Elective home education guidance
How parents can home educate their children.
Guidance on things to consider, your responsibilities, how to begin home education, and how home education is monitored.
Published: 6 October 2021
Last updated: April 2020
Version number: 5
- Elective Home Education and the law: rights and responsibilities
- Parents' Rights, Responsibilities and Considerations
- Local Authorities' Responsibilities
- Schools' Responsibilities
- Special Education Needs
- Buckinghamshire Council Procedures
- Disputes between parents
- Safeguarding concerns
- Contact information for the EHE Team
- Department for Education EHE Guidance
- National and Regional Organisations
- Complaints Procedure
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Elective home education (EHE) is a term used to describe a choice by parents to provide education for their child at home, rather than providing education for their child by sending them to school. This is different to education provided by a Local Authority otherwise than at a school – for example, home tuition for children who are too ill to attend school. Throughout this guidance, ‘parents’ should include all those with parental responsibility, including guardians (and foster carers, although in this case the Local Authority may be the corporate parents).
1.2. This document aims to clarify for schools, parents, carers, guardians and related agencies, the policy and procedures to be observed when a parent elects to home educate their child who is of compulsory school age. The policy sets out parents’ rights to educate their children at home, together with the legal duties and responsibilities of Headteachers and Buckinghamshire Council. It also sets out the arrangements Buckinghamshire Council will make in order to carry out its legal duties.
Elective Home Education and the Law (Rights and Responsibilities)
2. The responsibility for children’s education rests with their parents. In England, education is compulsory, but attending school is not. Parents have a right to educate their children at home.
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 provides that:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable -
(a) To his age, ability and aptitude and
(b) To any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
2.1. Your child must start full-time education once they reach compulsory school age. This is on 31 December, 31 March or 31 August following their fifth birthday - whichever comes first. If your child’s fifth birthday is on one of those dates then they reach compulsory school age on that date. For example, if your child reaches compulsory school age on 31 March, they must start full-time education the term after (summer term that year). The child remains so until the last Friday of June in the academic year in which she or he becomes sixteen. Children may also be educated at home in order to participate in education and training until the age of 18.
2.2. The DfE recommends that every Local Authority has a written policy statement on EHE which is clear, transparent and easily accessible. This document is designed to ensure that Buckinghamshire Council complies with this requirement. It is hoped it will provide a helpful summary of the rights and responsibilities of parents, schools and Buckinghamshire Council as far as EHE is concerned. It also sets out the procedure Buckinghamshire Council will take in the event that it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving ‘suitable education.’ Buckinghamshire Council sees its role in relation to home education as part of its wider responsibilities, including safeguarding, for all children living in Buckinghamshire.
Parents' Rights, Responsibilities and Considerations
3. In England, the responsibility for a child's education rests with his or her parents. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that, ‘the parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable – (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have.’ However, whereas education is compulsory, school is not, for section 7 goes on to say, ‘This must be achieved either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.’ In other words, parents have a right to educate their children by means other than school, so long as the education is ‘efficient,’ ‘full-time’ and ‘suitable’.
3.1 The term ‘suitable’ and ‘efficient’ is not defined in the Education Act 1996. However, it should enable a child to participate fully in life in the UK by including sufficient secular education. This means that even if the home education is primarily designed to equip a child for life within a smaller community within the country, it should not foreclose the child’s options in later life to adopt some other mode of living, and to be capable of living on an autonomous basis, so far as he or she chooses to do so. This view is compatible with the small amount of potentially relevant case law.
3.2 The term ‘full-time’ is not defined in the Education Act or in case law. However, it may be useful to note that most schools provide around 4.5 – 5.00 hours of education a day, for about 190 days a year. Buckinghamshire Council will consider the length of time spent on a child’s education.
3.3 Parents must comply with notices served by the Local Authority under section 473 (1) The Education Act 1996. If a child is registered at a school as a result of a school attendance order, the parents must get the order revoked by the Local Authority on the grounds that arrangements have been made for the child to receive suitable education otherwise than at school, before the child can be deleted from the school’s register and educated at home.
3.4 Buckinghamshire Council recognises parents’ rights to home educate but also recognises the time and commitment required to ensure a suitable educate is received. We therefore suggest parents consider the following questions before making this decision.
a) Is your child positive about the suggestion of being educated at home?
b) Are you convinced it is the best for your child?
c) Do you have the time to devote to your child’s education?
d) Do you have the ability to teach your child effectively?
e) Are you prepared to buy the necessary resources?
f) Are there opportunities for your child to participate in physical exercise?
g) Will social experiences with other children be available?
3.5 Buckinghamshire Council’s EHE Team seek to work in collaboration with families home educating and welcome contact from parents for advice, at any stage in a child’s education.
