Understanding Home Education 

Understanding Home Education

Brown woman and pre-teen girl sit together at a table, the girl gesturing with a penThe number of families home educating has shot up nationally since the first Covid lockdown forced most families to have a go at educating their child at home. So now seems like the perfect time to set out the rights and rules around home education, and let you know where to get more information on this locally.

Why home educate?

two girls playing a keyboard together, one smiling broadlySome parents of children with SEND have always chosen to home educate as a positive option for their child. Others have found themselves doing it, either because their child was struggling to attend school or because there wasn’t a suitable place for them in mainstream or specialist education available. During lockdown, many parents found that their child thrived at home, and that has prompted some to carry on. Others are doing it less willingly, perhaps because they’re not confident that school can support their child safely at the moment, or because their child is too anxious to return.

No one should be forced to home educate or pushed towards this option. Some parents have felt pressured by their child’s school to consider home education in situations where the school is not meeting the child’s needs. They report being told they should do it to prevent prosecution for non-attendance, or because their child keeps being excluded from school. Another problem we have heard is the child being on such a part-time timetable or getting so little support that they feel they might as well home educate instead.

If you are in a situation like this you can contact SENDIASS for advice and (if they have an EHCP) speak to their Assessment and Planning Officer (APO) or Casework Officer. 

What is home education?

boys lying on floor writing or drawing on paperMaking an informed decision about all this is vital, but there can be some confusion about what is meant when we say home education, home tuition, and Education Otherwise Than At School. 

In brief:

Elective Home Education (EHE) is the DIY option where you choose to take on full responsibility for teaching your child at home, by yourself, perhaps using online learning or private tuition you pay for, or activities with a home ed group.

On the other hand, Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS) is when the child is getting their education somewhere other than in a school setting, but the local authority is still responsible for this, for example when a child is too sick to go to school for an extended period and gets one to one tuition at home.

In theory another option is flexi-schooling, where you home educate but your child also spends a bit of time at a school. This is allowed legally but you don’t have a right to get this. Few schools will be willing to agree to an arrangement like this. 

Home tuition is not a legal term, and can be used in different ways. For example, it might refer to private tuition that you pay for as part of EHE, or to one-to-one tuition at home provided as part of EOTAS.

young boy looking at a computer screen showing a woman facing forwardsWe’ll unpick EHE and EOTAS in more detail shortly, thinking about children with SEND and those with an EHC plan. But first we should point out that if your child is out of school temporarily at the moment because they have to self-isolate, their school should be providing them with remote education. This includes the small number of children who are extremely clinically vulnerable and have been medically advised to stay away for the time being.

If your child has an EHC plan this remote education should include finding a way to match the provision in the plan, even if in a different way. If this is not happening despite you raising it with the school, speak to your APO or Casework Officer, and SENDIASS is there for advice. 

What legal duties do I have?

boy with prosthesis on jaw playing with dinosaur toys with middle-aged manAs parents, we have a legal duty to make sure our children receive a suitable full time education by attendance at school or otherwise. This means we can choose to educate them at home i.e. EHE. We don’t have to run this like a school or follow the national curriculum, but we do have to provide them with a suitable education. That includes meeting their special educational needs.

If they are at a mainstream school, you take them ‘off roll’ there by notifying the head teacher, and the school will tell the local authority. If they are at a special school, you have to get consent from the local authority (LA) to take them ‘off roll’ at the school. The LA will check in with you to make sure your child is getting a home education that meets their needs.  

What legal duties does the local authority have…

...if my child has an EHC plan?

Teenager girl studying with older woman with grey hairIf you choose to electively home educate a child with an EHC plan, your LA is likely to say that you are making your own arrangements for the child’s education, and so they will no longer be obliged to make any of the provision in your child’s EHC plan. In exceptional circumstances they might offer some discretionary support, but this is unlikely. 

The alternative is asking for your child’s EHC plan to be amended to set out EOTAS rather than naming a school. This can be a bespoke package of home tuition and alternative provision because school provision is not appropriate for them. If you want this, you can ask for the EHC plan to be amended through the annual review process. If the LA does not agree, you could appeal to the SEND Tribunal. However, EOTAS can only be set out in an EHC plan where it can be demonstrated that it would be “inappropriate” for the provision to be made in a school, so this is not a quick and easy option to pursue. 

...if my child doesn't have an EHC plan?

If your child doesn’t have an EHC plan and you don’t want them to go to school, it is likely that the only option would be elective home education. But if your child is too ill to attend (and this can apply to some children who are “school refusing” due to severe anxiety) they may be covered by the legal duty on local authorities to “secure suitable, full-time alternative education for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, exclusion or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them”, and so get EOTAS. In this case they are likely to get a few hours a week of tuition at home or in a local library or centre.

The service that provides this for reason of illness has different names in different areas (see below for details in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove).  Speak to your school and ask SENDIASS for advice if you are in this position. 

...if my child needs an EHC plan?

close up on hands of a child lining up small bricksIf you are already home educating, you have the same right to ask for an EHC needs assessment as if your child was going to schoolSimilarly if your child is getting EOTAS because they have been excluded or due to long term illness, you can (and maybe should) request an EHC needs assessment – although this should not unnecessarily delay them getting back into a school if they can.  The key point is that there is no requirement for your child to be in school to be assessed or to get an EHC plan.  


Got any questions?

If you have questions about any of these processes, or need some advice and support, our Amaze SENDIASS advisers can help:

phonetel: 01273 772289

email: sendiass@amazesussex.org.uk 

Learn more about home education

Amaze SENDIASS zoom workshop – 10th February 2021

“Education at home if your child has SEND” 

Contact SENDIASS on 01273 772289 or sendiass@amazesussex.org.uk to book your free place. 

East Sussex County Council

Brighton and Hove City Council

National resources

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