For some home ed families that have never engaged with the school system it can be a nightmare trying to find additional support for your children when they have SEND or other learning difficulties. For others who have elected to home educate due to schools not meeting the needs there can be a sudden stop to all help and support that used to be there when your children were at school. In both cases navigating the murky waters of the EHC Plan process and dealing with professionals without any support can be a difficult and daunting task! It is not however impossible and hopefully this guide will help point you in the right direction.
The first very important thing to remember is that whatever horror stories you have heard you are fully entitled to help with the EHCP when you are home educating, as outlined in the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice;
“Local authorities must ensure that children, young people and parents are provided with the information, advice and support necessary to enable them to participate in discussions and decisions about their support. This should include information on their rights and entitlements in accessible formats and time to prepare for discussions and meetings. “
Although this process does happen in educational settings, this information is not always made clear to parents and carers who are home educating despite the fact that the same principles apply. You might need to make some noise to be noticed but the support absolutely should be forthcoming once the local authority is aware that you and your child need support.
So what are the legalities and how do they specifically relate to home education?
There are some specific sections of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice that relate to learners who are not in an educational setting, the main points of which are detailed below;
1.14 and 1.15 highlights the duty of the local authority to engage with any learner that comes to their attention who may be in need of assessment and support for SEND, this includes those brought to their attention by the families as well as those highlighted by educational establishments. This duty comes directly from the Children and Families Act 2014 (section 24) and must be acted upon by the local authority.
Section 2.17 and 2.19 highlights the support parents and young people should be entitled to from the local authority during SEN assessment and the EHC Plan process if appropriate, this is regardless of the institution or otherwise which the learner is currently engaged with.
Section 4.9 and 4.13 relates to parents and young peoples involvement with developing and participating in the local offer. The local offer is the range of support and guidance organisations and activities available for learners with SEN, whether with EHCP or not. These sections are specifically relating to all learners and parents and is distinct from educational settings therefore applying to home educated learners as well. Your comments as a parent should also be taken into consideration and the local authority should consider comments carefully;
“Comments should be used to inform commissioning decisions and decisions about the specific nature and type of provision that local families want.”
Section 9 contains some guidance on the request and implementation of the EHCP;
Section 9.8 specifically names the parent as someone who has a specific legal right to request an EHCP from the local authority.
For those home educating who have secured or are securing EHCP Plans, the provision of personal budgets will be of particular interest; section 9.95 through to 9.125 covers the provision of personal budgets and how and what these can be used for. It is worth seeking additional help to go through this process and DIAS will prove invaluable for this.
Section 9.177 of the 0-25 SEND Code of Practice lays out the specific requirements for the local authority to follow for learners who are not within an educational setting. If the local authority is not helping with the annual EHCP review for your child this is the legislation that needs to be quoted. If this is not followed as part of the review process you may have grounds to go to tribunal and the first steps towards this would be to get in touch with either DIAS or a solicitor; specialists exist for this area of law such as Douglas Silas.
Section 10.30 to 10.38 specifically covers children and young people with SEN who are educated at home and given the specific nature of this guidance it is included in full below.
10.30 Under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 parents have the right to educate children, including children with SEN, at home. Home education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN. Local authorities should work in partnership with, and support, parents to ensure that the SEN of these children are met where the local authority already knows the children have SEN or the parents have drawn the children’s special needs to the authority’s attention. Local authorities do not have a duty under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to assess every home educated child to see whether or not they have SEN. The high needs block of the Dedicated Schools Grant is intended to fund provision for all relevant children and young people in the authority’s area, including home-educated children. Local authorities should fund the SEN needs of home-educated children where it is appropriate to do so. Guidance is available to local authorities from the Department for Education on funding provision for home-educated children.
10.31 In cases where local authorities and parents agree that home education is the right provision for a child or young person with an EHC plan, the plan should make clear that the child or young person will be educated at home. If it does then the local authority, under Section 42(2) of the Children and Families Act 2014, must arrange the special educational provision set out in the plan, working with the parents. Under Section 19 of the Act, a local authority must have regard to the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parents, or the young person.
10.32 In cases where the EHC plan gives the name of a school or type of school where the child will be educated and the parents decide to educate at home, the local authority is not under a duty to make the special educational provision set out in the plan provided it is satisfied that the arrangements made by the parents are suitable. The local authority must review the plan annually to assure itself that the provision set out in it continues to be appropriate and that the child’s SEN continue to be met (see Chapter 9). Where the local authority has decided that the provision is appropriate, it should amend the plan to name the type of school that would be suitable but state that parents have made their own arrangements under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996.
10.33 Where a child or young person is a registered pupil and the parent decides to home educate, the parent must notify the school in writing that the child or young person is receiving education otherwise than at school and the school must then remove the pupil’s name from the admission register. If the school is a special school, the local authority must give consent for the child’s name to be removed, but this should not be a lengthy or complex process. There is no provision in law for a ‘trial period’ of home education.
10.34 Local authorities do not have the right of entry to the family home to check that the provision being made by the parents is appropriate and may only enter the home at the invitation of the parents. Parents should be encouraged to see this process as part of the authority’s overall approach to home education of pupils with SEN, including the provision of appropriate support, rather than an attempt to undermine the parents’ right to home educate.
10.35 Local authorities should not assume that because the provision being made by parents is different from that which was being made or would have been made in school that the provision is necessarily unsuitable. Local authorities should also consider using their power to help parents make suitable provision.
10.36 In some cases a local authority will conclude that, even after considering its power to provide support to home-educating parents, the provision that is or could be made for a child or young person with an EHC plan does not meet the child or young person’s needs. The local authority is required to intervene through the school attendance order framework ‘if it appears…that a child of compulsory school age is not receiving suitable education’. The serving of a school attendance order is a last resort if all attempts to improve provision are unsuccessful. ‘Suitable education’ means efficient full-time education suitable to the child or young person’s age, ability and aptitude and to any SEN he or she may have.
10.37 Parents may also home educate children who have SEN but do not have EHC plans. As with children and young people with EHC plans, local authorities should work with parents and consider whether to provide support in the home to help the parents make suitable provision. Information about the right to request an EHC needs assessment and the right to appeal should be available to all parents including those who are considering home education because they feel that the special educational support being provided in the school is insufficient to meet the child or young person’s needs.
10.38 Young people may also be educated at home in order to meet the requirement to participate in education and training until the age of 18. Local authorities should involve parents, as appropriate, in the reviews of EHC plans of home-educated young people who are over compulsory school age.
We hope that by highlighting the specific areas relevant to home educating parents within the 0-25 Send Code Of Practice, that we have provided some insight and support into the process of getting much needed guidance for your children and also helped to furnish some facts for dealing with the process in future. As always, the Outdoors Group are happy to help where we can to support you in getting help for your children, however more specific and legal help is available and may be necessary going forward. I provided some useful links below
The Outdoors Group
West Town Farm
Tel: 07716 002516 / 01392 811907
Devon Information Advice and Support– these guys are brilliant and everyone we have come into contact with who has used their services has highly recommended them. They are very knowledgeable and hugely helpful and a great first port of call if you need help through this process.
Douglas Silas Solicitors– dealing exclusively in SEN cases helping parents/carers to get the right placement for their child, if you need legal advice this is a great starting point. He also produces a termly newsletter on legal aspects of SEN that will help keep you informed of current legislation.
Author: Shevek Pring, Company Director for The Outdoors Group
Date: 14 May 2019