Written evidence submitted by Kent County Council



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

Kent takes these duties extremely seriously; expanding the team of EHE Support and Advice officers in early 2020, from 6 to 8, in an effort to meet the increased popularity of elective home education. In addition to the customer facing role of the Support and Advice Officers, Kent have four dedicated administrators and a qualified Teacher who co-ordinates the team and is called in to assess the quality of education where there is any ambiguity regarding suitability. 

Kent would consider itself better resourced than many authorities, however, without designated funding and changes to legislation, an authority cannot be expected to assure the safeguarding of families it cannot access, or who it only has access to briefly on an annual basis. However well-resourced an authority may be, it may only act within its lawful powers; and whilst the Departmental guidance issued in April 2019 was welcomed, it does not go far enough to enable an LA to assure the safeguarding of children, particularly those unknown to the authority, nor does the guidance grant the Authority any effective oversight of the quality of any home education.

In isolation, section 436 & 437 of the 1996 Education Act are not sufficient to safeguard a child in a standalone capacity.  A robust legislative structure is required to ensure a parent engages with the Local Authority and is able to provide evidence of progress of the learning taking place. Without updated legislation, the powers of the LA are ill defined and lacking and current guidance leaves too much scope for challenge.  This can result in lengthy prosecutions and costly court cases; sometimes resulting in a parental fine. Inevitably during this process, a child would remain without an education for extended periods of time.  

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

It may be more useful to ask what is to be gained by not knowing who is being educated and how and where that education is taking place. Each child has a right to an education and to be protected by their government and the data LAs collate shows that this is simply not the case for all children.

It is widely accepted that no accurate measure exists nationally of the number of children who are home educated and who remain hidden from services. This would suggest that current voluntary registration schemes are not effective in identifying every child and whether they are in receipt of education. It is wrongly assumed that a child who is home educated or who may not be in receipt of an education will come to the attention of other professionals, unfortunately that is not the case.  A national registration scheme would significantly improve the ability of LAs to identify families who previously remained ‘under the radar’ and who have for their own reasons, made a conscious decision to avoid engagement with the AuthorityIt would also serve to inform these parents of their duty to educate and what that duty may entail.

We suggest that education provision for every child not on a mainstream school roll should be recorded against a unique pupil number with details of their education provider, to be provided to the LA by parents in time for a central submission to be made in line with School Census timescales(possibly using the DfE Keys to Success database), collecting the same Census data items. This would enable LAs to follow a child through their education and identify those who are thought not to be in receipt of the education to which they are legally entitled.  This type of system would also highlight any education provision that may previously have gone unmonitored and therefore not held to account for the curriculum or outcomes of the ‘alternative provisionit offers

With a registration scheme in place, the same data that a school would be required to submit at census could be collected for Local Authority registers.

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

Kent recognise that many cases of Elective Home Education are appropriate, well delivered and in the child’s best interests. Parents and carers may feel that schools are unable to support their child’s learning style and not all children thrive with structure and demands of continued assessment. School and its associations can become overwhelming and parents understandably elect to remove their child from what to them is perceived as a negative and stressful environment, to allow their child to develop and learn with a more bespoke offer.

Ideally a home education package would be based on the individual child’s development and pace of learning, allowing them to grow and develop as an individual. It would also evidence progress of learning throughout their journey.  Where families link in with home education groups, they are in the main well supported and a child has access to their peers via group activities. The majority of these families are keen to share their successes with the LA.

The focus of Local Authorities is on those families who do not wish to home educate, but who find themselves coerced into it or consider it an easier alternative than ensuring their child attends school regularly. In these scenarios, a child may be isolated for long periods of time while parents work or have unsupervised time outside of the home engaging in negative relationships with no prospect of an education.  They may also lose the friendships they have developed while in an official school setting. Ultimately, children may reach a point where they are no longer of compulsory school age, with no qualifications and no clear path for a future career or further education.

  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.

Where a child is removed from a school roll, families have no access to funding and any external support commissioned previously by the school is halted.  Kent would like to see designated funding set aside using AWPU funding to enable local authorities to adequately staff and resource home education support

Using the known number of pupils registered within Kent as being home educated, we can confidently estimate the loss of AWPU funding to Kent schools to be in the region of 12 million pounds a year. There are of course an unknown cohort of children who reside in Kent but for whom KCC has no record as they have never been placed on a school roll, so the true figure is likely larger.  This funding could be utilised to provide accessibility support for home educated children that could reduce the disparity of offer compared to what would be available to them if they were on the roll of a school.

Families with children educated outside the school system do not necessarily have access to external organisations. There should be an expectation that agencies such as CAHMS and NHS should provide the same offer of support that a child or young person may usually receive in School, (for example, vaccinations and CAHMS outreach). Officers report that children removed from a school roll due to anxiety are unlikely to receive additional support to address this. A centralised registration scheme would also support this vital assistance.


There is no guarantee that home educated children will be prepared for the world post education, which significantly increases their chances of becoming a Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) statistic.


