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1.4.6 Elective Home Education Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter explores the responsibility and boundaries with regard to children whose parents elect to educate them at home.

For further enquiries please contact Neil Gordon Orr on neil.gordon-orr@southwark.gov.uk

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Department for Education (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 Years (Children and Young People with SEN Educated at Home)

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Children Missing Education Protocol

AMENDMENT

This chapter was reviewed and comprehensively amended in September 2016. There are new sections on: Section 2, Notification Process, Section 5, Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan, Section 6, Safeguarding and Home Education, and Section 10, Summary of Responsibilities within Children’s and Adult’s Services. Other sections have been updated in line with organisational changes and practice. A link to the updated Department for Education (2015) Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 Years (Children and Young People with SEN Educated at Home) has also been made (see above).


Contents

  1. Introduction and Legal Context
  2. Notification Process
  3. Recording Details of Home Educated Children
  4. Exceptional Situations
  5. Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan
  6. Safeguarding and Home Education
  7. Where the Parent Wishes to Cease Home Education
  8. Home Education and ‘Children Missing Education’ (CME)
  9. Monitoring and Reporting
  10. Summary of Responsibilities within Children’s and Adult’s Services
  11. Review of this Chapter
  12. Further Information


1. Introduction and Legal Context

Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children receive a suitable education including where they elect to home educate. This is set out in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, which states that:

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him/her to receive efficient full-time education suitable:

  1. To age, ability and aptitude; and
  2. To any special education needs he/she may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Education is efficient and suitable if: ‘it equips a child to achieve their full potential and it prepares them for adult life in their community, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if s/he wishes to do so’.

Full time education does not mean being bound by school terms and hours because it is acknowledged that there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact when home education takes place.

Parents who choose to home educate assume full financial responsibility for their child's education, including the cost of exams.

Southwark recognises that parents have a right to choose to educate their children at home. For many parents this is a positive choice, and there are well-established networks of support available to ensure that children have good educational experiences. However, the Local Authority (LA) has a safeguarding responsibility and is required to implement procedures which identify children who are being home educated, and ensure a process for monitoring and follow up if necessary. 

Southwark expects that parents will let us know that they home educating their child, or planning to do so, so that we can offer advice and support.


2. Notification Process

Where a parent wishes to withdraw a child attending a special school for the purpose of home education, they are legally required to notify the Local Authority and seek approval. The parent must write to the Head of Special Educational Needs and Inclusion, Southwark Council Children and Adults Service, PO Box 64529, London SE1 5LX

Where a parent wishes to withdraw their child from any other school, they must notify the school in writing that they intend to home educate and request their child’s name be removed from roll. The school then notifies the Local Authority with full details of the parent’s name, contact numbers and address. Notification should be sent to earlyhelp@southwark.gov.uk

Note: If a child has never been in school, there is no duty for the parent to inform the Local Authority that they are home educating. However, Southwark encourages parents to do so in order that support can be offered. The Local Authority will ask the parent to confirm that they are home educating in the course of checking whether a child is missing education (see Section 8, Home Education and 'Children Missing Education' (CME)) or where it comes to its attention that there is a school age child not regularly attending school.


3. Recording Details of Home Educated Children

Southwark maintains a list of children being electively home educated for monitoring and safeguarding purposes.

When a parent or school informs the Local Authority that a child has been withdrawn from school in order to home educate Pupil access will:

  • Send an information pack on home education to the parent;
  • Log/record the form completed by the parent confirming proposal to home educate;
  • Inform the Elective Home Education Advisor who will make contact with the parent to offer advice and support on learning opportunities and resources;
  • Upon receipt of the report from the Elective Home Education Advisor, update the school record on Capita accordingly;
  • Complete a checklist, after checking Southwark’s systems, to identify if the family is already receiving support from Early Help, Children’s Social Care or the SEN Team. If they are, the checklist will be sent to the referrals inbox for the relevant locality team, and copied to the named social worker where relevant.

Note: The Elective Home Education Advisor will offer at least one visit per year to all home educated children, with more frequent visits where additional advice is required. The first visit will be offered within the first 2 months of home education commencing. The parent may decline this offer should they wish, but a record will be kept of all home visits and should there be cause for concern, Social care will be notified.

