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Home education in England

Published Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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 SEN they may have. They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and 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. Government guidance encourages authorities to take a flexible approach to providing financial support to the parents of home educated children with SEN, however, 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.

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.

Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19

In June 2017 Lord Soley introduced the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to be placed under a duty to monitor the development of children receiving home education and to conduct annual assessments. The Bill also provides for parents of home educated children to be required to register with the local authority. The Bill is a Private Member’s Bill and, as such, is unlikely to pass into law unless supported by the Government.

The Government has stated that it is “keeping an open mind on the Bill” but does not formally support it. It has also expressed a belief that local authorities already have the powers they need to act in cases where children are not being well educated at home, and that the focus initially should be on making the existing legal arrangements work better.

Government consultation and draft guidance

Following on from earlier announcements, including in response to the Lord Soley’s home education bill, on 10 April 2018 the Government published a call for evidence on issues connected with home education which seeks views on a number of areas including:

  • How effective voluntary registration schemes for home educated children are, and what would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration.
  • The effectiveness of current local authority oversight and monitoring of home education, and what changes may be needed to ensure the system is satisfactory and proportionate.
  • The support available for home educated families, including whether there should be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support.
  • Whether there should be financial consequences for schools if a parent withdraws their child to educate them at home.

The consultation closes on 2 July 2018.

Alongside the call for evidence, the Government also published draft versions of two guidance documents about home education for consultation, one intended for local authorities and the other for parents.

Commons Briefing papers SN05108

Author: David Foster

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

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