What is Elective Home Education (EHE)?

In the realm of education, parents continuously seek the best possible learning pathways for their children, striving to tailor educational experiences to individual needs, aspirations, and circumstances. Among the diverse educational options available, Elective Home Education (EHE) stands out as a distinct and increasingly popular choice for many families. This article delves into the essence of EHE, exploring its legal foundations, operational nuances, and the vital considerations for parents embarking on this educational journey.

Understanding Elective Home Education

Elective Home Education refers to the decision by parents or guardians to take on the primary responsibility for their child’s education, outside the conventional school environment. Unlike education provided by local authorities for children unable to attend school, EHE is a proactive choice, allowing education to occur at home or through various alternative means.

The Legal Framework

The cornerstone of EHE in the UK is Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, which mandates that every child of compulsory school age must receive a suitable, efficient, full-time education, tailored to their age, ability, aptitude, and any special educational needs they may have. It’s crucial to note that while education is compulsory, school attendance is not, offering parents the flexibility to choose home education as a viable alternative.

Efficiency and Suitability in Education

When it comes to defining what constitutes an ‘efficient’ and ‘suitable’ education within the EHE context, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. An efficient education is one that achieves its intended outcomes, whereas a suitable education aligns with the child’s developmental stage, capabilities, and needs. It’s essential for the education provided to empower children to progress and flourish in their unique ways, respecting the absence of a legal necessity to adhere to the National Curriculum.

Considerations for Parents

Choosing EHE is not a decision to be taken lightly. It demands significant commitment, time, and resources from parents. Before embarking on this path, it’s important to reflect on the reasons for choosing EHE, the long-term educational goals for the child, and the potential impact on their social and academic development. From ideological beliefs to concerns about the conventional school system, parents opt for EHE for a myriad of reasons, each requiring careful consideration to ensure the child’s best interests are at the forefront.

The Role of Local Authorities

Local authorities play a crucial role in the EHE landscape, albeit without formal powers to routinely monitor home education. Their responsibilities include identifying children not receiving suitable education and engaging with parents to understand the education being provided. While there’s no legal obligation for parents to comply with informal enquiries from local authorities, constructive engagement can help ensure that children’s educational needs are being met adequately.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

For children with SEN, EHE offers tailored educational opportunities, but also presents unique challenges. Whether a child has an Education Health and Care Plan or not, parents retain the right to choose home education. The local authority’s duty is to ensure that the child’s educational needs are being met, whether through home education or alternative provisions.

Why Do Parents Choose EHE?

Parents may opt for Elective Home Education (EHE) for a myriad of reasons, reflecting diverse philosophical, educational, and personal preferences. The motivations can range from ideological or philosophical views that align better with home education, to specific religious or cultural beliefs that parents wish to incorporate into their child’s learning experience. Dissatisfaction with the traditional school system, either due to the quality of education or the environment, often leads parents to consider EHE as a viable alternative.

Bullying at school is another significant factor that can drive parents to withdraw their children from the conventional school setting, seeking a safer and more nurturing environment at home. Health reasons, particularly concerns related to mental health, may also play a role in the decision to home educate. For some families, EHE presents itself as a short-term intervention for specific circumstances, while for others, it is a lifestyle choice influenced by broader views on education and child-rearing.

Special educational needs (SEN) not being adequately addressed within the school system is another critical consideration. Parents of children with SEN may find the flexibility and individualised approach of home education more suitable for their child’s unique learning needs.

Lastly, practical reasons such as disputes with schools over educational provision, behaviour management, or cases of ‘off-rolling’, where schools may pressure parents to home educate to avoid formal exclusion processes, can influence the decision. It’s important to note that the choice to home educate is often multifaceted, with parents weighing various factors to determine the best educational pathway for their children.

How Popular Is EHE?

Estimating the exact number of children engaged in EHE is challenging due to the voluntary nature of registration with local authorities. However, data collected from various surveys and studies provide insight into the prevalence and trends in home education.

As of January 2023, estimates based on data collected from local authorities suggest that approximately 86,200 children were known to be home educated in England, indicating a significant presence of EHE within the educational landscape. This number represents a notable increase from previous years, highlighting a growing trend towards home education among families.

The popularity of EHE varies across regions, with certain areas reporting higher rates of home education. Factors such as local education policies, community support for home education, and regional differences in school provision may influence these variations.

It’s also important to recognise that the reasons for choosing home education, as well as the demographics of home-educated children, can vary widely. Children from diverse backgrounds, including those with special educational needs, are represented within the home-educated population, reflecting the broad appeal of EHE across different segments of society.

In Summary

Elective Home Education (EHE) offers a unique and personalised approach to learning, allowing parents to tailor education to their child’s individual needs, interests, and circumstances. It represents a significant and growing segment of the educational landscape, with an increasing number of families across England choosing this path for various reasons, from philosophical beliefs to dissatisfaction with traditional schooling environments.

In parallel with EHE, Cambridge School Online provides a distinctive alternative, offering a structured yet flexible online British curriculum to students globally. Established in 2002, it has become a trusted name in online education, catering to students aged 7 to 19 from diverse regions, including the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Its comprehensive programs range from Primary Prep School to Sixth Form College, aiming to prepare students for admission to prestigious universities worldwide.

Cambridge School Online and EHE both underscore the evolving nature of education, embracing the potential of digital platforms and the values of personalised learning. They reflect the diverse educational needs of today’s global student population, offering pathways that extend beyond traditional classroom settings. Whether through the bespoke journey of EHE or the structured online environment of Cambridge School Online, families have access to educational models that prioritise individual growth, flexibility, and global connectivity.


What is Elective Home Education (EHE)?

EHE is when parents or guardians choose to be the primary educators of their children, conducting learning outside the traditional school environment. This approach allows for a highly personalised education, catering to the child’s unique needs, interests, and pace of learning.

What laws govern EHE in the UK?

EHE in the UK is governed by Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, which requires all children of compulsory school age to receive a full-time education suitable to their age, ability, and any special educational needs they may have, either by attending school or through other means.

How does one ensure an EHE is effective and appropriate?

An effective and appropriate EHE should achieve its intended educational outcomes and be tailored to the child’s developmental level, capabilities, and needs. While it does not need to follow the National Curriculum, it should provide a foundation for the child to progress and develop in a well-rounded manner.

What considerations should parents have before choosing EHE?

Parents should thoroughly consider their ability to commit the necessary time and resources, their long-term educational goals for their child, and the potential impacts on the child’s social and academic development before choosing EHE.

How do local authorities interact with EHE families?

While local authorities in the UK do not have the power to routinely monitor home education, they are responsible for identifying children not receiving suitable education. They engage with EHE families to understand the education being provided, although parents are not legally obligated to comply with these informal enquiries.

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