The Basis for the Welsh Assembly Government Proposals


·         The review was conducted on EOTAS (Education other than at school) services provided by the local authority – not home education – with particular emphasis on school attendance

·         No home educating parent or home educated child was studied or spoken to during this review

·         The report makes statements about home education without studying it in any way whatsoever

·         The report make recommendations about legislation surrounding home education and its assessment without studying it in any way whatsoever


In March 2006 the then Minister for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills made a commitment to undertake a National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR). The aim was to gather evidence of the current situation within Wales, to identify and review examples of good practice in dealing with these issues, and to make recommendations to the Welsh Assembly Government.


The review was conducted by Professor Ken Reid then Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University and presented to the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) in May 2008.


In March 2009 WAG produced ‘Behaving and Attending: Action Plan Responding to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review.’


On 1st November 2010 Leighton Andrews, Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning published a written statement by WAG of an update on the progress on the Action Plan responding to the NBAR.


Ministers asked four specific questions that became the remit of the research:


1.1  Our Remit


1.      To explore ways in which parents, children and young people and the community as a whole can be more effectively supported and engaged in the promotion of positive behaviour and attendance in school.


2.      To identify effective practice in promoting positive behaviour and attendance and ways in which this practice could be embedded and disseminated in schools and local authorities across Wales.


3.      To identify the effective use of multi-agency partnerships in tackling issues of poor attendance and behaviour in schools in Wales, including consideration of regional models.


4.      To identify potential new legislation, in the form of National Assembly for Wales Measures for which legislative competence orders should be sought under the Government of Wales Act 2006 that would assist in promoting positive behaviour and improving school attendance, including specific consideration of the provision of education for excluded pupils.


This remit at no time refers to children who are electively home educated (EHE) and at no point within the review does the author, quite properly, seek to examine EHE children. The questions asked refer to excluded children and those children who are educated otherwise than at school (EOTAS) such as in pupil referral units (PRU) and in Local Authority (LA) supported environments. The definition of these children (EOTAS) is sometimes confused with children who are EHE, but that should not be the case as WAG guidelines to LAs clearly state (Inclusion and Pupil Support - Section 6 - Elective Home Education):


1.1       Elective home education is where parents or guardians decide to provide home-based education for their children instead of sending them to school. It is not home tuition provided by a local education authority or where a local education authority provides education otherwise than at a school (EOTAS).


Further comment is made on the children to whom the research is addressed:


(p22) ‘The issue of unofficial exclusions was brought to the forefront by the Children’s Commissioner’s Report in 2007. Estyn have also expressed concern about the numbers of pupils who appear to be out-of-school but not included on any school roll and not receiving any education as the schools have not followed exclusion processes and informed the local authority.


Again, this concern relates to excluded children and not those who are EHE. However, the report goes on to state:


 This is also an area of concern recognised within WAG’s developing NEET (Not in education, employment or training) Strategy……At the present time, the Welsh Assembly Government is therefore, developing an annual school census for pupils receiving education outside schools.


It would appear that this census to recognise those not in education, employment or training may well be being confused with EHE children who are in education and should not, therefore, be included in any such measures. This concern does not extend the remit of the report to include EHE children.


Report Basis:


Upon reading the report it becomes clear that EHE children were not the subject of the research and this fact has been clarified by reference to the author directly, who is no longer within the employ of either WAG or Swansea Metropolitan university. Prof Reid states “All I can advise is that the methodology applied in the NBAR consultation stages is fully described in appropriate sections in the report”(private e-mail), as indeed it is.


The methodology relies on stages, and all supporting evidence used within the NBAR has been reviewed. The inclusion of children’s views is covered by Cazbah (2008) Delivering Children and Young People Focus Groups as Part of the National Behaviour and Attendance Review, Feedback report for NBAR Steering Group, Cardiff. For the purposes of that report 149 children were interviewed and their views sought in regard to behaviour and attendance. Researchers have taken steps to include children covered by the remit of NBAR by interviewing a range of children, 78 in a primary setting and 71 in secondary settings. Interviews were taken from children in schools, PRUs, a HMP young persons unit, teenage mothers’ group and traveller education service. No EHE child was interviewed for that report.


The review describes itself thus;


‘This Report is a major comprehensive overview. It has drawn together opinions from stakeholders at every level.’


