Rearranged Home Education Guidelines

Legal references on this page apply to England.
I am experimenting with re-arranging the order of the Government Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities. The original is here Square brackets show the original paragraphs.

Introduction

The purpose of these guidelines is to support local authorities in carrying out their statutory responsibilities and to encourage good practice by clearly setting out the legislative position, and the roles and responsibilities of local authorities and parents in relation to children who are educated at home.[1.3]

Elective home education is the term used to describe parents' decisions to provide education for their children at home instead of sending them to school. This is different to home tuition provided by a local authority or education provided by a local authority other than at a school.[1.1]

In England, education is compulsory, but school is not. [2.1] Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home.[2.4] The responsibility for a child's education rests with their parents.[2.3] Parents who choose to educate their children at home must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations. However, local authorities are encouraged to provide support where resources permit.[2.4]

Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of "full-time".[3.13] Local authorities may encourage parents to inform them directly of the withdrawal of a child from school, but have no legal right to insist that parents do so. The only exception to this is where the child is attending a special school under arrangements made by the local authority, in which case additional permission is required from the authority before the child's name can be removed from the register.[3.10]


My Comments: Law

Section 437(1) is the first step in the School Attendance Order process Section 437 of Education Act 1996 is framed in the negative. If and only if it appears to the LA that a child is not receiving suitable education, the LA shall serve a formal notice on the parent under section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Prior to the formal notice, the law does not require the LA to "be satisfied". The LA is NOT required to ascertain suitability in all cases, only to act where there is an appearance of problem or failure. There is no statutory duty to do anything at the outset, but if the LA chose to be proactive, it could take a general look (sometimes described as "informal enquiries") to see whether there seemed to be a problem which might require further enquiry.

DfE ministers and civil servants have repeatedly stated that there is no overarching duty to investigate all home educated children or to pass judgement on the education of each child or to insist on seeing all home educated children More See also here

The Law

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 provides that: "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."[2.2]

Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that: "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."[2.2]

Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears [emphasised by DCSF in original document] that parents are not providing a suitable education. This section states that:
"If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education." Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served. [2.7]

Local authorities also have a statutory duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996, inserted by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, to make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities, so far as it is possible to do so, of children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education.[2.6]


My Comments: Advice

It is unfortunate that the Government Guidelines say that suitable education has not been defined in law. This is incorrect. A "suitable" education is defined in section 7 of the Education Act 1996 which says that education has to be efficient and full time, and suitable to the child's age, ability aptitude and SEN. S7 is quoted in full in the Guidelines.

The Guidelines also say “efficient” has been broadly described in case law as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”. It is slightly misleading to refer to this as "case law" because the level of the court where the decision was reached was not sufficient to create a legal precedent. However, it does sum up the common understanding of the word "efficient" and is the commonsense test which would be applied in court.

The reference in the Guidelines to the Divisional Court ruling that a suitable education is 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” does not and cannot in any way over-ride the primacy of the parents' legal duty set out in section 7 to provide an education suitable to the child's age ability aptitude and SEN.

There is no power for the LA to insist on a face to face meeting in the absence of any safeguarding concerns. It is not a "safeguarding risk" simply because the parent prefers not to meet the council.

Examples in the Guidelines of how parents can provide evidence only arise after a problem has already been identified (ie "if it appears...")

DfE ministers and civil servants have repeatedly stated that there is no overarching duty to investigate all home educated children or to pass judgement on the education of each child or to insist on seeing all home educated children More

Advice to Local Authorities

Prior to serving a notice under section 437(1), local authorities are encouraged to address the situation informally. The most obvious course of action if the local authority has information that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, would be to ask parents for further information about the education they are providing. Such a request is not the same as a notice under section 437(1), and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures. Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but it would be sensible for them to do so.[2.8]

Local authorities should recognise that there are many approaches to educational provision, not just a "school at home" model. What is suitable for one child may not be for another, but all children should be involved in a learning process.[2.5]

"Efficient" has been broadly described in case law as an education that "achieves that which it sets out to achieve", and a "suitable" education is 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".[2.3]

Local authorities should bear in mind that, in the early stages, parents' plans may not be detailed and they may not yet be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an "efficient and suitable" educational provision. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision.[3.11]

If it appears [emphasised by DCSF in original document] that a suitable education is not being provided, the local authority should seek to gather any relevant information that will assist them in reaching a properly informed judgement.[3.4]

Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact and copied to the parents stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are, to give the child's parents an opportunity to address them.[3.5]

The child should also be given the opportunity, but not required, to attend any meeting that may be arranged or invited to express his or her views in some other way.[3.4]

