could start their education at home with no duty on the parent to

notify the appropriate authorities.

5.4 A traditional view has been held that most parents opting to elect for the home

education of their children have taken such a decision on legitimate grounds that

reflect particular value and belief systems linked to culture or religious/faith

conviction. In a number of cases, these motivations may be fortified by a judgement

that available schools will be unable to deliver the right values and orientation of

knowledge to meet the children’s assessed needs and parental ambitions; that local

and or acceptable provision may be too distant from the home, and or the child

refuses or is exceedingly unwilling to go to school.

5.5 Disenchantment with the provision in available schools may be a further incentive

to elect to educate at home. Some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families fear ‘cultural

erosion’. Other decisions are based on the judged irrelevance of the school

curriculum, and or the anxiety to protect their children from racist and other bullying.

Within the context of the Every Child Matters agenda there is a need for schools to

make provision that is responsive to the needs and expectations of communities. In

these latter circumstances, it could be argued that the families and the children

involved are being required to pay an unreasonable price because of inflexibilities

within mainstream provision for which they are not responsible. In this situation the

rights of the victims are being undermined. For this situation not to be addressed may

result in unintentional racial discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller

minority ethnic communities.

5.6 Information stemming from a number of diverse sources, including academic

research, provides overwhelming evidence to suggest that a very strong motivation

for families to elect for home education is the impact of racist and other bullying. A

clear message was heard at the DfES sponsored ethnic self-ascription seminars that

parents and pupils are frightened to declare their true ethnic background when

registering at a school because of the fear of racist bullying. National and

international race attitude surveys confirm that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller

communities are the most marginalised ethnic communities in Europe and this is

confirmed by the seeming ‘open season’ freedom of negative media coverage.

5.7 These negative racist attitudes manifest themselves at all levels of public

provision including schools. Negative attitudes thus have the potential for surfacing

among non-Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, adults working in the school, and the

parental community.


5.8 In addition to racist bullying, it is also well documented that Gypsy, Roma and

Traveller communities are the most socially excluded communities in British society.

A picture is thus emerging of where the educational opportunities of whole minority

ethnic communities are being distorted by a lack of knowledge and racist bullying.

5.9 The developments described within this report provide clear evidence that Gypsy,

Roma and Traveller communities represent a unique case. Because of inherent

inadequacies within mainstream educational provision as listed, it could be argued

that increasing numbers of children from these communities are unjustly being

‘removed’ de facto from mainstream provision. And yet these are the communities

most ill placed to organise or deliver an efficient and suitable education for their

children. Many parents have very low level literacy skills, have limited and negative

experiences of attending school themselves and are among the least qualified to be

able to make a sound and informed judgment on the quality of the education that

they are managing to provide or organise for their children. There is little doubt that

few Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents are providing their children with a suitable

education. As either consumers or providers parents are thus seriously


5.10 The legislation, which secures the rights of parents in this context, obviously

pre-dates by many decades the more recent legislation which places very new and

rigorous demands on government and public authorities in relation to human rights,

race equality and Every Child Matters. This new robust legal context now requires a

legislative amendment to the previous weak arrangements. The DfES needs to

address the issues and take action to safeguard the interests and welfare of the very

vulnerable children in these communities, and indeed, all those children being

educated under the EHE arrangements. The demand for more rigorous legislation to

protect the child from harm and abuse has been prompted by the high profile cases

that have shocked the nation. Contemporary demographic and social profiles of the

public at large suggest that most of the abuse of children takes place within families

and the home and that there are now many more families where one of the partners

is not the biological parent of the child(ren). Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities,

in common with all the other families registered nationally with EHE, are as

vulnerable as any other sector of society to these changed social circumstances.

Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities have thus inadvertently highlighted these

issues and the current loopholes in the existing legislation and the identified

weaknesses in the way it is administered and enforced.

5.11 In a broader pan European context, wide international concern has been alerted

to the social exclusion of the 12 to 15 million Gypsy, Roma and Traveller

communities and their frequently marginalised status within racially segregated

ghettoes. It is increasingly realised that social isolation and exclusion is in serious

tension with good race relations and community cohesion. To allow the process as

described within this report to continue unchecked will result in the further social

isolation and structural hindrances to community integration and cohesion.

