Home education

Councils urged to create ‘voluntary’ home education registers

DfE also recommends data-sharing with police and GPs as plans for a compulsory register remain in the long grass

DfE also recommends data-sharing with police and GPs as plans for a compulsory register remain in the long grass

attendance Covid

Councils should maintain voluntary registers of children in home education and develop “information sharing agreements” with GPs and police to help identify those at risk of harm, according to draft new guidance from the government.

Local authorities should also check that children are suitably “literate in English and numerate” in investigating whether families are providing a “suitable” education at home.

The Department for Education is consulting on changes to its non-statutory guidance for councils and parents on elective home education.

Officials pointed to “developments” since guidance was last updated in 2019, including the “growing number of parents who are electing to home educate their children”.

A Schools Week investigation earlier this year revealed how the number of children in home education has soared by 60 per cent since before Covid.

The DfE said changes to the guidance aimed to “promote a more positive relationship between local authorities and home educators”.

The guidance is non-statutory, and does not change the legal duty on parents to provide a suitable education, nor the duty on councils to check they are doing so and take action if they are not.

‘Voluntary’ registers and data-sharing with police

Although parents have no legal duty to tell councils their child is home-educated, informing town halls helps avoid children being mistakenly labelled as “missing education” – which is a distinct term for those not receiving a suitable education.

The DfE “therefore recommends local authorities maintain voluntary registers of children who are not in school, including those electively home educated and missing education”.

Previous guidance only suggested councils “may choose” to operate voluntary registration schemes.

It comes after plans for a formal, statutory register of those not in school were kicked into the long grass after the schools bill was shelved last year. The government has said it remains committed to introducing one when it has a legislative “opportunity”.

Councils should also collaborate with “appropriate partners” including the police, GPs, and UK Visas and Immigration services to “develop data and information sharing agreements”, the draft guidance also states.

Relevant information “could include instances where there is reason to believe that a vulnerable child or one at risk of harm may be home educated, or where unsuitable education could amount to educational neglect and therefore harm”.

Doctors and hospitals should be encouraged to “notify a local authority where there is reason to think that a vulnerable child or one at risk of harm may be home educated”.

However, this “does not mean such professionals should share information on every home-educated child they come across, as EHE is not itself a risk”.

‘Suitable’ education includes literacy and numeracy

The DfE is also proposing to update the guidance to state that a suitably educated child “should be literate in English and numerate appropriate to the child’s age, ability and aptitude and any SEN they may have”.

Parents “should be able to provide information to the LA so they can establish the child’s levels of literacy and numeracy and whether they are appropriate to the child’s age, ability aptitude and SEN”, the draft guidance states.

The draft guidance also notes that many home educating families “do follow a clear academic structure and regular timetable”.

But it “should not be assumed that a different approach, such as autonomous and self-directed learning which does not resemble conventional schooling and its patterns, is unsatisfactory or constitutes unsuitable”.

‘Check if home ed is due to school pressure’

A guidance update is also proposed to add information about off-rolling – the practice of removing a pupil from a school roll without a formal exclusion when doing so is in the best interest of the school not the pupil.

Local authorities “may wish to check in stances where electively home educated children have received multiple suspensions from their previous school(s), that their parents’ decision to home educate is not due to pressures or persuasion from the school”.

The draft guidance also clarifies that the DfE “does not consider the provision of solely religious education as meeting the relevant components to be considered a ‘suitable education’.”

More from this theme

Home education

Rate of pupils leaving for home education doubles

Poorer areas see some of the biggest rises, as more parents withdraw children because of unmet needs

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Follow a clear academic structure and regular timetable?!

    Written only by someone who has no idea how children learn.
    And most of the time, it doesn’t involve a desk or workbooks!
    Maybe when you can provide a suitable education in schools, sort out the rise in bullying, and pressures on young children to achieve the same as the next child,
    Not to mention those that don’t eat at school, have clothes too small or torn, no winter coat, and abuse at home, that are well known to the school and authorities, yet these children are still failed by the very system meant to protect them.
    Then maybe they can look to home educated children, whose parents take them out of school because the system is detrimental to children.

    • “Clear academic structure and regular timetable” doesn’t mean desks or workbooks. It means what times of the week and year the family is focusing on academics and how those academics are being structured into that, what resources are being used, and so on. This is often put into home educators philosophy of education reports to councils when they’ve been registered.

      We can look at deprivation and issues within schools and those issues within home education at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other first. We can’t ignore issues like families being pressured to home educate to benefit schools and ending up out of their depth and no access qualifications or unregulated ‘schools’ telling parents to claim their kids as home educated when the children aren’t and are only receiving ideological education from those with no DBS, just because there are failing schools or growing poverty and abuse reports. Home educated kids deserved as much consideration and protection as school educated ones. Many families have a mix of both.

      I absolutely support home educating families being able to register just like school educating families – it saves a lot of issues when councils register a place that isn’t going to be used and when dealing professionals, it’s great to be able to point them towards the local authority one is registered with. I also support there being standards because for decades there has been too loud a voice within home education spaces that we can just do whatever we want because the school system is limited and hampered. That doesn’t benefit our kids in the slightest.

      There are current and previous home educators who sit on school boards – I’m one of them. I think home educators who think schools need to improve before we can look at the issues within the home education – the issues facing our kids – then they should step up and put their time where their declared ideals are or recognise that they’re still part of problem even if they’ve taken their kids out of school or chose to not engage with schools at all. Nothing improves just by telling someone something else needs to be fixed first.

  2. The number of home educated children is soaring. Instead of more regulation why don’t you stop and ask why that is? It’s because the school system is rubbish. Reform the school system, stop going against the parents, and maybe people might be happy to send their children to school.

    • While I agree that more genuine discussion on the reasons around home education would be nice and with school reform in theory, this isn’t about increased regulation. The only regulation in this is on schools to prove they’re not off-rolling – that they’re not pressuring families to deregister their child for the school’s benefit, because this has been done by schools wanting to improve their results and often includes not informing parents that their child loses access to options that can be gained through the school like part-time timetables, alternative provision, paid for exams, EOTS support, and more when a child becomes EHE. This has been a requirement for some years because home educating families have spoken out about the issue.

      The rest is non-statutory recommendations and clarification on the laws already there. The recommendation includes councils running voluntary registers, something many of them have done for decades and can support home educated families particularly in dealing with other professionals. The clarification that suitable education means not just religious education is largely aimed at unregulated schools and previous court cases around the issue. The concept that suitable education includes literacy and numeracy isn’t new, it’s just rarely been explicitly stated because it’s been taken as obvious so local authorities haven’t asked explicitly. Now it’s being recommended that it be explicit so local authorities will ask. Not regulated, recommended.

      Some parents won’t be happy to send their kids to school no matter what reforms. Many parents are who have conflict with a particular school don’t have an issue with the system – this is shown in many areas with the majority of parents withdrawing returning their kids to a different school within 2 years. Really, no matter the issues of schools, that doesn’t change that protections and consideration of home education children is still important.

  3. There could be a mutually profitable arrangement in this regard. If local authorities offered access to educational resources in exchange for registration that might help, plus it would to some extent help focus attention on those families that aren’t providing a basic standard of literacy and numeracy.

    We home school and don’t really want to re-enter the system however having the opportunity to access certain educational material, peripatetic services or join a local school for after-school activities would be good. The Flexi school arrangement in England sadly doesn’t seem especially flexible. Having moved from Scotland where another family at the primary school our children attended Flexi schooled, we are somewhat disappointed to find provision in English schools lacking.