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Guidance for parents educating children at home
Education is a fundamental right for every child and we recognise that parents have the right to choose to educate their child other than at school. This guidance is designed to help those who have made the decision to home educate.
Parents are responsible for ensuring that their children receive a suitable education. Where parents have chosen to home educate, we too want the home educated child to have a positive experience.
We believe this is best achieved where parents and the Local Authority both recognise the parts they have to play and work together.
These guidelines aim to clarify the balance between the right of the parent to educate their child at home and our responsibilities as a local authority to have oversight.
Portsmouth City Council Contact Address:
INCLUSION Elective Home Education
Floor 2, Core 6 Civic Offices
Portsmouth PO1 2EA
Elective home Education (EHE) is the term used by the Department for Education (DfE) to describe a parent’s decision to provide education for their children other than at to school. This is different to home tuition provided by a local authority for those children too ill to come to school or education provided by a local authority other than at a school.
These guidelines are intended for use in relation to EHE only and in conjunction with the DfE’s guidance. Throughout these guidelines, ‘parents’ should be taken to include all those with parental responsibility, including guardians and carers as per s.7 of the Education Act 1996.
Children whose parents elect to educate are not normally registered at mainstream schools, special schools, independent schools, academies, Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), colleges, children’s homes with education facilities or education facilities provided by independent fostering agencies.
However, in some cases parents may make arrangements for a child to receive part of his or her total education at a school (‘flexi-schooling’) – or at an FE college or other 16- 19 provider if the child is aged 14 or above. The purpose of this will often be to provide education in specific subjects more easily than is possible at home. Schools and colleges are under no obligation to agree to such arrangements, but some are on occasion willing to do so. Some parents may also choose to engage private tutors or other adults to assist them in providing a suitable education; there is no requirement for you to do so but this may be a relevant option.
Parents may choose home education for a variety of reasons. Our primary interest lies in the suitability of parents’ education provision and not their reason for doing so. The following reasons for home educating are common, but by no means exhaustive:
However, the Local Authority is keen that where EHE results from an issue with the school provision, that assistance is provided to parents to resolve these if possible.
The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. In England, education is compulsory, but school is not. Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that:
“No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
Parents have a right to educate their children at home. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 provides that:
“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.”
The responsibility for a child’s education rests with his or her parents. An “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but “efficient” has been broadly described in case law 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”.
Parental rights and responsibilities
Parents may decide to exercise their right to home educate their child from a very early age and so the child may not have been previously enrolled at school. They may also elect to home educate at any other stage up to the end of compulsory school age.
Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home but the LA will keep records of those who have chosen to do so and seek to be satisfied that all children are in receipt of a suitable education. Parents who choose to educate their children at home must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations.
Local authorities’ responsibilities
We will provide written information about elective home education that is clear, accurate and sets out the legal position, roles and responsibilities of both the local authority and parents. This information is available on our website and in alternative formats on request. We recognise that there are many approaches to an educational provision, not just a “school at home” model. What is suitable for one child may not be for another, but all children should be involved in a learning process.
We have a statutory duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996, inserted by the 3 Education and Inspections Act 2006, to make arrangements to enable us to establish the identities, so far as it is possible to do so, of children in our 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).
Further to this the Local Authority has a duty to enquire about a child’s education if they are of compulsory school age. Enquiries be timely and effective. Therefore the LA does has a duty of oversight and this will be carried out at least annually.
However, under Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996, we shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education.
This section states that:
“If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.”
Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served. Prior to serving a notice under section 437(1), we will try to address the situation informally with parents. If we have information that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, we would ask parents for further information about the education they are providing. Such a request is not the same as a notice under section 437(1), and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures. Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but it would be sensible for them to do so.
Section 437(3) refers to the serving of school attendance orders:
(a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and
(b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school, the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a “school attendance order”), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.”
A School Attendance Order (SAO) will only be served after reasonable steps have been taken to try to resolve the situation.
At any stage following the issue of the Order, parents may present evidence to us that they are now providing an appropriate education and apply to have the Order revoked. If we refuse to revoke the Order, parents can choose to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. If we prosecute the parents for not complying with the Order, then it will be for a court to decide whether or not the education being provided is suitable and efficient.
