Parents must make sure their children receive a suitable full-time education if they are of compulsory school age, but this does not mean all children are educated in a school setting.

Some children are educated at home because their parents have chosen this for them. Other children learn at home because they cannot attend school due to a particular reason, such as ill health, or because it would be inappropriate for their special educational provision to be made in a school or college setting.

Some children also attend school part time, and there is more information on what happens if a parent wants their child to attend school part time here.

Elective Home Education

Some parents choose to home educate their child. This is sometimes called ‘home schooling’, but is more accurately known as ‘elective home education’ or ‘EHE’. If this is what is right for them and their child then this can be a positive step. The SEN and Disability Code of Practice (the “Code”) acknowledges this, stating at paragraph 10.35 that, “Local authorities should not assume that because the provision being made by parents is different from that which was being made […] in school that the provision is necessarily unsuitable. Local authorities should also consider using their power to help parents make suitable provision.”

However, sometimes parents may be encouraged to home educate their child by the school or the local authority (“LA”) when the parent does not want to or think this is what the child needs. Parents often feel pressured into home education to avoid prosecution for non-attendance. However, elective home education is a serious step and should always be the parent’s choice.

The Department for Education’s “All you need to know about home-schooling and elective home education” briefing summarises key information parents should be aware of if considering home schooling.  Parents of a child with an EHC plan should be aware  that EHE has the below implications when deciding whether or not to home educate their child.

Elective home educating children or young people with EHC plans

The LA no longer has a legal duty to secure any of the special educational provision in the child or young person’s EHC plan if they are being home-educated. This is because the LA is likely to decide that the parents are making their own suitable alternative arrangements.

However, the LA should not stop an EHC plan because the child or young person is being home educated. The LA must also still review the plan annually to assure itself that the provision set out in it continues to be appropriate and that their special educational needs (“SEN”) continues to be met (paragraph 10.32 of the Code). The LA must use the same legal process to review the EHC plan, even if the child or young person is being home educated.

Parents who wish to home educate their child (rather than have the LA secure any required provision) do not need school’s permission, but should write to:

  1. the school and explain that they intend to educate their child at home, and 
  2. the LA and ask it to amend Section I of the EHC plan to record that the child is being educated at home. Parents of children at special schools will also need to ask the LA to agree to their name being taken off from the school roll.

If the current educational placement is not working and the parent does not want to home educate their child, it may be better to change the EHC plan to set out different special educational provision and/or name a different school/placement rather than attempting to take on home education without support.

Electively home educating children or young people with SEN but without an EHC plan

Parents may take their children out of school to home educate them, and they do not need the permission of the school or the LA to do so (unless they are on the roll of a special school in which case the LA must agree).

All parents of children may make a request for an EHC needs assessment, including those who chose EHE for their children. This is an opportunity to fully identify all of the child or young person’s SEN and work out what support they need. The Code says that LAs “should” fund support for the SEN of home-educated children where it is appropriate to do so (paragraph 10.30). However the LA does not have a legal duty to provide special educational provision in this situation.

If a child or young person’s early years, school or college placement is in danger of breakdown and their parent does not wish to home educate them, it might be appropriate to ask the LA for an EHC needs assessment. It may be that, with the right support, the child or young person can continue in their educational placement. Alternatively, they may require special educational provision which could be provided at a different school or otherwise than in school (as discussed below).

Alternative education

If a child is unable to attend school for any reason and their parent has not chosen to home educate them, this should be made clear to the LA and the LA may have a legal duty to secure suitable, full-time education for them – whether they have an EHC plan or not. Please see here for more information.

Education otherwise than in a school

If an early years setting, school or college is not appropriate for the child or young person and the parent has not chosen to home educate them, the LA can arrange for any special educational provision the child or young person requires to be delivered somewhere else and set this out in an EHC plan. The LA would then be responsible for continuing to secure and fund that provision. This is known as ‘education otherwise than in school' and often abbreviated to ‘EOTAS’ (section 61 of the Children and Families Act 2014 allows LAs to do this). Before taking such a step though, the LA must talk it through with the child’s parent or with the young person and properly consider their views.

Whether school or college is appropriate or not will depend on the child or young person’s SEN and / or the type of the provision they need (for example, it might not be appropriate for certain therapies to take place in a school setting). The question is not whether school can deliver the special educational provision but whether it is appropriate for it to be made in school.

Where it is not appropriate for any provision to be made in a school or college, the child or young person’s EHC plan should reflect the following:

  • Section B should set out all of their special educational needs, including those that show why education in a setting is inappropriate. These could be, for example, mental health or sensory needs.
  • Section F should give a clear and detailed description of the support they need. This could include therapies which are classed as educational provision, such as speech and language therapy, and other support provided by health or social care which educates or trains the child or young person. It will be important to set out all the necessary details such as who (in terms of role/qualification) will oversee the package of support, deliver it and what particular expertise they may need, and any input needed from specialists. This will mean the LA still has a legal duty to put the special educational provision in place. It would also generally be a good idea to specify that this provision will be delivered as ‘education otherwise than in a school’ here too. 
  • Section I should be left blank if no setting is going to be attended at all, as confirmed by case law. 
  • Section J will detail the special educational needs and outcomes to be met by any agreed direct payments relating to section F. Not everyone will have a personal budget and receive direct payments, and you can find out more about them here.

    If it’s inappropriate for some but not all of a child or young person’s special educational provision to be made in school/college, an EHC plan can cover this too. For more detail on how, see here.

    For more information on how special educational provision should be set out in an EHC plan, see the section on what an EHC plan contains.

    If a child or young person needs an EOTAS package but their EHC plan does not set it out, the LA can change what their EHC plan says to make sure it’s included. Parents  and young people can ask for this during an annual review of the EHC plan or, if they have a right of appeal to the SEND Tribunal, use this to get the EHC plan changed.

    If you haven’t been able to find the answer to your question on this page, see our FAQs or speak with us.

    Home education and ‘education otherwise’ FAQs