5.12 The DfES is advised to take action to address these issues by way of the

legislative process.

22 Within the Education Act 1996, an ‘efficient’ education is defined as one that “achieves that which it

sets out to achieve” and a ‘suitable’ education is one that “prepares children for life in a modern

civilized society and will enable them to achieve their full potential”.




6.1 The research data from this small scale research project provides sufficient

evidence to confirm that the serious concerns expressed by OFSTED, TESs and

other players, are fully justified in relation to a number of issues surrounding the

quality of education provided and the care and protection for Gypsy/Roma and

Traveller children (and all EHE children) when their parents have elected to educate

them at home.

6.2 Few Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents have the knowledge, skills and

resources to provide or deliver a full-time education that is efficient and suitable. And

yet the percentage of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller families who have opted for EHE is

increasing at a high rate. There may also be a possible 50% to 75% of children from

these communities opting out of secondary education. Given the research findings

about school curricular irrelevance and racist bullying, the developing situation re

EHE is a clear example of racial discrimination and social exclusion.

6.3 The main reasons are linked to a cultural mismatch in terms of purpose and

expectations between that of the communities and that of schools and the frequent

need to protect their children from the corrosive impact of endemic racist bullying.

6.4 It is clear that there is no standard practice in relation to registration approval and

the routine monitoring/inspecting of provision, nor in regard to what constitutes an

entitlement curriculum.23 The existing regulations rely in the main on good will. The

long history of the difficult relationships between the Gypsy/Roma and Traveller

communities and settled society pose a serious threat to the effective operation of

good will in these circumstances.

6.5 The legal constraints imposed on those responsible for monitoring/inspecting the

provision within individual families must be seen as in direct tension with child

protection considerations and the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda. For those children

who have never previously been registered with a school, there is no legal duty on

the parents to notify the appropriate authorities of their intention to provide education

at home. Parents are not legally required to notify the local education authority unless

the child is registered at a special school.24

6.6 A growing number of Key Stage 3 and 4 children, most of whom have minority

ethnic status, are missing out on a quality education, a deprivation which will ill equip

them for their future lives within their own communities and the potential for seeking

opportunities in mainstream society at large. Choices are being closed down

irretrievably and in most cases the wishes of the children themselves are not taken

into account in the decision making process to opt for EHE.

6.7 In the light of the recent legislative programme to improve the education of all

children and to protect them from harm and abuse, it is strange that elective home

education is the only area of education and child care that is not subject to more

23 The DfES Guidance says that, “LAs should not specify a curriculum which parents must follow” In

addition, and reflective of the same soft approach, the Guidance issued under Section 14 of the

Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000. (See also Education (Scotland) Act 1980 Section 37(2).

“There is no express requirement in the 1980 Act for education authorities to investigate actively

whether or not parents are complying with their Section 30 duty”.

24 See DfES EHE Guidance.


rigorous statutory regulation concerned with quality assurance and accountability.

The existing legislation is essentially only concerned with parents’ rights and may

now be judged as inadequate to protect the educational rights and to safeguard the

welfare of children.


6.8 In terms of securing uniform guarantees of children’s rights and entitlements to a

quality education irrespective of provider, and the safeguarding of the care and

protection of children from possible harm and abuse, parliamentary legislation is


6.9 Legislation should apply uniformly to all families with children currently being

educated at home and those wishing to elect for home education in the future.

6.10 It is suggest that the legislation should ensure that:

a) a standardised national system of registration be implemented by each

local education authority in terms of assessment criteria;

monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events

b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the

assessment process.

d) a clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced.

e) all children to be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been

registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen

initially and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in

law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution

f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in

relation to expectations of educational progress.

g) that a timetable be established and defined in relation to the procedures

incumbent on local authorities pursuant to assessment judgements of the

provision being unsuitable.

h) parents and secondary aged children have the right of appeal at any

decision by the appropriate authorities in regard to an application and

continuance of elected home education.

