Written evidence submitted by the Centre for Personalised Education and the Elective Home Education Association


Evidence given to the Committee leading up to the first oral session, with an analysis of The Children Missing Education Report, November 2020, The Local Government Association




The Centre for Personalised Education is presenting this evidence on behalf of The Elective Home Education Alliance, of whom it is a member. The Alliance was formed as a direct result of the Select Committee Inquiry into Home Education and works with just over 3000 home educating families. In particular its members were driven by the apparent foregone conclusions of the Committee and the apparent acceptance of rhetoric and rumour as a foundation for recommending serious legislative change.


We call on the Committee to resist the pull of such rhetoric and rumour and to instead look into the veracity of evidence presented to it by those who have limited or no direct contact with the primary (and significantly affected) stakeholders and to ensure that conclusions and recommendations made are based on solid evidence and the lived experience of the home educating families themselves.


Academic studies are now showing that public bodies have systematically ignored articles and research contradicting their view. This amounts to, at best, institutional blindness or at worst institutional suppression. Examples of organisations that have been manipulating and misrepresenting the evidence available include the Children’s Commissioner, the ADCS, the LGA, the NSPCC. It is important that the Inquiry looks beneath the surface of what is being said.


There is a wealth of evidence available from the home educating families and their support organisations. This evidence must be given due weight and consideration and not be given limited weight in comparison to the ‘evidence’ of such public bodies.


This paper seeks to address some of the big untruths that have been presented as truths and uses as an example a thorough analysis of the LGA Children Missing Education Report, which they refer to extensively in their written and oral submissions.




The fallacious argument of schools missing out on funding

Home educated children suffering serious harm who are previously unknown to agencies

Redefining of legal and accepted terms in an attempt to move the goal posts

Trusted public bodies should be relied upon to produce accurate evidence-based information

Conclusion and recommendations

Appendix - An example of the poor quality of evidence submitted to the Committee: The Children Missing Education Report, November 2020, The Local Government Association






Analysis in detail



The fallacious argument of schools missing out on funding


A number of Local Authority (LA) submissions mention an alleged “loss” of funding, running into millions of pounds, to schools. These include Kent, Gateshead and Staffordshire. They are referring to the Age Weighted Pupil Funding (AWPU) which is distributed based on pupil numbers in schools. If a home educated child instead attended school, the funding would be required to provide the school provision. However, no pupil funding is required by the school to fund provision for a child not enrolled at the school. This situation is no different to that where an individual child attends an independent or other school rather than the school seeking that child’s pupil funding.


Using the accurate 100% FOI return survey, sent to LAs, dated to the beginning of the term after Christmas, there were 82,169 home educated children known to LAs at that point in time. If every one of them was in primary school on the minimum AWPU and none of them have pupil premium or any extra funding, then the Treasury would have to find and extra £343,466,420. Home educating families are bearing these costs themselves.


Home educated children suffering serious harm who are previously unknown to agencies


There is simply no evidence of unknown children. All of the Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) tagged with Elective Home Education and related terms such as Home Educated and available on the NSPCC Library Online were reviewed between January and March of 2021 by Exeter University (report due to be published in the 2nd quarter of the year). Some findings of this review are shared here. These SCRs had previously been reviewed by Wendy Charles-Warner of Education Otherwise.


There are 1,619 SCRs on the NSPCC Library Online, 1,362 of which are searchable. 35 of these are tagged with Elective Home Education and related terms and cover a 12 year period from 2008 to 2020. 18 of these are about a child where home education was a feature at some point in the child’s life whilst of Compulsory School Age. Of those 18 SCRs, 13 named a child who was previously at school of which 12 were recorded to have existing safeguarding concerns whilst at school. Of the remaining 5, 2 cases are unpublished so we cannot analyse whether the child was previously at school. The last 3 children were never in the school system, but were all known to both local authority officials and medical professionals and all had more than one safeguarding concern raised with those professionals about their families.


