Role of the Local Authority

The role of the Local Authority

Hampshire County Council provides a website, telephone or email contact service, EHE visitors and we register all EHE young people (where known) on a database. We send an introductory letter and information pack with the offer of an EHE Visitor appointment. We offer to pay a contribution for Year 10 & 11 examination fees of GCSE or equivalent qualifications subject to published conditions.

Department for Education (DfE) 2019 guidance for local authorities requires Hampshire County Council to find out about the education of all children in the area and recommends contact with home educated parents annually – some details are here: 

‘The duty under s.436A [of the Education Act 1996 ] … means that local authorities must make arrangements to find out as far as possible whether home educated children are receiving suitable education. [DfE Guidance for LA 5.1]’

‘The current legal framework is not a system for regulating home education per se or forcing parents to educate their children in any particular way. Instead, it is a system for identifying and dealing with children who, for any reason and in any circumstances, are not receiving an efficient suitable full-time education. If a child is not attending school full-time, the law does not assume that child is not being suitably educated. It does require the local authority to enquire what education is being provided and local authorities have these responsibilities for all children of compulsory school age.’ [DfE Guidance for LAs 3.5]

Why parents choose to home educate

Home Education is an option that parents or carers may consider for their children. The reasons for choosing it are many and varied, as are the styles of education provided. For some families their decision may be based on their philosophical, spiritual or religious outlook; for others it is to meet what they consider to be the specific educational needs of their child.

Some children are never registered at school. Others are registered but are then home educated, either for a limited period or permanently. Whatever your circumstances, staff at the Children’s Services EHE department will be pleased to offer support, advice and guidance.

Contact and help from the Local Authority

We will offer you an appointment with an EHE Visitor for each home educating family. This visit can be at your home or a suitable venue such as a local library or community centre. The visit is to offer advice and guidance on education, teaching and learning. We will provide you with a written report of the visit.

Legal status of EHE

Parents may legally educate their children at home. The LA recognises education is compulsory, but school is not. Parents’ legal duty is set out in section 7 of the Education Act 1996 as follows:

“The parent of every child of compulsory school age has a legal duty to ensure that he/she receives efficient full-time education suitable:

  • to her/his age, ability and aptitude, and
  • to any special educational needs he/she may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
Definition of 'full-time education'

DfE Guidance states: ‘Full time’ is not defined in the Education Act and it does not mean home educators are bound by school hours and terms. For information, however, full time education for children in school is considered to be between 23 and 25 hours of school time per week. Also ‘education which is clearly not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life (making due allowance for holiday periods) will probably not meet the S.7 [Education Act] requirements.’

‘Suitable’ and ‘efficient’ are not defined either but the courts have given some legal guidance. They have said that education is efficient if it is “achieving that which it sets out to achieve” and it is suitable if it “prepares the child for life in a modern civilised society and enables the child to achieve his full potential”.

It is important to note that parents have a right to educate their children from their own philosophical, spiritual or religious standpoint. The Human Rights Act 1998, Article 2 of the First Protocol states that:

“No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”.

Justice Woolf’s finding about suitable education (1985) states an education is suitable if it ‘primarily equips the child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so’.

Expectations of a suitable education
  • The home education provided must be age-appropriate, enable the child to make progress according to his or her level of ability, and must take account of any specific aptitudes
  • If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the home education provided should be appropriate for their special educational needs or disabilities. However, this does not mean that you must provide everything previously provided by the school. Your child may still be able to access physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy via the NHS
  • There should be an appropriate minimum standard which is aimed at, and the education should aim at enabling the child, when grown-up, to function as an independent citizen in the UK
  • Parents should be able to demonstrate the amount of time for which a child is being educated and education which is not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life will probably not meet the s.7 (Education Act 1996) requirement
  • Parents should be able to demonstrate progress and development and the Local Authority may use minimum expectations for literacy and numeracy in assessing suitability, whilst bearing in mind the age, ability and aptitude of the child and any special educational needs he or she may have

Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that Education must develop ‘…the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.’ In addition, it states that education must develop the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own cultural identity and that of other cultures or civilisations and the natural environment.

If the County Council has concerns

We may telephone you or write to you again offering a visit and asking you to provide us with details of how you are educating your child(ren). We want to support you with this process and work together. If we are not satisfied you are providing a suitable education, we may inform you that you child’s case is being referred to a local Attendance Legal Panel. The panel could decide to issue a formal warning notice to you under the Education Act 1996 which could lead to a School Attendance Order being issued.

DfE EHE Departmental Guidance for Parents says this:

‘5.6 If your local authority feels that it has not had sufficient information about the home education being provided, or has had no information, and it appears to the authority that your child is not receiving a suitable education at home, it must serve a notice (known as a s.437(1) notice), requiring that you as parents satisfy the authority that the child is receiving a full-time and efficient education at home suitable to your child’s needs. Again, it would be sensible to respond to such a notice if you receive one; and you will have at least 15 days to respond so that you have time to gather suitable material that you may wish to supply.

5.7 The local authority must consider the response, if any, which you make to the notice, in order to decide whether your child is receiving an education which meets your responsibilities under s.7, taking account of any evidence you have provided and any other information it has about the education your child is receiving. If parents make no response at all, then the local authority is entitled to conclude that the child is not receiving a suitable education.’

The Local Authority will expect to see learning and development taking place from the beginning of any period of home education.