Written evidence submitted by Staffordshire County Council



  1. The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education:

Staffordshire County Council take these duties extremely seriously; expanding the team of EHE Support and Advice officers from 2 to 6, in an effort to meet the increased popularity of elective home education. We have two dedicated administrators and a qualified Teacher in post who co-ordinates the work of the team and is called in to assess the quality of education where there is any ambiguity, regarding suitability. 

Staffordshire were expecting to be able to contact every family having expanded the team prior to the pandemic, however without designated funding and changes to legislation, an authority cannot be expected to assure the safeguarding of families it cannot access, or has access to briefly, on an annual basis. However well-resourced an Authority may be, it may only act within its lawful powers; and whilst the Departmental guidance issued in April 2019 was welcomed, it does not go far enough to enable an LA  to assure safeguarding of children, particularly those unknown to the authority, nor does the guidance grant the authority any effective oversight of the quality of any home education.

In isolation section 436 & 437 of the 1996 education act are not sufficient to safeguard a child in a standalone capacity.  A robust legislative structure is required to ensure a parent engages with the Local Authority and that a parent must be able to provide evidence of progress of the learning taking place.   Without legislation the powers of the LA are questionable and current guidance leaves too much scope for challenge.  This can result in lengthy prosecutions and costly court cases; sometimes resulting in a parental fine, inevitably during this process, a child would remain without an education for extended periods, sometimes years. 

  1. Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;

The question is why the department consider a register is not required.  What is to be gained by not knowing who is being educated and how and where that education is taking place.  There is however much to be gained by knowing where our children are and who is providing their education, not purely for those who are home educated, but equally for any child resident in the Country.  Each child has a right to an education and to be protected by their government and the data we collate evidences that this is simply not the case for all children.

It is vital to understand that currently if parents chose to never register their child at a school, it is possible that the LA’s education team is ever aware of the child. Therefore, such children are totally off the radar, unless by some other means they come to an authority’s attention.

EHE numbers have grown year on year, and without a registration scheme, children will continue to go under the radar. At present there is nationally an unknown number of children who are home educated and remain hidden from services. This would suggest that current voluntary registration schemes are not effective in identifying every child and whether they are in receipt of education. It is wrongly assumed that a child who is home educated or may not be in receipt of an education will come to the attention of other professionals, unfortunately that is not the case.  A national registration scheme would significantly improve the ability of LAs to identify families who previously remained ‘under the radar’ and who have for their own reasons, made a conscious decision to avoid engagement with the authorities.  It would serve to inform these parents of their duty to educate and what that duty may entail

We would recommend that education provision for every child not on a mainstream school roll, should be recorded against a unique pupil number (UPN), linked to a UPN, (possibly using the DfE Keys to Success data base) and their education provision/provider, to be reported at the same time the School Census is reported. Making it easier to follow a child through their education and identify those who are thought not to be in receipt of the education to which they are legally entitled to.  This type of system would also highlight any education provision that may previously have gone unmonitored and therefore not held to account for the curriculum or outcomes of the ‘alternative provision ‘on offer

With a registration scheme in place, the same data that a school would be required to submit at census could be collected from Local Authority registers.  This can be reported at the same time census is completed, allowing the information to be held centrally on the DfE ‘Keys to Success’.  Keys to Success is currently updated through Census. It should be noted that Keys to Success is not a live data feed.

  1. The benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;

Home education is absolutely the right thing for some children and Staffordshire recognise that Elective Home Education in these cases, is appropriate, well delivered and from cases reported by Officers, inspiring. Some schools feel under pressure due to the interpretation of performance information and the way in which this is captured which means that schools are no longer able to support a variety of learning styles in the way they would like to, and not all children thrive with structure and demands of constant assessment. School and its associations can become overwhelming and parents understandably remove their child from what to them is perceived as a negative and stressful environment to allow their child to develop and learn with a more bespoke package.

Ideally a home education offer would be based on the individual child’s development and pace of learning, allowing them to grow and develop as an individual and evidence progress of learning throughout this journey.  Where families link in with home education groups, they are in the main well supported, and a child has access to their peers and group activities and the majority of these families are keen to share their successes with the LA.

