Written evidence submitted by Ealing Local Authority


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

There is extensive detail for LAs within the EHE Guidance documentation but without the legislative powers to back up best practice working.  We would consider the two main statutory documents around Safeguarding to be; Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children but these highlight a gap in expectations for children of Statutory school age and the risks that they are potentially exposed to.  Working Together to Safeguard Children applies to all schools but KCSIE does not apply to all children in education – only schools and colleges.

The quality of home education is hugely subjective – what is suitable and efficient for one child is not necessarily suitable for another.  The challenge is to assure the quality of home education with no legislative powers with which to do so.  If there were a joined up national expectation or definition of ‘suitable and efficient’ it would facilitate standardisation across local authorities managing parental expectations and engagement effectively. 

Increasingly more cases present complex challenges which require ‘unpicking’, multi-agency discussion, building relationships with families including support, advice and follow up as necessary.  Current structures with which to carry out duties need to reflect the increase in numbers and the commensurate increase in complex cases.

For children with an EHCP we have recently experienced a lot of resistance from families who have withdrawn from a mainstream school and are educating at home, particularly from families who have sought advice from EHE advocacy groups in cases where it was felt that the quality of provision at home did not meet the need of the child through the plan.  Without the support of the family there is a lack of power to put the child’s needs at the forefront of any decisions. Rather than potentially changing the outcomes for a particular child for the better there has been a rise in complaints to our Special Educational Needs Assessment Service and the EHE/SEND adviser. 

There are many new statutory elements of the curriculum in recent years.  Would the EHE community consider the DfE providing a package of statutory information/guidance that would be mindful of EHE.  It’s important to consider the impact both in the short and the long term of missing out on those statutory elements of the curriculum.  If not, would they consider a best practice model where expectations are clearly laid out that refer to both curriculum and health and wellbeing. 

In The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration London: Department for Communities and Local Government (2016) Dame Louise Casey wrote “Parents should continue to have the right to home educate their children, but stronger safeguards are required to ensure the child’s right to a decent and suitable education for life in Britain, and to protect them from harm. The evidence we have seen in this review shows it is too easy for children to be raised in a totally secluded environment that does not provide a suitable education or sufficient protection from harm. One case of this happening is one too many”.  [page 120, para.7.69]


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

Yes, it would support the above LA duties.  To clarify where the statutory duty would fall and if there was going to be a register to ensure that a statutory duty was placed on parents, independent schools, academy chains and private organisations as well as schools to inform the LA to be added to such a register.

The lack of a register and statutory duty alongside such a register has demonstrated through serious case reviews that it is possible for a child to be raised in seclusion and not be in receipt of a suitable education and for professionals to be unaware of this.  It is also possible that an environment is created and sustained that does not offer sufficient protection from harm and again for services to be unaware of the lack of protective factors in a child’s life.


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




                     Child centred

                     Autonomous curriculum

                     Independent learning

                     Strengthens communities

                     Security and comfort of home environment and trusted family members

                     More time effective (ie. Reduced time travelling to and from school, between lessons, classroom management)

Potential Disadvantages


                     The wishes and needs of the child may be in contrast to the parent

                     Where parental responsibility is not shared and where there are differences in opinion between parents

                     The potential for young carers to be consumed in a caring role

                     Where additional factors such as permanent exclusion have influenced a decision and the family are not prepared

                     Isolation from peer groups

                     Where parents opt out of curriculum and statutory testing, it is variable how this is perceived in further education establishments and in society in general, potentially reducing next step opportunities in education, employment and training

                     Reduced opportunity for young people to build trusted, adult relationships beyond parents

                     Children who are EHE do not have access to clear and structured reporting and investigative processes for safeguarding disclosures (such as DSL’s, LADO).  In schools every member of staff is working to create and promote a culture that encourages children to feel safe to disclose and to support them once a disclosure has been made

                     Reduced access to services in schools such as school nursing service (non CIN children), SENCO, counselling services, therapsits and EP)

                     No access to free school meals

                     No access to pupil premium funding


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;

Ealing offers a signposting service to all children that the LA has knowledge of as being educated at home and has arrangements in place for an education adviser to meet with all families in order to discuss provision.  Information is asked for and parents engage with varying degrees of success.   There is no direct financial support for parents who elect to home educate.

The quality and relevance of the signposting support depends on the information that is provided by the parents and the level of engagement to discuss the educational approach.  Some support services are dependent on parental engagement and particularly where relationships have been fractured between school and home or past experiences of authority support this can be challenging and time consuming to broker.   Where parents are seeking direct help with the day to day teaching and learning which can result in confusion when that does not happen and ultimately the child stopping EHE.