6.11 The legislation should be supported by appropriate circulars and other guidance

together with an initial and periodic national training programme.

6.12 That Local authorities be required to include within their Inspection Cycle, an

assessment of the quality of the assessment and monitoring/inspection functions in

relation to elective home education and to report on their findings.

6.13 That the criteria for assessment and monitoring/inspection visits should be

based on a modified version of the requirements for the inspection of independent

schools under Section 162a.25

6.14 The Department for Education and Skills should implement changes in order

that the cycle of prejudice is broken down, racist bullying tackled and the educational

needs and aspirations of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities are taken into

account within maintained schools.

6. 15 That a review be commissioned by the DfES after five years of the

implementation of the new legislation.

25 The Education Act 2002, Section 162a.



2005 School Census data on the achievement of Gypsy / Roma and Travellers

of Irish heritage.



Gypsy/Roma pupils and Travellers of Irish heritage pupils perform

considerably lower than the average for all pupils in maintained schools in all

subjects. However, there are small numbers recorded (as parents and

children fear racial prejudice) in these 2 ethnic groups (although the number

of KS1 pupils identified within these categories has increased slightly since


On average, the results for Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils have improved

since 2004 by between 1 and 2 percentage points. However, the results for

the Gypsy/Roma group have, on average, decreased by around 1 to 3

percentage points since 2004.

In 2004, 50% of Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils achieved the

expected level in KS1 Maths, this percentage increased to 52% in

2005. However, the corresponding figures for Gypsy Roma pupils

decreased from 64% in 2004 to 62% in 2005.

The attainment gap in Reading, Writing and Maths between these

pupils and the average for all pupils in maintained schools has

widened since 2004 for Gypsy/Roma pupils but narrowed for Traveller

of Irish Heritage pupils.



Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils are consistently performing

considerably below the average for all pupils in maintained schools in each

subject. In English and Maths only just over a quarter of Traveller of Irish

Heritage pupils and around a third of Gypsy/Roma pupils achieve the

expected level compared to at least three quarters of all pupils. As with Key

Stage 1 there are small numbers of pupils in these ethnic groups at the end of

KS2 and the numbers of pupils in these categories have decreased slightly

since 2004.

However, there is evidence of improvements for these groups:

The percentage of Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils achieving the

expected level for all subjects increased from 2004 to 2005, in English

and Maths by 3 percentage points and in Science by 1 percentage


Higher percentages of Gypsy/Roma pupils achieved the expected

level in each subject in 2005 than in 2004. The increases for this

group in each subject were the highest increases for any of the ethnic

groups (with the exception of the unclassified group). For example,

the % of pupils reaching the expected level in English increased by 7

percentage points, and by 8 percentage points in Maths and Science.

The attainment gap between these two groups and the average for all

pupils in maintained schools has narrowed since 2004 in all 3


There have been fewer attainment increases in Science for all ethnic groups

since 2003. Traveller of Irish Heritage and the Gypsy/Roma groups have the

highest increases of 3 and 5 percentage points.

Traveller of Irish Heritage, Gypsy/Roma, White/Black Caribbean, Black

Caribbean, Black Other and Pakistani pupils made less progress from KS1-2

on average than the average for all pupils, given their levels of prior

attainment. However, KS1-2 progress for these groups was greater this year

than in 2004.

KEY STAGE 2 attainment by Gender

Nationally, Girls out perform boys in English and Science in all of the

minority ethnic groups, with the exception of Gypsy/Roma and

White/Asian pupils where Boys perform better than Girls in Science.

On average, boys outperform girls at Maths. This is especially true for the

Traveller of Irish Heritage, Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups where the

gap between boys and girls is between 3 and 4 percentage points

compared to an average of 1 percentage point for all pupils. White/Black

African, Black Caribbean and Black African boys are all performing less

well than girls.



Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils are consistently performing

considerably below the average for all pupils in maintained schools in each

subject. In 2005 fewer than 30% of pupils in each of these groups are

achieving the expected level in each subject compared to a national average

of 70% or more. As with Key Stage 1 and 2, there are small numbers of

pupils in these ethnic groups (the numbers of pupils in the Traveller of Irish

Heritage group at the end of KS3 has increased since 2004 whilst the number

in the Gypsy/Roma group has increased).

Whilst there have been improvements in the results for the Gypsy/Roma

group, this is not the case for the Traveller of Irish Heritage group:

The percentage of pupils achieving the expected level in all subjects

has increased for Gypsy/Roma pupils since 2004 but decreased for

Traveller of Irish Heritage between 2004 and 2005.

The Gypsy/Roma group had among the highest increases in the

percentage of pupils achieving the expected level in each subject of

any of the ethnic groups. In 2005 the percentage of Gypsy/Roma

pupils achieving the expected level increased by 10 percentage points

in English (compared to 4 percentage points for all pupils on average),

by 4 percentage points in Maths and by 6 percentage points in


The attainment gap between Gypsy/Roma and the average for all

pupils in maintained schools has narrowed since 2004 in all 3


In English and Science, the Traveller of Irish Heritage group was the

only group to see a decrease in the percentage of pupils reaching the

expected levels.

For Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils the attainment gap between

these pupils and the average for all pupils in maintained schools has

widened since 2004 in all 3 subjects.

Comparison with 2003 attainment

o Since 2003 the low attaining minority groups have increased

attainment in all subjects, with the exception of the Gypsy/Roma and

Traveller of Irish heritage groups whose attainment has decreased in

all subjects compared to 2003.

KEY STAGE 3 attainment by Gender

On average, girls out perform boys in all subjects in all of the ethnic

groups, with the exception of White/Black African, Pakistani and Other

White pupils. Boys perform better than girls in Science for White/Black

African pupils and in Maths for Pakistani and Other White pupils.

In particular, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Black African

girls out perform boys in English with higher differences ranging from 21%

points to 13% points.



Any Subject

Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils performed considerably

below the average for all pupils in maintained schools, especially the former

group, only 15% of whom achieved 5A*-C grades, compared to 23% of

Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils and 55% of all pupils on average.

Fewer pupils from the Traveller group achieved 5A*-C grades at

GCSE and equivalent in 2005 than in 2004. There was approximately

7 percentage points difference between the % achieving 5A*-C grades

at GCSE and equivalent in 2004 (13.5%) and 2005 (14.7%). However,

the results for Gypsy/Roma pupils increased by 1 percentage point

from last year.

At GCSE and equivalent the attainment gap between these 2 groups

and the average for all pupils in maintained schools continues to

widen between 2004 and 2005.

English and Maths

On average fewer pupils achieve 5+A*-C grades including English and Maths

than achieve the same benchmark in any subject. On average there is a

difference of 12 percentage points between these benchmarks. The extent of

this difference does not vary much between different ethnic groups but

generally follows a similar pattern to the results for 5+A*-C in any subject.

o White British, Irish, White/Asian, Indian and Chinese pupils achieved

above the average for all pupils achieving 5A*-C including English and


o The remaining ethnic groups have achieved below the average for all

pupils with only 9% of Gypsy/Roma pupils achieving 5A*-C including

English and Maths and only 27% of Black Caribbean pupils achieving

this target.


Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma pupils had the lowest KS2-4

value added scores (and therefore made the least progress) of any of the

ethnic groups.


Very few Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma pupils were recorded as

entered for GCE/VCE A/AS exams.


