Home Education Philosophy / Report
Writing a Home Education Philosophy / Report of Your Home Ed Provision
NOT TO BE USED IN RESPONSE TO A FORMAL NOTICE TO SATISFY (send a more detailed report in response to formal enquiries).
With the changes in government guidance published recently many more home educators will be expected to provide information to their local authority regarding their educational provision as a way of proving that an efficient, suitable education is taking place. If LAs don’t have enough or don’t have any information, regarding the education, they have essentially been given permission, by the DfE, to assume that a suitable education is NOT taking place. In the near future, we will be offering more guidance on this issue as well as providing further details on how to supply this information.
There’s no legal obligation for home educating families to write an educational philosophy, (often referred to as an ‘ed phil’) but most experts strongly recommend that you include one (or some sort of education plan) in your initial submission to the local authority, and many local authorities have come to expect one (although they should accept information in many different formats). If your local authority does approach your family and ask for information, and you wish to provide that information, you might choose any number of ways to do so. For example, you might offer either a written report; samples of work; a meeting at your home (with or without the child present); a meeting elsewhere (with or without the child); an endorsement of the educational provision by a recognised third party; photos or videos or information in any other appropriate form.
They appear to be widely using these submissions as a way of satisfying themselves that:
- An education is taking place
- The education is efficient and suitable
- The child(ren) is safe
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 –
- Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age.
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b)to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (my emphasis)
“There are no specific legal requirements as to the content of home education, provided the parents are meeting their duty in s.7 of the Education Act 1996. This means that education does not need to include any particular subjects and does not need to have any reference to the National Curriculum; and there is no requirement to enter children for public examinations. There is no obligation to follow the ‘school day’ or have holidays which mirror those observed by schools”.
And further states:
“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 fulltime, 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”.
As is clarified here, it is the LAs responsibility to identify any children not receiving a suitable education and not a duty to check on every home educated child. The duty does not include children who are home educated but receiving an efficient, full time education. However, many local authorities are interpreting this as their duty to check on all home educated children.
‘to make arrangements to enable the authority to establish, so far as it is possible to do so, the identities of children in its area who are not receiving a suitable education. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than at school (for example, at home, or in alternative provision)’. (my emphasis)
If you have not been contacted by the local authority, then our advice is not to send them in a report until they contact you. Sometimes, rather than asking for information, local authorities request a visit. You DO NOT have to agree to this, and they have no legal right of entry into your home.
Informal enquiries can include a request to see the child, either in the home or in another location. But the parent is under no legal obligation to agree to this simply to satisfy the local authority as to the suitability of home education, although a refusal to allow a visit can in some circumstances justify service of a notice under s.437(1)
A s437)1) notice is an official notice to satisfy. It gives you 15 days to provide evidence that the child is receiving an efficient, suitable, full time education. If no contact is made or no evidence is provided the local authority can issue a School Attendance Order which can enforce parents to send their child to school. However, at any point, information can be submitted which is satisfactory and the process halted. Many local authorities threaten an SAO but fewer actually pursue one. Therefore, it is important to supply information, when asked, because, unfortunately, the DfE guidance has allowed the LAs to class no contact as evidence that a suitable education isn’t taking place and can, legally, take action.
If you can supply information, in any format, that shows that your child is receiving a good education at home, (other than reviewing this annually – as advised by the DfE) the local authority should be satisfied and leave you be.