There is a Local offer for all children with SEND but where there are undiagnosed special educational needs and parents are seeking help it is difficult to access a path for referral without professionals’ reports.  Parents currently have to go through their GP to access support from an Educational psychologist and this is rarely successful or timely. 

Where children have an EHCP and where specifics have been noted within the plan that relate directly to a group or class based learning environment, such as small group work, communication activities, interaction between peers and social wellbeing; there is a view that in many cases the home environment and or 1:1 learning is not able to meet that need, in part because the child is not being given the opportunity to experience differing enabling environments.  

Where parents fund therapies themselves there can be a lack of engagement between parents and the LA to provide details of private therapists. This in turn causes great distress. 

Where children have an EHCP engagement with families is carried out by a SEN Senior Practitioner Pupil and Family Worker with extensive knowledge of EHE and SEND. 

Many support services, charities and advocacy groups have seen cuts to how they are funded meaning there is less one to one contact.  This in particular affects the families where one or more parents are illiterate.

We signpost all our families to Ealing’s connexions service and they follow up with all of the EHE cohort at the end of the academic year that they turn 16 in. 

There is still not enough knowledge and experience of the EHE legislation amongst many professionals


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 regulatory framework is not fit for purpose and in many cases is not able to meet the need of some of our most vulnerable children in a timely way.  Any safeguarding concerns would be expedited to our Ealing Children's Integrated response service.  Ealing LA has sought advice from Ofsted's unregistered schools' team when there has been reason to believe that an unregistered school is operating.  However, the EHE enquiries remain with the parents and frequently, although concerns may be around the breadth and depth of a balanced curriculum (something which may be questioned in a mainstream school) stands up to less scrutiny if parents have elected to home educate and are only using a tuition centre to make up part of the provision.  Many tuition centres do not offer Art, Music, PE or even have an outdoor area for children to take a break in or take physical exercise.  They know the law around home education and are adept at briefing parents in what to say to LAs, for example "parents are offering the remaining curriculum at home". 

There have been cases where tuition centres and business owners decide to promote a ‘suitable’ provision decision made about an individual and apply it to their learning centre.  Many centres project themselves as private ‘schools’ and parents (and other services) are not always aware that they are not registered and therefore not under the same rigorous protocols as registered schools. 

There are further concerns with unregistered settings and children who may have SEND needs.  For example, when a child is withdrawn from mainstream education either part-way through an assessment process or when parents have withdrawn consent.  The child becomes EHE and starts to attend a learning centre and the learning centre tell the parents that there are no issues with learning despite working far below age related expectations and possible undiagnosed SEND issues.  Another example is where there are school based services involved with supporting children who may have some need for additional support but no EHCP, for example occupational health, speech and language therapy, behaviour therapy.  We are concerned that these children are missing out on crucial support which could be a contributing factor in their future learning. 

For children who are on EHC plans, just mentioning ‘safeguarding’ has been incredibly contentious with parents.  It is also very difficult to capture the voice of the child and their views on EHE, particularly where the child many be very young or have communication issues. 

Where safeguarding concerns have been raised to our integrated response service (front door) this has been because Local Authority representatives were invited into the home following an annual reviewAdditionally, this allows for other services, including therapists who may be working closely with the family to offer perspective and objectivity.  Under current legislation would the situation have been ‘seen’ if the parents had not made that invite?

Behavioural and attendance issues that can sometimes influence parental decisions to remove from school roll and educate at home can be a complex issue although it is always helpful if a school shares the circumstances leading up to the decision.  However, schools often have a different perspective to parents and vice versa so something independent that asks both schools and parents at the time to set out the reasons for their decision and asks appropriate questions may be what’s required.   However, even with accuracy and agreement about the lead up to the decision to EHE, the situation with parents, child and schools has often deteriorated so that any chance of relationship renewal is unlikely.  Additionally, parents make decisions when in a stressful situation that they later change their minds about.  Under these circumstances there may be advantages to all parties in establishing a system whereby the school holds the place open for x number of days to allow the pupil to return should the parent change their mind.


