A. As usual, the answer is in the Guidance! The right to educate your child ‘otherwise than at school’ has always been part of our system. It is education that is compulsory, not necessarily going to a school to receive it, and the parent can change the arrangements they make at any time.
So, in general, you have no choice, provided they have put the request in writing and the pupil is not a statemented pupil at a special school. (If they are statemented but in a mainstream school, you cannot prevent their off-registration.)
The request to home educate must be in writing from the parent. The headteacher must then forward the letter immediately to the appropriate officer of the LA for them to follow up. The school should off-register the pupil from that date (unless it’s a child with a statement, but only in a special school, as stated above). After the headteacher has notified the LA, the LA is then responsible for ensuring that the parent is making some other educational provision. If not satisfied, the LA can then consider serving a School Attendance Order to require the parent to re-register the pupil again, or to admit them to a new school. Some LAs may insist on a ‘cooling-off’ period before the pupil is off-registered, but this is not actually provided for in the Regulations.
If there are safeguarding concerns, a referral should also be made to social care. For example, if there are existing or potential safeguarding concerns, especially if there is any risk of forced marriage, or if there is any evidence that the parent may pose a risk of harm to the child, then this should be the subject of an immediate child protection referral. This referral must make it clear that the pupil is no longer at the school and therefore it is not possible to monitor their welfare on a daily basis. This is also important if there is any suggestion that the parent is moving the pupil to an unknown address because of a previous child protection concern or a current investigation. The powers to regulate home education are generally rather weak, despite cases such as that of Khyra Ishaq in Birmingham (http://bbc.in/1kTvXlO), but the whole system relies on the school informing their inter-agency colleagues of the choices made by the parents.
First published on this website in September 2014.