15.8 Elective Home Education
Last reviewed in November 2023
Next review due in November 2025
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- Introduction(Jump to)
- The law(Jump to)
- What is the local authority duty(Jump to)
- Safeguarding(Jump to)
- Flow charts(Jump to)
The legal duty and responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. While most parents choose to send their children to school, others choose to educate their children at home. In these circumstances, the parent is Electively Home Educating (EHE).
It is important to note that a child being home educated does not in itself constitute a safeguarding concern, however local authorities must make arrangements to find out so far as possible whether home educated children are receiving suitable full-time education. It is best practice for professionals to talk to children and young people about their wishes and feelings about being home educated.
Do children have to attend school?
The simple answer is “NO”. However, the Education Act 1996 states that parents do have legal duties regarding the education of their children. Parents may choose to exercise this right from the beginning of compulsory school age.
What is the duty of parents?
Under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 it states:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to -
Parents or carers who decide on Elective Home Education (EHE) must be prepared to take on fully the “duty to educate”. This commits them to meeting the legal requirements, as laid down by the Education Act 1996.
There is no requirement placed upon them to inform the local authority of their intention to do so, but they must ensure their children receive a suitable education for as long as they are being educated at home.
Parents or carers should be able to demonstrate that the education their child is receiving meets the requirements of “efficient and suitable” and that the child is developing according to their age, ability and aptitude, and any special education needs they may have.
There is no legal definition for home educating parents regarding educating their children at home: ‘There are no specific legal requirements as to the content of home education, provided the parents are meeting their duty in s.7 of the Education Act 1996. This means that education does not need to include any particular subjects and does not need to have any reference to the National Curriculum; and there is no requirement to enter children for public examinations. There is no obligation to follow the ‘school day’ or have holidays which mirror those observed by schools.’
What is the local authority duty
The Local Authority has a legal duty to ensure all children in their borders are receiving a suitable, efficient and full-time education.
If a parent withdraws a child from school to elective home education then the school must notify the local authority. The school should provide this notification as soon as they become aware that the parent is considering this form of provision but may only remove the child from roll upon written notification from the parent.
The Local Authority recognises that home educating parents are under no legal duty to respond to enquiries about the educational provision in place at home.
However, doing so enables the local authority to be assured that all children in their area are receiving the education they are entitled to, and the education being provided is suitable.
Where a local authority is not assured that a suitable education is being provided, they have a duty to make further enquiries.
The following is taken from the government document ‘Elective home education: Departmental guidance for parents’, which is available online and can be found HERE:
Local authorities do not have powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education. However, under section 437(1) Education Act 1996, local authorities shall intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. This section states that:
“if it appears to a local authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving a 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.”
Prior to serving such a notice, local authorities are required to address the situation informally.
If the local authority continues to feel the educational provision is ineffective, they may contact other agencies to offer advice and support in seeking a return to school. As a last resort, the local authority would consider instigating a School Attendance Order requiring your child to attend a named school.
The welfare and protection of all children are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community.
As with children educated in schools, child welfare issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child welfare concerns come to light, these concerns will immediately be referred to the appropriate agencies.
Local authorities 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.”
If it is clear that in the opinion of the local authority a child is not receiving a suitable education then they may refer the matter to the relevant local child protection service since ‘a failure to provide suitable education is capable of satisfying the threshold requirement contained in s.31 of the Children Act 1989 that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.’
The flow charts on the following three pages are intended to show in diagrammatic form the main steps which can be taken once it is apparent that there is a question as to whether a child is receiving suitable home education. Not all the steps shown will be applicable in all cases.
Should any practitioner working with a home educating family have concerns regarding the education provision for the individual child, then the matter should be reported to the relevant EHE department:
All matters concerning a child’s welfare should be reported in accordance with Making a Referral