In short, there is clear evidence that all of these SCRs relate to children and families already known to multiple agencies. Every review, tagged as above, makes clear that referrals had been made in respect of safeguarding concerns to multiple agencies including, but not limited to, the Police, the Youth Offending Team, Housing Officers, Health Visitors, School Nurses, Midwives, GPs, Consultants, Adult Social Care, Children’s Social Care, CAHMS, immigration services, fostering agencies and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In one notable case (Dylan Seabridge, Wales) the LA’s own solicitor raised safeguarding concerns directly with an LA (the one he and the mother worked for, referred to as LA2 in the SCR), which information was not passed on to the resident LA (LA1). Most importantly this referral is omitted from the SCR, thus calling into question the validity of the SCR and lessening the appearance of incompetence on the part of LA2. It is no less notable that this case is frequently cited as justification for monitoring and registration of home educated children. However, the evidence suggests that in this case, as indeed in all of these SCRs, had existing procedures been correctly followed and followed in a timely manner, these children would have been safeguarded and protected from further harm.


For further insight into this point, Dr Bernard Trafford’s response[1] explains very clearly why EHE was not to blame in the case of Victoria Climbié.


Take, as an example, the tragedy that became a cause célèbre, the death in 2000 of Victoria Climbié. As the media unfolded the horrifying story of neglect, abuse and death, it was frequently reported that she had been home-educated. That was far from the truth. The five-year-old was not at school, but there was no pretense of home-education by her abusive guardian. The failure to protect her was laid squarely at the door of social services which had failed to act on concerns reported to them. Since then, LAs and social services have suffered cut after cut. If they weren’t coping back then (let alone at the time of the 2012 death of four- year-old Daniel Pelka who, though starved and beaten at home, was in school, was reported to social services by the school but was still not saved), it’s hard to see how it can be significantly better now after a further eight years of cuts to LA funding.”


In Victoria Climbié’s case, as with all of the cases where Elective Home Education is a feature, if existing procedures to safeguard children had been followed in a timely manner, the outcomes would have been different.


It should also be noted that the NSPCC, following their public statement linking Victoria’s death with home education, sent a letter of apology to Education Otherwise, signed by NSPCC Director of Public Policy, Phillip Noyes. He wrote: “I would like to apologise for the offence this has caused. Clearly there is no connection between home education and Victoria’s tragic death as she was not being educated at home.”[2]


Another much quoted case used to claim either Home Education as a safeguarding issue or to call for rigorous monitoring, is that of Khyra Ishaq who starved to death at the hands of her mother and stepfather in May 2008. During the criminal case, Justice Eleanor King, the High Court Judge presiding, said “On the evidence before the court I can only conclude that in all probability, had there been an adequate initial assessment and proper adherence by the educational welfare services to its guidance, Khyra would not have died”. She was very clear that Elective Home Education played no part in the child’s death and that the inaction of Social Care was the main issue.


Redefining of legal and accepted terms in an attempt to move the goal posts


There are numerous examples of this in submissions by public bodies. Most notably those of the Children’s Commissioner and the LGA.


The Children’s Commissioner refers to her report ‘Childhood Local Data on Risks and Needs’ (CHLDRN) in which she states, without evidence, that all children outside of mainstream education are vulnerable; a statement which simply does not stand up to examination. She redefines the legally defined term ‘Children Missing Education’ to mean ‘Children Missing from Mainstream Education’ thereby bundling up Electively Home Educated children with those in Pupil Referral Units, those excluded from school and Youth Offenders. This gives the misleading impression that any child not in school is not in receipt of an education.


The Local Government Association (LGA) in their oral and written evidence refer to their report ‘The Children Missing Education Report, November 2020’. The flaws and problems in this report are explored in detail in the appendix below. With regard to redefining terms there are two notable examples. The first is the premise for the entire report – the redefinition of a “suitable education”, legally defined in the Education Act 1996 s.7 as


Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age.

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable

(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b)to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.



              a formal, full-time education”


Indeed, the slide into using this language is quite subtle – they shift from the legal “Children Missing Education” to their alternative definition in the following way (page 2 of their report):


Children missing education do not form a homogenous group and are not always easy to identify. Our research has suggested that there are multiple routes whereby children may end up missing out on a formal full-time education, and eight main ‘destinations’ where these children may be found.”             


