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Estimates suggest that in 2018 there may have been around 53,000-58,000 registered home educated children in England; and that the number has increased in recent years. However, these estimates are very likely to underestimate the number of home educated children because registration is voluntary.

Parents who choose to home-educate their children are responsible for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any SEN they may have. They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and do not have to follow the National Curriculum. Home educating parents must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations.

Local authorities have no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of education at home. However, they do have duties to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to intervene if it appears that they are not. As part of this, the Department for Education recommends that authorities should ordinarily make contact with home educating parents on at least an annual basis so that they can inform themselves of the suitability education provided.

If it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education, intervention could include the issuing of a school attendance order, although the Government encourages authorities to address the issue informally before serving such a notice. Local authorities also have a range of powers as part of their safeguarding duties, which may be used if it appears that a lack of suitable education appears likely to impair a child’s development.

Guidance on home education

Updated guidance on home education was published in April 2019, following a consultation launched in April 2018. Two guidance documents were published, one for local authorities and one for parents. Among other things, the guidance reflects legal advice received by the Government indicating that local authorities’ powers in relation to home education often go further than was previously thought.

Government consultation

Following an earlier call for evidence, on 2 April 2019 the Government published a consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school. The consultation closed on 24 June 2019.

The consultation sought views on proposals to create four new duties:

  • A duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children of compulsory school age who are not registered at a state-funded or registered independent school.
  • A duty on parents to provide information to their local authority if their child is within scope of the register.
  • A duty on education settings attended by children on the register to respond to enquiries from local authorities about the education provided to individual children.
  • A duty on local authorities to provide support to home educated families if requested by such families.

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