Elective home education

Under section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, it is the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause (the child) to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his (or her) age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he (or she) may have either by regular attendance at school or ‘otherwise’.

For most children this means they will attend a local authority school. Some parents choose to send their children to private or independent schools. Others take on the duty to educate their children themselves.

The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. In England, education is compulsory but school is not.

We have a statutory duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996, inserted by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, to make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities, so far as it is possible to do so, of children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school (for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision).

We have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education.

Reasons to educate your child out of school

Parents may decide to exercise their right to home educate for a variety of reasons. The following reasons are common but by no means exhaustive:

  • distance or access to a local school
  • religious or cultural beliefs
  • philosophical or ideological views
  • dissatisfaction with the system
  • a child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school

Educating your child at home is a major step. It is a great responsibility and requires a commitment of time and energy and enthusiasm and recognition of your child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations.

Deciding to educate your child at home may not be in your child’s best interest if it is as a result of a disagreement with the school at which your child is currently registered. You should talk to school staff, the headteacher and the chair of governors in an attempt to resolve the problem. If you still cannot resolve the issue you may wish to contact the outreach and attendance service for support.

Educating your child at home also may not necessarily be the best solution if your child is reluctant to attend school. School staff and the school attendance worker are experienced in these problems and will be able to offer help and advice.

We work with parents who choose this route, however we are unable to provide any financial assistance to parents in order for them to do this.

What you need to do

If your child is of compulsory school age and registered at a school you need to write to the school requesting that your child’s name is removed from the school roll, as you intend to withdraw them in order to educate at home. On receipt of this letter the school should then delete your child’s name from the school roll. The school then has a duty to inform us of this, although it would be helpful if you also sent a copy of the letter to us.

You will then be asked to complete and return the elective home education form giving us some basic information on how you plan to educate your child at home. For instance, what subjects? How often? and so on. Please note this form is not an application form, you may choose to provide the information in an alternative way.

What we do

We have an officer who visits families who are educating at home and they will be asked to contact you unless you indicate that you do not wish for this to happen. This could be a visit at your home or other agreed location or an initial telephone conversation. For children who have a statement of special educational needs or an education health and care plan (ECHP) the officer will be an educational psychologist.

The visits are intended to be supportive and will look at the education that is being provided and how it is progressing. It is up to parents how they wish to show how the child is receiving an education with a broad and balanced curriculum. The following questions may form part of the discussion:

  • how are you planning to ensure that your child is offered a broad and balanced curriculum?
  • what are your short and long term plans?
  • how is the work to be organised?
  • how will you record and assess your child’s progress/difficulties?
  • how do you intend to provide for your child’s physical development?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The visiting officer will be keen to discuss with you ways in which you feel the education is appropriate for your child, and to understand how you intend to fulfil your duties to provide education for your child under the education act.

At intervals through your home education programme we may ask for additional information.

Safeguarding children

In line with the safeguarding children in education guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) we strongly recommend that anyone employed by you as part of your child’s educational programme has a current Disclosure and Barring Service clearance (formerly the CRB) and can supply satisfactory references and evidence of appropriate qualifications for similar work.

Please note we are unable to provide details of private tutors.

What needs to be taught

An 'efficient' and 'suitable' education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but 'efficient' has been broadly described as an education that 'achieves that which it sets out to achieve', and a 'suitable' education is one that 'primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.' We recognise that there are many approaches to educational provision and what is suitable for one child may not be for another.

The national curriculum does not apply to children educated at home, but you may wish your child to enter or re-enter state education at some point in the future and if this is the case you may wish to follow it as closely as possible.

Because a child’s education is important it will be helpful to have a long term plan rather than trying to manage on a daily basis. You will not be required to present an educational programme in terms of school subjects, and the visiting officer will not necessarily be looking for evidence of learning in each separate subject area. We do not expect every family to be the same. Children learn differently depending on their needs.

Your timetable does not have to be rigid but you will need to show that you are serious and systematic about your intentions. It is your own responsibility to plan and carry out your arrangements. The visiting officer may feel able to offer advice or suggest useful resources but cannot undertake to direct your child’s learning or to provide books or other equipment.

There are sometimes difficulties when commencing GCSE work. Syllabus requirements have to be matched to particular examination centres. Finding an examination centre can be difficult for non school based students and early efforts need to be made to overcome this potential difficulty.

Think about opportunities for your child to be involved in social activities and contact with other children, and joint activities with other children and groups. These activities may provide a useful social setting and improve your child’s motivation to succeed with his or her learning.

How we provide feedback

Once the visiting officer has visited they will write a report detailing what they have seen. A copy will be sent to you and you will be invited to make any written comments on its contents.

The visiting officer would then liaise with you to schedule any future visits. However, if any doubts are expressed at any stage and the education requires a more frequent review this will need to be undertaken as appropriate.

Parents will always be informed of any issues that are causing concern and time is given for changes to be made before a further visit is made.

Occasionally if for some reason we are still concerned, and parents are unable to improve the situation, we may issue a school attendance order requiring the child to become a pupil at a named school. This is very rare, and it will only happen if we are not convinced that your child is receiving a suitable education. It is hoped that this can be overcome as a result of detailed discussions, rather than proceeding with the school attendance order.

Deciding to educate your child at home is a major step. It is a great responsibility and requires a considerable commitment of time and energy.

Keep your options open. Your child’s needs will change as they grow up, take their opinion into account.

Take advice from those who are already following this route and ask them about the problems as well as the pleasures.

For many parents and children, education outside the school system is an exciting challenge and a constructive and worthwhile experience.

Clarification of terms

Currently ‘compulsory school age’ means from the beginning of the school term after his or her 5th birthday, until he or she is able to leave school. A child can leave school on the last Friday in June in the school year in which they reach 16.

Since 2013 young people have to do one of the following until the end of the academic year in which they reach the age of 17. This applies to any child born after 31 August 1996:

  • stay in full time education (school, college, home education)
  • go into work based learning (for example an apprenticeship)
  • undertake part time accredited education or training for the equivalent of 1 day per week if employed, self employed or volunteering for more than 20 hours per week

Since September 2015 this now applies to young people until they reach the age of 18 or they have attained a Level 3 qualification (A Level or similar).This applies to any child born after 31 August 1997.

‘Parent’ means anyone who has parental responsibility and anyone who has the actual day to day care of the child. If there is a care order, an education supervision order or if the child is a ward of court, different rules apply and you should ask for advice. Everyone with parental responsibility has equal right to be involved in determining the child’s education, unless a court order says differently. Where a child is living away from someone who has parental responsibility, careful consultation should take place before taking any major educational decisions.

‘Special educational needs’ may include a statement of special educational needs or education health and care plan and parents of children with statements or ECHP’s should not commit themselves to this route without consulting us. If the child who is to be withdrawn from school is a pupil at a special school, the school must inform us before the child’s name can be deleted from the school roll and we will need to consider whether the elective home education is suitable before amending the ECHP.

Page last updated: 05 June 2019
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