The court can revoke the Order if it is satisfied that the parent is fulfilling his or her duty.
It can also revoke the Order where it imposes an Education Supervision Order (ESO).
Detailed information about SAOs are contained in Ensuring Regular School Attendance paragraphs 6 to 16. Where we impose a time limit, every effort will be made to make sure that both the parents and the officer with responsibility for EHE are available throughout this period.
We also have a duty under section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
This section states:
“A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred upon them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.”
Section 175(1) does not extend local authorities’ functions. It does not, for example, give us the powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education.
The Children Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”) provides the legislative framework for developing children’s services as detailed in Every Child Matters: Change for Children.
The background and aims of Every Child Matters can be found on its dedicated website.
Section 10 of the 2004 Act sets out a statutory framework for cooperation arrangements to be made by local authorities with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area.
Section 11 of the 2004 Act sets out the arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, this section does not place any additional duties or responsibilities on local authorities over and above section 175(1) of the Education Act 2002. Statutory Guidance on Making Arrangements to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 has been updated and published in April 2007.
As outlined above, we have general duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (section 175 Education Act 2002 in relation to their functions as a local authority and for other functions in sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004).
These powers allow us to insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern (sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989).
However, such powers do not bestow upon us the ability to see and question children who are EHE in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education.
Section 53 of the 2004 Act sets out the duty on us to, where reasonably practicable, take into account the child’s wishes and feelings with regard to the provision of services. Section 53 does not extend local authorities’ functions. It does not, for example, place an obligation on us to ascertain the child’s wishes about elective home education as it is not a service provided by the local authority.
Section 36 of the 1989 Children Act give us the power to consider an ESO as an alternative to, or as well as any prosecution for non-compliance with an SAO. Applying for an ESO may be the proportionate response when parents are not complying with an SAO.
Portsmouth City Council in line with current government recommendations have reviewed our policy on EHE. We believe it provides clear guidance for parents and reflects the current law and statutory guidance. In addition to this we have taken on board input from home educating parents.
It is important that all parties involved in EHE are aware of their roles, rights and responsibilities. Our policy is to ensure all guidelines are clear, transparent and easily accessible to parents.
All our procedures for dealing with home educating parents and children are equitable, clear, consistent, non-intrusive and timely, in order to provide a good foundation for the development of trusting relationships.
All our officers who deal with EHE are fully aware of our policy, government guidelines, and the law.
We acknowledge that learning takes place in a wide variety of environments and not only in the home. However, if it appears that a suitable education is not being provided, we will seek to gather any relevant information that may assist us in reaching a properly informed judgment. This will include seeking from the parents any further information that they wish to provide which explains how they are providing a suitable education. Parents will always be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns that the authority has. The child involved will also be given the opportunity, but is not required, to attend any meeting that may be arranged or invited to express his or her views in some other way. Please note that parents are under no duty to respond to our requests for information or a meeting, but it would be sensible for them to do so because until the local authority is satisfied that a home educating child is receiving a suitable full-time education, then the child being educated at home falls under the scope of the powers and duties in relation to children missing education.
There is no definition of ‘suitable’ education in statute law, although as stated in s.7 as quoted above, it must be suitable to the age, ability and aptitudes of the child, and any special educational needs. This means that it must be age-appropriate, enable the child to make progress according to his or her particular level of ability, and should take account of any specific aptitudes (for example if a child is very good at mathematics, it might focus more on that than some other subjects). More generally, you should bearing mind that:
There are no legal requirements for you as parents educating a child at home to do any
of the following:
However, many home-educating families do some of these, at least, by choice.
Furthermore, it is likely to be much easier for a parent to show that the education provided is suitable if attention has been paid to the breadth of the curriculum and its content, and the concepts of progress and assessment in relation to your child’s ability.
If it appears to us that a child is not receiving a suitable education we will write to parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. This letter will offer a range of ways in which you can choose to tell us about your provision. We would prefer that an officer from our service meets with you in order to discuss your arrangements, however the letter does give alternative options.
Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision that they are making for the child’s education during a home visit but parents are not legally required to give us access to their home.
You may choose to meet an officer at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or choose not to meet at all. Where a parent elects not to allow access to their home or their child, this will not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education provision being made. Where we are not able to visit the home, we should be able to discuss and evaluate the educational provision by alternative means.
