FAQ Professionals

 

site logo

Contact me

This page is largely intended for local authority staff, however other professionals, such as medical staff and journalists, who come into contact with home education will find it useful

If you have any questions regarding the contents of this page contact me and I'm sure I'll be able to clarify things.

The following is intended to help you understand the issue of Home education, what home educators are about as a community and what their views are likely to be. It should be of use to you when formulating interviews on issues regarding home education. It is a new resource which will grow as Home educators inform me more about the information required. It also offers advice on how to relate professionally to home educators.

If you find any part of it unclear or if you consider it to be incorrect please contact me.


Policies

Policies should be written in consultation with local families. Not doing so is likely to lead to conflict, increased expense for the local authority and reduced cooperation with local families. Conflict between the local authorities and the families they serve will ultimately lead to the local authority failing to meet the needs of children.

Policies should follow the law. Local authorities may not vary the law or add to it. Most home educators today are well versed in the law and all are able to freely access support and advice on legal issues.

Transgress local authorities will find that inspectors who overstep the law will become bogged down in lengthy exchanges of letters with families and groups objecting to ultra vires demands by their local authority.

There are groups of home educators in most parts of the UK who would be eager to discuss local policies with their local authority. Many of these groups have members with extensive knowledge of the law and its application These volunteers could be viewed by the local authority as a valuable resource rather than the opposition.

New staff members

Inspectors should know the law and understand about home education methods, needs and expectations. Offering a meeting between local home education volunteers and new members of staff is likely to pay dividends in terms of cooperation from local families. The key to relationships between home educators and local authority staff is trust.

Is it legal?

Without going into the details of the law (which can be found here) Home education is a legal choice made by many thousands of home educators in the UK. You do not need permission to home educate in England and Wales. It is the duty of every parent to provide an education suitable to a child's age aptitude and ability and any special needs he or she may have either in school or otherwise.

Many Home educators are unknown to their LA's as there is no duty to inform them of the decision (except to deregister a child from school). LA's will want to satisfy themselves that a parent is discharging their duty to educate but may not prescribe what that education might be except insofar as it fulfils the above criteria.

Do home educators receive state funding?

Whilst it is theoretically possible for an LA to give funding to a child being home educated such funding is rare. While most Home educators would welcome financial assistance they are for the most part fiercely independent and would unhappy to lose any rights they have to educate their children their way in return.

Local authorities can receive back funding from the DfE for such things as college places for children with SEN's where this is thought necessary to provide the child with a suitable education and this is becoming more common. The child need not have a statement to obtain such funding.

Families of children with special needs may not be denied help for medical related issues such as mobility, communication, physiotherapy etc, even where normally those services are usually provided in school settings. Parents cannot be required to return a child to a school to receive such services.

De-registration

Basically parents in England and Wales can de-register on demand unless there is a school attendance order in place or if the child is attending a special school funded by the local authority. A unit catering for children with special needs at a 'normal' school is not a special school. Children with statements do not need permission to deregister.

The LA cannot withhold permission to de-register prior to an inspection. They may not delay de-registration until an inspection or visit with a family has taken place.

De-registration must be in writing delivered to the school.

The parent need not inform or contact the local authority at any point in the process and does not need to give a reason for their decision although there is nothing to prevent the LA from politely asking.

Further information on de-registration can be found here

What about child welfare?

Home education is not of itself a cause for concern.

Contrary to statements frequently made by local authority staff, local authorities have no duty to protect the welfare of all children in their area. If you consider the implications of such legislating for such a duty it quickly becomes apparent that it would be impossibly to fulfil. Local authority staff are however required to have a mind to the welfare of children they encounter when performing any task.

Local authority staff who do have reason to believe that a child is at significant risk of serious immediate harm they should immediately inform the local child protection team as per local protocols. Child protection teams have significant powers under section 47 of the Children act 1989.

There is no duty for a family to inform the local authority that they are home educating and the discovery of such a family should not, of itself, be regarded as being a cause for concern. From research it seems probable that between 1/3 and 2/3 of home educated children are unknown by their local authority and there is no reason to believe that such children are at any greater risk than any other child.

Medical professionals

Home education of itself is not a welfare concern.

Medical professionals are not education professionals and as such they do not have an educational remit. They rarely understand the realities of home education let alone have training on the subject.

If the child is present, medical professionals should refrain from making comments regarding either home education or the parents decision to home educate. Not only will such comments greatly annoy the parents, they are likely to have a lasting negative impact on the child's confidence, both in her/his self and their parents decision or support in home educating them. Such comments in front of the child may damage the trusting relationship between the professional, the child and the parents.

However, should medical staff become aware of other, perhaps related, significant concerns for the child's welfare they might want to consider contacting the local educational authorities and discussing their concerns with them. If they continue to hold serious concerns staff should contact the local child welfare services.

