Written evidence submitted by Derbyshire County Council




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

It is important at the outset to include the word “elective”. It is important in understanding our response to this call for evidence as it is about parents choosing to take on the legal duty for their child’s education. As local authorities (LA) we should maintain this role with regards to education and safeguarding. There should be national regulations, with enhanced duties and powers. These would be to check and intervene when appropriate. This is particularly important where we know the young people are vulnerable or from disadvantaged backgrounds and parents removal from school may not be in their child’s best interests. Additional duties will enable home visits so that the young person is seen and their voice heard, their approach to learning (including the learning environment) is more fully understood and any welfare concerns addressed. Where necessary, the LA should be better able to coordinate returns to school in order to meet the individual young person’s needs. In terms of the current total elective home educating population, 35% are/were known as a child in need or had a care plan (historic and/or current). 44% are/were known to wider children’s services, for example, early help. Of these young people, some are regarded as being at risk, including of exploitation. It can be difficult to offer early help to families. At schools, parents do not always wish to have the offered support if made available. Once the young person is off roll, children’s services have limited powers unless there are significant harm indicators.


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

Current schemes are effective although they do not include all home educating young people. A statutory scheme involving all children’s education arrangements will be more effective, both locally and nationally. It will enable LAs to understand the suitability of all home education, any patterns can be identified and children’s vulnerabilities known. Some home educating parents already helpfully inform LAs about their home education arrangements, when they are not required to. Any changes to registration will have an impact on LA resources.


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

Elective Home Education has largely been viewed as a positive choice. This is still the case with a number of families. However, there is a growing concern about parents being ill-prepared for such a significant responsibility. Where the home education works well, the LA has evidence of quality home education, as measured across a range of variables. The advantages of EHE are that the arrangements are flexible, the young people can learn at their own pace, can be independent of other learners and enable the young people to follow their own interests and talents. This can sometimes mean that young people can learn about content which is not offered in schools. The family/parent’s own philosophy can be followed and their own relationships extended in the learning. Sometimes the social opportunities created in EHE are extensive and help support young people’s social and emotional development. These can be furthered through sports and physical activities as well as creative opportunities, across age groups as well as curricular areas. Some families are able to offer accreditation and qualifications at times and in ways which may be different to schools.

The disadvantages can be considerable and at the worst, result in children missing out on an education. The consequences can have lifelong implications. The disadvantages are the opposite of the advantages in that there may be reduced opportunities for social and emotional development. The LA may not be aware or informed about the need for support.  It can be difficult to change the negative aspects of EHE, when the families are unable to access some of the schools’ support services. Parents can find it challenging to get their child onto a school’s roll with sufficient consideration given to the individual young person. Parents inform us that they can experience difficulties in supporting their child’s special educational needs, resourcing provision and including the assessment and sitting of exams such as GCSEs. In terms of welfare and safeguarding, at worst, the child has been at risk by being or becoming home educated. There can be significant mobility in the home educating population. During 2019/20, there were 1043 children who were known to be electively home educated at any point across the academic year. There are children who are schooled, home educated and return to schooling within one academic year and not at the usual transition times.




  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;

EHE consultancy and centralised support: the LA’s EHE department is part of the Schools and Learning division, where it has always been sited. The team includes workers with significant experience of EHE. During academic year 2020/21, the EHE officer team has been expanded to better fulfil LA duties. We aim to work in partnership with parents and have regular comments from parents of the value they place on our support.

Gypsy/Roma/Traveller (GRT): Where parents remove their child for religious/cultural reasons, further consideration needs to be given nationally. The learning offered, especially at secondary stage for GRT, who are over-represented in EHE nationally, does not equate to the expectation of other children’s education, with regards to the age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs.

