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Ofsted research published: exploring moving to home education in secondary schools

Student writing in book

Ofsted has published results from a small-scale exploratory study in the East Midlands investigating the steps that parents, local authorities and schools go through in order to move children to home education from secondary school. The research pays particular attention to children moving to home education as a means to resolve issues at school.

Key findings

Home education for children with complex needs:

  • Special educational needs and/or medical, behavioural or other well-being needs were the main reasons for moves to home education.
  • Children in this research had all moved due to difficulties they had experienced in school, although the perspectives of those difficulties generally differed.
  • Limited access to in-school and wider support services has made it more difficult for schools to provide appropriate support for some children.
Lack of dialogue between parents, schools and local authorities (LAs):
  • The length of time for considering home education was sometimes very short. The period between a parent finding out about the possibility of home education and their child leaving school can be as little as one day.
  • Schools and LAs were rarely informed about children moving to home education before they were removed from school. 
  • Without dialogue before a child moves to home education, schools and LAs have no opportunity to listen to and consider what children think about their move.

Relationship breakdowns between schools and parents:

  • There had been a breakdown in the relationship between schools and parents in all the cases in the research. Overall, parents and schools in the research had different understandings of what was best for children. 

Moving to home education to resolve pressures at school:

  • Parents can move children to home education to avoid pressures at school, for example to avoid prosecution for non-attendance, and permanent exclusions. However, exactly how these pressures act as triggers for moving to home education is complex; at worst it may include gaming from schools or neglectful parenting.
  • Evidence that children can be 'off-rolled' into home education included letters from parents asking to move a child to home education that were prepared by a school. However, school leaders in the research were clear that they would not pressurise parents into moving to home education.
  • A child can also be off-rolled by a school applying indirect pressure to coerce parents to move their child to home education. In a minority of cases, parents believed a lack of school support was deliberately designed to let children leave.

Recommendations for policy-makers:

  • The Department for Education (DfE) should consider the findings of this report, should it want to change any legislation relevant to home education.
  • The DfE should consider the extent to which current legislation and guidance considers children's views during decisions to home-educate.

Recommendations for schools and LAs:

  • Schools and LAs should develop clear processes for working together once a parent's intention to home-educate is known.
  • LAs and schools should be aware that when a school writes a letter to remove a child to home education on behalf of a parent, this may be evidence of off-rolling.
  • After a move to home education is made, it would be good practice for schools to provide parents with children's previous classwork.

Ofsted's response:

  • Ofsted will carefully evaluate the reasons for pupils leaving when pupil movement is unusually high. Where off-rolling is found, they will continue to report on this clearly and are likely to judge leadership and management as inadequate.
  • Ofsted will explore an inspection methodology that enables, where appropriate and where pupil movement into home education is very high, inspectors to take the views of parents who have moved their children into home education into their inspection evidence.

About the data:

  • This research is a small, exploratory study in the East Midlands. As such, it is not representative of moving to home education in general.
  • The research is based on interviews and focus groups with a small sample of respondents:

- 16 LA representatives for home education

- 36 senior leaders of secondary schools

- 23 parents

- four of their children.

Read the full report here.

First published 31 October 2019