Safeguarding children in elective home education

This briefing on Safeguarding children in elective home education from the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel (the Panel) is part of an ongoing series of publications to share information arising from work undertaken by the Panel with safeguarding partners and others involved in child protection. 

The purpose of this briefing is to share learning an analysis of rapid reviews and local child safeguarding practice reviews (LCSPRs) to inform the work of safeguarding partners generally to help and protect children who are electively home educated. 

The briefing explores common themes and patterns identified across reviews and highlights practice issues raised by safeguarding partners from across England.

The issue of home schooling has received considerable national attention, particularly in the context of wider concerns about education attendance during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many reasons why parents decide to home educate their children, which can work well for many children. It is not the purpose of this briefing to comment on the implications of home education for education and learning but instead to focus on issues relating to the safeguarding and protection of children, reflecting the remit of the Panel.

The Panel supports the right of parents to educate their children at home. We share the view of the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, that home education is not, in and of itself, a safeguarding risk (see her recent report Lost in Transition? The destinations of children who leave the state education system).

The Panel are of the view that there are some children within this cohort who will require the attention of safeguarding agencies because they are at risk of harm and may not be visible to services. It is on this group of children that this Panel briefing is focused. The briefing draws on evidence from rapid reviews and LCSPRs undertaken by local safeguarding partnerships where children who have been electively home educated have suffered serious harm or died because of abuse or neglect. It seeks to support safeguarding partners, practitioners and others involved in safeguarding children, to better understand and address some of the risk of harm factors which may be experienced by children who are being electively home educated.

The briefing considers the following:

  • The legislative context and the role of statutory agencies. 
  • Evidence about children who are home educated and suffer harm and abuse, including the relevance of why some parents choose to home educate their children. 
  • What we can learn from analysis of rapid reviews and from local child safeguarding practice reviews about the risk of harm factors for children who are home educated. 
  • What actions might need to be taken at a local and national level to help protect this group of children from harm and abuse.

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