Annex 2: Terminology and groups covered in the research

The term ‘Traveller’ has been used to describe a wide variety of cultural and ethnic

groups which either are, or have been, traditionally associated with a nomadic

lifestyle. The term has become a kind of shorthand for all these different groups but

its continued use is now considered by many to be unhelpful and potentially

discriminatory in character. The term ‘Traveller’ started to be adopted in the generic

sense in the 1960s to avoid the use of the derogatory references at that time to

‘gypsies’ and ‘tinkers’.26 The use of the generic term for all of these otherwise

heterogeneous groups was more for the benefit of officialdom than to oblige any

expressed self ascription wishes within the different communities themselves. Given

the legal terminology surrounding the minority ethnic status of the two main groups,

‘Gypsy/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage’, and the need to be inclusive while at

the same time both respectful of felt and perceived cultural differences, and the need

for manageable semantic drafting, it would seem that the most appropriate

terminology to describe the groups ‘collectively’ would be: ‘Gypsy, Roma, Travellers

and travelling communities’.27

Gypsy/Roma: Within this term, however, there are a large number of different ethnic

heritage descriptions either ascribed or self-ascribed and these include nonderogatory

words as such: Gypsies, Romany, Romany Gypsies, Travellers,

Traditional Travellers, Romanichals, Romanichal Gypsies, Scottish

Travellers/Gypsies, Nawkens, Welsh Gypsies/Travellers, Kale and Roma. Although

the European Union has accepted that the term ‘Roma’ is generally acceptable in

collectively describing all European Gypsies, there are of course many different

groups which may have geographical/territorial associations and are ascribed and or

self-ascribed as such (non-definitive list): Vlach Rom, Rom, Kalderash, Manouche,

Sinte, Tattare, Kaale, Cale, Lavari, Ursari, Boyhas, and Luri. Millions of Gypsy/Roma

people speak the Romani language, making it one of the principal minority languages

of Europe. Romani is an Indic language, closely related to modern Hindi, which

developed in the European diaspora under the influence of a number of other

languages, most notably Byzantine Greek. There are over a hundred dialects of

Romani and although in the past there have been efforts to deny the legitimacy of

Romani as a language, with some scholars classifying it as a form of jargon, there is

now broad consensus among linguists as to the wealth and unity of the Romani

language. The Romani spoken by English Gypsies is known as pogadi jib (brokentongue) and a number of TESs report that it is spoken as a first language within

some Gypsy families. This is certainly the case with most Eastern and Central

European Roma.28

Travellers of Irish Heritage: A range of terminology is also used in relation to

Travellers with an Irish heritage. These are either ascribed and or self-ascribed and

26 Note the lower case letters that were commonly used at that time. There has been a long ‘battle’ by

activists over the years to ensure that the correct spelling with capital letters is common practice.

Complaints on this issue to Hansard were always responded to by passing the buck to Chambers

Dictionary usage. Chambers has now finally agreed to use the spelling ‘Gypsy’ with a ‘y’ and not an

‘i’, and also to use capital letters for Gypsy and Traveller. Hansard has indicated that it will now make

the necessary changes. It is also to be noted that the tabloid press appear to continue to practice and

wilfully reinforce cultural and ethnic disrespect by using lower case letters and incorrect spelling

despite many supplications.

27 This suggested terminology is also inclusive and yet respectful of Show People & or Fairground

Families/Communities, Circus Families/Communities, New Traveller Families/Communities and

people living on boats – Bargee/Boat Families/Communities, without structural terminological and

inaccurate links to the two distinct minority ethnic communities also included.

28 See “Romani: A Linguistic Introduction”, Yaron Matras. Cambridge University Press, 2002.


include as such: Minceir, Travellers, Travelling People, and Travellers of Irish

heritage. Travellers of Irish heritage speak their own language known as Gammon,

sometimes referred to as ‘Cant’ and which is a language with many Romani loanwords,

but not thought to be a dialect of Romani itself.

‘Travelling children/communities: These children/communities include Show

People and or Fairground Families/Communities. Circus Families/Communities

(frequently included within the same circus are families with a range of national and

ethnic backgrounds). Next are New Travellers, (New Age Traveller, New Age Gypsy)

Families/Communities and people living on boats – Bargee/Canal Boat and Boat

Families/Communities. Many Circus families are frequently from different countries

across the world and so English as an additional language could be an issue for

many of these children in any home education setting.


January 17, 2007



This is a serious issue and one which is gathering steam as more and more parents are choosing to remove their autistic children from the system in favour of educating them themselves. 

