Many more parents of SEND children are either choosing to home educate or like myself been forced into it by lack of appropriate support or placements or because their child has been excluded. With this in mind I thought I would write a little guide to those starting out as I know it was a frightening time for me and I felt cast adrift with no real guidance. I will try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions and list some of the helpful resources, organisations and sites I have discovered.
Things to consider before starting out.
There is no question that home educating your child is a big commitment. If you are trying to decide whether to take your child out of school (aside from the obvious question of whether it is in your child’s best interests) there are some other things to consider.
Firstly is the financial impact. I will cover help with costs of educating later on but chances are you will get little or no help with this. Depending on your personal situation you may have to give up work or reduce your hours. If you have a partner you may be able to juggle things to share the responsibilities of education and work between you or you could consider one or both of you working from home. If you are a single parent or this is not possible for other reasons you may have to rely on benefits, do note though that home education alone is not considered a reason for not being available for work although your child’s needs may be (benefits that may be available are job seekers allowance, income support, DLA, carers allowance, tax credits, housing benefit).
Secondly is everyone who needs to be onboard with the idea? If the other parent has parental responsibility then they can block your choice to take your child off the school roll even if the child has been unable to attend on health or behaviour grounds. If the social services is involved with your child you ideally also need to try and get them on board or they could present a challenge to it on grounds of child’s best interests in some circumstances. Have a plan formulated before you talk to others about it so you can present a fully formed plan calmly and confidently.
Thirdly is what support network you have in place for yourself. My sons father is very involved with our son so I get a couple of days a week to myself as adult time. Any supportive adult is a real bonus whether it be for giving you a break, teaching subjects or just being willing to listen and take an interest.
Do I need permission to take my child out of school?
Every parent has the right to take control of their child’s education as long as the education they are providing is appropriate to the child’s age and ability. If your child is at mainstream school all you need to do is write a letter stating you will now be taking responsibility for your child’s education and ideally hand deliver it or send it signed for. You do not need permission even if the child has an EHCP (education, health and care plan). If your child is in specialist provision then you do need to ask permission from the local authority but there has to be very good reasons presented as to why you can’t. You can find more information and a template copy of the deregistration letter here (via Home Education UK):
Will I get help with my child’s educational content and costs once in Home Education?
There are two types of home education, ‘elective home education‘ (where the child is taken off the school roll by the parent) and ‘education otherwise than in school’ as recommended provision on an EHCP. If you are forced or choose to take your child off the school roll then you will be considered as electively home educating and get no support financially or otherwise.
If your local authority accepts that the best place for your child is at home and ‘education otherwise than in school’ is named as provision on your child’s EHCP you may be entitled to a personal budget for things like tutors, activities or equipment but I must stress this is quite rare but some local authorities are more willing than others to provide it.
Getting this help also means the local authority will take a lot more interest in how your child is doing and may take control of the type of support your child gets. If you have a well written EHCP though it can work well. If you want the opportunity to apply for a personal budget it is important you do not take your child off roll until it is negotiated as recommended provision. I am currently fighting to have the provision changed on my EHCP so my son can get a personal budget and it is so much harder because I took him off roll. If your child does not have an EHCP you can not get a personal budget but you can make a request for an EHCP yourself even if your child is already in home education.
How do I decide what to give my child to study?
As a home educator you do not need to follow the national curriculum and you can teach whatever you choose although you may choose to follow it if your child is doing GCSE’s for example though. My son is twelve and I am very much led by my son, we do topic based learning, he picks a topic and then I decide on the material trying to incorporate as many of the core subjects as possible. You can read more about my teaching method here:
Will the local authority do checks on my teaching or my child’s learning?
On starting home education you will probably get a letter from the LA offering a home visit or even regular visits. As the law currently stands you have a right to refuse this visits and instead write a yearly report (which is what I do). You do not have to send any work although I do keep all my sons work and photos of activities a diary of what we have done for my own reference and in case anything changes with the law or my sons situation in the future.
If your child has an EHCP then yearly reviews will take place and although electively home educated children are not required to follow an EHCP they do need to be educated in a way suited to their needs so it may be wise and helpful to follow it and to make sure any reviews mean the document is appropriate and easy to follow as a home educator. If your child is named provision is education otherwise than in school then you are obliged to follow the EHCP and the local authority is obliged to make sure that is possible.
What about socialisation?
Having a socially withdrawn child who didn’t cope in school this is probably my least favourite question. Different children need different levels of social contact so it is important to respond to your child’s own needs. Remember that socialising with adults, family and younger children is still good for building social skills and still counts. There are loads of local home education groups so google or search on Facebook for groups in your area. There are also a myriad of home education camps you can go to throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn. Activities your child is interested in can also provide excellent social opportunities.
What helpful sites and resources are available?
- HP instant ink (saves a fortune on printing although you do need a compatible printer ) https://instantink.hpconnected.com/uk/en/
- Tes (loads of teaching resources, lesson plans and printable many free used by schools and tutors) https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources
- Education.com (lots of free and cheap printable) https://www.education.com/
- Twinkl (primary resources free/to buy) https://www.twinkl.co.uk/
- The week Junior (kids current affairs magazine). https://theweekjunior.co.uk/
- The play doctors – SEND educational equipment https://theplaydoctors.co.uk/
- Education otherwise (join to connect with other members, camps, advice etc) https://www.educationotherwise.org/
- British Dyslexia association https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
- AbilityNet for any tech help around SEND. This charity can help you find software and hardware and even set up your technology in an ability focused way. https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/
- Home Education and your Local Authority: Help with dealing with officialdom https://www.facebook.com/groups/239232119524989/
- PDA Home Education (pathological demand avoidance) https://www.facebook.com/groups/pda.home.ed/
This list is by no means exhausted and just representative on the many, many great sites out there that can really help support your child’s learning. I am not sponsored and do not benefit in anyway from these recommendations.
I hope you found this quick guide useful, any questions just leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. I have come to love our home education journey, perhaps you can too?