Written evidence submitted by Ambitious about Autism


Ambitious about Autism response Home Education Inquiry


06 November 2020


Ambitious about Autism


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which effects one in 100 people in the UK. It effects the way a person communicates and how they experience the world around them.


Autism is described as a spectrum condition. This means that while people with autism, including Aspergers Syndrome, share certain characteristics, they will be highly individual in their needs and preferences.


Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. We provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change. Through TreeHouse School, Ambitious College and the Ambitious about Autism Schools Trust we offer specialist education and support. Our mission is to make the ordinary possible for more children and young people with autism.




We welcome this call for evidence into home education and have previously made comments during the call for evidence into elective home education and the children not in school consultation.


        Ambitious about Autism supports a statutory register of home educated children.

         Ambitious about Autism also supports a duty for local authorities to support these children.

         We also feel that more action is required to enable children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and autism to remain within the school system to reduce the numbers not in school.


Ambitious about Autism is concerned about the increase in children being off-rolled from schools and consequently, home educated. We note reports from Ofsted that around 30% of pupils who leave their school between years 10 and 11 have special educational needs.[1]

From our own anecdotal evidence, we would expect many of these home educated children to have some form of special educational needs or autism which are not being met within the school system. These children are children at risk and need a greater level of support to enable them to remain within the school system.


We do not believe these children are truly electively home educated children and are a product of a school system which is failing children with SEN and autism in increasing numbers. We would support greater levels of support for these children and their parents to enable them to have a choice to return to school or receive a full education within specialist settings or the home.


With such large numbers of vulnerable children with special educational needs being home educated, we need to move to a system which is better at tracking these children. A statutory register will help local authorities to determine if they are receiving a full and suitable education.


A child with autism should also be registered under the Children in Need legal definition within the Children Act 1989 by way of being a disabled child. These children will require a greater level of support, regardless of their educational setting.



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


Ambitious about Autism is concerned about the increase in autistic children being excluded, offrolled, or left without a school place; and believe this has contributed to a rise in home education of autistic children by circumstance rather than choice.


Ofsted has reported that around 30% of pupils who leave their school between years 10 and 11 have special educational needs.[2] We also know from National Statistics[3] that last year 19,124 children with an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan were not in school: 5% of all children with an EHC Plan. Around 6,000 of these appear to be home schooled (recorded as being other arrangements made by the local authority or parents) and 3,486, were awaiting a school or educational provision.


We support the general right of all parents, including those with SEN and autism, to educate their children at home. However, we feel it is important to acknowledge that children who are not educated in school are less visible to support networks. Home education is therefore not in itself a safeguarding risk but the needs of children not in school may be more hidden.



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.


We do not believe the current regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded. We know that increasing numbers of children are being home educated, with a greater number of children with SEN and autism not in school. Existing voluntary registration schemes are insufficient to ensure all the needs of these children are being met.


In addition, more support is required within schools to meet the education and other needs of children with SEN and Autism. Greater focus needs to be given to supporting children at risk of leaving the school system to reduce the requirement to support children educated at home. We would support the introduction of measures to strengthen the accountability of the system to ensure schools and local authorities are incentivised to support children with autism. For example, examining whether to make schools financially and academically responsible for children they exclude or place in alternative provision.



Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required


Replacing voluntary registration schemes with a statutory register would help ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded and that the needs of children with autism and SEN are met at an earlier stage.

We therefore support the introduction of a statutory register for all children who are educated at home so that local authorities can effectively carry out their duties under the Children and Families Act 2014 and other duties towards children in need of help and protection.


A register should also act as a vehicle for identifying children who might need further support or assessments. By increasing the contact between local authorities and children educated at home, a register should also help ensure information is joined up.


Information to be included in the register:


The register should include, as a minimum, the same information as required to enter a child on a school roll: proof of the child’s legal name and date of birth, proof of the child’s main address and proof of parental responsibility.


A statutory register should also include information on whether a child has an EHC Plan and any SEN primary need and/or disability the child may have. Including this information will aid local authorities and others in planning for the provision and the expected levels of support they may be required to give such children.


Children who have a degree of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements should be included in the register. A register should include information on whether a child is attending an educational setting (other than their home) during school hours and details of those settings.


How a register should operate:


A register should be kept in one prescribed national format in order to match up to school rolls and track cross border movements. Local authorities should also be required to make annual returns of collated data from the register to the DfE. This information should be included alongside or as part of the annual statistics on the number and characteristics of school pupils.


To make sure local authorities have a good understanding of children who are home educated, they should be allowed to share data with other local authorities. Information sharing will be particularly important when supporting the identification of children who move between local authorities, so they do not become missing from education.


A register should be open to inspection by other bodies, such as Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. Such bodies may require inspection of the register to meet their statutory duties.


Duties on parents:


Some form of legal duty on parents may be necessary to enable the register to be effective. The mechanism for providing this should be simple and coupled with support and advice. All efforts should be made to effect compliance without sanctions. Particular consideration must be given to how parents will be informed of this duty, especially for parents who are disengaged.

Duties on proprietors of education settings:


Proprietors of settings providing education in school hours should be under a duty to supply information to local authorities about any child in scope of the register. This will help local authorities determine if the child is receiving a full and suitable education. Currently, this duty would cover education settings other than a school maintained by a local authority; a non-maintained special school; an alternative provision academy; or a registered independent school (including free schools or academies).


In addition, schools in these four categories should also have to provide information to local authorities about children leaving their settings or during transition. Providing this information would help local authorities identify any child for whom it would be reasonable to expect to be attending a school but then does not, e.g. children from primary who do not turn up at secondary provision.


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


In addition to determining whether home educated children are receiving a full a suitable education via a register, local authorities should also have a duty to provide help and support to parents of these children who request it. We feel it is important to consider how to make home educated families aware that this support is available. The level and type of this support will to a large degree be determined by the cohort of children educated at home who require it.


Those families who are most hidden are still likely to be missing from the register. Additional support will be needed by local authorities to identify these children.


All of this support needs to be underpinned by sufficient resources, which will require careful consideration. We are aware that many similar support systems to schools have been withdrawn by local authorities due to budget pressures and so many will have a low level of current support systems in place on which to develop this duty for support.


Scoping should be carried out to determine what level of resources are required. Particular consideration should be given to allocating the base level per pupil funding which would be provided if a child on the register was in a school to a separate local authority block to provide support for children educated at home.


This could be especially important given the number of children with SEN and EHC plans being home educated which may draw funding from higher needs budgets without the baseline support in place, creating an extra drain on the higher needs block.

Where it is not already the case, support for home educated children should also be included in the local authority’s local offer.


November 2020





[1] Off-rolling: using data to see a fuller picture 26 June 2018 https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2018/06/26/offrolling-using-data-to-see-a-fuller-picture/

[2] Off-rolling: using data to see a fuller picture 26 June 2018 https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2018/06/26/offrolling-using-data-to-see-a-fuller-picture/

[3] Statements of SEN and EHC plans: England, 2019https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-specialeducational-needs-sen