By the time most of the parents that Autism-in-Mind have spoken to decided to withdraw their children from the school system many are already coping with children who are deeply disturbed, depressed and self harming and in some cases threatening or attempting suicide. Some of these children are as young as 5 or 6 years old. So having turned to Home Education as an option it is often something of a surprise, when after only a few weeks, they find that their children begin to show a zest for life that they have rarely if ever seen for a very long time. It is also a revelation to these parents that their children, many who have been held back a year or even two, and have been struggling to keep up with their peers, begin to show a willingness to learn and develop and redevelop skills that they had previously not had or had lost. This proves that by providing the right environment, where the complex and specific needs of these children can be met, it can make a huge difference to their learning abilities and the long-term potential of our children.  Added to this the children are calmer, tantrums decrease very quickly they are no longer depressed. They begin to take an interest in their day and stop talking about suicide.  The vast majority of the parents who are in contact with Autism-in-Mind believe that children have been subjected to, what they can only describe as, abuse by the educational system. As Autism is a Communication and Socialisation Disorder for some children just having to sit next to another child in class while they are expected to learn will effectively stop them from doing so.  We believe that there is little if anything that the education system can do to stop this from happening without seriously altering an environment, which suits the other 29 children in a classroom. Would this indeed be fair to the other 29 children? Autistic individuals need to feel that they have a certain amount of control over a situation before they can feel comfortable and function in that situation. It is difficult for any child to feel in control in a mainstream classroom environment, where many sensory issues are stopping you from learning and making you feel ill, and are impeding your learning abilities.  

Home Education can tailor the learning environment to suit the specific needs of the child. You can overt a sensory overload, because you know what it is that makes that child overload in the first place. You therefore set up a learning system that suits them and allows them to learn effectively, an environment where they feel comfortable and in control. An Autistic friendly environment provides the best possible learning environment in which a child may develop and grow. Not only do autistic children need an autism specific environment to learn in they also need to be taught many other non-academic subjects that we take for granted. For example how do you understand and interpret facial expression, body language, implied meaning, and intonation of voice? This can be done at home over a period of many months or even years as a slow and continuous process, so that eventually the child recognises where someone is unhappy with them just by looking at the facial expression or their crossed arms. They can do this without looking silly in front of a classroom full of children, who can find it hilariously funny when they so often get it wrong.  Negative feedback to a child with autism can cripple any self-confidence they do possess. Children with autism thrive in an environment, which celebrates any success they may achieve, however small that may appear to be. Home Education can also facilitate their individual learning styles and address any literal interpretations.  

Parents who home educate can take the time to facilitate their children’s need for Emotional Literacy.  How can anyone fit into a mainstream setting when they are totally unaware of their own emotions? How can they possibly hope to understand and make sense of what is going on around them when they have no way of understanding themselves? Parents are helping their children to understand their condition, without turning it into a problem that is magnified or cannot be managed. They help their children to identify and label their emotions. Our children are taught to understand their sensory overloads and what makes them happen. By having an understanding of self-children can then begin to explore their own emotions and label them. They can also find ways to minimise stress, anxiety and frustration.  Even a very young child with autism can be helped if he understands what makes him tick and why certain things make him feel out of control, which in turn can lead to a tantrum or overload of their sensors.  Can our children not be taught these things while they are attending school? The answer to this question is no. Children who struggle to cope in school are almost certainly on overload by the time they return home. They need any free time that they have to try and achieve some sense of control over their situation. For many even a pro-longed holiday would not allow this kind of added learning to take place.  The vast majority of children with autism have audio processing problems. A busy classroom makes it especially difficult to ‘tune into something’, which you are being asked to address or a question you are being asked. At home children are usually being taught on a one to one basis. This makes it easier for a child to listen and respond. They are also given the extra time they require to process the question before they respond. Because the majority of children with autism also have sensory issues Home Education is an excellent option. HE can adapt the sound, light, smell, touch and even temperature issues, which a child with autism can find so invasive they are no longer able to learn. We are told that only 2% of the adult autistic population are currently employed. We ask why are so many of our adults unemployed when many are well educated some even to degree level? Could it be that their effective communication and socialisation skills, which include shared meanings and understanding, have been ignored while they were young with their academic achievements taking priority?  If this is part of the reason then Home Education could provide a future generation with altogether better prospects of being able to cope in a working environment. Many of our Home Educated children are still reaching high standards of achievement in their academic education. Add those to the emotional literacy that they are gaining and we may well see a greater degree of adults with autism being able live independently.  At the moment parents who decide to Home Educate are being treat in two very different ways. Some LEA’s are simply pleased that they have been released of the burden of providing an ASD education and walk away leaving the parents alone to get on with it.  While other LEA’s see the actions of the parents as a direct insult to them, even though they were unable to give the support and environment the child needed to succeed. They then go out of their way to make life difficult for these parents when in fact life is difficult for any parents who has a child with autism.

