Truancy and Responding to a School Attendance Order

Sometimes home school educated children who are seen out and about in school hours are targeted by truancy officers, who may not believe their (probable) protestations about being home schooled. In 2007, the Government Department for Children, Schools and Families (previously the ministry for education) issued guidance on truancy, and ‘school attendance sweeps’.

This guidance outlined the practice of school attendance sweeps involving “stopping any young person believed to be of school age, whether accompanied by an adult or not.” The intention of these initiatives is to “establish whether or not the young person is registered at school and, if so, whether he/she is out of school legitimately.” The guidance explicitly includes the fact that the Department is “aware that some authorities also use attendance sweeps as a way of finding home educated children who are not known to the authority.” This article looks at how to deal with truancy allegations.

What is a School Attendance Sweep?

These ‘sweeps’ tend to be carried out in teams by a police officer and an education welfare officer who will usually be attached to a body of the Local Education Authority (LEA). In some areas, Community Support Officers may carry out these ‘sweeps’; these officers particularly (since their training period will tend to be shorter than police officers and/or welfare officers) may be unaware of the specific rules relating to home education, and may consider home educated students to be playing truant.

Previously, these were sometimes carried out on a national basis, on set dates, but now they can occur at random times. It is not illegal for home educated pupils to be out of class – since these children are not registered students, they cannot be classed as absent from school. The response to truancy officers that a child or parent can learn, is that the child is being taught at home, and according to section seven of the Education Act (1997) they are permitted to do so and thus should not be made a target of the truancy crackdown.

Another Option: Truancy Cards

Some human education campaign groups produce cards, such as the Education Otherwise Truancy Card, which tells truancy workers or police about their home educated status and the legal implications. These are available directly from campaign groups such as Education Otherwise. Some truancy officers will have details of home schooling parents and/or children against which they will be able to check your child’s details (or your own parenting details).

Further Possibilities

Sometimes truancy workers may take a case a step further, usually this will involve your details being passed on to Children Missing Education, whereupon the child’s details will be updated on their system to put in the home education address for place of education. Sometimes LEAs might follow this up, and give your details to an LEA group often known as the Elective Home Education team. This group might ask for information about the method and style of educational provision, potentially also asking for a meeting with a representative of the LEA.