The focus of Local Authorities is on those families who do not make an informed and well planned choice to home educate but find themselves coerced into it or choosing EHE as a means to avoid aspects of education perhaps to avoid prosecution for non-attendance or avoiding a permanent exclusion A child may be isolated for long periods of time while parents work, they may lose friendships, or have unsupervised time outside of the home, engaging in negative relationships, with no prospect of an education.  Officers and schools have also reported the decision to home educate to be child led, essentially is then avoiding the requirement to attend school, or sit exams, or the need to conform to any structured environment.

  1. The quality and accessibility of support (including financial support) available for home educators and their children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities, mental health issues, or caring responsibilities, and those making the transition to further and higher education.

Where a child is removed from a school roll, families have no access to funding and any external support commissioned previously by the school is halted.  Staffordshire would like to see designated funding set aside using the AWPU funding to enable local authorities to adequately staff and resource home education. 

If we only take into account, the numbers of pupils registered with Staffordshire to home educate we can confidently estimate the loss of AWPU funding to Staffordshire schools to be in the region of 8 million pounds a year. There are of course an unknown cohort of Children who reside in Staffordshire and the authority would have no knowledge of, because they have never been placed on a school roll.  Should a percentage of this funding be made available to LA’s then I believe we would then be able to appropriately resource a home education service which could ensure each family is properly visited and supported. This funding could also be applied to offer accessibility to exam bases, or the development of parent led support groups.

Families with children educated outside the school system do not necessarily have access to external organisations. There should be an expectation that agencies such as CAHMS and NHS should provide the same offer of support that a child or young person may usually receive in School, (for example, vaccinations and CAHMS outreach). The imposition of an EHE register would allow Health professionals to identify EHE students who were eligible for a vaccination.


Officers report that children removed from a school roll due to anxiety, are unlikely to receive any additional support to address this, it is doubtful that these children will be prepared for the world post education, and will potentially become Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).


A central funding budget could ensure a prescribed national offer, providing consistency of an offer across the Country regardless of which County the child resides.


  1. Whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded, including where they may attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to ‘off-rolling’.

In recent years, there has not only been a significant increase in the number of notifications of children being educated at home, there is substantive evidence to show that many of these children are not receiving a suitable education, or in fact any education at all.  It was hoped that by now the government would have a clearer understanding of the limited powers of Local Authorities and how with legislation Local Authorities could better support children electively home educated.  

Without a mandate to have oversight, a Local Authority cannot differentiate between those who are genuinely home educated, and those who are not; it can only make assumptions.

Before a child is removed from a school roll a parent should be required to demonstrate to the school that they have considered a plan and have the ability and resources to educate their child in accordance with the child’s age ability and aptitude.  It is appreciated that the majority of parents are not qualified teachers, however as a very minimum a parent should be literate and numerate and where they are not, they should be required to provide evidence they have the resources to commission external education provision

As an additional safeguarding layer and in order to support the most vulnerable children, we believe in Staffordshire, where a child is made subject to a Child Protection plan, currently subject to a child protection plan, or is child in need, the conference chair/ chair of the child in need meeting should have to by law make clear that if the parent/carer has already declared EHE, or states an intention to do so, the risk will be re-considered in light of this information with the likelihood that the child could be considered unsafe as a consequence. 

To ensure further safeguarding, recommendation would be for the government to hold a national register of tutors who would be required to provide evidence of qualifications, references and a current enhanced DBS certificate before they have one to one access with a child.

Alongside any consideration to new legislation, a definition of satisfactory is required.  It is advisory that the framework mirror what is delivered in an Independent school.

Officers see evidence of parents being advised to EHE to avoid permanent exclusion or attendance fines.  Where officers do not see any evidence or more commonly cannot gain access to the home or child, it is a lengthy process following the guidance set out under sections 436 and 437 of the education act to take legal action.  In the case of a child in year 11 it will be unlikely to make it to court before they are no longer of statutory school age, thus failing the child and leaving them with no opportunity to take exams.