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

In order to inspect the provision by parents of EHE the inspectors would need to be knowledgeable and experienced in EHE.  There are many questions about how would it work?  Would there be a random sample?  Would the local authority be part of the inspection or would parents be part of an EHE inspection?  The information sharing agreement would need to be looked at as currently there is no statutory register

This role would have to be clarified to ensure transparency between parents and the LA but would ensure standardisation within and between local authorities nationally, which could improve outcomes for all EHE children.  Where there is inspection there would need to be an agreed protocol for improving any grades within that inspection and where the resources would come from. It is possible that whilst inspection of some kind is valid, the resulting outcomes and process to improve could potentially fracture relationships with the EHE community. 


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; and

A dedicated staff work on EHE. An Annual offer of support to all EHE families that the LA are aware of.  A signposting service.  SEND and EHE have a system for funding (requires evidence).  Internal processes are updated annually.  Improved inter-LA working and knowledge base/professional dialogue at structured termly networks.  Attendance at a dedicated EHE conference.  Regular presentations and drop-ins to different service areas to improve professional dialogue and understanding of EHE; the law and the needs of families at a local level. 

It is felt that there are still improvements to be made as there can be disjointed way of working, particularly with health servicesFor example, where health recommended education in the home but are unable to provide therapies at home.


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 helpful to divide (for the purpose of this question) those who were electing to home educate prior to covid-19 and those who have recently become educated at home as a result of not wanting to be in schools and citing covid-19 as either the main reason or part of the reason for EHE. 

With the children who were already being educated at home, there was a surge in free online and remote learning at the start of lockdown on 23rd March which was extremely well received.  A renewed interest in home education meant many articles, news items, forums, discussion, social media posts and practical ideas for home were overall positive and well received.  However, a large part of many EHE experiences is physically meeting up and many are finding the application of the current OOSS protective measures restrictive, particularly querying the bubble size of 15. 

With the children who have recently been withdrawn from school to electively home educate there have been a combination of challenges.  Where the parent has already written to the school and asked them to remove the child from the register it is possible that the child has not been seen in school since March.  Varying levels of contact from school to school with children deemed ‘vulnerable’ but were not eligible or refused a school place from June.  Offering virtual visits has allowed us to capture further information about individual circumstances on case by case basis, with many indicating that this is a short-term decision and a return to mainstream school will be happening.   This in turn is already raising questions about transition years, capacity for in-year admissions and main round admissions (missing deadlines) and for those children not yet SSA. 

There are still a lot of fearful parents, children who have had increased anxiety in lockdown and feeling that EHE is a ‘forced’ option will be compounding those anxieties

Where there are parental health issues and the covid-19 restrictions are impacting support systems, therapies and contact negatively should there be a way of highlighting to adult services where children are being educated at home if it has implications for potentially increasing risk to children?

High numbers of families are finding themselves in new financially challenging situations with many furlough schemes ending and severely reduced incomes impacting family life and well-being.  Children who would have qualified for pupil premium and free school meals in school do not have access to that now that they are EHE. 

Already, it is evident that those families without digital hardware and internet access are severely disadvantaged. 

We have also seen the issue of parents choosing to EHE because there is a vulnerable person in their household – i.e. someone previously in the shielding category – a category which stopped on 1st August according to the government but clearly parents are still too concerned about keeping that person safe and think sending their child to school will increase the risk. This is aside from those parents who have chosen EHE because they don’t think their child will be safe going to school.

We have also seen high percentages of certain ethnicities new to EHE, that would not appear to be proportionate to any trends from previously similar time periods or as a proportion of school aged children.  The two highest groups being BSOM and GRT at 19% and 9% respectively – this is as a percentage of all new additions since March.  We have seen a rise in either the use of tuition centres, private tutors and online virtual schools which is challenging to ascertain the quality of provision where they are unregistered or made via private arrangements.  Whilst we continue to explore the reasons behind the parental decision, it is overwhelmingly due to fear of the virus and or seen as a protective measure for extended family members, where childcare also plays a role.  In certain cases the lack of digital access and or capacity to support with basic literacy and numeracy skills is severely disadvantaging these children.  

The LA, schools and the Local Authority Public health team have tried to highlight to parents the measures put in place in schools to keep children safe.  The Chief Medical Officer has highlighted the very marginal levels of infections in the school age population since schools opened again to all but is there something more that could be done to reassure parents or to fund support for schools to allow access to online learning so that those children can remain on roll until the parent thinks it is safe to return, perhaps requiring criteria to be met to demonstrate that the vulnerable person is genuinely needing to be shielded etc.  

The majority of parents who have stated covid-19 as a reason for EHE have said they are going to wait until a vaccine is available before returning to school so this is not a short-term situation. 



November 2020