Some parents find that even their child’s ASD Consultant can no longer see any reason why they should be seeing or assessing the child now that they are no longer in school.  This makes the renewal of DLA very difficult and this should not be. When parents decided to Home Educate they are under taking a task that requires a great deal of commitment and which leaves them without any respite from there children at all. At the very least this should be recognised and rewarded it should certainly not be punished. There is a growing movement of parents who now chose to Home Educate their ASD Children. Many parents join their local Home Education Groups, which allows their children to mix and interact with other children. Resources are shared and many accessed via the Internet, which provides a limitless supply of information and topics at the end of your fingertips. By using a Childs ‘special interest’ it is possible to encompass many other subjects into their learning. Our children are not isolated they join clubs, societies and groups in order to practice their social skills. Every child should be able to enjoy their childhood whatever their circumstances. Parents should be allowed to celebrate any success their children achieves, be it academic or otherwise, without constantly being told that their child is failing. With Home Education our children are achieving and enjoying their learning in an environment that suits their specific and complex needs.  

Our AIM is to see Home Education recognised as a verified method of educating our autistic children and not just something that plugs a gap while the correct provision is found. JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN HERE


January 17, 2007

Dear Ms Haste,

You will remember that we wrote to you on the 11th January regarding the forthcoming DfES Consultation ‘Suitable and Effective Home Education’ In response to our mail, you wrote back informing us that the consultation was being conducted via the Department’s consultation website and that you had added our e-mail to the list so that we would be alerted when the consultation went live. We thank you for this.

We are now making a formal request that AIM is included in this process as an important stakeholder and as an integral part of the home education community. AIM is aware that the DfES have had some pre consultation talks with some of the National Home Education Groups. It is our understanding that none of the groups who took part in these discussions were SEN specific. AIM is a National Group who supports families who have children with autism.

There are now an ever increasing number of parents who home educate their children, having found that the system is not meeting their specific and complex needs. This has been well documented by some very prominent and high profile people during the last twelve months, including the findings of the SEN Select Committee and the Voice of the Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley Green who also raised concerns. The National Autistic Society launched a National Campaign in May last year ‘make school make sense’ because of the severe problems that autistic children are facing in mainstream classrooms. These issues have got to be given careful consideration within the consultation process.

Parents who turn to Home Education as a method of educating their autistic children do so for very different reasons to parents who ‘choose’ to home educate their children. We think that it is vitally important that the voice of all stakeholders involved with home educating their children is heard. Any changes being made to the law will impact on our parents whose children were taken out of a system clearly not meeting their needs. It is important that this is recognised and acknowledged by DfES. We are not seeking to hide from the system. We are educating our children at home for very different reasons to other parents we have an important role to play in this consultation.

The outcome of this process has the possibility of impacting greatly on our families and we feel that we should be given the opportunity to put our case to you in person. We believe that there are many factors which need to be included in this consultation process that are unique to parents who home educate their autistic children.

I am attaching a copy of a document that AIM presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism three years ago detailing the reasons why many parents with autistic children are forced to home educate their children.
We hope that this report will enable you to see that need for us to be included as stakeholders in any further discussions.

May we apologise if we are sending this request to the wrong person and would ask if we could be given the name of the correct person to whom we should be making this request.

Yours sincerely

National Coordinator.