Home educating your child with SEND

The law in England states that education is compulsory for children aged 5-16 years – but attending a school is not.

Parents are responsible for ensuring that their child receives a suitable education. Parents have the right to educate their child themselves. This is known as Elective Home Education. This right applies to all parents, including parents of children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities), and children who have an EHC (Education, Health and Care) plan.

Home-educating parents are not required to have any formal teaching qualifications.  They do not have to follow the National Curriculum. They do have a duty to ensure that their children receive an efficient full-time education that is suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have.

Deciding to home educate should always be a positive choice a parent makes. Some parents can feel that they have no alternative as they feel that school is not working for their child; for example, because problems at school are affecting their child’s mental health, or because they have been told that their child could be permanently excluded (expelled) from school. A parent should never feel forced to home educate their child. It is important to be aware that a school cannot take your child off the school roll without your permission; nor can they force you to remove your child.

If you have any questions or concerns about elective home education, SSENDIAS will be able to help you with information, advice and support.

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If your child has never been registered at a state school, you don’t have to notify anyone. However, it will help the local authority to be able to offer advice and support and keep their records accurate if you tell them that you are choosing to home educate your child.

If your child currently attends a mainstream school, you should write to the school’s head teacher to inform them of your decision. The letter should include your child’s name and date of birth and be signed by an adult with parental responsibility. The school must then delete your child from the school roll and inform the local authority.  Following your child’s deregistration from school, a member of the Multi Agency Support Team (MAST) will contact you to arrange a home visit. This is to ensure that you are happy with your decision and find out if you would like any additional support.  The Home Education Service will then contact you to obtain details of your child’s education.  If your child is in a mainstream school and has an EHC plan, the process is the same. However, the local authority will need to amend the plan to reflect that you are now responsible for meeting your child’s educational needs.

If your child currently attends a special school, you should also write a letter to the head teacher. However, in these cases the letter triggers an early review of your child’s EHC plan rather than the automatic removal from roll. This is because the local authority is required to give consent before a child can be removed from the register of a special school. This should not be a lengthy or complex process. Your child should normally continue to attend the school until section I (placement) of the EHC plan has been amended.

It is helpful if you contact the Elective Home Education Team, if you are thinking of taking your child out of a special school, so that they can meet with you before the EHC plan review. This can help to avoid unnecessary delays caused by requests for more information about the provision you are planning to make. The aim of the EHC plan review is to ensure that the family is able to meet the needs of the child as stated in the EHC plan. It is intended to be supportive rather than obstructive.

If you change your mind after taking your child off roll, your child may be able to return to their previous school without having to re-apply for a school place. Under an agreement between all secondary school head teachers in Sheffield, children can return to school within 12 weeks of having been taken off roll. In all other cases, you would have re-apply for a school place.

Applications outside the normal admissions round may be considered under the Fair Access Protocol. This protocol is designed to ensure quick access to education for vulnerable children who do not have a school place. Under the protocol, the local authority may admit a child into a school that is full. Children with SEND and children wishing to re-enter mainstream schooling after elective home education are eligible for a Fair Access place.

The Home Education Officer’s role is based around information, signposting and planning and is very much dependent on the needs of the family.

The Home Education Officer does not routinely monitor home education. However, the local authority may need to agree a period of contact until it has been determined that a suitable curriculum is in place. Following that, they will contact home educating families at least once a year to get an update about their home education and offer support or an opportunity to meet to discuss the education they are providing.  

How to contact the Elective Home Education (EHE) service

Parents can contact Home Education Officers to arrange a telephone appointment by:

E-mail: electivehomeeducation@sheffield.gov.uk

Telephone: 0114 203 7141

They are available for telephone appointments, online meetings, home visits or meetings at a location of your choosing.

If you would prefer to contact the EHE Service more informally, you can attend one of their drop-in sessions.  No appointment is needed.  Officers are available on the last Thursday of the month, 10-12pm, at Howden House, 1 Union Street, Sheffield, S1 2SH.

Some SEND support services provided by the local authority are services to schools and therefore are not ordinarily available to children who are home educated:

  • The Educational Psychology Service would only get involved if the local authority has agreed to carry out an EHC needs assessment or if the parents indicate that they would like their child to return to an educational setting and there are clear indications that the child will require SEN Support. This would be the case if the child was on the school’s SEN register prior to being withdrawn, if there are reports that describe the child’s SEN, or if they have a medical diagnosis.
  • The Vision Support Service and the Service for Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Children would offer a one-off visit if there was a referral from a hospital in relation to a newly-identified vision or hearing impairment.
  • The Autism Education Service would only provide a service once a school place has been identified. However, the support line operated by the service is open to all parents of children and young people with social communication needs, including those who are home educated.  All above links take you to listing pages

If your child has an EHC plan, however, the services listed above might still be involved in the annual review of the plan.

Access to social care services, such as short breaks and respite, is independent of whether a child is educated at home or in a school. 

NHS health services are normally provided to the child and not the school. Many health services are delivered within a clinical setting, so it makes no difference whether a child is educated at home or in a school. Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are delivered in health settings (such as Ryegate Children’s Centre), schools, homes and leisure settings, depending upon the needs of the child and their goals. Other services, such as Speech and Language Therapy and School Nursing, are usually delivered within a school setting. These services will see home-educated children either in a clinical setting or in their home, dependent on the child’s needs.

If you choose to home educate your child (elective home education), you assume full financial responsibility for your child’s education. In this case, the local authority no longer has a legal duty to arrange the special educational provision described in your child’s EHC plan. However, it must still review your child’s EHC plan annually. There is no obligation on parents to make or arrange the educational provision specified in the child’s EHC plan.

In rare cases, the local authority may decide that it is not appropriate for a child to attend a school and specify “education otherwise than at school” in section F of the EHC plan, leaving section I blank. The local authority would then be responsible for arranging and funding that provision, which could include home tutoring or a personal budget for special educational provision. This is different from elective home education, where parents take on the financial responsibility. (Where parents elect to home educate, the plan will say which type of school the local authority believes is appropriate in section I.)

Any care provision specified in section H1/H2 of the EHC plan is not affected by a decision to home educate.

The same applies to any health provision specified in section G of the EHC plan; the duty on the Integrated Care board to arrange that provision remains in place. Where health provision (such as Speech and Language Therapy) is specified in section F, any appointments would take place in clinic rather than at school, and any therapy previously delivered by teaching assistants would need to be made by parents.

Home-educated learners can take exams as private candidates. Families will need to select an exam board (such as AQA or Edexel) with suitable courses and find an exam centre.

It is possible to do all the exam preparation yourself. However, some families choose to employ tutors to assist with this.

It is also possible to buy exam packages from places such as Oxford Home Schooling. There are a range of providers offering this service, so it’s worth looking around and talking to other home educators if possible. Online schools can also assist with this, although they can be very expensive.

Extra help in public exams is known as “access arrangements”. Their purpose is to allow students with special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries to access the assessment and show what they know and can do. Examples of access arrangements include extra time, a reader, a scribe, a laptop or assistive software.

Any kind of access arrangement must reflect the student’s normal way of working. For example, a student would only be allowed to use a laptop in exams if they normally use one in class. This can be difficult to prove for home educated learners who are not known to the exam centre.

If you think your child will need access arrangements, then you should talk to exam centres at least a year before the exam, to discuss what kind of access arrangements your child will need and how the centre would establish their “normal way of working”.