A central funding budget could ensure a prescribed national offer is available, providing consistency of across the Country regardless of which County the child resides in.


  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’


In recent years, there has not only been a significant increase in the number of notifications of children being educated at home, there is substantial evidence to show that many of these children are not receiving a suitable education, or in fact any education at all.  It was hoped that by now the government would have a clearer understanding of the limited powers available to LA’s and how with improved legislation better support could be provided to electively home educated children.


Without mandatory oversight an LA cannot differentiate between those who are genuinely home educated, and those who are not; it can only make assumptions

Before a child is off-rolled from a school a parent should be required to demonstrate that they have considered a plan and have the ability and resources to educate their child in accordance with their age, ability and aptitude. This would ensure parents have a clear understanding of the significance of the decision that is being made, highlight that their child’s educational offer will be monitored and that they will be required to formally evidence that education when the LA subsequently makes contact. It is appreciated that the majority of parents are not qualified teachers, however, as a minimum a parent should be required to provide reasonable assurances that they are capable of providing their child with a suitable education and where they are unable to show this for themselves, they should be required to provide evidence they have the resources to commission external education provision instead

As an additional safeguard and in order to support the most vulnerable children, where a child is subject to a Child Protection plan or is child in need, the panel chair should make clear that if the parent/carer has declared their child EHE, or states an intention to do so, the risk will be re-considered in light of this information, with the likelihood that the child could be considered unsafe as a consequence. 

To ensure further safeguarding, recommendation would be for the government to hold a national register of Tutors who would be required to provide evidence of qualifications,  references and a current enhanced DBS certificate before they have one to one access with a child.

Alongside any consideration of new legislation, it is imperative that a clear definition of what constitutes a satisfactory education is also providedIt may be helpful for this to mirror the framework of what is to be delivered in an Independent school environment.

Officers see evidence of children being child recently off rolled from schools to avoid permanent exclusion or attendance fines.  Where officers do not see any evidence or more commonly cannot gain access to the home or child, it is a lengthy process following the guidance set out under sections 436 and 437 of the education act to take legal action.  In the case of a child in year 11 it will be unlikely to make it to court before they are no longer of statutory school age, thus failing the child and leaving them with no opportunity to take exams.


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


Consideration must be given to who should carry out inspections and what a regulatory inspection framework would look like.  It must ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children are safeguarded, including those that attend unregistered schools


By reviewing the role of any inspectorate, it quickly becomes clear that without legislation setting out standards and measures, it is impossible to carry out an inspection, one can only make an assessment.  It is an ongoing concerning that LAs are required to carry the burden of decision making without provision of a legal framework in which to work. 


Within the protection of a legal framework, Local Authorities would be able to carry out their role more effectively and in turn Ofsted would have standards on which to base their inspection of a Local Authority’s duty to carry out their role on. Any oversight should include a central register of Tutors, who under the current system remain unregulated, avoiding any external scrutiny of their work, particularly if they have no appropriate training or expertise in working with children.  Where there is no regulation there is no measure of quality or appropriateness of the education being delivered. Time spent in education is not a measure of the quality of learning taking place, especially if the curriculum is not challenging the child.  It is likely that the significant growth in home education fuels the growth in unregistered schools and tutor agencies. With no regulation of these agencies, children may be placed in dangerous environments or find themselves potentially in the care of individuals restricted from working with children. In the worst-case scenario, no oversight could lead to instilling extremist views at a time when children are in their most formative years.  This is particularly relevant as in recent months there has been a number of reported Right Wing groups setting up websites targeting home educators.



  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


The 2012 report Support for Home Education referred to ‘inconsistency across the Country in the approach of Local Authorities.  This has been addressed by the setting up of the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals (AEHEP) and its subgroups around the Country. Together these groups have focused on delivering a more closely aligned offer, sharing best practice and processes


However, each LA’s individual offer continues to be dependent on the availability of funding. Unfortunately, Elective Home Education has fallen victim to the necessity of some authorities to withdraw non-statutory departments.



8        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.


Nothing could have prepared even the most well-resourced authorities for the notifications coming through this September; it has been simply overwhelming. Kent received 588 notifications in the period of September alone (a 180% increase on the same period last year) and notifications have yet to slow down. By 20 October 2020, Kent have recorded 763 new notifications, bring the total number of children registered to 3286.


When a new notification arrives, there is associated processing to record the child on the EHE database.  This includes completing initial safeguarding checks and contacting the previous school for information, leaving officers struggling to sustain the workloads. It is almost impossible to visit nearly 800 families within a reasonable time frame in addition to visiting and sustaining contact with the families already registered who may require regular support and guidance. 


Covid has not only created a national increase in the notifications to home educate, it has provided a legislative screen for those who choose not to engage with the authorities and would have declined to engage regardless of a pandemic.  


To sustain engagement with our EHE families, Officers are contacting families by phone and offering emails and video calls to families in place of a visit.  It would be helpful if online resources set up when the schools closed, continued to be available to families who genuinely wish to home educate their child, it would also provide as a benchmark assessment tool for LA Officers to record that an education is taking place.


November 2020