Contextual research – the importance of semantics

A topic that is constantly in debate in the world of elective home-education is the semantics involved in our community . I have just been part of a facebook discussion where someone was asking what people thought that the term ‘home-schooling’ meant.

This was my reply –

Home-schooling is the term given to children who remain on a school role, but are unable to attend said school (usually for medical reasons). The school/la then fund tutors to attend the child’s home, as the responsibility of the education of that child remains firmly the schools.

Graham, Rebecca. 23.02.2021

Before the pandemic. This was the terms’ definition as accepted by the home-educating community. This is why we had SUCH a BIG problem with local authorities, government and individuals using the term home-schooling to describe elective home education. EHE is neither what is described above, which is legally defined as EOTAS (Education other than at school) , or home-schooling, which implies a schooled time table and curriculum being used.

Within this thread someone posted the below article from the DfE , whereby the DfE have defined home-schooling as what has been being referred to as remote-education, remote learning, home-schooling, pandemic learning and more ….

This is the complete text from the DfE page linked above – I have highlighted the most important section in Red. This is especially poignant as it means that the elective-home-educating community can request that both the media, the DfE and most importantly local authorities stop referring to the EHE as ‘home-schooling’ the term is damaging to our community, it creates preconceptions about how our children are educated, creates prejudice against any families not recreating school at home, and means hundreds of families are fighting the local authorities against school attendance orders unnecessarily, as the councils employ untrained people to take up rolls and implement guidance that they do not understand, many of these EHE officers come from teaching or social services backgrounds, and lack the necessary vocabulary and knowledge to fulfil their duties appropriately.

These were my replies to other people in the thread –

“You’re right – that was my point, essentially home-schooling is NEVER elective home-education, the two are completely different. I welcome the use of EOTAS and ‘Home-schooling’ as separate terms to describe the above, and to describe what the country is currently doing, it makes life lots easier for our community as I say above” 

Graham, Rebecca. 23.02.2021

“This is really interesting as essentially what they have done is DECIDED in the midst of the pandemic that THIS IS what the term home-schooling means. This is GREAT for us as it means we can officially request ALL councils to stop using the term home-schooling. Before there was no definition, now there is – win for us !”

Graham, Rebecca. 23.02.2021

I have started conversations going about creating a document to send out to local authorities defining these terms and requesting that they are used appropriately both in their correspondence, dealings with EHE families and the media, as well inter-departmental government meetings. Semantics are everything, and make a huge difference to the experiences people have in the world.

I had always known that the first page of any project I produce or book would be a glossary of words used in the community, this makes life so much easier and clearer as it means there is now and actual definition of home-schooling, that in no way relates to elective home-education.


All you need to know about home-schooling and elective home education (EHE)

Posted by: Media Officer, Posted on: 20 October 2020 – Categories: Elective Home EducationHome Learning EnvironmentHome schoolinga child drawing on the floor with chalk

What is home-schooling?

During the period when schools were closed to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers, most pupils were educated at home. This is known as home-schooling. While being home-schooled, children remained on their school roll and received a combination of support from schools, online learning resources such as Oak Academy, and other resources parents may have provided themselves. Home schooling in this instance is different to elective home education, which is where parents choose not to send their child to school full-time on a long term basis.

What you need to know about school attendance

From the start of the autumn term 2020, all pupils have been able to return to schools. The new term means attendance is mandatory and the usual rules on attendance apply. This includes parents’ duty to ensure their child, of compulsory school age, attends their registered school regularly.

Schools are operating in line with guidance, which sets out the public health advice they must follow to minimise the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

What is Elective Home Education (EHE)?

Elective Home Education (EHE) is when a parent chooses not to send their child to school full-time but assumes responsibility for making sure their child receives a full-time education other than at school. Some children are electively home educated from age 5 and may never attend school. In other cases, a child may be removed from their school’s roll for EHE.

Educating children at home works well when it is a positive choice and carried out with proper regard for the needs of the child. In many cases, elective home education is appropriate, well-delivered and involves considerable sacrifice on the part of parents.

What you need to know about EHE

EHE requires parents to take full responsibility for their child’s education, including all associated costs (such as exam fees).

Schools are not required to provide any support to parents that have withdrawn their child for EHE. Support provided by Local Authorities (LA) is discretionary, including support for a child’s special educational needs.

Parents should not be placed under pressure by schools to electively home educate their child. This is a form of ‘off-rolling’ and is never acceptable.

If you feel under pressure to keep your child at home and educate the child yourself rather than sending them back to school full-time, we recommend you discuss this with your LA.

Thinking about EHE?

If you think EHE might be in the best interests of your child, the Government expects your LA to coordinate a meeting with you involving your child’s school and social workers where appropriate. We strongly recommend you meet with your LA to consider whether EHE is appropriate for your family and your child before you decide whether to withdraw them from their school’s roll.

Where a pupil is withdrawn from school for EHE, there is no obligation for the school to keep that place open. If the parent wishes to return their child to school, they may not be able to return to the same school.

Once a child is educated at home, LAs will begin making enquiries as to how suitable the education being provided is. Failure to satisfy the enquiry may result in you being issued with a School Attendance Order and / or the court may make an Education Supervision Order.

What next?

Parents should visit and read our EHE guidance for parents.



All you need to know about home-schooling and elective home education (EHE) 20.10.2020 . Department for education blog. Available at (Accessed 23.02.2021)

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This blog is written as part of my studies on the Falmouth University photography ma, an accredited educational programme.