6% of the total number of children who were electively home educated had an education, health and care plan (EHCP) on 1 October 2020. Some of the parents have expressed dissatisfaction with schools or the school system. We have a good understanding of the ways in which EHE can meet needs. In line with the SEN Code of Practice, some parents have accessed additional resource to meet some of the specialist needs identified on EHCP.  We are aware that some parents feel that the education is not elective. They have reported that there was no choice but to home educate their child with some additional, and sometimes undiagnosed needs. This includes significant mental health concerns. A significant number of EHE young people were previously regarded by their last schools as having SEN support needs.


College and other providers: The ESFA-funded provision is valuable. However, the admission of home educating young people to this funded programme can result in this part time provision being the only education the young person is in receipt of. In addition, there is no in-built link with the home LA. We are not able to comment on any unregulated settings. We are aware that some families use private tutors to support their provision. The LA does not recommend any named tutors or organisations.


  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’;

The current framework is not as supportive as it could be. In the majority of our involvement with families, we are able to fulfil our statutory duties. We recognise that our contact is announced in advance and represents a snap shot in time. There are some parents who frustrate our efforts and create unnecessary action and delays when the LA has stated that the home education appears to be unsuitable.  This can also be the case when parents are asked for information and decline to provide it. This leads to the child continuing to miss out on a full time suitable education. It is challenging to ensure that young people’s wellbeing is safeguarded, especially if parents decline home visits or discussion with their child. Access to mental health services can affect the number and timing of removals from schools. The LA does follow up where the removal from roll may have been linked with exclusions or appears inappropriate. We are aware of the apparent reasons for this and some of the approaches at national level need to continue to address these. Schools are increasingly expected to show evidence of the variety of strategies they have used to support maintaining a child on roll, in particular those young people with SEND or welfare concerns. An alternative may be to have a short period of time for the LA to contact families prior to being removed from roll. This would enable the LA to ensure EHE is an informed choice and that the decision is in the best interest of the young person.


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

EHE was considered as part of the inspection of LA children’s services, although it was a smaller focus. It may be helpful that inspections of both schools and LAs should more fully consider the process by which young people become EHE, the support plans which schools had provided before a young person became EHE and evaluation of outcomes. With appropriate funding and processes, the regulation of EHE could be improved, especially if there was a stronger regulatory framework over all parties including parents and carers.


  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;




  1. 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.


It is important to recognise that school-registered children were supported by their schools in the summer term 2020. They may well have been provided with a number of resources, including on-going support from school staff. Some have referred to this as home schooling. The impact of COVID-19 has directly led to an increase in home educated young people. This year from 1 September – 1 October, there have been 160 notifications of removals from schools for EHE. In September 2019, the comparable number was 70.

This means that the parents now have the legal duty for their child’s home education.

Various council services have been involved in supporting parents and schools with children returning safely to schools. Parents have also asked about other education arrangements, including part time timetables and flexi-schooling (which is not EHE). Some parents have chosen to remove their children from school due to concerns about physical or mental health. Parents have indicated that this may be for themselves, their children or their wider family. For some they view this as temporary until a vaccine is in place or what they view as reliable test/trace/isolation measures. The issues around the changed definition of shielding between the summer and autumn is also creating a pressure on EHE. It is unknown how admission and appeal arrangements, as well as our Fair Access Protocol will affect individual home educating young people at the point parents may decide to return their children to school education. In addition, the level of parents’ preparation for EHE and the suitability of their arrangements are not fully known.


It is important that a smaller number of parents have informed us that they experienced perceived benefits of the previous home schooling arrangement in the summer term and wished to establish a new elective home education arrangements from the autumn term.


Some families who were already EHE before COVID-19 measures were put in place in March 2020, have had to revise their learning and approach. For some families, significant changes were required and some have been resourceful in the absence of their usual groups, activities and educational visits. Advice was given in England which exempted gatherings which are “reasonably necessary for the purposes of education.” However, many groups felt unable to continue in their previous ways. The LA has revised its contact with families, with either virtual visits or telephone contacts and the provision of more parent-provided reports/information about their child’s learning.


November 2020