This web site is written with reference to the law in England and Wales.
The laws in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man are all different. The laws in England and Wales are broadly similar to each other.
What is home education?
Home Education (HE) is when parents provide an education for their children in ways other than by enrolment in a school.
Is it legal?
Yes, HE is legal in all parts of the UK and always has been. HE has equal status with schools under section 7 of the 1996 Education Act which says:
'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full time education suitable a) to his age ability and aptitude, and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise."
Where "otherwise" refers to the right to home educate your child. Other parts of the UK have their own similar arrangements.
What about flexi schooling?
Flexi-schooling is where a child attends school part time and is entirely at the discretion of the head teacher. Parents sometimes intend it to be for a short period while a child recovers from an illness, from bullying or other temporary difficulty and sometimes parents intend to continue to home educate for more extended periods. There are some difficulties with arranging flexi schooling.
Do I need to have any qualifications?
You do not need to be a teacher or have any other special qualifications. Research shows that children of parents without qualifications do as well as those whose parents have them.
How do I start?
If your child has never been to school, you just carry on. You need to take no action. You do not need to inform the LA.
However, if your child is registered in school you must formally deregister by writing to the Head teacher. Even if your child has been offered a place but not attended the school you must deregister him. More information on this here.
Can I home educate a child with a Statement of Special Needs?
Yes, there is no law prohibiting or restricting the home education of a statemented child provided s/he is not attending a special school, in which case you need the consent of the LA which may not be unreasonably be withheld.
Is there any financial help?
There is no financial help from any source. However some LAs will allow you access to local teacher resources and you may be able to arrange extended borrowing facilities from local libraries and discounted access to other council run facilities like sports centres. Other local home educators will be able to inform you of what is available in your area.
Will I be monitored?
Many parents who's children have never been to school or have moved home since leaving school are unknown to their LA and therefore have no monitoring and others have satisfied their LA to such an extent that the LA never return. In law there is no duty for an LA to monitor a home educated child's provision but in practice they often do.
When you withdraw your child from school the LA will almost certainly want to discuss the educational provision you have planned. If you refuse to respond to their informal questions they are permitted under case law to assume that you are failing to provide any education and issue a School Attendance Order (which will force you to return your child to school or fine you should you refuse.) However you may challenge this in court.
When presenting evidence of your educational provision they may not prescribe how that evidence is to be presented. They cannot for example say you must fill in a form or allow a home visit. Therefore I would advise you to provide evidence to the LA which would satisfy a "reasonable person" that you are offering education to your children.
Will we have time to set ourselves up?
Lord Wolf in the Perry case said that inspections should be fair:
"Essentially the duty of an education authority in carrying out that function [inspection] is, in my opinion, simply to give the applicant a fair and reasonable opportunity to satisfy it as to the matters set out in the Regulation. Prima facie this opportunity will appropriately be given (as was done in the present case) if the Authority, having first allowed the parents a sufficient time to set in motion their arrangements for home education,"
R v Gwent County Council Court of Appeal (Civil Division) 129 SJ 737, 10 July 1985
Will they continue to monitor?
This is a contentious, and complex issue. There is no legal duty for an LA to continue to monitor your provision once they have accepted that you are providing an adequate education. However, at least one LA has (falsely) asserted its right to continue to monitor on the grounds that as a child grows older then your provision must change and thus they need to monitor the new provision. Even were this true it would only justify monitoring once a year at most. In any event if you failed to provide evidence of your provision I believe that the LA would issue an SAO on the grounds that as you have failed to provide evidence of educational provision they assume that there is no education being provided.
Will I have to have home visits?
The law is clear, you are not required to allow home visits other than in rare and extreme circumstances. Some HE parents do however allow access at their own discretion. You are entitled to arrange to meet with the LA representative at some other location like a library or even a MacDonald's.
What about my child's Statement of Educational Needs?
Parents have no obligation to fulfil the requirements for provision as laid out in section 4 of a statement of special needs. These statements can only place obligations upon the LA. However as a parent you must provide an education suitable to your child's special needs. So you will have to find some way of ensuring that your child's educational needs are fulfilled.
Will I have to arrange for SAT's testing?
SAT's testing is only a requirement at state schools and is therefore not relevant to home education. Your child should not be tested by the LA.
Do I have to teach the National Curriculum?
The National Curriculum only applies to state schools as do things like literacy and numeracy hours. As a home educator it is up to you and your child what, how and when you study. However, should you want to follow the national curriculum the DfES web site has details of what it covers which you can download.
The legal demand in section 7 of the 1996 education act, that home educated children are provided with a tailor made education, means that simply providing broad education would be inadequate. A home educated child's education should specifically address his or her individual needs.
So what should I teach?
This is entirely up to you. The law does not prescribe particular subjects. Though you must provide an education suitable to your child's needs.
What about course work and curricula?
There is a wealth of material on the internet which you can find by searching. There are other home education web sites which make suggestions and list resources that home educators have used and of course there are lots of books in good local bookshops covering Key stages used in schools.
What about tutors?
Most home educators never employ tutors other than occasional specialists like music, language or art teachers. The LA may be willing to suggest tutors on their supply teachers list or those used by their home tutoring service (normally used for children who are sick or who have behaviour problems).
Can my child still take exams?
Yes, you can arrange for children to take exams as external candidates at various exam centres such as colleges of further education. You will need to make enquiries and talk to other home educators in your area to find out where to look. You can use correspondence courses such as the National Extension College. Some home educators enrol children onto Open University courses without using GCEs or GCSEs at all. This strategy can work very well.
Will my child be socially isolated?
Among home educators socialisation is known as the S word. It is by far the most frequently raised issue by those you lack knowledge or experience of home education, whilst it is of the least concern to families who have home educated for some time.
Many families regularly attend local groups which are now available in most parts of the UK. There are also a number of camps in the summer ranging from just a handful of families getting together for a weekend to many hundreds of families gathering for a week long festival of home education. Children also often make use of community youth facilities such as scouts etc.
Is there any way of contacting other home educating families?
If you are considering home education for your child Join the HE UK free internet mailing list and meet 1,500 other home educating families for further support.
© Mike Fortune-Wood 2011