2021 Education Committee Report: Strengthening Home Education
In September 2020 the Education Committee opened an inquiry into home education and published its conclusions in July 2021, together with a number of recommendations.
Government Response to Recommendations
The government responded on November 4th 2021
1. New guidance should define suitable education including levels of literacy and numeracy
Government Response: The Department remains of the view that a centralised definition of ‘suitable’ education would not be in the interests of home educating children, families or local authorities. Each individual assessment of whether education being provided is deemed ‘suitable’ must rest on a balance of relevant factors depending on the circumstances of each child. However, this may be an area the Department considers further when it next reviews its 2019 EHE guidance for local authorities and parents, which may need to take account of the outcome of the impending judicial review between Portsmouth City Council and an EHE parent.
2. There should be a statutory registration scheme
Government Response: The Government remains committed to a form of local authority administered statutory registration to identify children not in school. This would likely encompass children who are electively home educated and those who are missing education. Further details on this, as well as on proposals for supporting home-educated children, will be in the government response to the Children Not In School consultation, which will be published in the coming months.
3. More data must be collected on children out of school
Government Response: The Department recognises the value of data in policy creation and is keen to improve EHE data collection and analysis, and therefore will consider this as part of our next steps.
4. Advocates should be provided for excluded pupils and those considering home education
Government Response: We already [my emphasis] expect local authorities, schools, and other key professionals work together to coordinate a meeting with parents considering [my emphasis] EHE to ensure they are making a fully informed choice that considers the best interest of the child. Furthermore, the Children Not In School consultation proposed the introduction of a new duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families, should they want it. Further details of this, along with the other proposals set out within the Children Not In School consultation, will be included in the consultation response which will be published in the coming months.
5. Schools should publish statistics on exclusions and children who have left the school roll, including special needs and disability
Government Response: Information about exclusions is already [my emphasis] available, but perhaps could be published more quickly. It is possible to determine from the school census the number of pupils that are no longer on the school roll. However, unless a pupil moves to other state-funded provision, their destination is not known as the school census only collects pupil records in state-funded provision. The number of pupils who are no longer on the school roll does not provide a robust indication of the use of off-rolling or illegal schools as it will also include use of EHE, moves to independent schools and pupils who have migrated.
6. There should be key workers similar to Independent Reviewing Officers for looked after children [IRO] for all children with special needs and disabilities [SEND]
Government Response: Support and advice systems are already [my emphasis] in place hence no need for additional roles to be created
7. Children with special needs and disabilities shouldn't have to be on a school roll to access support
Government Response: The upcoming SEND review will make recommendations in due course.
8. The government should give examples of suitable education and set out thresholds for intervention with School Attendance Orders [SAO], and collect more data
Government Response: the Department has already [my emphasis] set out components local authorities should consider when determining suitable education in existing guidance. Therefore, local authorities should already [my emphasis] be able to access or request have sufficient information to determine whether a child’s education is suitable. We will consider further data collection and analysis of SAOs in due course.
9. Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance should be revised again to include home education.
Government Response: The Department continues to review all key statutory guidance regularly. We will consider including EHE in Working Together to Safeguard Children at the next review point.
10. Ofsted should inspect local authorities in regard to home education
Government Response: Ofsted already [my emphasis] asks local authorities for home education and children missing education information as part of inspections of Children’s Social Care services.
11. New EHE guidance must say more about annual meetings, seeing children's work, and assessing literacy and numeracy
Government Response: The Department will review its 2019 EHE guidance for local authorities and parents in due course, taking account of relevant developments that result from the impending judicial review between Portsmouth City Council and an EHE parent. As outlined in the response to Recommendation 1, we already [my emphasis] provide guidance and outline good practice on what we would expect when assessing suitable education. We have no plans to stipulate specifically how a local authority assesses the suitability of home education, as ‘suitable’ education assessment needs to consider a range of relevant factors depending on the circumstances of each child.
12. The government should provide local authorities with a clear set of criteria for assessing suitable education.
Government Response: Paragraph 9.4 of the Department’s EHE guidance for local authorities already [my emphasis] details eight factors for local authorities to consider when determining whether education is ‘suitable’.
13. There should be a national training package for EHE officers
Government Response: As stated, the Department is committed to a system of registration for children not in school. Further details on its operation are yet to be decided and decisions will need to be made on local authority implementation, which may or may not include a form of training packages for local authority officers
14. The government should commission research on home education outcomes.
Government Response: There are challenges in undertaking such research, including the absence of requirements for formal assessments at set points, which are typically used to measure the outcomes of children attending school. We will review potential approaches again following the publication of the Children Not In School consultation response.
15. There must be a duty on local authorities to ensure access to exam centres, with government covering the cost of exams.
Government Response: The decision whether accept private candidates is a matter for each individual exam centre. The Department encourages all available exam centres to consider supporting private candidates and we have worked closely with the sector to ensure that there are enough centres available to support private candidates to take exams, with JCQ publishing a list of available centres. The Children Not In School consultation proposed a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families, should they want it. In theory, this could be in the form of examination support, however details of potential support will be included in the consultation response which will be published in the coming months, and will likely be subject to further discussion and consultation.