Written evidence submitted by Nottinghamshire County Council

On 26 October 2020, 900 children were known to be home educated in Nottinghamshire. The Local Authority’s statutory duty is discharged by the Elective Home Education Team, who also co-ordinate support visits from a team of EHE advisers to known home educators who consent to these. Nottinghamshire LA is committed to safeguarding all children and ensuring that every child has access to an education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability. Greater clarity and regulation across the area of home education would be welcomed in order to be assured that these commitments can be effectively supported.


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

The LA fulfils its duty to ensure that all children of compulsory school age in its area are being suitably educated and to act if it appears that any child is not receiving such an education or being suitably safeguarded through well-established working practices, as described in the Council’s Elective Home Education Policy.

Whilst it is incumbent on the LA to safeguard children and ensure the quality of home education, it is the case that the current legislation neither extends far enough nor is specific in stating how this duty should be discharged. At the current time there is choice given to home educators about the level of contact, if any, they choose to have with the LA, and this means that the LA’s ability to discharge its safeguarding duty in relation to home educated children is significantly impaired.


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

A small number of home educating parents choose to opt for EHE prior to any school involvement, or have moved into Nottinghamshire from another LA, contact the council to register, but many do not. There is therefore an undefined number of unregistered children within the county at any time. An unknown number of the unregistered children may be at risk of harm or receiving an unsuitable home education.

Mandatory registration would enable the ‘unknowns’ to become ‘known’ and thus locate them on our system, with possible access to services as well as facilitating a holistic picture of the children in a family.

It would help greatly if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS, as those children who are ‘missing’, between authorities, moving between parents/carers, being hidden or otherwise invisible, could be identified much more quickly and efficiently.


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

For many children home education provides an environment where they can be enabled to flourish and achieve. When delivered effectively home education can offer a broad and balanced education with opportunities to secure nationally accredited examinations, ensuring young people can progress into adulthood with all the foundations for a successful future.

There are, however, also disadvantages that may be faced by children, to the point where their safety is not maintained, or the education delivered is lacking or absent.

Parents or carers of children withdrawn often report ‘lack of understanding’ of a school in meeting their child’s Special Educational Needs as the reason for EHE. Many of these children are diagnosed with autistic spectrum condition, anxiety and mental health issues. Where children are withdrawn without a considered plan in place for home education it can be the case that it quickly becomes apparent that home education will not provide a suitable learning environment, and this leads to children spending time out of school whilst another school place is sought. This can prove especially problematic in areas where some schools are oversubscribed. In Nottinghamshire the number of registrations for secondary age students rises by age and a large proportion of secondary aged EHE children will not return to school if they are withdrawn after the age of 12. Many of these children do not have the same opportunity as peers in school to gain nationally recognised qualifications.

That fact that home educated children can be invisible to systems in place designed to support and protect them is an ongoing concern. Contextual safeguarding concerns, often within a family or social context of domestic violence, addiction, adult mental health needs, sexualised behaviour and county lines, are more prominent as children advance through their early and mid-teens. Whilst ever it remains that there is no right of access to home educating families, and crucially the children at the centre of decisions, there is a risk that children are being subject to harm that goes undetected and is not addressed.

There is a far greater risk that children and young people who are electively home educated could become at risk from contextual safeguarding issues or from issues arising from their own mental health. These children and young people tend to have less interaction with other adults and peers so their support networks are far narrower, and signs can be missed.


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;

Support is offered to all home educators in Nottinghamshire in the form of at least yearly adviser visits. Information is also publicly available via the EHE website and the Council’s Local Offer.  For students transitioning at 16 support is available from the Council’s NEET (not in education, training or employment) service, to which young people and families are signposted and referred if needed. All advisers working in Nottinghamshire signpost parents and carers of young people with significant special educational needs to appropriate support, including the short breaks service and the Education, Health and Care Plan assessment pathway if appropriate. Advice and guidance is given to parents and carers making referrals where needed.


A duty to ensure that in each area there was a registered examination centre available to home educators, and centrally published details of where this was, would ensure that where needed home educated children have access to this facility.


There is a limited budget available in Nottinghamshire to enable the LA to discharge its statutory duty. It would be logical that the AWPU for a child withdrawn from a school roll to be EHE, should be transferred to the LA, where it should be used for the benefit of the service provided to home educating families.



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’;

It is the case that the decision to home educate is usually made by parents and carers and children rarely appear to participate in this decision, which means that children’s views are often not considered. The EHE child needs a voice and this must be formalised into the monitoring process. Assessment without direct participation of the learner is meaningless.

It remains an ongoing frustration that there is minimal legislation in place to support the LA in discharging this duty. Whilst the DFE guidance (April 2019) strengthened the position of LA’s when working with home educators it remains that this guidance is non statutory and some parents choose not to engage with the LA at all. This makes it almost impossible to form any meaningful judgement and very difficult to subsequently act in these cases.

The current lack of legislation governing the area of home education leads to inconsistent practice across LA’s and is ineffective in supporting LA’s to discharge their statutory duty. There are no standardised criteria for monitoring, parents can choose what will be monitored and whether, for instance, children will be included. Times and frequency of monitoring, and whether in fact the LA is enabled to undertake any visits, are dependent on parents’ involvement and decisions.

