Written evidence submitted by the Education and Children's Services Group of Prospect


Prospect's Education and Children’s Services (ECS) group represents professionals in the education, children's services, early help, commissioning and children's social care field. Members are based throughout the UK, and work across a range of sectors serving the interests of children and young people, including the public, private, faith, voluntary and community sectors. Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services (ECS) groups’ reasons for submitting evidence is our view that the voice of professionals providing statutory and non-statutory support to schools, parents and children and young people elective home education should be heard in what can be a polarising and contentious debate.   We believe that clear guidance on rights and responsibilities, allied to resources including funding is crucial.



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


Prospect’s members working in the sector believe that a register of electively home educated children is required.


Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998 states that no one shall be denied the right to education. This has been interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights to mean that every child is entitled to access an effective education. Society has a duty to ensure that every child has access to an education in the same way that we have a duty to ensure a child is protected and has the opportunities for physical, emotional and intellectual development.


Prospect members’ report that children educated at home include, but are not limited to:


       Those who choose to educate at home as a matter of choice – this usually reflects parents’ own value systems


       Parents who choose to educate at home because of what they see as an enforced choice after their child has started school – they feel the school system cannot or does not meet what they see as their own child’s needs, particularly in relation to special needs


       Situations where schools actively suggest home education because the child is on the verge of exclusion or is refusing to attend.


Whilst many parents who home educate do so with commitment and do a good job, there are some children who are being failed. Without a register, we have no way of knowing which children are being home educated and therefore no way of identifying effective provision with both monitoring or support where appropriate. Every child deserves this level of oversight to ensure they are receiving an efficient, full-time and suitable education. There should be no reason why parents and carers would resist this if local authorities (LAs) deliver this function sensitively and co-operatively.  Prospect believes that a regulatory framework is required which protects these rights for all children, even though they may only be needed for a small number of children who are home educated.


Currently, LAs have a statutory duty under section 437 (1) Education Act 1996 in that they are required to intervene:


“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.”


Additionally, local authorities have a duty which requires them to:


…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.


LAs currently hold these duties but have no power to discharge these.  Prospect believes the current arrangements without a mandatory register and the ability to assess and review the education provision of home educated children, continues to put its local authority members in an invidious position.


Further, Prospect believes that there is an equally strong argument that such additional powers and resource for local authorities should also apply to children being educated via flexi-schooling arrangements in relation to the home education part of their curriculum. Whilst LAs are aware of these children, the home education is not assessed.


The 2009 Badman review identified the key criteria for registration and these are still relevant.


The benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face:







Potential Disadvantages






Risk factors are likely to be higher for vulnerable children.  In 2009 Badman told MPs that although "we shouldn't treat home educators with suspicion, we should know that the risk factor is proportionately double". The Badman review of 74 local authorities had found that while 0.2% of children in the UK population were known to social services, the figure was 0.4% among those who were educated at home.  In addition to this, 22% of the EHE cohort studied were NEET, which was four times that of the general population at that time.


2.     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:


Prospect members report that level of support varies hugely between LAs and recent years of austerity means that there are usually minimal staffing levels within EHE teams to support home educating families. Financial support is generally not available and schools themselves usually have limited budgets and are not able to support with exam entries, neither is it their financial responsibility.


There is a risk that support for children with disabilities, SEN and mental health issues may be more limited as needs may not be identified and supported by external agencies. There needs to be an opportunity for parents to make informed choices about EHE and to ensure it is understood that there is no requirement for the LA to support or fund specialist educational provision as specified in the EHCP.


Prospect members suggest that at least termly visits would enable accurate and regular assessments of progress and further needs to be identified.  In addition, we recommend an annual evaluation or review be carried out with all involved in the child’s education – including the child themselves – so that successes can be recorded and celebrated; where provision at home was not succeeding, support could be put into place early to reduce the potential impact of less-than-expected progress.  This will, of course, place an additional burden on local authority teams which will require central funding.  Prospect reported this in the DfE 2019 consultation into an elective home education register.  We note, sadly, that the DfE has not yet published its response to this consultation.


We need to hear the voice of the child. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that it is every child's right to have their voice heard in decisions that affect them and they need to be given this opportunity during the processes of registration, evaluation and assessment.  The voice of the child also needs to be heard proportionately at the time of decision-making around who the named educational provider is.


There are no formal processes that schools or families are required to adhere to prior to the decision to EHE and families can request that their child’s name is deleted from the register whether they are on SEN support or have an EHCP if it is a mainstream school.   If there was a formal process that parents had to follow prior to taking their child off roll which included discussions with relevant LA staff it may well be that the concerns that led to the decision to EHE may well be resolved.  In addition, it needs to be made much more explicit to families that they will be responsible for making the educational arrangements as well as funding them, and that this would include any Special Educational Provision as outlined in section F of a child’s EHC Plan. This process would not remove the right of parents to Electively Home Educate it would be to ensure they are able to make an informed decision and are able to discuss what wider support is available.