Southwark provides access to an exam centre at Southwark Inclusive Learning Service (SILS4) for Southwark residents who have elected to home educate their children.


4. Exceptional Situations

In some cases the family may already be receiving support from the Early Help Service, Children’s Social Care or the SEN Team and consideration will need to be given as to whether the change in education provision has any implications for the support that is being provided for the welfare of the child. These children will be identified through the checklist process (please see Section 3, Recording Details of Home Educated Children) and referred to the relevant Early Help Locality team.

Upon receipt of the checklist, the Early Help Locality Manager will allocate the case to a practitioner. This will usually be an Education Welfare Officer, unless another practitioner in the team is currently the lead professional and the Manager thinks it would be more appropriate for them to lead on this matter.

In the case of a parent considering withdrawing the child from school, the EWO (or nominated practitioner) will contact the parent and school to provide advice. Whilst fully respecting the right of the parent to home educate, the EWO will ensure that the parent has received advice on all options, including enrolment in other schools. The EWO will also identify any other support needs for the child and update the CAF and Delivery Plan where appropriate as well as following up with Children’s Social Care or SEN Team where either is involved with the family.


5. Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan

The Special Educational Needs and Disability code of practice; 0-25 years (DFE 2015) clearly states that as for all parents, parents of children who have an Education, Health & Care Plan (EHC) (or previously a statement of SEN) are entitled to home educate their children. They also have the same duty to ensure that their child receives a suitable education, including ensuring that their Special Educational Needs are being met.  

Where the Local Authority and parents agree that home education is the right provision for the child or young person with an EHC Plan, the plan will make it clear that the child or young person will be educated at home. The Local Authority will take into account the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parents, as required under Section 19 of the Children’s and Families Act 2014.  

In cases where the EHC Plan gives the name of a school, or type of school, where the child will be educated, and the parents decide to educate at home, Southwark’s SEN Panel will review whether the SEN provision set out in the plan continues to be appropriate. SEN provision agreed to support a child’s school place, such as funding for additional staff support or adaptions, will not automatically continue should the parent decide to home educate. The SEN Panel will also consider whether the arrangements made by the parents are suitable to meeting the child’s needs and if concerns arise in relation to the suitability of education, the Early Help service will follow up, in line with process set out in Section 4, Exceptional Situations.


6. Safeguarding and Home Education

NSPCC (2014) has identified that while ‘Home-educating parents or carers are not more likely than others to abuse or neglect their children’, a number of Serious Case Reviews demonstrate that there is ‘a small minority of home educators who use elective home education as a cover to conceal child neglect and abuse’.

Staff who come in to contact with families choosing to home educate should follow the usual Safeguarding Procedures should they have any concerns about a child.

Where there are existing safeguarding concerns in relation to a child being home educated, the Early Help Service will prioritise assessing whether the educational needs of the child are being met, with prompt enforcement action where it is believed suitable education is not being provided. The Early Help Service will allocate an Education Welfare Officer (or other suitable practitioner) to join the professional network in any case where a child subject to a Child In Need Plan or Child Protection Plan is known to be being home educated.

Where a parent has been prosecuted for failing to comply with a School Attendance Order and this fails to result in the child being enrolled at a school, the Early Help Service will consider what evidence there is of actual or likely Significant Harm to the child’s development or well being. Where there is such evidence, a safeguarding referral to Children’s Social Care will be made.

Young people who are out of school and not receiving suitable education and support may be vulnerable to child sexual exploitation (CSE). Pupil Access is represented at the monthly Southwark Child Sexual Exploitation Operational Group and checks before each meeting if any children to be discussed are being home educated. Where there are CSE concerns, Southwark’s CSE Protocol (2015) is followed.

Where children who are being electively home educated are identified as being at risk of involvement in extremist activity, ‘Southwark Children’s Services Practice Guidance on Safeguarding Children from Extremism’ (2016).


