Local authorities have a duty under section 436a Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to identify children outside school who aren’t receiving education. 436A became law in February 2007. The current GOV.UK web page on Children Missing Education is here
436A Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education
(1) A local authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but —
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.
(2) In exercising their functions under this section a local authority must have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.
(3) In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.”
Children Missing Education Statutory Guidance was first issued in 2007 and subsequently revised in 2009, 2013 and 2015. Each new version supersedes the last. The latest guidance was published in September 2016 to align with amendments to the Pupil Registration Regulations 2006. [NB as of July 2023 the legislation.gov.uk website had not yet marked up the 2016 amendments so the CME guidance remains the easiest place to find information about the changes]
CME guidance says: “There are many reasons why a child stops attending a school. It could be because the parent chooses to home educate their child. However, where the reason for a child who has stopped attending a school is not known , the local authority should investigate the case and satisfy itself that the child is receiving suitable education.”
Government home education guidance 2019 says “Until a local authority is satisfied that a home-educated child is receiving a suitable full-time education, then a child being educated at home is potentially in scope of this duty. The department’s children missing education statutory guidance for local authorities applies. However, this should not be taken as implying that it is the responsibility of parents under s.436A to ‘prove’ that education at home is suitable. A proportionate approach needs to be taken.” My page on the home education guidance is here.
Since Autumn 2022 the government has been asking local authorities for “termly aggregate data returns on EHE [electively home educated] children and CME on a voluntary basis.” Census dates are October, January and May. Read more here
In May 2023 the first elective home education statistics and children missing education statistics were published based on the above data returns. (Of course, registration is not compulsory, see my page on the failed Schools Bill here)
Telling School in Advance
CME guidance makes a useful distinction between a written letter of deregistration versus parents simply telling the school that they are considering home educating. “Where a parent notifies the school in writing that they are home educating, the school must delete the child’s name from the admission register and inform the local authority. However, where parents orally indicate that they intend to withdraw their child to be home educated, the school should consider notifying the local authority at the earliest opportunity.”
This is clearer than any previous guidance, because I have always maintained there should be more of a distinction between a/ parents telling the school they are “thinking about” home education, and b/ parents actually sending the formal letter saying they have taken responsibility and requesting that the school deletes the child’s name from the roll.
Before parents have sent in the official letter, there is more leeway – or opportunity, depending on how you look at it – for conversation with parents, schools and the council. My page on deregistering a child from mainstream school is here and my page on taking a child out of special school is here.
Where home education is being considered out of desperation with school, it can in theory be a chance to look at unmet special needs, alternative provision or even a transfer to another school if this is what parents want.
In practice however it can also be a way to undermine parents’ confidence in their ability to home educate, to the extent that I advise caution about advance notice of “intention” to home educate.