Children on the SEN register are particularly vulnerable as unlike children with EHCPs there are no statutory monitoring processes in place with a focus of the special educational needs of the child. 



3.     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’


Prospect does not believe that the current regulatory framework for elective home education is sufficient or suitable.


Other nations have successfully introduced registration for EHE, most notable the Republic of Ireland through the Education Welfare Act (2000) which requires mandatory registration of all school-aged children regardless of where they are being educated.


We believe that co-constructed criteria and standards, such as those in Section 5 of the guidance available in Ireland, should be the basis of a new regulatory framework so that there is clarity for both parents and professionals as to what is being assessed and evaluated, when and for what purpose.  Such a framework should be developed in England in conjunction with a proper training programme for staff so that parents have confidence in the professionals. In addition, local authorities should be provided with additional funding to carry out these additional burdens brought about by a new statutory framework.  As simple illustration of the complexity of the task, many local authority staff who support EHE families are not SEN specialists.  Additionally, local authorities may need to utilise staff with appropriate qualifications and experience in areas such as early years and primary and secondary subject specialisms.



4.     The role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education:


Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships should review and monitor EHE trends (which may help identify specific issues in relation to specific schools where there might be higher than normal rate of the removal of children for EHE).  In addition, Prospect believes the local Partnership has a role in scrutinising the provision of support by the local authority and other statutory partners, and have data provided on the number of School Attendance Orders and Education Supervision Orders applied for in relation to home educated pupils.


Ofsted should always ask schools about the numbers of children removed to be electively home educated and scrutinise what the school did in relation to each case.


Within the context of a new proposed statutory framework, along with the resources to carried out new duties, the management and monitoring of electively home educated children could then be examined when children’s services are inspected by Ofsted and CQC (Care Quality Commission).



5.     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:


Prospect members working in the sector report that there is still huge variation nationally. Within the context of cuts to local authority funding and the austerity agenda, the funding both for staff and resources has been and continues to be limited.  Prospect is aware of members in local authorities where the staff struggle to deal with the basic administrative tasks in relation to EHE. Any increase in duties must be adequately staffed and resourced with proper training for staff supporting these children and their families.



6.     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.’


Prospect understands from its members in the sector that there is a high risk of increased isolation for children electively home educated as many public amenities, such as sports facilities, performance venues and so on, are not available in lockdown areas whilst their peers in schools do at least have access to a variety of facilities and to other social contact within their “bubbles”.


Prospect’s local authority members report that the relative number of EHE referrals and notifications has increased in autumn half-term 1 2020 compared to the equivalent period in 2019.  Conversations with parents/carers indicate that, for some, there is a palpable fear for their children being placed in danger if they attend school because of coronavirus.  Local authority and school staff are constantly trying to address this fear through dialogue and gradual/phased reintroductions back to school.


The increase in EHE requests is particularly worrying for those pupils on SEN support or with EHCPs.


There is also conflict between differing Regulations and it would be helpful if, as part of this response, changes were made to wider regulations to make clear the difference between Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS)  for the purposes of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 and S61 of the CFA 2014.


In the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 (8) parents can ask for their child to be taken off roll in order Educate Otherwise Than At School.

It implies that this is Elective Home Education (i.e. where the parent is fully responsible for the educational arrangements including any special educational provision that may be specified in an EHC Plan), as well as the costs of those educational arrangements. EOTAS as defined by s61 of the CFA 2014 is clear that the LA is still responsible for arranging and funding the provision.


When a parent or carer decides to electively home educate they are fully responsible for arranging and funding the education.


In the CFA (61), EOTAS is very different to EHE, as the LA is still responsible.  


61              Special educational provision otherwise than in schools, post-16 institutions, and so on


(1) A local authority in England may arrange for any special educational provision that it has decided is necessary for a child or young person for whom it is responsible to be made otherwise than in a school or post-16 institution or a place at which relevant early years education is provided.

(2) An authority may do so only if satisfied that it would be inappropriate for the provision to be made in a school or post-16 institution or at such a place.

(3) Before doing so, the authority must consult the child’s parent or the young person.


EOTAS would be a LA decision (it would need to go through a process such as annual review if the child or young person has an EHC Plan and adhere to the CFA 2014 in terms of that statutory process). The LA would need to decide if EOTAS was appropriate and could only do this if satisfied that it would be inappropriate for the provision to be made in a school or post-16 institution or at such a place. In cases where a school could demonstrate they could meet the needs of the child there would be no reason for a LA to agree EOTAS, although the parental right to Electively Home Educate would remain.


October 2020


November 2020

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