Deschooling - the bedding in period

When a family first deregister's a child, the family should be allowed a period of time for their arrangements to 'bed in'. The parents can take some time to come to terms with their decision to home educate and the effects it will have upon the rest of their lifestyle which can often be significant.

The child will inevitably go through a period of readjustment. Home educators call this Deschooling after a famous book by John Holt. The length of time this takes can vary from just a couple of weeks to many months and is dependent upon a number of factors which include the temperament of the child and family and the circumstances surrounding their decision to home educate. In particular, where trauma is evident (such as when bullying is part of the equation), the LA should not pressure the family unduly and should consider the implications of section 175 of the education act 2002 when deciding how they apply the local authority's policies..

This bedding in period has some legal status. A senior appeal court judge ruled that families must be given a reasonable period of time to set up their arrangements following deregistration. Local authorities are expected to be sensitive to the needs of the child and family during this period.

Contacting home educators

The nature of any first contact quite often determines how the future relationship between a family and the local authority will run.

First contact is often undertaken not by a member of the elective home education team but by a member of the education welfare department. Home educators report that such contacts are often very damaging. EWO's too frequently appear to receive little to no training regarding the law on home education and frequently make inaccurate statements to, and demands of, the family. Sometimes they attempt to prevent a deregistration from going ahead, they may even refuse to deregister the child until an assessment of the education is made under the misapprehension that the LA has the power to refuse to deregister a child.

While home educators are not opposed to the use of EWO's for first contact, it is imperative that staff are aware of their powers and duties laid out in law and do not succumb to the temptation to misrepresent the law to the family. In most cases the family will already know their basic rights and an attempt to misrepresent them will be seen by the family as a denial of their legal rights. This could permanently damage the working relationship between the family and the local authority. Even where the family do not yet know their rights, in most cases, they will soon contact HE support structures or forums where they will find many hundreds of parents who have extensive knowledge of the law in this area.

It is far better to present a positive, cooperative relationship firmly founded on the LA's legal duties right from the very first moment. This is far more likely to win respect and cooperation from the family.

specific issues include:
Cold calling

Most families find cold calling highly stressful. Cold calls are probably the worst possible form of first contact that an inspector can make. Even experienced home educators view the prospect of an unannounced visit by a local authority representative with immense apprehension.

A cold call will upset and stress the member of the family who answers the door and this is likely to result in a very negative, perhaps even extreme and hostile response from the family. News that a family has been cold called will travel like wild fire around, not only, the local home education community but also the national community. It will lead those who advise families at both local and national level to treat the whole of the LA with caution. In consequence, future cooperation between the home education community and the LA is likely to suffer. Cold calling should only therefore be undertaken as a last resort when all other methods of contact have failed.

Additionally even where a family has welcomed an inspector into their home on previous occasions, the inspector should resist the temptation to cold call when 'passing by'. It may seem unthreatening and even supportive but it may not be received that way.

Phone calls

These are also disliked by families. The authority cannot know who is likely to pick up the phone and family members often feel at a loss as to how to deal with such calls. Also, since contact between a local authority and a family has the potential for leading to legal action its best for all concerned that all contact leaves a written record. Appointments and notices etc should therefore be sent in writing.

Written communications

First contact should be made by writing a letter to the family. Such a letter should be simple, clear, friendly and supportive. care should be taken not alarm the family. In particular any legal statements should be legally accurate, clear, unthreatening and businesslike.

In line with case law, families should be given time to put provision in place and to adapt to this new lifestyle. This is known as de-schooling and can take several weeks. So while initial contact may well be made within days of de-registration, requests for information regarding the families provision should be delayed. It should be bourn in mind by the LA team that, at the point of deregistration, families (including perhaps particularly the children) are often stressed by both the process and what has proceeded the decision. The period of adjustment therefore can vary greatly depending upon circumstances from just a few weeks to a few months. Requests for such delays are normal, supported by case law and should not, of themselves, be regarded as suspicious.

There should be no expectations regarding home visits or form filling exercises, neither of which are legally required. If such forms are included (beyond asking simple details about the child's name age etc) it should be made clear that filling them out is optional. families may well prefer to write their own reports or replies in their own way since forms rarely allow for an accurate expression of the families actions, decissions or reasoning.

There should be no expectation that the family follows a formal curriculum or syllabus. Neither are families required to show a child's work to the inspector, though some chose to do so.

An offer to meet either at the family home or a neutral location could be made. A request for information about the families educational provision is also acceptable providing it does not unreasonably limit the form in which such information is offered.

Offers of support may be made and an information sheet carrying information of where support may be found, both locally and nationally could also be sent.

