Home education is on the rise, but fundamental questions remain around how best to ensure all children in home education are there through choice, have access to a high-quality education, and are safe from harm.

Analysing the data across a range of local authorities in England, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) estimates that by the start of the 2021/22 academic year a record high of least 81,000 children were being home educated.1

Prior to the pandemic, the cohort of children who are home educated was growing by around 20 per cent year on year.2 The cumulative number of children who were home educated over the course of last year was over 115,000. This is an alarming 34 per cent higher than before the pandemic.3

Parents know their children best and are best informed to make choices about what their children need. Their right to do so is enshrined in law and needs to be respected. However, our current home education system is not enabling all parents to make a fair and free choice.

In the CSJ’s research, we heard of many instances where parents took their children out of school because they believed that school was no longer a safe environment. Many parents cite difficulties with accessing SEND provision, a lack of support for mental health and serious incidences of bullying as reasons for opting for home education. These parents feel that schools are failing to meet their children’s needs.

Our investigation also found a concerning number of parents being coerced into home education for reasons other than the child’s best interest – known as off-rolling. In these cases, parents are often left deliberately uninformed about the consequences of being moved off-roll, as well as little or no support with home education.

We cannot definitively say how many children are being home educated or whether any groups are more likely to move off-roll than others because so little data is collected. 9 in 10 local authorities believe they have not been able to identify every child in home education. However, existing data suggests that children who are moved out of school are disproportionately likely to be eligible for free school meals, have an EHCP or SEN support and have a history of absences and school exclusions.

Due to a lack of data on home educated children’s outcomes, we cannot make firm conclusions about the overall quality and suitability of home education. From the limited data available, we know that many parents are delivering a high-quality home education for their child. However, some home educated children are being left without access to an appropriate quality of education, with parents ‘struggling to cope’.

Most concerningly, an important minority of children who are home educated have been subject to safeguarding concerns. In 2020, The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel uncovered 15 incidents of harm involving children reported to be in home education. These cases included severe harm such as serious neglect, emotional abuse and intra-familial abuse. In three of the cases, the children had died. The Panel concluded that these children were often invisible; they were not in school and did not receive home visits.4 In the CSJ’s conversations with local authority leads we heard about a range of safeguarding concerns including county line involvement, gangs, and exploitation, as well as child employment.

We are calling for a series of reforms to create a more collaborative system and ensure home education is safe and effective, including:

  • For the Government to introduce the Children Not in School register.
  • More support for families who choose to home educate including funding for Maths and English GCSEs and an Education Dividend. All of this funding already exists for children in school but when they leave the school system the funding disappears.
  • A light touch assessment in English and Maths to ensure all children leave education literate and numerate.
  • Better safeguarding powers for local authorities to identify the important minority of cases where children are abused in home education

We hope that our reports lays the foundations for a new approach to home education which cultivates trust and collaboration between parents, schools, and local government, which will enable all children to thrive in education.

  1. ADCS, 2021. “Home education Survey” [available at: https://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_EHE_Survey_2021_Report_FINAL.pdf]
  2. ADCS, 2021. “Home education Survey” [available at: https://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_EHE_Survey_2021_Report_FINAL.pdf]
  3. ADCS, 2021. “Home education Survey” [available at: https://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_EHE_Survey_2021_Report_FINAL.pdf]
  4. The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, 2021. “Annual Report 2020” [available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984767/The_Child_Safeguarding_Annual_Report_2020.pdf]

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