Choosing to home educate
A parent or carer can choose to educate their child at home, this is known as 'Elective Home Education or EHE'.
Deciding to educate your child at home can be a rewarding choice for many parents, but it does require a lot of dedication, hard work and patience.
Schools must not try to persuade parents to educate their child at home by way of avoiding exclusion, or due to poor attendance.
Equally if you are trying to avoid prosecution for attendance, if your child is refusing to go to school or is at risk of exclusion, electing to home educate is not necessarily the answer.
Take your time to find out as much as you can so you can make an informed choice.
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 says:
“Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, parents have the right to educate children, including children with SEN, at home. Home education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN. Local authorities should work in partnership with, and support parents to ensure that the SEN of these children are met…” (10.30)
Key Information: The Local Authority (LA) has no duty to provide education (or secure special educational provision outlined in an EHC plan) for your child if you have elected to home educate, provided they are satisfied the arrangements you have made are suitable. Where there is an EHC plan the LA retain responsibility for maintaining it, e.g. carrying out annual reviews.
As you will be assuming responsibility to educate, you must carefully consider whether you are able to provide what your child needs.
The commissioning body are still responsible for any health care provision detailed in an EHC plan, for example speech and language therapy, though you can make your own alternative arrangements for health provision too.
Consider also how this decision would change your relationship with your child, and with other children in your home who may be continuing to go to school.
Often parents choose this option because their child is struggling to cope in their school environment, are anxious, perhaps have sensory needs, or are at risk of exclusion.
Don't make any hasty decisions though, particularly if you are viewing this as a short-term option. Children can quickly get comfortable in the home routine and may find it difficult to get back into any school environment in the future.
Consider whether there any changes/adjustments that can be made in school that might make a difference. Meet with school to discuss ideas and agree next steps, you can ask school if they would consider a referral to a specialist service for advice. The Local Offer is the place to find out which services are available but examples include:
- Educational Psychology service
- County Inclusion Support Service (CISS)
- Dyslexia Outreach Team
- Health services, including community paediatrics, CAMHS (mental health) and specialist health services like speech & language/occupational therapist.
Where children are at risk of exclusion and with your permission, schools can refer into and attend the 'In-year fair access panel (IYFAP)'. This is a monthly panel arranged by the local authority and includes representatives from some of the above specialist services. The idea is to discuss and share ideas about possible next steps for these children.
Children that are unfit medically to attend school, either full or part time may be offered home tuition.
You could consider requesting an EHC needs assessment for your child.
If your child already has an EHC plan and they are either not attending or at risk of not attending (perhaps at risk of exclusion or refusing to go/anxious), you should request the local authority carry out an early Annual Review. This will enable you to discuss that the school place is at risk of breaking down and talk through options.
If you are starting to question whether your child's needs can be met in a mainstream school, it might be that you want to explore specialist schools and this review provides the opportunity to share your views.
You could consider requesting the ‘education otherwise’ option. Within this it might be possible to evidence that, due to your child's current needs, this can only be delivered at home. Though the LA must be satisfied it would be inappropriate for the provision to be made in a school, it might be appropriate for them to continue to have a duty to secure special educational provision in these circumstances. Section 61 of the Children & Families Act is where you will find the relevant duty.
You should write to the school your child currently attends. If your child attends a mainstream school they will be removed from the register and they must inform the LA, who will contact you to check you have made plans and provide some information.
If your child has not yet started school you do not have to tell anyone, but the local authority ask that you let them know. Read some more information about this process.
If your child is currently attending a special school, you will need to get permission from the local authority before they can be removed from the school register.
There are many websites offering information and advice, and you may be able to find a local support group of other parents making the same choice.