Written evidence submitted by Devon County Council


Home Education: Call for Evidence 2020


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


LAs have a duty to all children whether in school or EHE; however without any changes to legislation (accompanied by appropriate funding) the LA will struggle to be assured of the safety of children while at home, or have regular access to their work( or the child) to secure a basis on which to judge suitability of education.


LAs can only act within lawful parameters and whilst the DFE guidance issued in 2019 was welcomed it does not go far enough to enable the LA to ensure the safeguarding of children, particularly those unknown to the LA. Nor does the guidance grant the LA any effective oversight of the quality of EHE especially when parents are reluctant to engage.


A robust legislative structure is required to ensure a parent engages with the LA and must provide evidence of a child’s learning and progress. A more detailed framework of expectation that demonstrates suitability of education is required so all LAs can work to the same criteria. This is particularly important where qualifications affect future employment (e.g. English and Maths)


To adequately perform these duties and meet DFE expectations as recently published in October 2020 LA’s need appropriate EHE funding. If the annual AWPU (or a % of it) was transferred to the LA at the point of notification (proportionate to the amount of year remaining) this would allow LAs to undertake this duty and allow LAs to listen and hear pupil voice which for to many EHE children is sadly unheard.


Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required

EHE numbers have grown consistently over the last 10 years (see ADCS survey) and these figures still only represent the children we know about, predominantly children that have been removed from school. 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 always 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.

Any national registration scheme should be recorded against a unique pupil number (UPN) and reported at the same time as the school census. This would make it easier to track education and identify those thought not to be in receipt of education.



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


Benefits: The flexibility and freedom to educate your child within your own philosophical and /or religion, freedom to choose subjects, timings, location and methods of teaching and learning are considerable. Many parents report improved mental health benefits for EHE children who do not need to struggle with school structures, environments, curriculum pressure, over assessment and peer group pressures.  Parents who genuinely EHE are often keen to share their experience with the LA and some inspirational work is often seen.


Disadvantages: The focus of the LA is on those families who either are unable to educate their child or feel they have no choice but to EHE having been ‘eased out’ by schools often following attendance, behaviour , alleged bullying or SEN issues. Schools can make little effort to keep children with one eye on accountability by results (although some schools go above and beyond to do this). Some parents simply want to avoid what they perceive as constant conflict with the school


The result is 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.  They sometimes gain little by way of qualifications or social skills and this can make future employment very limited.


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 or any external support previously provided by the school. The support that can be provided by the LA is very limited for the majority of families as available resources have to be focused on the most vulnerable children; those with significant SEN issues, safeguarding concerns or where little or no education is being provided. If the AWPU was transferred to the LA (as described above) then the potential for meaningful, accountable support on a par with children in school would be achievable.


Children removed from a school roll often due to anxiety are unlikely to receive any extra support from CAMHS because of their EHE status as a result they can become more isolated and are unlikely to be prepared for life after school invariably more likely to be NEET.


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’


The significant increase in EHE numbers, now over 1% of total children in Devon, has placed a considerable strain on resources, challenging the LAs ability to assure itself that all children are receiving a suitable education. With better legislation and funding LAs could more effectively support families, as currently differentiating between those who are genuinely EHE and those who are not is extremely difficult.

It would help if before a child was removed from the school roll parents must demonstrate to the school/LA that they have a plan and ability /resources to take full responsibility for their child’s education in accordance with age, ability and aptitude. At the very least the parent should be literate and numerate and where they are not, they should be required to provide evidence they have the resources to secure education provision from other legal sources

DCC would suggest that any child on a CP plan or a CiN should not be allowed to automatically EHE, this would require a change of legislation. Currently a child with an EHCP and attending a special school must have LA permission so the principle is in place.


In cases where the LA has concerns about the suitability of the education provision, 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.


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


Consideration should be given to who should carry out any inspection and what the regulatory framework would look like. Alongside academic achievement, it should include child well-being, however until standards/benchmarking are established any inspection process will be difficult. With a legal framework in place LAs could then carry out their role with confidence and in turn Ofsted would have standards on which to judge LAs.


In addition, a national register of tutors would support parents who could be assured that any tutor has evidence of academic qualifications, references and a current DBS before being able to have one to one access to a child.


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.




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


As a result of the significant increases in numbers of EHE children since 2012 (2011-12 - 560 EHE children and in 2019-20 -1907 EHE children) and without any additional funding it has not been possible to provide greater support. To address this appropriate funding is required.


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:


This term there have been 460 new cases. Approximately two-thirds of these are due to Covid, fairly equally divided between those that have chosen to home educate following a positive experience during lockdown and those families where anxiety / health concerns are the key factors.


There has been an increase in Police reports related to domestic violence in the home, as well as reports of young people placing themselves at risk of exploitation through online activity. In cases where there are DV incidents, the concern is that EHE children have no safe person to share their concerns with.


Since March there has been a significant decrease in the number of home visits undertaken. During the lockdowns home visits have been restricted to cases where there are known safeguarding concerns. However, the ability of the EHE team to carry out home visits plays an important role in not only helping to assess whether a suitable education is being provided but also identifying any safeguarding concerns and offering early help support where appropriate. For children / new to EHE, we are totally reliant on information coming from schools. However, in some cases schools are not fully aware of the home situation as they have not visited the home.


For children being home educated as a temporary measure due to COVID-19, consideration needs to be given for the catch up programmes available for these children and support for their transition back to the school environment. For those children who came out of school in March, and are still being educated at home, there will have been a significant period where no formal education has occurred.


We know the impact of COVID-19 has had huge financial impacts on families; for those children entitled to Free School meals at school but are now being home educated – families are not receiving any additional support.


November 2020

Devon County Council

5 November 2020