Homeschooling, flexischooling? Help!

By Kirstin Coughtrie

You must be here because you are looking at alternative education for the learners in your care? Maybe traditional school isn't helping them to thrive? Maybe it's worse than that and it's damaging for them right now and you need to look at all the options available. It's hard to feel alone in this decision. We felt the same. We didn't just need a curriculum, we needed a village of professionals and friends (for us and our kids) and we needed to know what our rights were when it came to taking our kids out of school.

We also happened to be single working mums so we needed to know how we could provide alternatives for our neurodiverse kids and get help with funding it.
Let's get some jargon out the way to start with so we know what we mean by home-schooling, flexi-schooling and Education Otherwise Than At School.

Home-schooling is a form of education where parents or guardians take full responsibility for their child's education, outside of the traditional school setting. Home-schooling is legal in the UK, but parents must ensure that their child receives a suitable education.

Flexischooling is a form of education where children attend school part-time and are educated at home part-time. The amount of time spent at school and at home can vary depending on the arrangement between the school and the parent.

There are several reasons why some parents choose to homeschool or flexischool their children:

  • Flexibility: Homeschooling allows parents to design a flexible schedule that meets their child's needs. They can tailor the curriculum to their child's strengths and weaknesses and can work at a pace that suits their child.
  • Personalised Learning: Parents can provide individual attention and support to their child, which can help to cater to their learning style and pace. Parents can also incorporate their child's interests and passions into the curriculum, which can make learning more engaging and meaningful.
  • Religious or Philosophical Beliefs: Some parents choose to homeschool their children due to their religious or philosophical beliefs, which may conflict with the values taught in mainstream schools.
  • Bullying or Safety Concerns: Some parents choose to homeschool their children due to concerns about bullying or safety in traditional schools.
    Health Concerns: Some children have health conditions that make it difficult to attend school regularly. Homeschooling can provide a safe and flexible environment that meets their needs.
  • Travelling: Homeschooling can be a practical solution for families who travel frequently or live in remote areas where access to schools is limited.

EOTAS (Education Otherwise Than At School) is education provided outside of a formal school or college setting, authorised by section 61 of the Children and Families Act 2014. The local authority in England can arrange for special educational provision if it's deemed necessary for a child or young person for whom it is responsible, but only if it's inappropriate for them to attend a school or post-16 institution. The provision can be full-time and provided at home or another external educational setting, split between two or more settings.

EOTAS is LA funded and provided to children or young people with complex educational needs that cannot be met in a school or college setting. It can only be approved through an EHC needs assessment, a reassessment of needs, or during the Local Authority’s EHCP annual review.

Education, Health, and Care Plans, or EHCPs, are there to provide extra support for children and young people who need it, especially if their needs go beyond what's available through SEN Support.

We’ve put together this quick guide to EHCPs to give you some basic information about what they are and how to apply for one.

An Education, Health and Care plan (or EHCP) is a legal personalised document. It sets out the education, health and social care needs of a child or young person. EHCPs aren't just about education; they consider a child's health and social care needs too. These plans cover young people up to age 25.
Who Can Request an EHCP Assessment?

Any parent can ask for an EHCP assessment, but doctors and school staff can also initiate it. Once you've made your request to the Local Authority (LA), they have six weeks to decide whether to go ahead with an assessment.

  • What happens next?
    If the LA agrees, they'll draft a plan and share it with you. You have 15 days to comment and request specialist schools or colleges. The LA has 20 weeks from the assessment to provide the final EHCP.
  • Challenging the Decision
    You can challenge the LA if they refuse to assess, create an EHCP, disagree with the support level, or the suggested school. If you can't resolve it with the LA, you can appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal.
  • Preparation Is Key
    Before starting the EHCP process, consult your child's head teacher or the SENCO. Find out what support they already receive and what's been tried. It is a great idea to build a paper trail of evidence to prove your child's needs.
  • Gather Your Evidence
    Collect all reports and test results, including school reports, exam scores, and assessments by specialists like therapists, and psychologists. Organise them chronologically to build a case.
  • Stay Resilient
    The EHCP process can be long and taxing, particularly for children with mild or hidden disabilities. Look after your wellbeing to help your child effectively.
  • Trust Your Instincts
    Remember, you know your child better than anyone. Document how an inappropriate educational setting is having an effect on their life.

An EHCP can be a game-changer for your child's education and wellbeing, so don't hesitate to embark on this journey if it's the right path for your family. And remember, our community is here to support you and your family.

Once you've made the decision, firstly - congratulations! Trust yourself that you know what's best for your child. Secondly - find your village of support - for you (fit your own air mask first) and for your child.
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