  1. The role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education;


Consideration should be given to who should carry out inspection and what a regulatory framework would look like.  It must ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children are safeguarded, including where they may attend unregistered schools, or an education group set up by a parent.  By reviewing the role of any inspectorate, it will quickly become clear that without legislation, setting out standards and measures, it is impossible to carry out inspection, only make an assessment.  It is concerning that it has been considered acceptable for the DfE to allow Local Authorities to carry the burden of decision without providing them with a legal framework in which to work in. 


With a legal framework to follow, Local Authorities would be able to carry out their role more effectively and in turn Ofsted would have standards on which to base their inspection of a Local Authority’s duty to carry out their role. Any oversight should include a central register of Tutors, who under the current system remain unregulated, avoiding any external scrutiny of their work with children, particularly if they have no appropriate training or expertise in working with children.  Where there is no regulation there is no measure of quality or appropriateness of the education being delivered.  The amount of time spent in education is not a measure of the learning taking place if the curriculum is not stretching the child, there does need to be some form of external scrutiny.  It is considered that the significant growth in home education fuels the growth in unregistered schools and tutor agencies; with no regulation of these agencies, children may be placed in dangerous environments or find themselves potentially in the care of individuals restricted from working with children. In the worst-case scenarios, no oversight could lead to instilling extremist views at a time when children are in their most formative years.  This is particularly relevant as in recent months there has been a number of reported Right Wing groups setting up websites targeting home educators.


It is worth noting that currently there is a contradiction between inspectors asking Local Authorities when an home educated pupil was last seen in the context of safeguarding them and making a judgement on this, but the legislation states Local Authorities cannot insist on seeing home educated children.




  1. what improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012; and


The 2012 report Support for Home Education referred to ‘inconsistency across the Country, in the approach of Local Authorities.  This has been addressed by the setting up of the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals (AEHEP) and its subgroups around the Country, together they have focused on delivering a more aligned offer, sharing best practice and aligning processes However, what an LA is able to offer continues to be dependent of the availability of funding and we are aware some authorities have had no option other than to withdraw non-statutory departments which Elective Home education has fallen victim of, however, in Staffordshire we have invested in this area.



8        The impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, and what additional measures might need to be taken in order to mitigate any negative impacts.


Nothing could have prepared even the most well-resourced authorities for the notifications coming through this September; it has been simply overwhelming.  This year Staffordshire received 237 notifications in the period of September alone compared to 30 in the same period the previous year, and notifications are not yet slowing down.  On 29 October 2020 Staffordshire have recorded 387 new notifications since the beginning of September 2020 bringing the total number of children registered to 1172.



When a new notification arrives, there is associated paperwork to record the child on the EHE database.  This includes completing initial safeguarding checks and contacting the previous school for information, leaving officers struggling to maintain the current level of checks and support. It is almost impossible to visit nearly 400 families within a reasonable time frame in addition to visiting and sustaining contact with the families already registered who may require regular support and guidance. 


Covid-19 has not only created a national increase in the notifications to home educate, it has provided a legislative screen for those who choose not to engage with the authorities and would have declined to engage regardless of a pandemic.  


To sustain engagement with our EHE families, Officers are contacting families by phone and offering emails and video calls to families in place of a visit. Legislation to require parents to engage with a Local Authority, provide access to meet the child and see the child’s work is needed. This is so a Local Authority can satisfy itself that the child is receiving a suitable education. The definition of what constitutes a suitable education is aligned with the independent school’s inspection framework as this is where EHE sits but would require amendments to be considered for EHE purposes.










The deadline for submissions is Friday 6 November. For further information see the inquiry page on the Committee website.




November 2020





Call for evidence

Home Education

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any or all of the following points:

Before you continue

Make sure you have read the call for evidence.

Writing your evidence

Your submission should:

If you’d like your evidence to be anonymous (we’ll publish your evidence, but not your name or any personal details about you) or confidential (we’ll read your evidence, but we won’t publish it), please tick the box you’ll see on the submission form.

We can’t guarantee that this will happen, because the Committee has the power to decide whether evidence is kept anonymous or confidential. But we’ll usually be able to do what you’ve asked for.

What will happen to your evidence?

Uploading your evidence

Your uploaded file must:

We want everyone’s voice to be heard in Parliament. Please contact us if for any reason you find it difficult to send us your evidence online.