The influential House of Commons Education Select Committee, a cross-party group of MPs, has published a new report on home education in England. MPs highlight the rising number of children who are being electively home educated and conclude that it’s impossible for the Government to say that a suitable education is being provided to every child in the country.

The report says: “We do know that for some families EHE [elective home education] is not truly ‘elective’, especially those where children have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and do not get the support they need from the school system. No-one should be forced into educating at home through lack of support – instead the Government must act to ensure that schools are able to provide proper support for SEND in the first place.”

The committee’s recommendations include:

  •  Creation of a statutory register to identify children who are not in school. The committee says, “This would aim not to remove freedoms from those who are providing an effective education for their families, but to better target support to those who need itWe also believe that collecting more data about children receiving EHE would give the Department [for Education] a true picture of the level of SEND resourcing needed by local authorities.”
  • Publication of data by schools on the number of permanent and fixed-term exclusions they carry out by year group each term, including information about children with SEND. The committee says, “It is vitally important that we understand where EHE has been a free choice and where it has been effectively forced upon families.”
  • Appointment of independent advocates for individual children with SEND, with responsibility for co-ordinating all statutory SEND processes and supporting families where a choice about EHE is being made.

In the evidence IPSEA submitted to the committee in November 2020, we told them:

  •  A growing number of parents who are home educating are doing so as a result of the failure of schools and local authorities to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  • Through our helplines and training, we know that many children are being denied support in schools due to a lack of resources. 
  • Although all mainstream schools are expected to be inclusive of children with SEND, this is not happening consistently. Unless there is a culture change towards better inclusive practice everywhere, the practice of encouraging parents to withdraw their children from school under the guise of ‘home education’ will increase. 
  • A statutory register of home educated children would help provide an accurate picture of the number of children and young people with SEND who are outside the formal education system. This information could help shine a light on what is happening in schools where unusually high numbers of parents are deregistering their children.
  • We are concerned that parents do not always understand the legal consequences of removing their child from school. Parents may be encouraged to home educate when it’s proving difficult to find a placement which works for their child – but they are often not aware that by doing so, they are giving up their child’s entitlements to support from the local authority.
  • Local authorities should provide information on pupils in each year group who have been removed from all schools in their area to be home educated, including details of those pupils receiving SEN Support or with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. We believe there is a role for Ofsted in scrutinising those institutions that have higher numbers of parents deregistering children.

The next step is for the Secretary of State for Education to respond to the committee’s recommendations. The Department for Education carried out a public consultation over two years ago on the idea of a mandatory register of children who are educated at home. While the Government has yet to respond to the consultation, ministers have indicated recently that they do intend to introduce a registration system for children not in school.