Home education is often being chosen by parents of children with complex needs as a last resort

Children leaving secondary school to be home educated often have complex needs and some make the move as a last resort rather than a preferred choice, new research by Ofsted has revealed

The exploratory study was conducted across seven local authorities in the East Midlands to look at how and why children move from secondary school to home education.

Ofsted’s report published today says that special educational needs, medical, behavioural or other wellbeing needs were the main reasons behind such a move for parents and their children.

Parents, local authorities and schools told Ofsted that, often, there was little or no communication about the decision prior to the child moving, and alternative options or consideration of what was the best outcome for the child, was not always discussed.

Ofsted also found that in some cases the process of making the move can take less than a day.

Participants reported 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. And some parents reported that schools had applied indirect pressure to convince them to move their child to home education.

In the absence of a national framework for support, schools and local authorities have different approaches to providing support to parents.

Some schools reported that they were unsure of their responsibilities once a child moved to home education and 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.

Ofsted 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 make sure 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.”

Ofsted’s report makes several recommendations for government, schools and local authorities, including:

  • The DfE should consider the extent to which current legislation and guidance gives consideration to children’s views during decisions to home educate.
  • Schools and local authorities should develop clear processes for working together once a parents’ intention to home-educate is known.
  • 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.

For its part, Ofsted will carefully evaluate the reasons pupils leave when pupil movement at a school is unusually high. Where evidence of off-rolling is found, Ofsted will continue to report this clearly and is likely to judge the school’s leadership and management inadequate. Where appropriate, and where pupil movement into home education is very high, inspectors will take the views of parents who have moved their children into home education into their inspection evidence.

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