For clarity, transparency and accuracy, the original, legal definition must be adhered to. The LGA simply has dismissed as unacceptable, without justification, the many other pedagogies that are not ‘formal’. Their definition of ‘formal’ is “an education that is well-structured, contains significant taught input, pursues learning goals that are appropriate to a child or young person’s age and ability and which supports them to access their next stage in education, learning or employment.” Not only is this systematically discriminatory as it describes an education that would not be suitable (as defined in law) for many, but it is neither legal, evidence based or enforceable. It eliminates the unique quality of home education in that home education can be personalised to the highest degree to the individual child. Types of education that would effectively be wiped from the education landscape by introducing age related so-called minimum standards would include Self Directed Education, Democratic Education, Cooperative Education, Unschooling, Radical Unschooling, some forms of Flexischooling, Project Based Learning, Group Learning, Hands on Learning, World Schooling and Modular Learning (eg using correspondence courses to intensively study one subject at a time).


Also, in the LGA report, is reference to an “adequate education” in a passage that shows an outrageous assumption, based on no given evidence whatsoever, of 75% of children new to EHE in a 4 year period not receiving an “adequate education” (page 54 of their report):


“…we have used the 2014/15 EHE figure taken at census (23,000) as our baseline for ‘children who are EHE and receiving adequate education’. The uplift from the 2014/15 deadline to 2018/19 is 31,656. Given this high growth, we have made the assumption that 75% of that uplift accounts for ‘children who are EHE but not receiving adequate education’.”


This is a misleading, unfounded statistic that actively perpetuates falsehoods about the suitability of the home education most children receive.


Trusted public bodies should be relied upon to produce accurate evidence-based information


The above examples show bias and lack of demonstrable evidence which leads to questions about the reliability of the information submitted.


In addition, the ADCS, LGA, a number of LAs and the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals (AEHEP) have been shown to say different things in different arenas. They claim in the current inquiry that they have no plans beyond establishing a fuller list of people who home educate. However, in other recent consultations they have all very clearly made references to such things as termly monitoring, home visits and a demand to be able to assess children’s work and decide for themselves if it is suitable, based not on section 7 of the Education Act 1996, but on their own undefined “minimum standards”. This last is, of course, a nonsense as they are attempting to apply a state school, age related normative range to each individual child, thereby not taking into account circumstance, SEND or the age, ability and aptitude of the child as required by the Act.


In summary, despite public statements of only wanting a register in order to know who is home educating and enable support to be given to families, there has in fact been a multi-year campaign to use a register as a “starting point” for such things as termly assessments, testing, visits, welfare checks and investigations etc.


In evidencing this we draw your attention to the following snippets of recent history:


On 7 November, 2017, Venetta Buchanan, wrote to her colleagues on the Board of the AEHEP, advising that “the starting point is to get access to educational provision…”


12 November 2017 the AEHEP asked Lord Soley to change the title of his Bill before publishing it:


“The general view of the executive of the AEHEP is that words ‘physical and emotional’ could be left out… The important issue is the duty to monitor the child’s ‘educational’ development, safeguarding issues will be covered as EHE professionals will be able to visit the child at home/neutral location home and with a discussion with the parent and child, they will be in a better position to detect any safeguarding issues anyway.”


So, the intention was to deceive Parliament as to the true purpose of the Bill, and registration is seen as a starting point for home visits in which people who are not trained as social workers would conduct “just in case” checks on welfare without any prior evidence of need. And all social work intervention now takes the form of investigation, not just support.[3][4]


The ADCS told the Inquiry that they need a register as they do not know how well or badly home educated children do academically (which is itself only part of an educational upbringing). A register won’t change that unless it comes with powers to investigate and question families, which is a breach of their right to privacy (Article 16, UNCRC, Article 12 UNHR). This intrusion also comes with iatrogenic effects – investigations are far from benign and the cost of harm is not outweighed by the benefit of intrusion. The latest ADCS survey[5] closes with a quote calling for “standardised tests in core subjects at regular intervals”, saying this would “effectively define what a suitable education is.”


