home educating when school is not the best place for a child with special needs

I am currently writing up the results of a survey into home education and special needs. Many parents say this is not true “elective” home education.

I felt forced into HE as a last resort to save my child’s sanity

I’ve previously reported that parents gave their child’s “unhappiness” at school as a major reason for home educating, and I just wanted to unpack that a little here.

Most of the children in the survey had previously attended school and didn’t have a statement, largely because parents are told that their child doesn’t “really” have special needs.

“As she is academic, they just say she is lazy and needs to work harder”
“Just told by school that I was wasting my money and my child would grow out of challenges because they had seen it before in other children”

Even when parents managed to get a statement of SEN, the situation doesn’t necessarily improve.

“I thought a statement would have helped my child it took opposite effect, and ended up permanently excluded as no school wanted him”
“We were forced to EHE because support on statement not provided after funding cuts and child’s mental health damaged, school refusal not recorded by school and LA refused change of school from mainstream to special due to ‘good progress'”

“They don’t have a statement or an EHCP” “47.0 %”
“They have a statement of SEN” “34.1 %”
“They are going through the assessment process for a new EHCP” “4.9 %”
“They are in the middle of transfer from statement to EHCP” “6.1 %”
“They have an Education Health and Care Plan” “4.9 %”
“They are going through the assessment process for a new EHCP” “4.9 %”


“Child previously on roll at a mainstream school” “74.8 %”
“Child previously on roll at a special school” “10.7 %”
“Child has never been to school” “8.2 %”

In many cases the child was not supported to learn in school and was not making progress

“Needs severely unmet at an unsupportive mainstream primary school and this showed no signs of changing”
“Statement not followed. Son regressed 3 years in under a year at this school”

The child may also be refusing to go to school, which can lead to other problems

“Emotional based school refusal and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder”
“We were ignored by the school and LA, for 12 month accused of lying about our child’s school phobia, and then put through child protection investigation by the school”

Children with special needs are often victims of bullying

“My child was bullied physically by other pupils and suffered emotional harm from the support staff”

Children with special needs may also have no friends at school

“health, behavior and friendships broke down”
“no real friends”
“He was not in the playground at lunch, his LSAs took him for a walk instead”
“She was quite miserable at school. Had felt like a second class citizen, not fitting in, bullying”

Some children keep being sent home

“Took hours to get them into the school in the morning only to get a call to come and get them”
“asked to keep him at home ‘off the record’ for two weeks while they decided how best to deal with it”

Perhaps a child can only cope going to school part-time or flexi-school but the school and the local authority will not allow it

“tried to do part time/flexi schooling with blessing of consultant, school just pushed for full attendance”
“The school insisted that she could ( more like NEEDED) to attend regardless of her pain level. They were interested in numbers and recording attendance mores than in my daughter”

Parents frequently reported that their child was not emotionally or psychologically safe in school

“child breaking down, unable to cope with work, lots of panic attacks”
“Child left severely school phobic and traumatised, 15 month after leaving a terrible special school who failed to support her emotional and sensory needs, she is still terrified to go near the school and finds it difficult to go in any other school”
“We requested to home educate him at the beginning of September when his anxiety due to issues with his special school became unbearable for him”

Where the child does have a statement, parents reported that schools did not always provide the support

“Headteacher refused to supply 1:1 and defied SEN tribunal judgement but only recourse was high court for Judicial Review so we opted for home ed instead”

There is frequently a disagreement over what is the right school

“I have asked and asked for him to go to a specialist school but they won’t unless I put him into the oversubscribed special school to fail then they will consider it”
“I went to see the local SEN school and was disgusted at how they treated the autistic kids”

School may say they can’t meet child’s needs, so home education solves everyone’s problem

“The school would have been dangerous for my son who is very vulnerable,just before tribunal I asked them to do a risk assessment and they came back saying they could not meet his needs after all”

Some parents say the battle is to get the right school, while others feel that there is simply no suitable school

I took my child out of special school because I wanted him to develop social skills through mixing with typically developing children and all mainstream schools in the area were consulted but rejected him on the basis that they couldn’t meet his needs

A child may have special needs or medical needs but is also gifted (“twice exceptional” or dual or multiple exceptionality)

“high functioning academic needs AND complex and multiple SEN needs”
“son is very bright and academic but the school was categorised for severe and profound learning difficulties”

A child may be medically unable to attend school and parents are not offered any alternative to home education

“declared too ill for school. Never went on roll”
“We were told Medical Needs [the 1 hour per week they’d allocated!] was only temporary and as he couldn’t attend school, we thought this was our only alternative as no other was offered. We have muddled through this last 6 years”
“Too poorly to make a full day in school”

Schools cannot always guarantee the child’s safety

“Many times I would come to collect him and find him wandering around away from the class and no teacher supervising him”
“My child was seriously injured at school in an accident”

The special school may refuse to admit without a statement or Education Health and Care Plan

“The special school would’ve accepted my child but the delay in the process of statementing/ehcp meant that he has missed the opportunity AGAIN.

Some parents in my survey said the real education happens at home, and school is mainly for respite

“I no longer see school as the education provider but the respite provider with the added bonus of some sub-standard inefficient learning, not enabling my child to reach his potential but enough challenge to keep him vaguely willing to attend.”
“I was in the fortunate position of being able to plan because though Special School provision was hopeless it wasn’t dangerous, so I could take him out when I was ready”


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