Support for Home Education - Education Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Relationships between home educators and local authorities

The role of local authorities in home education

1.  Local authorities have a responsibility to follow the law, and to be seen to do so. Considering evidence that only thirty do not currently have ultra vires statements on their websites, regarding home education, we urge all local authorities to undertake a swift review of their own material, and to ensure that their policies reflect the guidance available. (Paragraph 12)

Tensions in existing guidance

2.  We believe that the case law definitions of 'suitable' and 'efficient' education are sufficient, and encourage local authorities to use these as required. However, some aspects of existing guidance require clarification, and we recommend that the Department for Education undertake a review of the guidance concerning home education, working with local authorities and home educators to iron out any tensions. (Paragraph 15)

Variation in local authorities behaviour and practices

3.  We are pleased to support innovative models such as joint local authority services and associations of home education officers, which aim to share best practice and to achieve more consistency between local authorities with regard to home education. We believe that these models have significant potential to lessen the 'postcode lottery' which was described to us, and we encourage more local authorities, especially smaller ones, to develop shared services, and to join existing networks of home education officers. (Paragraph 20)

4.  The development of a more formalised professional association of, and/or annual conference for, home education officers, driven by those in the profession themselves, could be a welcome step in terms of sharing best practice nationally, and in turn might consider issues such as accreditation and improved training for local authority officers. (Paragraph 21)

5.  We recommend that the Department for Education carry out an audit of local authorities' performance regarding home education, and the information they make available on their websites and elsewhere, and publish the results, ascertaining which local authorities are performing well with regard to home education. We consider that, far from damaging the Government's localism agenda, this review would fit well with the Department for Education's transparency drive. (Paragraph 24)

Placement of officers within local authority structures

6.  The team within which local authority home education officers sit can give out an important message about that authority's view of home education. For example, it is inappropriate for such officers to be located with those working on attendance, children in care or safeguarding. Local authority officers dealing with home education ought to be situated within a dedicated team, or sit within a neutral location such as learning or library services. (Paragraph 28)

Financial support for local education

7.  Based on the current state of the public finances, and the evidence we have heard from local authorities and home educators, we do not recommend any system-wide changes to financial support for home educators. However, where funding is available, central Government needs to explain better how this can be obtained and utilised. We cannot understand why some local authorities refuse to utilise or claim such funding, and urge those that have done so to change their position. (Paragraph 34)

Provision of services and other support for home education


8.  It does not seem reasonable to us that home educators in some areas have such a struggle accessing examinations centres for their children. We recommend that the Government place a duty on every local authority to ensure access to local centres for home-educated young people to sit accredited public examinations. (Paragraph 43)

9.  As noted previously, we do not believe that the State ought routinely to finance home education. That said, many home educators do contribute to the education system through their taxes, and yet still have to meet the costs of sitting public examinations. We do not consider this to be fair, and therefore recommend that the costs of sitting public examinations be met by the State. The Department for Education should work to establish the appropriate level of entitlement, and to which examinations this ought apply. (Paragraph 44)

Transitions to further education

10.  We recommend that the Government monitor, as part of the audit previously recommended, local authorities' current provision of advice regarding transitions to further education for home-educated young people. The Government should ensure that local authorities are providing high-quality advice, through their home education services or websites, to those who request support. (Paragraph 46)

11.  We congratulate the Government on giving further education colleges the power to admit 14 to 15-year-olds directly, and welcome this policy move, which we hope might benefit home educators as well as others. (Paragraph 47)

Local offers of support

12.  Whilst we agree with the Minister's view that local authorities, and not central Government, must be responsible for service provision in their area, we do not consider it acceptable that home-educated young people receive such different levels and quality of support dependent purely upon their postcode. Local authorities should be expected to produce a 'local offer of support' for home educators, stating what services are available, how these differ from those for parents of schooled children, and enabling home educators to compare with practice elsewhere. Critically, local offers must be developed in consultation with home educators and their families. We recommend that the Department for Education support pilots for such a scheme, and play a role in monitoring the quality of local offers and the adherence applied to them by local authorities. (Paragraph 52)

Home-educated young people with education needs and disabilities

13.  We are pleased that the Minister confirmed, in her evidence to us, that local authorities remain responsible for ensuring that provisions in Statements are met, and were equally pleased that she agreed the issues relating to home-educated young people with SEN or complex health needs, but without Statements, should be investigated. We look forward to the outcomes of the Department for Education's investigations in this area. In the meantime we urge local authorities to comply with statutory guidance and ensure that home-educated young people with SEN or medical conditions are not being discriminated against. (Paragraph 57)

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Prepared 18 December 2012