This defines the ADCS as an organisation that erroneously sees home education as school at home, tracking school in terms of literacy, numeracy, age progression and exams. A contradictory statement at odds with their last Oral Session submission.


Home education is a well-established alternative form of pedagogy, with evidence supporting its efficacy spanning the last 40 years worldwide. It is equal in law to school and not just an alternative location for state-similar schooling. The attitude of these public bodies is equivalent to colonisation of the home education space rather than protection of its special characteristics which have been formally protected in law since 1961.


It would be much better simply to commission some research to evidence need for change, or otherwise, rather than force an assessment regime on families without such evidence of need.


Conclusion and recommendations


We call on the Committee to resist the pull of rhetoric and rumour and to instead look into the veracity of evidence presented to it by those who have limited or no direct contact with the primary (and significantly affected) stakeholders. We ask that they ensure that conclusions and recommendations are made based on solid evidence and the lived experience of the home educating families themselves.


We ask that the Committee also take into account the background of the drive towards registration and the confessed intentions of those pushing for registration. That a pause is considered to allow for research and information gathering in order that an analysis of any issues is properly undertaken, the primary stakeholders are fully consulted and listened to, any solutions are derived together with those stakeholders and a full risk analysis is undertaken to assess any potential harm from changes to the current system.


We further encourage the Committee to look carefully at the evidence presented by the primary stakeholders, the home educated themselves, along with academics and home education support organisations, who are presenting you with verifiable, quality and up to date evidence along with that lived experience that only the families themselves can describe.


The Elective Home Education Alliance

March 2020









Education Otherwise Association (E.O.)

Centre for Personalised Education (C.P.E.)

Alison Sauer, C.P.E. Chair, Owner/admin of advisory service for home educating families, elective home education campaigner and former home educator.

Wendy Charles-Warner, Retired lawyer, Member of Expert witness panel for Covid (home education) Secretary and trustee Education Otherwise. Owner/admin of advisory service for home educating families.

Joanna Merrett Researcher at Centre for Social Mobility at University of Exeter

Sean McDougall, C.P.E. Trustee, elective home education campaigner and home educator.

Dr Fe Mukwamba-Sendall, Chair, Education Otherwise

Juliet English, Director at Streams Education (formerly Home Education and Advocacy Hub)

Beth Bodycote, Founder ‘Not Fine In School’, C.P.E. Trustee, PhD researcher in school attendance difficulties and former home educator

Nicola Price BA (Hons) Geography PGCE Secondary Education and Trustee of C.P.E.

Mike Wood, Founder of home-education.org.uk (the most frequently visited home education resource site in Europe), Trustee of C.P.E, home education activist and former home educator, owner of Educational Heretics Press

Liz Jenkins, Cofounder, Educational Freedom

Randall Hardy, Elective home education campaigner and former home educator

Bekkie Graham, Home educating mum of 4. Currently completing an MA in photography with research project on alternative education.

Ann Charles, C.P.E. Trustee and home education campaigner, home educated as a child - never went to school

Chloë Newby, BSc (Hons) Mathematics and Statistics, previously home educated child (see Badman inquiry 2009).

Streams Education

Dr Ian Cunningham, Chair of Governors, SML College

Appendix - An example of the poor quality of evidence submitted to the Committee: The Children Missing Education Report, November 2020, The Local Government Association


The Local Government Association (LGA) report is so deeply flawed as to be not only useless, but potentially harmful.




Although it paints a superficially alarming picture of alternative education provision, it does this by:





The terminology used in the report is not defined – where it is, it’s vague and inaccurate, for example the term “missing out on a formal, full-time education” reclassifies many as Children Missing Education (CME) without considering the quality and suitability of their education provision.


The report redefines laws, for example it claims children are entitled to a “formal, full time education” which is at odds with the Education Act 1996, s.7. It also ignores both the Children Act 2004 s.11 and the Education Act 1996 s.19




There is a lack of academic rigour.