Local authorities should consider a wide range of information from home educating parents, in a range of formats. The information may be in the form of specific examples of learning e.g. pictures/paintings/models, diaries of educational activity, projects, assessments, samples of work, books, educational visits etc.[3.14]

Where concerns about the suitability of the education being provided for the child have been identified, more frequent contact may be required while those concerns are being addressed. Where concerns merit frequent contact, the authority should discuss them with the child’s parents, with a view to helping them provide a suitable education that meets the best interests of the child.[3.5]

Parents may choose to meet a local authority representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or choose not to meet at all.[3.6] Parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home.[3.6]

Where a parent elects not to allow access to their home or their child, this does not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education provision being made.[3.6]

Local authorities should, in the vast majority of cases, be able to discuss and evaluate the parents’ educational provision by alternative means.[3.6] Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.[3.6]

If the authority is still not satisfied that a suitable education is being provided, and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice to the parents under section 437 before moving on, if needed, to the issuing of a school attendance order (section 437(1).[3.16]

A school attendance order should only be served after all reasonable steps have been taken to try to resolve the situation.[2.10]

In their consideration of parents' provision of education at home, local authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers – it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education
recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations
opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences
access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.[3.15]

It is important to recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision[3.14], and local authorities should acknowledge that learning takes place in a wide variety of environments and not only in the home.[3.4] One approach is not necessarily any more efficient or effective than another, and although some parents may welcome general advice and suggestions about resources, methods and materials, local authorities should not specify a curriculum or approach which parents must follow.[4.3]


My Comments: School Attendance Orders

Section 437(1) is the first step in the School Attendance Order process Section 437 of Education Act 1996 is framed in the negative. If and only if it appears to the LA that a child is not receiving suitable education, the LA shall serve a formal notice on the parent under section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996.

School Attendance Orders

Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996 states that: "If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education."[2.7]

Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.[2.7]

Where the authority imposes a time limit, every effort should be made to make sure that both the parents and the named senior officer with responsibility for elective home education in the local authority are available throughout this period. In particular the Department recommends that the time limit does not expire during or near to school holidays when there may be no appropriate point of contact for parents within the local authority.[2.11]

Section 437(3) refers to the serving of school attendance orders: “If – (a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and (b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school, the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a "school attendance order"), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.”[2.9]

At any stage following the issue of the Order, parents may present evidence to the local authority that they are now providing an appropriate education and apply to have the Order revoked. If the local authority refuses to revoke the Order, parents can choose to refer the matter to the Secretary of State.[2.10]

If the local authority prosecutes the parents for not complying with the Order, then it will be for a court to decide whether or not the education being provided is suitable and efficient. The court can revoke the Order if it is satisfied that the parent is fulfilling his or her duty. It can also revoke the Order where it imposes an education supervision order.[2.10]

If a child is registered at a school as a result of a school attendance order the parents must get the order revoked by the local authority on the ground that arrangements have been made for the child to receive suitable education otherwise than at school, before the child can be deleted from the school’s register and educated at home.[3.9]


My Comments: Safeguarding

If a child is known to social care, contact with other agencies should not cease just because the child is home educated. There is no power for the LA to insist on a face to face meeting in the absence of any safeguarding concerns. It is not a "safeguarding risk" simply because the parent prefers not to meet the council.

Safeguarding and Promoting Welfare

The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.[4.7]

Local authorities have a duty under section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This section states: "A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred upon them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children." Section 175(1) does not extend local authorities' functions. It does not, for example, give local authorities powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education.[2.12]

Local authorities can insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern that the child may be a Child In Need or a Child At Risk of Significant Harm (sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989)[2.15]. However, such powers do not bestow on local authorities the ability to see and question children subject to elective home education in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education.[2.15]

Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 sets out a statutory framework for cooperation arrangements to be made by local authorities with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area.[2.13] Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, this section does not place any additional duties or responsibilities on local authorities over and above section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002.[2.14] Section 53 of the Children Act 2004 does not place an obligation on local authorities to ascertain the child's wishes about elective home education.[2.16]


My Comments: Procedures

Prior to a formal notice issued under s437(1), the law does not require the LA to "be satisfied". The LA is NOT required to ascertain suitability in all cases, only to act where there is an appearance of problem or failure. There is no statutory duty to do anything at the outset, but if the LA chose to be proactive, it could take a general look (sometimes described as "informal enquiries") to see whether there seemed to be a problem which might require further enquiry.

