Education Maintenance Allowance

Early in 2004, Schoolhouse realised the importance of home-educated young people in Scotland having the right to apply for the EMA. We worked hard to win an agreement and for our right to apply to be included in the Scottish guidance. Further work ensured a separate section in the EMA guidance for home-educated students.

Read one family’s  experience of claiming the  EMA here.

It should be noted that EMA, which is administered by the Local Authority, is not available to home educated students in England and Wales. For more information, please refer to the EMA Scotland website and/or contact your Local Authority.

The following excerpt is from the EMA (Scotland) Guidance (2013/2014):

9.  STUDENTS IN HOME EDUCATION

EMAs will be available to eligible young people who are undertaking full-time non-advanced level study by home education. The EMA programme will be administered for these students by the local authority in which the home education is based. Applications should be made to the local authority. In relation to the efficiency and suitability of education being delivered at home, local authorities should take into account the current Scottish Government guidance (www.scotland.gov.uk), and the local authority’s own guidance, where available.

Please note: Students applying for an EMA as a home educated student must have a history of home education prior to reaching their official school leaving date. The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence of a history of home education.

The programme for EMAs across the local authority and FE sectors is largely the same. This will also be the case in relation to home education. However, given the nature of home education, there will be particular elements of the programme which will vary. This section sets out those elements.

9.1 ELIGIBILITY OF STUDENT

Students who are home educated will be subject to the same age criteria as students in the schools and FE sectors (see Section 4.1). Students will become eligible for an EMA from the start of the local authority school term under the autumn or winter intake, as appropriate. While it is recognised that home education may not follow the same terms as school or college education, this will ensure all eligible local authority students begin to receive their EMA at the same point in the year, regardless of the form of education they are undertaking.

Home educated students will also be eligible to a maximum of 42 weeks of EMA support over the year in the same way as other students who are awarded an EMA.

9.2 ELIGIBILITY OF LEARNING

Eligible students can be home-educated full-time, or in conjunction with attendance at an institution (as recognised in Section 3.5). The local authority should be content that the home education is efficient and suitable for the child, and on a full-time basis.

The learning should be at non-advanced level. If the student attends college courses part-time as part of their home education programme, this should also be at non-advanced level.

9.2.1 ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENTS

In order to be eligible for the weekly allowance home educated EMA students will be required to meet the 100% attendance requirement.

Responsibility for ensuring 100% attendance in home education will lie predominantly with the education provider, and local authorities should refer to their existing policy on home education to ensure this is appropriate. Where a student also attends a part-time college course as part of their programme, they will be required to meet the 100% attendance criteria for that course (with usual reference to Section 7 Guidance on Absences).

9.2.2 PROGRESSION AND QUALIFICATIONS

Home educated students may not be working towards a recognised qualification. However, the programme of learning should be appropriate to the age, ability and aptitude of the student. Local authorities may choose to ensure that this remains the case throughout the student’s period of eligibility.

9.3 LEARNING AGREEMENT

In order to receive an EMA, all students must have a signed learning agreement (or equivalent) in place. For home educated students, this may be a plan of education agreed between the responsible adult and the student.

The education provider should submit a learning agreement or similar plan of education provision to the local authority as part of the application for an EMA. Once the local authority is satisfied that this meets the EMA Scotland Guidance on Learning Agreements (as Section 6 and below), the EMA should be granted.

9.3.1 REQUIRED SIGNATURES

The learning agreement (or equivalent) should be signed by the child and the adult educator or parent responsible, and by a representative of the local authority if required. Where the student attends college part-time the learning agreement should also be signed by an appropriate representative of the institution. All signatories should understand fully their responsibilities within the agreement. The responsible parent/education provider should ensure the learning agreement is clear and unambiguous about the proposed programme of learning.

9.3.2 REQUIREMENTS

The learning agreement (or equivalent) should incorporate the main features as outlined in Section 6. However, this should allow for the nature of home education, e.g. that home education may not lead to a recognised qualification. References may be incorporated to documents where such things as timetabled learning programmes are set out, but this is not a prerequisite given the alternative nature of many forms of home education. Learning Agreements may also reference the guidance for local education authorities in dealing with home educators, and may incorporate the suggested characteristics of an efficient and suitable education.

It remains the education provider’s responsibility to ensure that all the criteria of the plan of education outlined in the EMA application are met. Local authorities may seek details of the provision as per their normal responsibilities as outlined in the Scottish Government guidance, but should not seek to impose school or college structures, programmes or outcomes. If concerns are raised regarding the efficiency and suitability of the programme provided, then local authorities should investigate as normal and if these are justified then the EMA allowance may be withheld or reviewed.

9.3.3 WITHHOLDING PAYMENTS

Education providers (for example, parents) will be required to advise local authorities to withhold payments in any week where the student does not meet the attendance criteria or other requirements set out in the learning agreement.

9.3.4 RETENTION CRITERIA

For home educated students, this would be a return to their agreed learning programme.

9.3.5 PROGRESSION/ATTAINMENT CRITERIA

As students who are home educated may not be working towards a recognised qualification, there should be scope for variation to suit different home education expectations and capabilities of students.

9.4 MANAGEMENT INFORMATION

Local authorities should refer to Scottish Government guidance on the Management Information requirements for the EMA Scotland programme, and to Section 9.2 (i) and Section 9.4 above.

Local authorities should also make reference to existing policy in relation to contact with home educated pupils. The education provider will be responsible for informing the local authority when a student fails to meet the requirements for the weekly allowance, or otherwise stops being eligible for an EMA. Again, local authorities should refer to existing policy on this.