The premise of the research is also their conclusion, thereby undermining the veracity of the whole report. Data is taken from a small, unrepresentative and self-selecting group of LAs. They quote discredited reports like the Review into Elective Home Education in England 2009 by Graham Badman, and the NSPCC briefing on ‘Home education: learning from serious case reviews’ (March 2014), the last of which was so flawed it was later retracted.


The gross mishandling of statistics runs through the entire report. There are simple arithmetic errors and conflating statistics – for example are there 7,000 or 15,000 children waiting for a school place? Both are claimed in the report. Similarly, both 4,000 and 1,000 are quoted as the number of children in unsuitable long-term provision.




The issues of the use of inappropriate terminology, the mishandling of legislation and the cherry picking and manipulation of statistics all amount to bias on the part of the authors in order to justify their own predetermined conclusions. For example, quality data and statistics were available from EHE organisations and experts, but these were ignored in favour of the flawed and discredited sources already mentioned.




The report should be ignored by the Committee and retracted by its authors. If they wish to write a report about any area in the future, they should follow the simple rules of good research which include being aware of their own prejudice and mitigating against it, consulting experts in the area being researched including academics, lawyers and the stakeholders themselves. They should also address their methodology and take some advice in the use and publication of statistics.


Analysis in detail

Misleading Choice of definition


The definition of Children Missing Education (CME) used in the report was part of the research brief given to Isos Partnership by the Local Government Association (LGA), as stated on p.6 of the report - “In December 2019, Isos Partnership was commissioned by the Local Government Association to carry out a national piece of research looking at children missing out on a formal full-time education.”


The authors therefore use this definition “any child of statutory school age who is missing out on a formal, full-time education” (p.9), rather than the statutory definition of “children of compulsory school age who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school”. However, the executive summary presents this choice as a conclusion of the research, when it could not be a conclusion, being the definition upon which the research was commissioned. This is a logical fallacy and therefore invalid. This is a sign of, at best, incompetence and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead.


The terms ‘formal’ and ‘full-time’ are likewise not defined in statute, so to clarify the chosen definition the authors add “By ‘formal’, we mean an education that is well-structured, contains significant taught input, pursues learning goals that are appropriate to a child or young person’s age and ability and which supports them to access their next stage in education, learning or employment. By full-time we mean an education for at least 18 hours per week.


The use of language appears deliberately biased. Instead of saying these children were “not receiving” the education as specified, the emotive phrase “missing out on” was used. And this adds to their biased and discriminatory assumption that a full-time formal education is the only education worth having.


The legal requirement for education under the Education Act 1996, s.7 is that parents make sure their child receives “efficient full-time education suitable— (a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b)to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.” Under the definition used by the report however, a child receiving suitable education which is not formal would be counted as CME, and a child receiving an unsuitable but formal education would not. This is clearly incompatible with the legal requirements in section 7, making the data gathered unsuitable for direct application. Further, there is no attempt to correct for the discrepancy between the non-standard definition and the regulatory landscape when the authors draw their conclusions, but instead they treat the research as being directly relevant to current law and practice.


Not only is this discrepancy between the law and the research definition not adjusted for in the conclusions, the authors repeatedly and misleadingly imply that the definition is in-line with statutory requirements, by using such terms as “missing out on their entitlement to a formal full-time education(pages 2, 6, 11, and 18 all use this phrase), even though there is no such entitlement in law.


Methodological flaws


Part 5 of Appendix A (p.54) in the report covers the methodology used to estimate CME numbers in the EHE community. It contains a number of assumptions made with poor or no justification. After acknowledging that not all home educated children are missing education, the authors state “What has been striking in recent years is the rapid increase in the numbers of children being electively home educated and, of those, the high proportion who are vulnerable in some way. Therefore, we have used the 2014/15 EHE  figure taken at census (23,000)46 as our baseline for ‘children who are EHE and receiving adequate education’”. There is no attempt to justify the choice of year for the ‘baseline’, even though the EHE population has been growing since well before this. The term ‘adequate education’ is also new here, and has not been defined previously, by implication it means ‘education which would not fall under the report’s definition of CME’. Home educated children, however, are commonly not educated in a manner that would meet the report’s definition of ‘formal’, and do not necessarily keep hours which would relate neatly to the chosen definition of ‘full-time’ either, so it is likely that much of the 2014/15 population would have been considered CME under the report’s definition.


