HED0689

Written evidence submitted by Contact

 

Eduction Select Committee: Home Education

Submission from Contact

About Contact

Contact is the charity for families with disabled children. We support families, bring families together and help families take action for others.

We aim to be the first place for families to turn to when they realise their child has a disability, providing information, advice and support that is accessible, relevant and empowers families to make the decisions that are right for them. Our support covers all issues and all disabilities, a very high proportion of the children and young people we support have autism or a learning disability.

Last year we helped 178,000 families with information, advice and support. Contact also supports the development of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and its 88,000 plus members who are engaged in ensuring that the voices of parent carers are heard by strategic decision makers at local and national level. In 2019-20, 96% of the families we supported felt better informed about how to get the support they need.

Summary of issues:

Our helpline has a dedicated education team, who deal with about 3500 queries a year from parents with disabled children concerned about their child’s education and how to access the support that they are entitled to.

Parents who contact us because they are thinking about home education fall into different groups:

 

 

 

 

There is often some confusion among parents about what “Home education” means as it can be used loosely to refer to any education which is provided in a home setting. This can happen in different contexts and covered by different legislation and we find parents are not always aware of the different rights and responsibilities arising in each situation.

The Contact helpline has seen a small increase in enquiries on home education, which may be attributed to the pandemic. It’s important to emphasise that most of these enquiries will not be from parents who are actually home educating, or necessarily intending to home educate. Many are coming with a background of school attendance difficulties, refusal, phobia or unmet special educational needs (SEN) and just want to know their options and the implications of taking their child out of school.

Where parents are adamant they do want to take their child out of school, we would always explain the implications of elective home education and if it is being done for negative reasons we would discuss other courses of action, including getting the child signed off school for medical reasons, (so they remain on the school roll and receive alternative provision), changing schools, or asking for reasonable adjustments e.g. part time attendance at school.

We would also tell parents their rights if it appears that the school is putting pressure on them to home educate.

The pandemic has definitely exacerbated existing problems around school anxiety and attendance and lack of support for SEN. The long gap in education, changes to school environment, disruption to staffing, reduction in special educational provision and anxiety around transmission have made some families unwilling to send their children back – at least until they are reassured about safety and level of support. This does not mean that they want to home educate - many will see this as a last resort. For others it is a positive choice brought about by the lockdown. Some children have benefited emotionally and academically from learning at home and these parents have decided that they can handle home education and have decided to withdraw their child from school to continue with this.

Recommendations:

More flexible support needed for children with mental health needs and other long term medical conditions whose attendance is erratic. There should not be an all or nothing approach. A rigid approach to school attendance drives families to deregister their child as a way of avoiding a fine or prosecution. A temporary home education agreement between parent and school might be an alternative.

There should be a statutory register of children being home educated. Local authorities should be able to identify which children are not in a school and of these, which may be missing education  

There should be a longer cooling off period where a parent has deregistered their child, which allows for a change of mind and a place to be kept open at the school. Local authorities should use this time to establish why parents have made the decision to home educate and whether they understand their responsibilities and if necessary, discuss other options

Local authorities should be required to include support for home educating parents in their local offer, including advice and support for those with SEND

More support for home educating parents particularly those with SEND: Support should be more consistent – there is wide variation between LA’s. Perhaps discretionary funding should be made available for home educating parents who want it. This might cover e.g. laptops, an online course, sessions from an SEN specialist, exam fees.

November 2020

3