If you choose to meet an officer, you will be asked to provide evidence that you are providing a suitable education. If we do ask you for information, you are under no duty to comply although it would be sensible for you to do so given that the LA must be satisfied of suitable education. Following any review of your home education provision, you will receive a short notification from us. If we are satisfied that the education is suitable, you will be notified and advised that we will contact you again in a year’s time. If we are not satisfied, you will be notified and given a maximum of 3 months to put plans in place and demonstrate the suitability of education. If we remain dissatisfied, we may take statutory action as set out above.
In order to ensure that suitable education is taking place and to minimise any safeguarding risks, the council is now making it clear to parents or carers who electively home educate their children that a written report alone, however detailed it may be, should not be relied on in order to satisfy the council that suitable education is taking place.
Parents or carers who are home educating their child(ren) are expected to provide evidence of a suitable education that would, on the balance of probabilities, convince a reasonable person that a suitable education is being provided for the age and ability of the child.
Embedded below is the council’s definition of suitable education, the reasons why the local authority may deem the education not to be suitable and some examples of the types of information and evidence that parents or carers might provide to demonstrate that suitable education is being provided.
This is not to say that once the council is satisfied that suitable education is taking place, that a report would not in the future be sufficient, but this should not be relied on.
Definition of suitable education and the reasons why the local authority may deem the education not to be suitable
Parents who are home educating their child(ren) are expected to provide evidence of a suitable education that would, on the balance of probabilities, convince a reasonable person that a suitable education is being provided for the age and ability of the child.
In considering the parent’s provision of education the local authority may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
A good curriculum also includes other aspects at an appropriate level such as personal, social and health education, outdoor and environmental education, citizenship, careers, food technology and information and communication technology. Opportunities to mix and relate with other children and adults are considered to be important to a child’s personal and social development.
There may be a variety of reasons why the information / evidence provided has not been deemed suitable by the local authority. This may include:
It is important to note that the above is for guidance and by way of example only and is not an exhaustive list. Each case is judged upon its own individual circumstances.
The types of information and evidence might include: a timetable; a curriculum plan; photographs; work books; progress reports; dated work over time; conversations with the child / parent; home visits; etc.
The local authority needs to be satisfied that appropriate education is taking place and therefore it will be about building a full picture of the individual circumstances rather than rigid adherence to a check list.
Elective Home Education
Tel. 023 92 841432
If a parent decides to withdraw their child from school and seeks guidance from us we will provide verbal and written information (see paragraph 2.6). In addition to this, we will draw your attention to a range of contacts set out in this guidance.
Whenever possible the local authority will encourage parents to discuss an intention to EHE before putting into effect. Schools will therefore invite parents to a meeting which will be attended by the representatives of the local authority. The LA role at this meeting will be to offer independent advice to the parent. Schools must make a return (giving the child’s name, address and the ground upon which their name is to be deleted from the register) to the local authority as soon as the ground for deletion is met and no later than deleting the pupil’s name from the register.
If a child is registered at a school as a result of an SAO, the parents must get the order revoked by us on the ground that arrangements have been made for the child to receive suitable education otherwise than at school, before the child can be deleted from the schools register and educated at home.
DfE guidance strongly recommends parents notify us so that we can facilitate access to advice and support available. The only exception to this is where your child is attending a special school under arrangements made by us, in which case additional permission is required from us before the child’s name can be removed from the register.
We appreciate in the early stages, parents’ plans may not be detailed and they may not yet be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an “efficient and suitable” educational provision. However, families should be aiming to offer satisfactory home education from the outset, and to have made preparations with that aim, as time lost in education a child is difficult to recover.
Schools must not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home as a way of avoiding an exclusion or because the child has a poor attendance record. In the case of exclusion, they must follow the statutory guidance. If the pupil has a poor attendance record, the school and local authority will address the issues behind the absenteeism and use the other remedies available to them.
In most cases, if you make to decision for your child to return to school within 6 months of deregistration, the Local Authority will require the previous school to place your child back on roll before any change of placement can be considered, as agreed by all schools in the Fair Access Protocol. (FAP).
Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of “full- time”. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of “contact time” is not relevant to EHE where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal “school hours.”