However, in respect to EHE, children who are EHE and parents who provide EHE are clearly significant stakeholders, if not the most significant stakeholders and yet at no time does the NBAR take any evidence or make any study of EHE.  The steering group are described:


 (p4) The Steering Group was comprised of representatives of key stakeholder groups across Wales, supported by colleagues from Estyn and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.


The members of this group are listed in Appendix ‘A’ and include: The author a university vice chancellor, 4 headteachers, 3 LA inclusion officers, a police officer, 2 observers from WAG and two charity representatives (Barnardos and Save the children). No EHE stakeholder child or adult is represented on that group.


The Report


In s 4.1.5 of the report we see the first mention of EHE children:


(p50) Clearly there are children who are educated outside school because …. and there are some whose parents elect to home educate.  However, even in this latter group, there are pupils being home educated because parents have come to believe that their child is not receiving sufficient support for their needs and unless they withdraw their child s/he will be excluded from school.


There is also a group of parents who elect to home educate when they feel threatened by prosecution for their child’s non-attendance.


Finally, some parents and carers decide to educate their children at home for a number of other different reasons, both as a positive statement about the education of their children as well as possibly, a reaction to what may have happened to them within the school system (eg bullying).


It is difficult to see within the report how the group arrived at these conclusions in respect to EHE children as such children were not studied within the research available to the group, upon which this report is based. It seems that the steering group has extrapolated findings relating to excluded pupils in EOTAS to arrive at an unfounded conclusion that EHE children fall within that same classification, which they clearly do not. Further the report continues:

(p50) There is a serious challenge to face in accurately identifying the true number of children and young people who have been moved out of mainstream school……… There is a need for research to determine this ‘real’ number. At present, it is difficult to plan for, fund and resource the learning needs of these children and young people. The Welsh Assembly Government is currently developing a national database of those pupils educated outside schools. This will need careful development and promotion in order for it to find and meet the needs of its target groups.


This indicates that the concern is to identify children in order to “plan for, fund and resource the learning needs…” which manifestly does not apply to EHE children as the burden for financing the education of EHE children is the responsibility of the parent, not the LA.




Notwithstanding the lack of any EHE stakeholder involvement in the research and the lack of any evaluation within the research relating to EHE or any other assessment of EHE, bar the steering group assumption described above, the report goes on to recommend as follows:


B6 The Welsh Assembly Government should consider legislation to introduce a more robust inspection of home educators including an assessment of whether learners’ needs are being met and the curriculum being followed.




11 The Welsh Assembly Government should commission studies which examine:


·         The extent and number of pupils who are out-of-school and not enrolled on any school roll throughout Wales (including those that are in PRUs, home tutored and home educated).


Given this lack, the recommendations would appear to be based on either ungrounded assumptions, or inappropriate confusion of children who are EOTAS with children who are EHE. Further, there is not and never has been a requirement that EHE children are taught ‘the curriculum’ indeed specifically the 2008 EHE guidelines (Inclusion and Pupil Support - Section 6 - Elective Home Education) state:


4.2 …….. It should be borne in mind that home-educating parents are not required to:


 • teach the National Curriculum

• have a timetable

• have premises equipped to any particular standard

• mark work done by their child

• set hours during which education will take place

• have any specific qualifications

• cover the same syllabus as any school

• make detailed plans in advance

• observe school hours, days or terms

• give formal lessons

• reproduce school type peer group socialisation

• match school, age-specific standards.


The most telling aspect of the report with regard to the remit being uninvolved with EHE and the research not referring to EHE is the conclusion:


6.6 Conclusion


This Report is a major comprehensive overview. It has drawn together opinions from stakeholders at every level. The agenda for improvement is huge. The focus for improvement is schools, their staff, pupils and parents. Within this complex picture, schools need to be able to self-evaluate, reflect and prioritise their areas for improvement


The focus for improvement is schools. EHE children are not within the focus.


Other Aspects of the NBAR


The NBAR does include some information based on the research that was undertaken which tends toward supporting the validity of EHE parent’s choices to not use the LA supported education system:


(p46) Estyn’s report in 2007 on substance misuse noted that the latest UK research indicated that 20-25% of 15-year-olds use illegal drugs, mostly cannabis, at least once a week.

These include the recent spate of young people and young adult suicides in Bridgend


(p48)… this experience is compounded by a peer-pressured ‘try not to succeed’ attitude…


(p70) Specific challenges for education in Wales include: skills shortages and the numbers of pupils who manifest literacy and numeracy difficulties, underachieving pupils and those who drop out from schooling, those who leave school with few or no qualifications, boys underperformance at the secondary phase….