Local Authorities' Responsibilities
4. The Local Authority has a duty to make arrangements to enable them to establish the identities, so far as it is possible to do so, of children in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school, for example, at home or privately. (Section 436A of the Education Act 1996, inserted by the Education and Inspections Act 2006).
4.1 The Local Authority has a duty to take action if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education. If it appears that a child of compulsory school age in a Local Authority’s area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they are required to take action (section 437(1) Education Act 1996).
4.2 Parents are under no legal duty to respond to enquiries from the Local Authority about the educational arrangements they have put in place. However, it is likely to be in their best interests to do so because if the Local Authority cannot be satisfied that suitable education is being provided, it may have no choice but to issue a School Attendance Order. It is perhaps for this reasons that in case law (Phillips v Brown) it has been recognised that is it sensible for parents to respond to the Local Authority.
4.3 Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996 states that:
"If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in
their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education."
4.4 Section 437(2) of the Act provides that the period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served. Prior to serving a notice under section 437(1), Buckinghamshire Council will do its utmost to address the situation informally.
4.5 Section 437(3) refers to the serving of school attendance orders:
(a) a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and
(b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school, the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a "school attendance order"), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order."
4.6 A school attendance order will only be served after all reasonable steps have been taken to try to resolve matters. At any stage following the issue of the Order, parents may present evidence to the Local Authority that they are now providing an appropriate education and apply to have the Order revoked. If the Local Authority refuses to revoke the Order, parents can choose to refer the matter to the DfE.
4.7 In the event that the parents fail to comply with the Order, the Local Authority may choose to prosecute the parents in the courts, in which case it will be for the court to decide whether any education being provided by the parents is suitable and efficient. The court can revoke the Order if it is satisfied that this is the case. It can also revoke the Order where it imposes an education supervision order.
4.8 Where a Local Authority imposes a time limit, every effort should generally be made to make sure that both the parents and the named senior officer with responsibility for elective home education are available throughout this period. Efforts should be made to ensure that the time limit does not expire during, or near to school holidays when there may be no appropriate point of contact for parents.
5. There is no legal requirement for parents to discuss home education with the school, but if a parent does approach the school to discuss the possibility of home education the Local Authority expects the school to respond positively. If parents are considering home education because of a dispute with the school the Local Authority expects the school to take all the necessary steps to resolve the issues.
5.1 When the Headteacher receives formal, written notice from a parent stating that ‘the pupil will cease to attend the school and will now receive education otherwise than at school (EHE), the Headteacher should ensure that the child’s name is removed promptly from the admissions register in accordance with Section 8 (1) (d) of The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. The exception being where the child is on the roll of a special school where permission from Buckinghamshire Council is required before removal can take place.
5.2 Section 12(3) of The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 states that “the proprietor (Head Teacher) shall make a return to the Local Authority for every such pupil giving the full name of the pupil, the address of any parent with whom the pupil normally resides and the ground upon which their name is to be deleted from the admission register as soon as the ground for deletion is met in relation to that pupil, and in any event no later than deleting the pupil’s name from the register.
5.3 The Local Authority requests that Schools complete a Schools Notification Form (EHE1) that can be found on Schools Web. The school is responsible for raising any safeguarding concerns relating to a child through the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team. Home Education is not itself to be considered a safeguarding concern.
5.4 The school must retain the child’s school file. Parents have the right to request a copy of the file from the school to assist them with their child education.
Special Education Needs
6. The parent’s right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has special educational needs. If a child is on the roll of a Special School, the child’s name may not be removed from the schools register without the Local Authorities consent.
6.1 If a child with an EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) attends either a special school or a maintained school the Local Authority needs to assess to see whether the home schooled provision is suitable for the special education needs of the child.
6.2 If a child has an EHCP and requests to EHE then an Annual Review will be arranged by the school, or Local Authority SEN Officer. The meeting will give parents and professionals the opportunity to offer advice and guidance and assess whether the education that is being or will be provided is ‘suitable and efficient’ and that the child’s needs are being met. It will also give parents the opportunity to seek additional support or discuss alternatives to home education.
6.3 Where it is satisfied that the provision being made at home is suitable, the Local Authority will amend the child’s Education & Health Care Plan so that it specifies a type of school that Buckinghamshire Council considers appropriate (rather than a particular school) and will state that parents have made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996.
6.4 The Local Authority has an annual duty to maintain and review the EHCP until it decides to cease the EHCP, the EHCP atomically lapses, or the EHCP is transferred to another Local Authority. The Local Authority has no duty to assist parents with the cost they incur to EHE their child.
Buckinghamshire Council Procedures
7. In order for Buckinghamshire Council to establish the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age, but who are neither registered pupils at a school, nor receiving suitable education otherwise than at school, an EHE Officer will request to meet with the family and the child to discuss the education provision.