The authors then state “The uplift from the 2014/15 deadline to 2018/19 is 31,656. Given this high growth, we have made the assumption that 75% of that uplift accounts for ‘children who are

EHE but not receiving adequate education’”. The assumption of 75% does not receive any further justification. Since ‘high growth’ has been occurring in EHE since before 2014/15, the justification is entirely baseless, and the figure of 75% appears to have been generated to reach a large final figure rather than as a realistic estimate of any kind. No attempt is made to factor in EHE children who are not known to local authorities, nor to consider the statutory CME figures on home educated children available from local authorities. The figure of 24,000 home educated children classed as CME by the report thus lacks any validity or coherence.


Further, in part 8 of the appendix (p.55), the authors include extrapolated figures for statutory CME taken from 10 local authorities. There is no attempt to check if these local authorities are representative, nor to adjust for the proportion of home educated children included in the totals. This means home educated children who meet the statutory definition of CME will be double counted in the total figure calculated, as the two estimates are summed.


In many areas, the estimated figures are based on extrapolation from local authority returns which represent a very small proportion of local authorities in the country. Only 35 local authorities out of the 151 in the country participated in the research at all, and of these only 17 provided any data on the various areas of CME the report authors were investigating. While the 35 LAs who attended workshops on the issue were said to be “a good mix of urban and rural areas with different levels of deprivation and a variety of contexts in terms of school organisation” (p.7) they were not necessarily representative of the country as a whole, and the minority which provided data is likely to be less representative still, due to the self-selecting nature of the cohort.


Multiple inconsistencies


The authors quote different totals and different figures for estimated CME in each destination throughout the report. The first outline, fig. 4 on page 24 of the report, lists a total of 244,000 children missing education, but adding the surrounding figures in the diagram produces a total of 274,000. Pages 24 and 25 go on to elaborate on the eight subsections of the diagram, presenting further discrepancies. The figure for children awaiting a school place is given as 15,000, whereas in the diagram it is listed as 7,000 (less than half as many – where did the other half go?). That of children in long-term unsuitable alternative provision is listed as 11,000, whereas in fig. 4 it is listed as 4,000 (a difference of 7,000 – just over a third of the other figure – again where did these children go?). The total then given on page 26 is 282,000, which is not the total shown in fig.4 (274,000) nor the total reached by summing the figures quoted in-line (274,000+8,000+7,000=289,000). Clearly arithmetic is not their strong point. This is illustrative of the LGA’s lack of both caring about accuracy and attention to detail.



In Appendix A, the opposite problem occurs, with the authors saying “When summed together, we estimate there to be ~289,000 children and young people in destinations that constitute missing out on formal, mainstream education” even though the figures listed in the appendix sum to 282,000. These discrepancies throw doubt on the validity of the conclusions, as well as the competence of the authors. The calculations used to extrapolate data provided by LAs are not given, but with so many evident errors it is impossible to have confidence in the accuracy of any calculations, or even in the accuracy of transposition of figures given by local authorities.



Misrepresentation of the law


As previously covered, the report uses misleading phrases about an “entitlement to a formal full-time education”, which speciously states formality is one of the requirements laid down in statute.


On page 8, after quoting the statutory definition of CME, the authors say the definition is insufficient because it “does not, for example, acknowledge that there will be children and young people amongst those who are being educated other than at school whose education is neither efficient, full-time or [sic] suitable to their age, ability and aptitude” even though a child in such a situation would indeed be classed as missing education under the statutory definition.


The duty upon parents under s.7 of the Education Act 1996 is misquoted in the report on page 9, leaving out the crucial element of suitability.


On the same page, the authors list responsibilities of local authorities: “Currently local authorities are responsible for:


• Ensuring children of compulsory school age receive suitable education in school or otherwise.