There is no power for the LA to insist on a face to face meeting in the absence of any safeguarding concerns. It is not a "safeguarding risk" simply because the parent prefers not to meet the council.

Examples in the Guidelines of how parents can provide evidence only arise after a problem has already been identified (ie "if it appears...")

DfE ministers and civil servants have repeatedly stated that there is no overarching duty to investigate all home educated children or to pass judgement on the education of each child or to insist on seeing all home educated children More

Local Authority Procedures

All parties involved in elective home education should be aware of their roles, rights and responsibilities.[3.2]

It is recommended that each local authority should have a named senior officer with responsibility for elective home education policy and procedures. This officer should be familiar with home education law, policies and practices.[3.3]

If the authority invites parents to meet the named contact any such meeting should take place at a mutually acceptable location and the child concerned should also be given the opportunity, but not be required, to attend that meeting, or otherwise to express his or her views.[4.6] Either during such a meeting, or otherwise, the parents and the authority should consider and agree what future contact there will be between them, recognising that in many instances such contact might be beneficial but is not legally required.[4.6]

Local authorities' policies should be clear, transparent and easily accessible. Any procedures for dealing with home educating parents and children should be fair, clear, consistent, non-intrusive and timely, in order to provide a good foundation for the development of trusting relationships.[3.2]

Whilst there is no legal obligation on local authorities or home educators to develop positive relationships, doing so will often provide parents with access to any support that is available and allow authorities to better understand parents' educational provision and preferences. A positive relationship will also provide a sound basis if the authority is required to investigate assertions from any source that an efficient and suitable education is not being provided.[4.2]

The provision of clear information has an important role to play in the promotion of positive relationships. Local authorities should provide written information and website links for prospective and existing electively home educating parents that are clear and accurate and which set out the legal position, and roles and responsibilities, in an unambiguous way. We also recommend that contact details for home education support organisations should be provided. This information should be made available in local community languages and alternative formats on request.[4.5]

Local authorities should review all of their procedures and practices in relation to elective home education on a regular basis to see if improvements can be made to further develop relationships and meet the needs of children and parents. Home education organisations and home educating parents should be involved in this process of review. Effective reviews, together with the sensitive handling of any complaints, will help to secure effective partnership.[4.10]

Local authorities should organise training on the law and home education methods for all their officers who have contact with home educating families[3.3], and should provide clear details of their complaints procedure and deal with any complaints in a sensitive and timely manner.[3.1]


My Comments: School

The LA could offer families the chance to talk through the options where they feel that they have no choice but to home educate, without making this a pre-condition of being "allowed" to home educate. It should always be made clear that "discussion" only goes up to a certain point, beyond that when the parent formally requests that the child's name be removed from the school roll, this is final, and also that the child may not get his/her place back.

By law schools must delete the child's name from the register on receipt of a formal written request from the parent. Delaying deregistration is against the law More

Schools

Schools must not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home as a way of avoiding an exclusion or because the child has a poor attendance record. In the case of exclusion, they must follow the statutory guidance. If the pupil has a poor attendance record, the school and local authority must address the issues behind the absenteeism and use the other remedies available to them.[3.12]

The school must delete the child’s name from their admissions register upon receipt of written notification from the parents that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school. However, schools should not wait for parents to give written notification that they are withdrawing their child from school before advising their local authority. Schools must make a return (giving the child’s name, address and the ground upon which their name is to be deleted from the register) to the local authority as soon as the ground for deletion is met, and no later than deleting the pupil’s name from the register. They should also copy parents into the notice to the local authority.[3.8]


Information For Parents

Parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide their children with a suitable education.[4.4]

Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds. It should be appreciated that parents and their children might require a period of adjustment before finding their preferred mode of learning and that families may change their approach over time.[4.4]

It should also be noted that parents of all educational, social, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds successfully educate children outside the school setting and these factors should not in themselves raise a concern about the suitability of the education being provided.[4.4]

Parents' education provision will reflect a diversity of approaches and interests. Some parents may wish to provide education in a formal and structured manner, following a traditional curriculum and using a fixed timetable that keeps to school hours and terms. Other parents may decide to make more informal provision that is responsive to the developing interests of their child.[4.3]

Some parents may choose to engage private tutors or other adults to assist them in providing a suitable education, but there is no requirement for them to do so.[1.2] Parents will continue to be responsible for the education provided. They will also be responsible for ensuring that those whom they engage are suitable to have access to children.[4.8]

Home educating parents are not required to:

teach the National Curriculum
provide a broad and balanced education
have a timetable
have premises equipped to any particular standard
set hours during which education will take place
have any specific qualifications
make detailed plans in advance
observe school hours, days or terms
give formal lessons
mark work done by their child
formally assess progress or set development objectives
reproduce school type peer group socialisation
match school-based, age-specific standards.

