The EHE guidelines
2.7 Local authorities 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.
2.8 Prior to serving a notice under section 437(1), local authorities are encouraged to address the situation informally. The most obvious course of action if the local authority has information that makes it appear that parents are not providing a suitable education, would be to ask parents for further information about the education they are providing……..Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, but it would be sensible for them to do so.
3.4 Local authorities should 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, the local authority should seek to gather any relevant information that will assist them in reaching a properly informed judgement. This should include seeking from the parents any further information that they wish to provide which explains how they are providing a suitable education. Parents should be given the opportunity to address any specific concerns that the authority has. The child should also be given the opportunity, but not required, to attend any meeting that may be arranged or invited to express his or her views in some other way. Parents are under no duty to respond to such requests for information or a meeting, but it would be sensible for them to do so.
3.5 If it appears to a local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education it may wish to contact the parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact and copied to the parents stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are, to give the child’s parents an opportunity to address them. Where concerns about the suitability of the education being provided for the child have been identified, more frequent contact may be required while those concerns are being addressed. Where concerns merit frequent contact, the authority should discuss them with the child’s parents, with a view to helping them provide a suitable education that meets the best interests of the child.
3.6 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 the local authority access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority representative 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 does not of itself constitute a ground for concern about the education provision being made. Where local authorities are not able to visit homes, they should, in the vast majority of cases, be able to discuss and evaluate the parents’ educational provision by alternative means. If they choose not to meet, parents may be asked to provide evidence that they are providing a suitable education. If a local authority asks parents for information they are under no duty to comply although it would be sensible for them to do so. Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.
Withdrawal from school to elective home educate
3.7 First contact between local authorities and home educators often occurs when parents decide to home educate and approach the school (at which the child is registered) and/ or the authority to seek guidance about withdrawing their child from school. It is important that this initial contact is constructive and positive, and local authorities should provide written information (see paragraph 2.5) and direct parents to a range of useful contacts such as those described in paragraph 5.1.
3.8 The school must delete the child’s name from their admissions register upon receipt of written notification from the parents that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school.
3.11 Local authorities should bear in mind that, 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. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision.
3.14 It is important to recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision. Local authorities should, 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.
3.15 In their consideration of parents’ provision of education at home, local authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics: consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers – it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.
3.16 If a local authority considers that a suitable education is not being provided, then a full written report of the findings should be made and copied to the parents promptly, specifying the grounds for concern and any reasons for concluding that provision is unsuitable. If the authority is 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 the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice to the parents under section 437 (see paragraph 2.7) before moving on, if needed, to the issuing of a school attendance order (section 437(1)). See paragraphs 2.9 – 2.11.
Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
3.17 Parents’ right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has SEN. This right is irrespective of whether the child has a statement of special educational needs or not. Where a child has a statement of SEN and is home educated, it remains the local authority’s duty to ensure that the child’s needs are met.
3.18 Local authorities must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice16. Although this document primarily covers special educational needs in the school and early years’ settings, it does give information about SEN in relation to home education (paragraphs 8.91 – 8.96 of the Code). 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”
3.19 If the parents’ attempt to educate the child at home results in provision that falls short of meeting the child’s needs, then the parents are not making “suitable arrangements”, and the authority could not conclude that they were absolved of their responsibility to arrange the provision in the statement. Parents need only provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have as defined in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. It is the authority’s duty to arrange the provision specified in the statement, unless the child’s parent has made suitable provision, for as long as a statement is maintained. In some cases a combination of provision by parents and LA may best meet the child’s needs. Local authorities should consider, for example, providing access to additional resources or treatments where appropriate.17
3.20 Even if the local authority is satisfied that parents are making suitable arrangements, it remains under a duty to maintain the statement 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 statement will have been related to the school setting and the child’s needs may readily be met at home by the parents without LA supervision. It may be appropriate, once it is established that a child’s special needs are being met without any additional support from the LA, to consider ceasing to maintain the statement. This may be done at the annual review or at any other time. Where the statement is reviewed it should be made clear to parents that they are welcome to attend, but they are not obliged to do so.
3.21 Where the authority is satisfied that the child’s parents have made suitable arrangements it does not have to name a school in part 4 of the child’s statement. There should be discussion between the authority and the parents and rather than the name of the school, part 4 of the statement should mention the type of school the LA considers appropriate and that “parents have made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996”.
3.22 The statement should also specify any provision that the local authority has 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 school must inform the local authority before the child’s name can be deleted from the school roll and the authority will need to consider whether the elective home education is suitable before amending part 4 of the child’s statement.
3.23 A parent who is educating their child at home may ask the local authority to carry out a statutory assessment or reassessment of their child’s special educational needs and the local authority must consider the request within the same statutory timescales and in the same way as for all other requests. Local authorities should provide information to home educators detailing the process of assessment and both local authorities’ and home educators’ responsibilities with regard to provision should the child be given a statement. The views of the designated medical officer for SEN should be sought by the local authority where a child with a statement is educated at home because of difficulties related to health needs or a disability.