The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Home educating parents are not required to:
The question of whether an education for a specific child is full-time will depend on the facts of each case; but parents should at least be able to quantify and demonstrate the amount of time for which your child is being educated. Education which clearly is not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life (making due allowance for holiday periods) will probably not meet the s.7 requirement.
We recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to an educational provision. We will, therefore, consider a wide range of information from home educating parents, in a range of formats. The information may be in the form of specific examples of learning e.g. pictures/paintings/models, diaries of educational activity, projects, assessments, samples of work, books, educational visits etc.
As per current government guidelines in our consideration of parents’ provision of education at home, we may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
If we consider that a suitable education is not being provided, then we will write to parents informing them of this. If we are not satisfied that a suitable education is being provided, and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to us have not done so, we will consider sending a formal notice to the parents under section 437 before moving on, if needed, to the issuing of a school attendance order (section 437(1)). See paragraphs above.
A parent’s right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has SEN. This right is irrespective of whether the child has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or not. Where a child has an EHC plan and is home educated, it remains our duty to ensure that the child’s needs are met.
We must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice. Although this document primarily covers special educational needs in the school and early years’ settings, it does give information about children and young people with SEN educated at home (paragraphs 10.30 – 10.38). The Code of Practice emphasises the importance of local authorities and other providers working in partnership with parents.
The Code of Practice is statutory guidance and schools, local authorities and others to whom it applies must have regard to it. This means that, apart from the references to the law, these bodies do not have to follow the Code to the letter but they must be able to justify any departure from its guidance. The foreword states that the Code is designed to help these bodies to “make effective decisions but it does not – and could not – tell them what to do in each individual case”.
Even if we are satisfied that parents are making suitable arrangements, we remain under a duty to maintain the EHC plan and review it annually, following procedures set out in chapter 9 of the SEN Code of Practice. In some circumstances the child’s special educational needs identified in the EHC plan will have been related to the school setting and the child’s needs may readily be met at home by the parents without Local Authority supervision. It may be appropriate, once it is established that a child’s special needs are being met without any additional support from us, to consider ceasing to maintain the EHC plan. This would usually be following the recommendation of an annual review.
Where the EHC plan is reviewed it should be made clear to parents that they are welcome to attend, but they are not obliged to do so. Where we are satisfied that the child’s parents have made suitable arrangements it does not have to name a school or college in Section I of the child’s EHC plan. If the local authority and parents agree that home education is the right provision for the child or young person, the EHC plan should make clear that they will be educated at home and we must arrange the special educational provision set out in the plan. If the EHC plan does name a school or type of school and parents decide to educate at home, the local authority is not under a duty to make the special educational provision set out in the EHC plan as long as we are satisfied that arrangements made by parents are suitable.
In some cases a local authority will conclude that, even after considering its power to provide support to home-educating parents, the provision that is or could be made for a child or young person with an EHC plan does not meet their special educational needs. The local authority is required to intervene through the school attendance order framework ‘if it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving suitable education’. This is a last resort if all attempts to improve provision are unsuccessful. ‘Suitable education’ means efficient full-time education suitable to the child or young person’s age, ability and aptitude and to any SEN he or she may have.
The EHC plan should also specify any provision that we have agreed to make under section 319 of the Education Act 1996 to help parents to provide suitable education for their child at home. If the child who is to be withdrawn from the school is a pupil at a special school, the local authority must give consent for the child’s name to be removed from the school roll and before amending Section I of the EHC plan.
Parents may also home educate children who have SEN but do not have EHC plans. As with children and young people with EHC plan, local authorities should work with parents and consider whether to provide support in the home to help the parents make suitable provision. Information about the right to request an EHC needs assessment and the right to appeal is available to all parents including those who are considering home education because they feel that the special educational support being provided in the school is insufficient to meet the child or young person’s needs. However local authorities to not have a duty under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to assess every home educated child to see whether or not they have SEN.
Young people may also be educated at home in order to meet the requirement to participate in education and training until the age of 18. Local authorities should involve parents, as appropriate, in the reviews of EHC plans of home-educated young people who are over compulsory school age.