(p85) In addition, other ‘external’ cognitive or non-cognitive features can have an influence on pupils’ behaviour. These include bullying, peer group pressure, low levels of self-esteem, poor parental or carer support (especially amongst adults who do not value education), special educational needs not being appropriately met, substance misuse, alcohol, drugs and pupils’ boredom.

School factors, which can adversely impact upon behaviour, include:


● poor school ethos

● poor leadership of headteacher and/or senior management team

● poor teacher-pupil relationships

● poor teaching and learning delivery in the classroom

poor pupil-pupil relationships (eg. bullying is rife)

● disliked curriculum choices in which pupils have little or no interest

● poor parental support for the school/pupil

● inadequate/inappropriate/unworkable school rules

● low teacher expectations

● poor classroom management

● high incidence of internal bullying

● having unapproachable staff.


These are findings of fact by the researchers, fact relating to school environments not EHE. Most worryingly perhaps:


(p49) The Group also highlighted its concerns for those children and young people who became disengaged from learning because they lacked the personal resilience to cope with school life in its current form. These children and young people may find that the existing structures within school contribute to and can even be one of the sources of their anxiety. At the extreme end, this may take the form of a phobia. Such individuals may need help and support from services like CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) educational or clinical psychologists or possibly, peripatetic counselling services.


All of the above tends toward the description of schools as worrying places for children where bullying is rife, drugs are common, teaching and delivery is poor and expectations are low. Yet, despite this environmental description, children who find these factors stressful are thought to be in need of counselling support rather than a safe and better environment in which to learn. It is undoubtedly a fact that EHE provides that environment.


Response to the NBAR


The WAG NBAR response lays out plans including:


(p6) Carry out a review on provision of Education Otherwise than at School (EOTAS), including Pupil Referral Units.


(p15) The development of a new annual census collecting information on children and young people educated otherwise than at school (EOTAS).


(p33) Actions to be undertaken:

The Assembly Government will carry out a review on provision of Education Otherwise than at School (EOTAS), including the role of pupil referral units


None of this refers to EHE children and at no time do the action plan recommendations refer to EHE children. Clearly, the response was written with no intention that EHE children would be included in any measures which are, in practice designed to address behaviour and attendance, not legal parental choice to EHE. Further, the response does say that WAG will:


(p8) Involve children and young people fully in the decision making process.


(p15) National bodies, stakeholders and the voluntary sector must be involved at all levels of policy development as well as engaging with practitioners. They need to be supportive of initiatives and work closely with partners to ensure joined up working.


The NBAR did not at any point involve the most significant stakeholders in EHE, the children and their families. The recently announced proposals to introduce compulsory registration for all EHE children are the first instance within this incident when any form of consultation with EHE children and parents is to take place. The consultation will therefore be on proposals to legislate for EHE within a framework where research did not address EHE or investigate EHE, but where those proposals are based according to the evidence on recommendations for children who are EOTAS.


In a Ministerial statement by Leighton Andrews (Written Statement - Update on progress on the Action Plan responding to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR)) he refers to:


Implementing the Plan involves continuing engagement with key partners throughout Wales, for example:


working with local authorities and Estyn to scope out good practice for improved support and monitoring of elective home education as part of a larger review of Education Otherwise Than at School


Prior to this, there is no indication in the response to the NBAR that EHE will be included in any actions to be taken presumable because the original research does not address EHE but confuses EOTAS with EHE. This statement by the Minister for education appears to have compounded that error by specifically bringing EHE to the table when the nature of that confusion must have been apparent. 


It is clear that no significant stakeholders involved directly with EHE (children or parents) have been included in any decision by the Minister to legislate for EHE but that ESTYN have been involved. The role of ESTYN is described thus on their website:


Estyn is the office of Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales. We are independent of, but funded by, the National Assembly for Wales. The purpose of Estyn is to inspect quality and standards in education and training in Wales.


LAs have also been involved in designing this proposal. Both of these organisations are involved in school based education and EOTAS; they are not experts on or directly involved with EHE.


Those experienced people who are involved with EHE have not had any input to the design of these proposals. Further, it is commonly accepted by EHE families, that many LAs do not understand the EHE legislation and that they fail to act within the Guidelines governing any involvement that they might have with EHE on a frequent basis.


That these are the organisations the Minister bases his proposal upon backed by research that did not examine EHE is a strong indicator of the seriously flawed nature of the proposals.

 Author  Wendy Charles Warner 2012