However, local authorities should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.[3.13]


My Comments: Support

A council wanting to improve access to qualifications could identify local exam centres which are prepared to accept external candidates More

Support

Local authorities do not receive funding to support home educating families, and the level and type of support will therefore vary between one local authority and another. However, we recommend that all local authorities should adopt a consistent, reasonable and flexible approach in this respect, particularly where there are minimal resource implications.[5.2]

As a minimum, local authorities should provide written information (which is also available through the internet) on elective home education that is clear and accurate and which sets out the legal position. Some local authorities may be able to offer additional support to home educating parents, but this will vary depending on their resources.[5.2]

Examples of additional support include:
provision of a reading or lending library with resources for use with the home educated children
free, or discounted, admission into community programmes (including local authority owned community and sports facilities)
access to resource centres (including local school resources where feasible)
National Curriculum materials and curricula offered by other educational institutions
information about educational visits and work experience
providing assistance with identifying exam centres willing to accept external candidates.[5.2]


SEN

Parents' right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has SEN. This right is irrespective of whether the child has a statement of special educational needs or not. Where a child has a statement of SEN and is home educated, it remains the local authority's duty to ensure that the child's needs are met.[3.17]

Local authorities must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.[3.18]

The 2001 SEN Code of Practice says that if the parents' attempt to educate the child at home results in provision that falls short of meeting the child's needs, then the parents are not making "suitable arrangements", and the authority could not conclude that they were absolved of their responsibility to arrange the provision in the statement. Parents need only provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have as defined in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. It is the authority's duty to arrange the provision specified in the statement, unless the child’s parent has made suitable provision, for as long as a statement is maintained. In some cases a combination of provision by parents and LA may best meet the child's needs. Local authorities should consider, for example, providing access to additional resources or treatments where appropriate.[3.19]

Under the 2001 Code, if the local authority is satisfied that parents are making suitable arrangements, it remains under a duty to maintain the statement and review it annually. In some circumstances the child's special educational needs identified in the statement will have been related to the school setting and the child's needs may readily be met at home by the parents without LA supervision. It may be appropriate, once it is established that a child's special needs are being met without any additional support from the LA, to consider ceasing to maintain the statement. This may be done at the annual review or at any other time. Where the statement is reviewed it should be made clear to parents that they are welcome to attend, but they are not obliged to do so.[3.20]

Under the 2001 Code, where the authority is satisfied that the child's parents have made suitable arrangements it does not have to name a school in part 4 of the child's statement. There should be discussion between the authority and the parents and rather than the name of the school, part 4 of the statement should mention the type of school the LA considers appropriate and that "parents have made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996".[3.21]

The 2001 Code goes on to say that the statement should also specify any provision that the local authority has agreed to make under section 319 of the Education Act 1996 to help parents to provide suitable education for their child at home.

If the child who is to be withdrawn from the school is a pupil at a special school, the school must inform the local authority before the child's name can be deleted from the school roll and the authority will need to consider whether the elective home education is suitable before amending part 4 of the child’s statement.[3.22]

A parent who is educating their child at home may ask the local authority to carry out a statutory assessment or reassessment of their child's special educational needs and the local authority must consider the request within the same statutory timescales and in the same way as for all other requests. Local authorities should provide information to home educators detailing the process of assessment and both local authorities' and home educators' responsibilities with regard to provision should the child be given a statement or EHC Plan. The views of the designated medical officer for SEN should be sought by the local authority where a child with a statement is educated at home because of difficulties related to health needs or a disability.[3.23]


Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children

Local authorities should have an understanding of and be sensitive to, the distinct ethos and needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It is important that these families who are electively home educating are treated in the same way as any other families. Home education should not necessarily be regarded as less appropriate than in other communities. When a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller family with children of school age move into an area, they are strongly encouraged to contact the local Traveller Education Support Service for advice and help to access local educational settings.[5.11]


Link Reference

This article is http://edyourself.org/articles/rearrangedguidelines.php. The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. the School Attendance Order process http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  2. here http://edyourself.org/articles/ministersen.php
  3. More http://edyourself.org/articles/ministersen.php
  4. the School Attendance Order process http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  5. More http://edyourself.org/articles/ministersen.php
  6. More http://edyourself.org/articles/deregistration.php
  7. More http://edyourself.org/articles/examsreport.php