As noted in our introduction to these guidelines, the central aim of this document is to assist us and parents in carrying out our statutory responsibilities/duties with respect to elective home educated children. We hope that this will enable us to build effective relationships with home educators that function to safeguard the educational interests of children and young people: relationships that are rooted in mutual understanding, trust and respect.
Whilst there is no legal obligation on us or home educators to develop such relationships, doing so will often provide parents with access to any support that is available and allow us to better understand parents’ educational provision and preferences. A positive relationship will also provide a sound basis if we are required to investigate assertions from any source that an efficient and suitable education is not being provided.
Parents’ education provision will reflect a diversity of approaches and interests. Some parents may wish to provide education in a formal and structured manner, following a traditional curriculum and using a fixed timetable that keeps to school hours and terms. Other parents may decide to make more informal provision that is responsive to the developing interests of their child. One approach is not necessarily any more efficient or effective than another. Although some parents may welcome general advice and suggestions about resources, methods and materials, we will not specify a curriculum or approach which parents must follow.
Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds. It is appreciated that parents and their children might require a period of adjustment before finding their preferred mode of learning and that families may change their approach over time. Parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide their children with a suitable education. It should be noted that parents of all educational, social, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds successfully educate children outside the school setting and these factors should not in themselves raise a concern about the suitability of the education being provided.
The provision of clear information has an important role to play in the promotion of positive relationships. We will provide, were reasonably practical, written information and website links for prospective and existing electively home educating parents that are clear and accurate and which set out the legal position, and roles and responsibilities, in an unambiguous way (see Support and Resources).
The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006 states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns will immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.
Parents may choose to employ other people to educate their child, though they themselves will continue to be responsible for the education provided. They will also be responsible for ensuring that those whom they engage are suitable to have access to children. Parents will therefore wish to satisfy themselves by taking up appropriate references and we strongly advise you do this. Tutors employed by us or an agency may also undertake work for home educating parents, in which case CRB checks will have been made.
The paragraphs above give details of our duties to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
We review all of our procedures and practices in relation to elective home education on a regular basis to see if improvements can be made to further develop relationships and meet the needs of children and parents. Home education organisations and home educating parents can be involved in this process of review.
We do bear in mind that Ofsted reports on the way we cater for elective home educating families within our area. Reports of our local inspections are available on the Ofsted section of the gov.uk website.
When parents choose to electively home educate their children they assume financial responsibility for their children’s education.
We do not receive funding to support home educating families, and the level and type of support we offer will be based upon our limited resources.
We do provide written information (which is also available through the internet) on elective home education that is clear and accurate and which sets out the legal position (see guidance above). In addition to this we provide contact details for elective home education organisations and colleges.
The National Curriculum
Although home educated children are not required to follow the National Curriculum a number do. National Curriculum tests and assessment arrangements are developed and administered by the Standards & Testing Agency (STA) on behalf of the Secretary of State.
Information to support these arrangements can be found on the Government’s website.
National Careers Service
The National Careers Service is a free carers service for adults and young people age 13 and over in England. Advice and guidance can be accessed via the telephone and online. They provide confidential advice and guidance to help you and your child make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children
We have an understanding of and are sensitive to, the distinct ethos and needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. These families who are electively home educating are treated in the same way as any other families. Home education should not necessarily be regarded as less appropriate than in other communities. When a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller family with children of school age move into our area, they are strongly encouraged to contact us for advice and help to access local educational settings.
Further guidance can be obtained from the Department of Education .
There are organisations supporting parents who educate at home and website details of a range of these are included below. These offer a variety of advice and support to parents educating at home.
We cannot recommend a particular organisation, it would be for the parents to ensure the organisation best suits the needs of the education provision. This list is not exhaustive, but is meant for guidance only:
Other useful Websites:
Hampshire Police offer a free electronically accessible resource library called Safe4me as part of their ongoing commitment to working partnership with education and professionals to keep children and young people safe. Developed in partnership with education experts, Safe4me consists of pre-prepared, age-specific lesson plans and activities which focus on a range of topics specific to risk, law and consequences; the intended outcome of using Safe4me is to better inform and equip children and young people to make positive and safe choices.
Publications & Materials
There are a wide range of companies supplying both publications and materials to
parents who decide to electively home educate. We have included a small sample for