7.1 In determining whether an education is suitable, Buckinghamshire Council will review and assess progress on literacy and numeracy, as a minimum, which must feature in any programme of education delivered by parents. This, in conjunction with aspects of socialisation, environment, length of time spent on education will enable us to determine suitability. Parents will be provided with a reporting format prior to meeting with an EHE officer, to allow them to prepare for the meeting and demonstrate a suitable education is being provided. We aim to be proportionate in all our dealings and recognise there are many approaches to providing education and will judge suitability based on outcomes rather than pedagogy.
7.2 In considering the parents provision of education Buckinghamshire Council will consider the following characteristics:
- Broad: It should introduce the young person to a wide range of knowledge, understanding and skills.
- Balanced: Each subject taught should be allocated sufficient time to enable the young person to explore essential parts of their learning.
- Relevant: Subjects should be taught relating to a young person’s own experiences and interests with an emphasis on practical aspects.
- Differentiated: What is taught, and how it is taught needs to match the young person’s abilities and aptitude.
- Efficient: Whether the education being provided achieves what it sets out to achieve.
- Full-time: Whilst there is no legal definition of full-time education, we will expect parents to be able to quantify and demonstrate the amount of time spent on education.
7.3 A good curriculum may also include other aspects at an appropriate level such as personal and social education, health education, careers, outdoor and environmental education.
7.4 Opportunities to mix and relate with other children and adults are considered to be important to a child’s personal and social development.
7.5 When the EHE officer is confident that a parent is complying with their Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 duty, the EHE officer and family will agree a date for the next annual review of educational provision. Parents may contact the EHE team during this period for advice.
7.6 Following contact with the parent and child the EHE officer will write to parents within two weeks summarising the matters discussed/presented and will provide any additional information or advice requested by parents.
7.7 If it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education, the EHE officer will in the first instance address the situation informally by offering advice and support to help enhance the education being provided and seek to agree a follow up meeting to monitor progress. Where this advice and guidance does not result in a child being provided with a suitable education, Buckinghamshire Council will consider whether a school attendance order is required.
7.8 Buckinghamshire Council’s EHE officers will monitor data and highlight schools considered to have a larger than average numbers of children leaving to EHE.
7.9 If Buckinghamshire Council’s is made aware of a child being home educated within Buckinghamshire, the child’s details will be added to the central EHE database. An officer will make written contact with the parent and share information and guidance on a range of issues, including the local offer of available services.
7.10 Buckinghamshire Council will offer an early opportunity for parents to inform Buckinghamshire Council if they believe they have been pressured by the school. In such situations, Buckinghamshire Council will ask the school to reconsider and apply any influence it may have to encourage the school to take a pupil back. Where it transpires it is not parental choice to EHE, the case will be supported by a LA officer and presented the next Fair Access Board Meeting, where according to FAB protocol, the school will be expected to accept the children back on their roll, and potentially directed to do so.
7.11 The Elective Home Education team is a small team within Children’s Services. Overall responsibility for the Elective Home Education team sits with the Education Entitlement Manager.
7.12 Buckinghamshire Council will review these guidelines and practice in relation to home education on a regular basis. The initial review will be within 12 months of the first date of publication and thereafter at least every two years.
Disputes Between Parents
8. Buckinghamshire Council will always work closely with parents, this will include where one parent may disagree as to whether home education is desirable. The parent, with whom the child lives for most of the time, is normally in effective control of the education provided and whether the child attends school. However, that can be subject to an order made by the Family court. If mediation between parents cannot resolve any disagreement, the parent who does not agree with the provision of home education is entitled to bring the matter to the Courts for consideration.
9. EHE officers will at all times adhere to the requirements of the Department for Education “Working Together to Safeguard Children” guidance.
A lack of suitable education could impair a child’s development if this appears to be the case the EHE officer will discuss their concerns with the family in the first instance. If remedial action is not undertaken by the family a referral to social care might be an appropriate course of action. Families will be kept fully informed if this were to take place.
EHE officers must ensure that all reasonable care is taken to ensure their safety, be advised by any risk assessment information and report any concerns over health, welfare and safety issues to their manager, in the first instance. They will adhere to all elements of the Lone Working Policy consistently.
Contact Information for the EHE Team
The EHE team can be contacted on:
Phone: 01296 382 687
Email: [email protected]
Department for Education EHE Guidance
National and Regional Organisations
- Education Otherwise: www.educationotherwise.org
- Ed yourself: www.edyourself.org
- A Home Education: www.ahomeeducation.co.uk
- Home Education Advisory Service: www.heas.org.uk
- Department for Education: www.education.gov.uk
- Home Education in the UK – Special Education Needs: www.he-special.org.uk
If any parent/carer wishes to express dissatisfaction with any aspect of our management of EHE, they should firstly attempt to resolve the matter informally with officers.
However, if this does not succeed, they are entitled to complain by writing to:
Compliments and Complaints Team
Walton Street Office
Tel: 01296 387 844
Email: [email protected]