Latest News New proposals and guidance on elective home education May 2019 IPSEA acknowledges that some parents choose to home educate their children because they believe this is the best option. However, through our casework and training we know that many parents of children with SEND end up home educating because they feel it is the only option. Often parents are not told of their rights to request additional support at school, and are even pressured into removing their child from school against their will. Currently, there is no way of knowing exactly how many children are in this situation because little to no data is collected about home educated children. The figures we have indicate that the number of children out of school has risen significantly in recent years. The Government recently held a consultation on home education because of this rising trend, to which a response was published last month. It estimates there are 57,600 children of compulsory school age in England known to be educated at home. We agree with the Government’s belief that “the significant increase in children deemed to be educated at home which has taken place in recent years” has not been due to an increase in those genuinely wishing to home educate, but “more negative” reasons, the first of which it lists as “difficulty in obtaining within the school system what parents see as adequate provision (especially for children with special needs)”. In IPSEA’s response to the consultation, we recommended a number of measures: Schools which are found to pressure parents to deregister children from the school roll should be automatically given an ‘inadequate’ rating by Ofsted. The Government response has not dealt with off-rolling as this is now being dealt with separately. In the guidance for local authorities (“LAs”) whilst the government has added more detail about off-rolling, they have taken a more light-touch approach than IPSEA’s suggestion. It is suggested that LAs should raise the issue with schools and “consider informing Ofsted”. Off-rolling amounts to an unlawful exclusion and parents should seek advice if a school attempts to remove their child from the roll for reasons they disagree with. LAs and Academies should be compelled to provide a breakdown for all pupils in each year group removed from all schools in their area for home education. This should also include details of whether or not those children were on the SEN Register or had an EHC plan whilst they were at school. The information provided could be the trigger for further scrutiny where there are concerns that particular schools have higher numbers of parents de-registering children. The Government proposes measures to create greater oversight of home educated children, including that LAs should maintain a register of home-educated children of compulsory school age, and an obligation on schools to respond to enquiries from LAs as to whether a specific child attends that setting. We consider there may be a case for requiring parents or carers of children in mainstream to notify the school or LA of their intention to home educate (but not to require permission to do so, as is the case for children in special schools). This is because we wish to highlight parents and carers who are not actively choosing elective home education but are being compelled into it. The current lack of data means that some of these children simply disappear from the record, meaning the full scale of the problem cannot be understood. The Government is recommending the introduction of a duty on parents to inform their LA when their child is not attending a mainstream school. Additionally, it recommends the introduction of a duty on LAs to provide support to home educating families where requested. The Government has opened a further consultation on the above proposals, which IPSEA will be responding to. Additionally, we welcome the changes to the guidance for LAs on elective home education, which has been amended in line with IPSEA’s concerns: The distinction between elective home education and education other than in a setting under s. 61 of the Children and Families Act has been made more clear. The guidance now clearly states in relation to ‘education otherwise’: “It is important to distinguish between a situation like this, in which a local authority itself arranges special educational provision in a child’s home because it considers education in a school or other institution inappropriate, and a situation in which a child’s parents arrange their own home education as described in the paragraph above. The former is not ‘elective home education’.” The guidance now makes clear that although there is no duty to provide support for parents of children with SEN who are electively home educating, but where a child is receiving ‘education otherwise’ there is a clear duty to arrange the required provision. As IPSEA suggested, wording has been added to emphasise that it should not be taken as read that the parent objects to any school placement. Where parents have withdrawn a child from a setting they regarded as unsatisfactory, LAs should be willing to explore options which are different from the previous setting. Additionally, it states that LAs “should be ready to help explore with parents and the school the extent to which additional support can be put in place at the school even if initial efforts to secure this have not worked”. However we feel there could still be greater emphasis on using the framework set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Code of Practice In the guidance for parents, detail has been added confirming that the LA has power under s.61 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to provide education otherwise than in a setting, which should be clearly set out in an EHC plan. Whilst the guidance makes clear that parents retain (for example) the right to request an EHC needs assessment, we feel the link could have been more strongly drawn – where a parent is considering withdrawing a child from school because the school can’t meet their needs, there should always first be a consideration of what else the school and LA should be doing (whether through further assessment or changes to the child’s EHC plan).