Although, there is still no legal definition on what constitutes a ‘suitable’ education the guidance now includes that the term ‘suitable’ should be seen in the following light –
- a. it should enable a child to participate fully in life in the UK by including sufficient secular education. This means that even if the home education is primarily designed to equip a child for life within a smaller community within this country it should not foreclose the child’s options in later life to adopt some other mode of living, and to be capable of living on an autonomous basis so far as he or she chooses to do so. This view is compatible with the small amount of potentially relevant case law;
- b. notwithstanding (a), the home education provision does not need to follow specific examples such as the National Curriculum, or the requirement in academy funding agreements for a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum, nor the independent school standards prescribed by the Secretary of State. Conversely, however, if the home education does consist of one or more of those, then that would constitute strong evidence that it was ‘suitable’ in terms of s.7;
- c. local authorities should interpret ‘suitable’ in the light of their general duties, especially that in s.13 of the Education Act 1996 relating to the development of their community, and that in s.175 of the Education Act 2002 requiring that education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. Whilst these duties are very broadly drawn, it will be evident that if home education provided by a family taught children values or behaviour which was in conflict with ‘Fundamental British Values’ as defined in government guidance (for example by seeking to promote terrorism, or advocating violence towards people on the basis of their race, religion or sex), then it would not be in accordance with the authority’s general duties to regard that education as being ‘suitable’. However, there is no requirement on parents to actively promote the Fundamental British Values in the same way as there is for schools;
- d. the first sentence of ECHR Article 2 of Protocol 1 quoted above confers the fundamental right to an effective education, and relevant case law also confers very broad discretion on the state in how this is to be implemented. For example, a local authority may specify requirements as to effectiveness in such matters as literacy and numeracy, in deciding whether education is suitable, whilst accepting that these must be applied in relation to the individual child’s ability and aptitudes;
- e. although it may well be a good starting point in assessing suitability to assess whether the curriculum and teaching have produced attainment in line with the national norms for children’ of the same age, it must be borne in mind that the s.7 requirement is that the education is suitable to the child’s ability and aptitude. If a child’s ability is significantly above or below what might be regarded as ‘average’ then allowances must be made for that; and similarly, the home education may legitimately cater specifically for particular aptitudes which a child has, even if that means reducing other content;
- factors such as very marked isolation from a child’s peers can indicate possible unsuitability. Suitable education is not simply a matter of academic learning but should also involve socialisation;
- any assessment of suitability should take into account the environment in which home education is being provided. Most obviously, home accommodation which is noisy and/or cramped is likely to make it very difficult for a child to learn and make satisfactory progress. Environmental factors such as these may therefore prevent a child receiving suitable education and should be taken into account in assessing suitability in a specific case if present on a significant scale. They may also affect consideration as to whether the education is ‘efficient’ and indeed whether it is being ‘received’ at all in s.7 terms. Local authorities should also be alert to any evidence that the home in which education is being provided has defects which, whilst not affecting the education directly, suggest that the child is at risk of harm – for instance because of fire hazards in the home. Any such evidence may be relevant in considering the use of safeguarding powers;
- h. local authorities should not set rigid criteria for suitability which have the effect of forcing parents to undertake education in particular ways, for example in terms of the pattern of a typical day, subjects to be followed and so on. Some parents may decide that a very formal approach is necessary; others may decide to make a more informal provision that is more appropriate to the particular child. Whatever the views of the parents, the key focus for the authority should be on suitability for the child in question.
The guidance for parents includes –
2.11 There are no legal requirements for you as parents educating a child at home to do any of the following:
- acquire specific qualifications for the task
- have premises equipped to any particular standard
- aim for the child to acquire any specific qualifications
- teach the National Curriculum
- provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum
- make detailed lesson plans in advance
- give formal lessons
- mark work done by the child
- formally assess progress, or set development objectives
- reproduce school type peer group socialisation
- match school-based, age-specific standards.
The new guidance for local authorities and parents, published on 2nd April 2019, makes it clear that if local authorities receive little or no information on the education being provided for a child, they have the right to assume that the child is NOT receiving a suitable education.
“the local authority’s task is to find out how he or she is being educated and whether that education satisfies legal requirements”.
Guidance says that the local authority may use minimum expectations in assessing the suitability of the education but that this needs to take into account the age, ability and aptitude of the child or any special needs.
It has been clarified by recent government guidance that:
Each of the 151 local authorities in England should have their own home education policy which sets out how their area will manage home educating families and how they will seek to gain contact and establish whether the education is suitable. It is especially important that you read the policies from your local authority because this will set out how you will be treated, what they expect and how you can make a complaint.
LAs have now also been explicitly told that they can use their safeguarding powers in relation to home education and those considered not to be receiving a suitable education. The difficulty is – how can a local authority describe an education as unsuitable (and take further action) if there is no clear guidance on what is seen as a ‘suitable’ education?
Our advice is to supply evidence of the education being undertaken because this often satisfies them and reduces demand for contact. Remember, that this can be done in many forms and that education itself takes many forms; they must respect your way of doing things and that it may be quite different from traditional schooling.
If you wish to send a report in response to their informal enquiries, the sample letter below gives a brief guide of what to include.
We recommend that you consider what information you are willing to share with the LA. Often, they will send out a questionnaire for you to complete; many home educators find that this either doesn’t suit their situation or contains questions which they are not happy to answer. Therefore, it is much better to provide your own report rather than completing the questionnaire because then you can supply only the information you are comfortable with and have room to explain your family’s way of carrying out the home education. It should be remembered that your response to initial enquiries from the authority is not about “proof” or “evidence” and this is clarified in the new guidance.
If you choose to write an educational philosophy then it is recommended that it includes some form of report/provision detail, as a philosophy on its own is often no longer adequate for the LA.
