Home education: a choice or a last resort?

Research by Ofsted has found that children who leave secondary school to be home educated often have complex needs or make the move as a last resort rather than as a preferred choice

The Ofsted report states that special educational needs, medical, behavioural or other well-being needs are the main reasons behind children leaving secondary school to become home educated. Ofsted was told by parents, local authorities and schools that it was often the case that there was little or no communication about the decision between parties before the child moved, and alternative options, or consideration of what was the best outcome for the child, were not always discussed. In fact, Ofsted found that the process of making the move can take less than a day in certain cases.

Those who contributed to the report said that children are often moved to home education to resolve pressures at school; for example, parents may remove their child from school to avoid exclusion, or prosecution, for non-attendance. Some parents also reported that schools had applied indirect pressure to convince them to move their child to home education.

As there is currently no national framework for support, schools and local authorities have different approaches to providing support to parents. Some schools reported that they weren’t sure of their responsibilities once a child moved to home education; this led to a breakdown in information-sharing with the parent that could have helped with their child’s ongoing education.

Parents said that they would have benefited from information and guidance on the financial cost of home education; in addition, parents would have liked to have been told more about where their child could sit external exams.

Commenting on the results of the report, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said, “Home education is a legitimate parental choice and can be a positive decision when parents are well-equipped to provide a good education.

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“However, children should not be moved to home education simply to resolve difficulties in school. Schools, local authorities and parents need to work together before such a decision is made, to ensure that home education is genuinely in the interests of children and not just the best thing for schools or parents. It’s vital that parents are fully informed about the alternatives, and that they understand all the implications and costs of home-educating their child.”

What the report recommends:

Ofsted’s report makes several recommendations for government, schools and local authorities, aimed at supporting the interests of children who may be moving from secondary school to home education, including:

  • the DfE should consider the extent to which current legislation and guidance considers children’s views during decisions to home-educate;
  • schools and local authorities should develop clear processes for working together once they know of a parent’s intention to home-educate;
  • local authorities and schools should be aware that, when a school writes a letter to remove a child to home education on behalf of a parent, this may be evidence of off-rolling;
  • after a move to home education is made, it would be good practice for schools to provide parents with children’s previous class work.

This report not only provides a further insight into the reasons why parents may choose to remove their children from secondary schools, but it also shines a light on the areas in which schools can improve to ensure all children are provided with a good standard of education, whether that be in a classroom or at home.

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