In order to ensure that LA’s can effectively discharge their duty to ensure that all children are in receipt of an education and are safeguarded they should;

(i)              have the right of access to home educating families, including children

(ii)              have the right to monitor and assess (against nationally standardised criteria) provision and outcomes for EHE pupils

In Nottinghamshire where there is evidence that schools encourage or persuade parents/carers, unlawfully, to remove a child to home educate this is challenged by the EHE team, whenever the team becomes aware. In such circumstances, senior officers intervene directly with schools to ensure that such children are not unlawfully removed from roll.  Encouragingly, Ofsted have committed, where evidence of off-rolling is found, to report on this, which is “likely to lead to judging leadership and management as ‘inadequate’”. Ofsted also plan to “explore a methodology that, where movement into home schooling is high, enables inspectors to take the views of parents who have moved into home education into their inspection evidence.” This position would further be strengthened by routine questioning during inspection of the decision of parents to home educate and the intervention offered by school prior to this decision being reached. Where this has happened during inspections, it is the experience of the LA that schools have ensured moving forward they take all steps possible to explore parental intentions to home educate and so all they can to act in the best possible interests of the children involved.

In Nottinghamshire in 2020 we have participated in two serious case reviews in relation the child deaths where the child had been electively home educated. In both cases the elective home education situation restricted the opportunities  for professionals to observe the emerging risk to the child. 


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

It is crucial that, with numbers of children home educated rising nationally, policy is implemented governing the regulation of home education and the inspection of this to ensure effectiveness.

It is vital that LA’s have are able to question and challenge provision being made by home educators, and that home educators are held to account in the same way that schools are. Whilst ever the guidance covering the area of home education remains non statutory the powers to inspect and intervene are not robust enough to protect children who may be at risk of harm.

A compulsory register would allow for this level of scrutiny on a local level, and quality of service would be assured by a national programme of inspection of LA work in this area.





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;

The Nottinghamshire EHE team has participated in the Midlands EHE Forum, a professionals’ regional group which through regular meetings draws in EHE staff from 19 local authorities within the Midlands area. This has enabled much sharing of policy and practice to take place, as well as feedback and networking among staff working in very similar contexts nationally. The effects of this professional involvement have had numerous benefits as learning and practice gained has consistently developed the work of EHE advisers and the home educating families who they advise.

The Midlands EHE Forum is affiliated to a national body, AEHEP, the Association of Elective Home Education professionals which was set up in 2015 in a consultative role to government.  Nottinghamshire EHE staff have played no active part in this, though gain from the information flow it generates. AEHEP organised a national conference in March 2020 which examined the current EHE situation. Three members of the Nottinghamshire EHE team attended this conference.

In Nottinghamshire:





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.

The LA has seen a 134% increase in requests for September 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. It is thought that an unusually high number of requests seen in the first 3 weeks of March may correlate with the increase in the number of COVID cases seen nationwide at this time and the associated media coverage.


Several schools are reporting on the initial paperwork submitted that families are reporting anxiety, both parental and student, relating to COVID as the reason for educating at home. The LA is responding to this by confirming the reasons for home education with parents at the first adviser contact and offering support to mediate between parents/ carers and school where they feel that home education is the only option and not their preferred one. Many families are reporting the reason for choosing EHE as anxiety regarding the pandemic and, more worryingly, a number report it as a temporary measure pending a future return to school. In these situations, children are facing a disrupted learning journey as parents/ carers who see home education as a short-term solution may, following a period of learning away from a school environment, face difficulties re-enrolling their child at a school of choice in the future if that school is over subscribed.


43% of requests received between 1 March- 1 October 2020 were for students in year 6 and below, in contrast to figures for the general EHE population in Nottinghamshire where there is usually a significantly higher number of registrations for secondary students. It therefore follows that these children will remain home educated for the entirety of their statutory school age, increasing the total number of home educated children known to The Council year on year, or will require a return to a school place at a point in the future.


For all home educated children unless there are exceptional circumstances all adviser visits are now taking place virtually instead of in person, by video capable means as a preference. In order to respond to increased demand a more streamlined initial visit format has been implemented in order to increase capacity and decrease budgetary pressure.


In addition to this information specific to the pandemic has been shared with schools to support conversations with parents and carers who are considering this route. This explains the difference between home education and remote learning provided by schools, makes explicit the parental responsibility associated with home education and highlights the issues that families may face in securing a place back at a school of preference should they be considering home education as a short-term option.


Children requiring a return to school will be placed through the Fair Access Protocol, this may not always be at the school of preference if there is no space available there. It has previously been muted that consideration is given to national policy supporting children in returning to the same school, for example by having a ‘cooling off’ period during which a return was guaranteed. Were this in place it would undoubtedly support children where decisions had been made for them as a short-term response to the pandemic. For children who return to school at a later date additional support may need to be made available to them to enable them to achieve following significant disruption to their learning as a result of the pandemic.


It is anticipated that the demand for support from the LA to home educated families will increase in line with the rise in numbers of home educated children, particularly where parents/ carers may have little prior experience of home education or have not had the benefit of time to plan for it.


November 2020