Some home educators write an educational philosophy purely to show their local authority as evidence of what they’re doing with their child, but they’re also helpful in focusing your mind on how you’re going to approach home education. If you accept a visit from the local authority or education welfare then you may not need to supply any information in writing as you can discuss the provision, show any resources/materials being used and can demonstrate any work being completed.
Any educational plan should not be prescriptive but rather a guide to how the education will look; it needs to be flexible to change just as a teacher’s lesson plan would be flexible to differing situations.
Home education is recognised as efficient if it achieves what it set out to achieve, hence it is important for parents to set out what they are trying to achieve.
2.6. There is no definition of this in statute law. However, it can be interpreted as meaning education which ‘achieves what it is intended to achieve’. This is not the same as the education being ‘suitable’ – because it is possible to deliver efficiently an education which is definitely not suitable for the child. Conversely, it is possible to deliver a suitable education very inefficiently.
If you’re considering writing an education philosophy/plan, it’s worth remembering the general principles of education – to encourage a person’s physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, moral, social and cultural development; take some time to learn how your child learns before you write your educational philosophy.
Education in Conformity with Parents’ Religious and Philosophical Convictions
It is accepted in law that parents may have diverse philosophical convictions when it comes to their children’s education. The Human Rights Act 1998 quotes Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights declares that ‘the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’
Please remember that mental/emotional health is just as important as physical health and just as, if not more, important than education. If your child has experienced bullying, anxiety, depression or any other issues it is perfectly feasible and understandable for you to concentrate on addressing these issues along with or even prior to commencing a full programme of home education. If this is what your current priority is, include it in your ed-phil and explain how you will be addressing it. The local authority should give you time and space to work on mental health, especially in today’s difficult climate and also because a child cannot effectively learn if they are enduring ongoing, debilitating mental health problems.
Many families, who home educate, update their educational plan annually and send the revised version to the local authority. Although this isn’t a requirement, it can satisfy the local authority that your child is continuing to receive a suitable education and reduce the likelihood of them requesting face to face meetings. Many local authorities are now requesting at least a yearly update as standard as advised in the new guidance. You can, however, update it when it suits you; there may be times when you wish to change the approach you are taking or introduce new subjects or methods, for example.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to complete an education philosophy and everyone’s will look different.
SEE BELOW FOR EXAMPLE or DOWNLOAD HERE
Contact Name Your Address
Local Authority Address
Re: (name of child/ren, DOB)
Dear (name of contact)
I write in response to your request for information about the educational provision for (name of child/ren). I would like to remind you that the EHE guidelines clearly state that
“Your local authority has no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of education at home”.
The LA does have a duty to respond to any concerns they may have; I have not been notified of any such concerns. However, as a gesture of good-will I shall include for you some information about our education provision. The information included is not exhaustive and is subject to change at any time.
Then include your education plan/philosophy which could incorporate the following:
- An overview of the type of learning method you will have or the type of teaching/learning you are aiming to go for. (e.g. structured/autonomous/unschooling)
- Your educational goals for your child. These could be specific and include exactly what you want the child(ren) to learn or they could be general goals which give the broad area of study you are going for. This can include the subjects you will be covering.
- A summary of how you expect your child to meet those goals.
- An overview of the resources you’ll use. Again, these could be specific (e.g. materials or named textbooks and websites that you will use) or generic (e.g. using the library or the internet).
- Any educational subscriptions you have
- Give examples of how your home education works in practice. Many families find it useful to keep a record, to remind themselves of all that they are doing on a daily basis and to help them monitor progress.
- Clubs, groups and meet ups that the child(ren) attend.
- How any other people might be involved in their education. This could be, tutors, family, friends, colleagues etc, community groups or agencies.
- Describe how you will address any learning or physical difficulties.
- Describe how you will address mental health.
- Explain how you will assess your child(rens) progress?
- What progress have they made so far? How can you evidence this progress? (LAs have been advised that they can consider outcomes particularly in those situations where families are using alternative education methods, such as autonomous learning)
- On average, how many hours per day/per week is your child engaged in learning? (Although the number of hours necessary has not been defined for home education nor school, LAs are already starting to request this information in line with new guidance.
‘Education which clearly is not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life (making due allowance for holiday periods) will probably not meet the s.7 requirement’.
- If relevant, in terms of age/stage, explain what your plans are in terms of GCSEs, college or post 16 education
We hope that the information supplied will satisfy you that an efficient, full-time education is taking place and we are happy to provide this information on a yearly basis.
N.B If you are not happy to be continuously monitored by the LA you could include the following:
As mentioned above, we now do not expect to receive any more requests for information unless a reason for concern comes to your attention in which case we would expect to be notified, in writing, of any such concerns.