This is incorrect. Parents are the ones responsible for ensuring their children receive a suitable education under s.7 of the Education Act 1996. Local authorities are only responsible for intervening if it appears that parents are failing to provide a suitable education, and it is only in that circumstance that local authorities can require a parent to satisfy them that the education their child is receiving is suitable, according to s.437 of the same statute.


• Identifying children who are not registered at school and who are not receiving suitable

education otherwise.

This is correct. The Education Act 1996, s.436A (1) states

A local authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—

(a)are not registered pupils at a school, and

(b)are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.


• Requiring parents to satisfy the LA that a child is receiving suitable education.

This is incorrect. The requirement to satisfy (The Education Act 1996, s.437(1)) only comes into effect if informal enquiries have raised identifiable concerns. Many local authorities do not understand this and unlawfully make demands far in excess of what is required.


• Arranging provision for children who have been excluded permanently on the sixth day of


This is correct


• Keeping children safe and co-operating with other agencies to do so

This is incorrect. Local authorities do not have a blanket duty to keep children safe, but rather to exercise their existing functions with a view to the safeguarding and the promotion of children’s welfare under s.11 of the Children Act 2004, and to investigate if there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is at risk of significant harm under s.47 of the Children Act 1989.


Finally, a relevant statutory responsibility is missed from this list, namely the duty under Section 19 of the Education Act 1996 for the local authority to provide suitable education to any child who for reasons of exclusion, ill health, or otherwise would not receive a suitable education without such provision. This is a significant omission because many of the children who fall under the definition of CME used in the report would fall under this responsibility, e.g. children who cannot attend school full time due to ill health.


Misrepresentation of available evidence


First, there is a notable omission of any home education organisations or peer reviewed research in the bibliography of the report (p. 56-58). There is no mention in the methodology of experts in the field of home education being consulted. No other area considered in the report is as poorly represented in the methodology. This is clearly discriminatory.


Another major omission is the failure to acknowledge that local authorities keep records of the number of home educated children in their area returning to school due to school attendance orders (SAOs), which should match the number of home educated children judged CME by the statutory definition. Even though the authors are using a modified definition for CME, all such children would fall under this modified definition, and the data could be used to track trends in CME levels among home educated children.

Of the sources included in the bibliography, several are problematic. The NSPCC report “Home education: learning from case reviews (2014)” was retracted shortly after publication, due to successful challenge on the grounds of discrimination and assumptions made, and the link included in the report does not lead to the retracted review but to a statement on its retraction. It is unclear therefore whether the authors actually read the retracted review, and if so why they decided to use such a discredited document to inform their research.


The Association of Directors of Children Services (ADCS) Elective Home Education Surveys listed in the bibliography do not use data from all LAs, but extrapolate from a sample which is not representative. There has been research conducted by the charity Education Otherwise which used Freedom of Information Request data to obtain accurate figures for the numbers of home-educated children known to all local authorities. This comes to a lower total than the ADCS estimate, but this data was not used by the authors of the report in spite of being available to the LGA.


Unjustifiable conclusions


Even ignoring all the problems outlined above, the conclusions of the report do not follow from the evidence presented. On page 51, the authors begin their recommendations for national government by stating “It is vital that, nationally, we have a system of oversight to ensure that all children receive their entitlement to a formal, full-time education. This position has no basis in law and stands in contradiction to earlier statements in the report such as “Decisions to remove a child from a school or to place them on a part-time timetable, for example, can all be made for very rational and well intentioned reasons. When these decisions are taken with the best interests of the child in mind, they may well contribute to that child accessing education more successfully in future” (p.11), which clearly indicate that a formal full-time education is not always something that should be ‘ensured’ for a child, because it is not always in their best interests. The authors have not only chosen a definition which exceeds the current legal definition, but are not even consistent in thinking it appropriate, despite presenting it as an existing entitlement rather than making a sincere case for changing the law to fit their invented definition.