Monitoring exercises

The DfE guidance to local authorities on home education produced in 2007 made it quite clear that there is no duty in law for a local authority to make regular inspections. It also explains, perhaps a little less clearly, how inspections that are undertaken should be conducted. While there is no law preventing an authority from asking about education one year to the next, there is no actually duty for them to do so.

The duty to make informal enquiries (contained in section 437 of the Education act 1996) only applies where a local authority has a positive, substantive reason to believe that a child may not be in receipt of a suitable education. For example if a neighbour were to be told by a parent that they don't bother educating their child and then the neighbour reports this to the LA; or where a school has good substantive reason to believe that a parent would be unable to educate their child at home.

The argument that a child's needs change from one year to the next does not constitute a positive duty in law to assume that the parents may no longer be providing a suitable education for the child one year on from the previous inspection. Unless the local authority has positive substantive reason for thinking that the parents may no longer be able to meet those changed needs.

Section 437 of the Education act 1996

The law that covers these issues is entirely contained within section 437 of the Education act, 1996. Section 437 has two parts, the first and second sentences, the first being a filter for the second.

In the first instance the only duty laid upon an LA is to determine if a reasonable person might conclude that there is reason to believe that a child may not be receiving an education. Only when the LA can say yes to this first part, the filter, should they move to the second part and ask about the details of the education being provided. There is no initial duty to assess the suitability of the educational provision.

Therefore an initial contact should not be to assess the education a child receives but whether there is reason to think that the child is receiving no such education. The difference may seem subtle but it is highly significant in law, and would have relevance should a case be taken on to a court.

When an inspection has been completed the inspector should send a written report to the family telling them how the local authority felt the exercise went. If families hear nothing following an inspection they can feel rather confused. A report, however short, can be reassuring and offer closure to a family in what may have been a stressful time.

If the local authority concludes that the provision was unsatisfactory they must write to the family in a timely manner and explain exactly what they felt the problems were and perhaps make suggestions as to how they could be remedied. It is best not to initiate formal proceedings until it becomes clear that no amount of reasonable negotiation between the LA and family will resolve these remaining issues. Local authorities might consider asking the family to contact other prominent home educators either nationally or locally in assisting the family in this process, they may themselves offer to help make such contacts.

Home visits, safe and well visits

There is no duty placed upon the local authority to inspect homes, see children or to discuss their home education experiences with them or to enquire whether they are happy being home educated, any more than a local authority would routinely expect to inspect the homes of children aged 3 or 4 not attending a nursery or be required to ask school children if they would be happier being home educated.

There is no legal basis for what is commonly called 'safe and well' visits. Families are not required to allow such visits and, without some other substantive cause for concern, local authorities have no reason to regard a refusal as suspicious.

Legal advice has been given to home educating families to routinely refuse home visits. While some families are happy to allow such visits, many others are not. Local authorities should not regard them as mandatory, nor may they draw any conclusions from a refusal. Many families around the UK never receive home visits through the entire period of their child's compulsory education.

If the local authority wants to meet with parents, a non confrontational, sympathetic approach should be followed. The local authority may want to consider suggesting a neutral, non threatening venue such as a cafe or room in a library.

If the child is present, a local authority representative should avoid depreciating comments regarding either home education or the parents decisions. Not only will such comments annoy the parents they are likely to have lasting negative impact on the child's confidence, both in her/his self and their parents decision or support in home educating them.

Statements of Special Educational Needs

Statements can only mandate a local authority to make some form of provision. Parents cannot be made to provide any particular provision in parts 3 or 4 of a statement. Parents will however need to show how they would otherwise provide for their child's special needs.

Is home education a growing phenomena?

Yes, from my research there are now (2015) estimated to be perhaps 80,000 home educated children in the UK and it was growing by as much as 17% per annum. Some LAs have reported growth rates well in excess of this figure. However, more recently during the economic crisis of 2008-10 growth appeared to fall closer to 2%. Although there continued to be significant numbers of very young families making enquiries to HE support organisations. The fall could be the result of re-categorisation by local authorities innaccurately using the CME label for new home educators rather than accepting them as HE when stated by the family. However, since around 2010-11 growth appears to have recovered to its long term rate of around 17%.

Why do families home educate?

Families home educate for a number of reasons. They can be broadly divided into two categories.

Many Home educate because they had a problem with a school. Typical problems include bullying, poor educational standards, a structural problem with the local school's ethos, or issues concerning special needs provision. Sometimes the reason for Home education is that the family failed to get their child into the school of their choice, or has general objections to the national curriculum or requirements such as the literacy hour. They may have become concerned over reports of drug abuse in their school

Others home educate because they have some objection to the very idea of schooling. It might be philosophical, political or religious. For example they may object to the idea of "caging children up for 6 hours a day", they may feel that education should be a community activity rather than an institutional one, perhaps they believe it should remain a family obligation to educate their children, They may believe that they as parents can do a better job than the school, they may be travelers. They may want more control over the content of their children's education. Indeed it may be any of a number of reasons.

