1.4.21 Elective Home Education


Children Missing from Education Procedure

This guidance was added to the online procedures in June 2021.

1. Introduction

A small, but growing number of children are educated at home. Elective home education (EHE) is not, in itself, a risk factor for abuse or neglect, and there is nothing to suggest children who are educated at home experience a higher incidence of abuse or neglect than the wider population of children.  However, when children who are educated at home are maltreated, this can be more difficult for professionals to identify.

2. Reasons for Choosing Elective Home Education

Parental choice is the main reason for choosing home education for children. However, there are also examples where parents and carers may choose to home educate as a result of disappointment with the quality of education and care their child was receiving in school, or because they favour more "child centred" approaches and have concerns about the wider school system.

3. What to Do if there are Concerns about the Welfare of a Child who is Electively Home Educated

Professional responses to any risk of abuse or neglect identified in relation to a home educated child must always take into account the reduced level of scrutiny. This could include for example, more announced and unannounced visits than a child in school would have, more frequent professional meetings and information sharing, and joint visits from Children's Social Care / Early Help and education staff. Where children become EHE without ever entering a school it can be more difficult to identify concerns and safeguard children.

Practitioners working with or who have contact with children and families who elect to educate their children at home should be alert to signs and indicators of abuse and neglect, and respond to any concerns in line with their local agency procedures. 

Where a decision by parents or carers to home educate follows an identification of possible safeguarding or child welfare concerns, professionals should continue to ensure there is a robust response and involve other agencies as appropriate to avoid the child(ren) becoming 'lost'. Similarly where there are concerns that home education is part of a strategy to avoid, limit or control professional contact with children this must be recorded and such information shared with other practitioners.

Local authorities should approach all cases where they have concerns about the suitability of home education being provided using their powers in the Education Act 1996. However, they should also be ready, if a lack of suitable education appears likely to impair a child's development, to carry out their safeguarding responsibilities to protect the child's well-being, which includes their right to a suitable education.

There can be particular issues when EHE families move out of the local authority and do not inform relevant agencies.  There needs to be robust information sharing between LAs when they become aware that a family has left their area.

These duties are set out in Elective Home Education - Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools about Children Educated at Home (GOV.UK).