7. Where the Parent Wishes to Cease Home Education

In some cases parents may see home education as a short term measure as a result of disputes with a school, failure to secure a place in school of choice, or other factors. Others may wish to home educate for a particular period of a child’s life with a view to them attending school later.

If at any time a parent decides that they wish their child to start or return to formal schooling, Southwark will provide advice and support with finding a suitable school place through the normal admissions process.

Please see Southwark.gov.uk.


8. Home Education and ‘Children Missing Education’ (CME)

Southwark receives referrals from a number of sources about children who are believed to be missing education (see Children Missing Education Protocol). This may be prompted by a school advising that a child appears to be no longer attending, or by other agencies coming into contact with a young person who does not seem to be in school.

The Early Help Service follows up all potential CME in line with the Children Missing Education Protocol, including checking the list of children known to be home educated

Contact with parents is made should there be no record of the child attending school or being home educated. Children referred as potential CME who are in fact being appropriately home educated are not considered missing education and the referrer will be advised of this.


9. Monitoring and Reporting

While Southwark recognises that most parents who choose to home educate provide a good education to their children, the LA has a responsibility to take an overview on whether some children may be at risk of not receiving suitable education. For this reason the Children at Risk of Missing Education Monitoring Group reviews cases on a six weekly basis where:

  • Home educated children are known to Early Help and/or Children’s Social Care; or
  • The Elective Home Education Advisor or other professionals have raised concerns about the suitability of education; or
  • Parents have not engaged with the Home Education Advisor.

The main purpose of the Monitoring Group is to ensure that there is no drift, delay or avoidance in following up cases where there are concerns. Meetings include managers from Pupil Access, Early Help, Children’s Social Care as well as the Elective Home Education Advisor. It receives updates on all relevant cases with actions available to it include:

  • Recommending an increasing frequency of visits from the Elective Home Education Advisor and/or other professionals;
  • Recommending that the Early Help service consider statutory enforcement.
A report on Electively Home Educated Children will be provided on an annual basis to the Southwark Safeguarding Children’s Board (SSCB). The Education Sub-Group of the SSCB will retain oversight of safeguarding aspects of Elective Home Education on an ongoing basis.


10. Summary of Responsibilities within Children's and Adult's Services

Pupil Access will:

  • Provide an information pack to parents on home education;
  • Maintain accurate records of which children are known to be being educated at home;
  • Check all new notifications of home educated children to identify if they are already known to Early Help, Children’s Social Care or the SEN team, and refer to Early Help Locality Team where appropriate;
  • Check the list of home educated children on a weekly basis against the Mosaic system (Children’s Social Care/Early Help casework system) to identify any home educated children with a Child in Need Plan or Child Protection Plan;
  • Ensure that support is offered by the Elective Home Education Advisor and receive and log reports from visits;
  • Convene and service the Children at Risk of Missing Education Monitoring Group.

The Elective Home Education Advisor will:

  • Provide individualised information and advice to parents;
  • Provide a view to the Local Authority on whether suitable home education is being provided through reports following visits.

Note: the Advisor has no legal power to inspect provision, and parents are not obliged to engage with them.

The Early Help service will:

  • Undertake all case work relating to children being educated at home;
  • Allocate an Education Welfare Officer (or other suitable practitioner) to join the professional network with a focus on the child’s education needs, where a home educated child is subject to a Child in Need Plan, Child Protection Plan, or Education, Health and Care Plan;
  • Initiate appropriate statutory enforcement action in cases of concern.

Children’s Social Care will:

  • Invite an Education Welfare Officer to contribute relevant information to assessments and attend professionals’ meetings, and other appropriate meetings, where they are working with a family with a child who is being home educated.


11. Review of this Chapter

This protocol was agreed by the Director of Education and the Director of Children’s Social Care, January 2015 and updated to reflect organisational changes in April 2016 on the authority of the Director of Education. The protocol will be further reviewed.


12. Further Information

Department for Education (2007, revised 2013), Elective home education: guidelines for local authorities.

Department for Education (2014) Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years, Children and young people with SEN educated at home

NSPCC (2014), Home education: learning from case reviews. What case reviews tell us about elective home education.

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