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Home education in England

Published Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This briefing sets out the current position relating to home education in England and provides brief information on recent issues raised concerning home education. It covers England only.

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Current position

Parents have the right to decide to teach their children at home at any stage up to the end of compulsory school age. This right applies equally for the parents of children with special educational needs (SEN). Home education may also be used to meet the requirement to participate in education or training up to the age of 18.

Parents who choose to home-educate their children are responsible for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. They do not have to follow the national curriculum. The parents of home educated children must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations.

Responsibilities of local authorities

Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, they do have duties to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to intervene if it appears that they are not. Intervention could, for example, take the form of issuing a school attendance order, although Government guidance on home education encourages authorities to address the issue informally before serving such a notice.

As part of their safeguarding duties local authorities have powers to insist on seeing a child to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern, but this does not extend to seeing and questioning children for the purpose of establishing whether they are receiving a suitable education.

Government guidance recommends that local authorities should have a written policy statement on home education and be willing to provide guidance to parents upon request. Additional guidance encourages authorities to take a flexible approach to providing financial support to the parents of home educated children with SEN, and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice states that authorities should fund the SEN needs of home educated children where it is appropriate to do so.

Issues and proposals for reform

Unregistered schools

The former Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, raised concerns about a link between the growth of unregistered schools and an increase in the number of home educated children. In May 2016, he stated in a letter that “those operating unregistered schools are unscrupulously using the freedoms that parents have to home educate their children as a cover for their activities.” He suggested that officials from Ofsted and the Department for Education should work together to consider how the current legal framework around home education should be strengthened.

Casey Review

In December 2016, Dame Louise Casey published the report of her review into opportunity and integration. The report stated that parents should continue to have the right to home educate their children, but raised a number of “difficulties and risks” associated with home education. These included:

  • That the current definition of a “suitable education” runs counter to efforts to foster British values in schools and building cohesive communities.
  • That some people may be misusing the right to home educate their children to place them in unregistered schools.
  • That the current framework means that local authorities have no sure way of knowing the extent of home education or the suitability of the education provided. It also limits the extent to which authorities can be aware of any arising child protection issues.

Previous proposals for a register of home educators

Published in 2009, Graham Badman’s Review of Elective Home Education recommended the establishment of a compulsory registration scheme for home educators. Provisions to establish such a scheme were included in the Children Schools and Families Bill 2009-10 but the relevant provisions were dropped from the Bill during its passage through Parliament.

2012 Education Committee Report

The second section of the briefing also provides information on other reports on home education.

This includes the 2012 report from the Education Committee that, among other things reported evidence of a “postcode lottery” for home educators caused by inconsistency in local authority practice, and found that over half of authorities had ultra vires statements on their websites concerning home education.

The report also recommended that the Government should review the guidance on home education and that the state should meet the cost of home educated children sitting public examinations. The Government response rejected both these recommendations.

Commons Briefing papers SN05108

Author: David Foster

Topics: Children and families, Local authorities: education, Schools

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