It is frequently the case that a family will begin to Home educate for the first reason but as a family's experience of Home education grows they continue to Home educate for the second reason. Whatever the reason all Home educating families are dedicated to their children's future and firmly believe that it is in their child's best interest.

What is the day to day routine?

Day to day routines also vary. There is no obligation in law to follow any particular curricula, syllabus or set hours. Some families may set aside so many hours a day. Some follow curricula, perhaps correspondence courses, while others follow their child's lead using what is known as "purposive conversation" as a tool for learning. Others (rarely) attempt to copy school even to the extent of having a timetable and a room set aside where teaching is done and resources are kept.

There is a tendency for families to become less formal as their experience and confidence grows. As their trust in their child's thirst for knowledge develops they tend to follow their child's lead more.

When a child has been recently withdrawn from school after particularly traumatic events (bullying for example) there is a period of readjustment to a more natural form of family life. Sometimes the whole family needs this period of calm and reflection before they can begin the process of living again as a family. This is often known as de-schooling, a process where the influence of school is relinquished by the family psyche.

Do families follow the National Curriculum?

There is no requirement in law to do so as only state schools need to comply with it. However, while some parents do follow the national curriculum to some extent I have never encountered a family that does so completely. Occasionally a family may keep the national curriculum in mind if they intend to return the child to the system at some later date.

Broad and Balanced Education

Some local authorities and even legal professionals who do not fully understand legislation believe that all children, including home educated children, are subjected to a broad and balanced education. Failure by families to comply with demands that they provide one can even land them in court. While, if properly represented they easily overcome such cases, it is stressful and expensive for both the family and the public purse.

The reality is that the only legal obligations on families are entirely and exclusively identified in section 7 of the Education Act 1996.

The expectation that parents provide a broad and balanced education comes from a quite different section of the act which refers specifically to pupils. The term pupil, however, is defined in the act as a child of compulsory educational age attending an institution of learning, home is not an institution in the legal sense of the word and so home educated children cannot be pupils. It therefore follows that their parents are not subject to the legal duty to provide a broad education.

Indeed, the education home educating parents are compelled to provide, suitable to the specific needs and apptitudes suitable to that particular child, is, in many ways, much more rigourous.

How do children socialise?

This is often the first question asked of most home educating families as it is often thought that children are isolated in their homes meeting no one. In fact Home educating families rarely see this as a problem. Home educating children often meet up and attend other groups such as woodcraft folk, girls and boys brigade, scouts etc. as well as attending classes like dance, climbing, gymnastics, history and environmental and natural history groups etc. Additionally Home educators use resources such as libraries and museums. One Home educating parent put it this way "the only problem I have with my children's socialisation is how to fit it all in". The problem is perhaps in the term "Home education", it is rarely the sole preserve of the home. Some parents prefer to call it "Home Based Learning".

Many Home educating families and people they encounter report that Home educated children often relate better on a one to one basis with adults as they don't have as a dominant experience the influence of a hierarchical relationship found in schools. This helps the child become more responsible. The "us and them" attitude is often totally lacking in their behaviour. There is less peer pressure as parents have improved relationships with their children. Bullying is almost totally absent from large gatherings of Home educators.

Do they do all the exams?

Home educators do not do SAT's testing which are the preserve of state schools. The purpose of SAT's is to audit the quality of schools which receive state funding. However There are facilities for Home educating children to take GCSE's and A levels by enrolling as external candidates. Sometimes Home educating children will take exams early (sometimes as young as aged 14) and spread the load. Other children enrol in NVQ's and GNVQ's. Another option for older children is to enrol into individual adult courses for subjects difficult to supply at home an option usually possible at the discretion of the head of the collage. Open University is becoming a popular choice with children as young as 8 taking short and degree foundation courses.

Can they get into University?

Yes. It is possible to obtain a University place either in the normal way or sometimes by portfolio entrance depending upon the course. Enrolment tutors have a growing awareness of home education as a phenomenon and are often quite keen to have such students at their collages. In the United States Harvard University has gone as far as reserving places for home educated students. Also Open University is becoming a popular choice sometimes as an alternative to GCSEs or GCEs or as complete degrees.


 
link to learntech Advert and link to Sands School

advert and link to Wolsey Hall Oxford

link to Cambridge Home Education

Link to The Tutor Pages Hub link to Online french tuition
Link to NEC distance learning
|About this site|Page last updated 04-May-2017 |