The first recommendation in the report (mysteriously listed as point ‘5’) is to “raise the profile of children missing formal full-time education”, which amounts to a request for the definition of CME to be changed to the one used in the report “Our research has shown that the current statutory definition of children missing education does not capture many of the children who are missing out on a suitable education....[w]e would therefore recommend that the Government adopts a broader definition of children who are missing out on formal, full-time education, collects and publishes data on the numbers of children who meet the definition and tracks the long-term destinations and outcomes for children missing formal full-time education.” This ignores the legislative framework on which the statutory definition of CME is premised, and continues ignoring the mismatch between suitability and formality. Further, it proposes to aggregate all data about children who meet this proposed definition, even though the report considers multiple situations which can result in a child being out of formal full-time education, and does not show any equivalence between them which would make pooling data on outcomes meaningful. The high proportion of the CME total estimated by the authors consisting of school pupils with high absence rates, for instance, could overwhelm trends in outcomes for smaller groups such as home educated children or children in alternative provision, muddying the waters and thereby making it harder to understand the effect of different educational situations on children in the long-term.


The final point recommends: “Strengthen the legislative framework around electively home educated children” and presses for the creation of “a new duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children of compulsory school age who are not at a state funded or registered independent school and a new duty on parents to provide information if their child is not attending a mainstream school. The purpose of these changes would be to enable better registration and visibility of those educated other than at school. The evidence collected through this research suggests that both changes would be beneficial in strengthening the oversight afforded to vulnerable children within this cohort”. The research, being based entirely on children who are known to the local authority already, did not, and could not, suggest any such thing. Moreover, the list on p. 9 incorrectly implies that some of these required changes already exist. In other words, they are asking for something which they appear to believe, incorrectly, already exists.


The increase in EHE numbers used in the report’s estimate is made up of children who have deregistered from school, who are all known to their local authority as per the school’s obligation under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 to inform the local authority about all deletions from the admission register, and children who have become known to the local authority via other routes such as consensual parental contact, or information sharing from other agencies. Only children who have never attended school, never had concerns raised about their education or safety, never voluntarily contacted the local authority, and never accessed support for SEND or other needs remain unknown, and there is no way for a register to render them magically visible - nor any evidence of ‘vulnerability’ or a need for ‘oversight’, as these are by definition children about whom no concerns have ever been raised. Further, having children on a register does not change their ‘visibility’ to the authorities unless checks are made, for which there is no legal basis in the absence of concerns, and children about whom concerns have been raised will already be known to the authorities and thus ‘visible’. To make any meaningful change, any register would have to be accompanied by routine monitoring, and there is nothing about monitoring in the recommendations of the report. This is possibly because routine monitoring would be an unprecedented, intrusive and inherently damaging step to take in regard to children about whom no concerns have been raised, and very burdensome for the local authorities to carry out.




Taken together, the failings of the report along multiple dimensions make it utterly unfit to inform policy or to relate to other similar research. By choosing to use a non-standard definition from the outset, and ignoring applicable law, the authors then manage to paint a misleading, exaggerated and alarming picture of children missing education. However, even within those constraints, the failures of methodology, analysis, and reasoning mean the recommendations arrived at cannot be taken seriously. If put into use, locally or legislatively, these flawed definitions will end up causing harm to both children who are missing education, and many who are receiving suitable education but fall afoul of the new boundaries the LGA appears to seek to draw.


We call on the LGA to retract the paper in light of its complete lack of credibility, and urge that future research be carried out with due regard to the law and available data, such that the needs of children who are genuinely missing education can be addressed, without impinging on those children for whom a suitable education is not formal or school-based.


April 2021

Flaws in the Evidence – Elective Home Education Alliance – March 2021              Page | 18


[1] Dr Trafford is a former head of an independent school and has previously advised DfE and the Council of Europe regarding “Student Voice”, cowriter of the book “Handbook on Democratic Governance of Schools” - see Inquiry Submission reference number HED0372

[2] http://www.christian.org.uk/news/nspcc-sorry-for-home-school-child-abuse-slur/

[3] https://edyourself.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/correspondence-various-las-lord-soley-home-education-bill/


[4] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/15/rise-in-referrals-social-services-trauma-families-child-protection


[5] https://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_EHE_survey_summary_analysis_FINAL.pdf