These questions are those most frequently asked by newcomer's
to home education. Each answer has a link to further information, sometimes
in my web site and other times to other peoples web sites. These answers
are not intended to be definitive legal replies but they are as far
as I understand accurate for those living in England and Wales. There
are references to alternative sources for those living elsewhere. If
you need any further help you can contact me,
but please read this before contacting me to answer your questions.
What is home education?
Home Education, more accurately known as Elective
Home Education, is when parents chose to take the full responsibility
to provide an education for their children in ways other than by
Is it legal?
Yes, HE is legal in all parts of the UK and always
has been. In England and Wales Home education is given equal status
with schools under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 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. Scotland, Northern
Is the law different in various parts of the UK?
Yes, while home education
is legal in all parts of the UK and while the law is essentially
the same in most details, the actual legislation, applicable case
law and the procedural application of the law, depends upon where
in the UK you live.
This web site is written particularly with reference
to the law in England. The laws in Scotland, Northern
Ireland Wales, the Channel Isles
and the Isle of Man are different.
Care, and a degree of caution, should be exercised
by families in any of these regions using advice primarily intended
Also, while there are as yet few significant differences
between England and Wales, since the creation of the Welsh assembly
small differences have begun to develop as politicians stamp their
identity upon educational legislation. In particular the pupil registration
Regulations in England are those passed in 2005, whilst in Wales
the welsh 2010 version is enforced. It is likely that in the future
there will be more substantial differences between Wales and England.
One should also be aware that Southern Ireland (Eire)
is a separate sovereign nation and UK law does not apply there.
Why home educate?
People home educate for all kinds of reasons. Most
frequently the cause is bullying in one form or another. Other reasons
include special needs that are unmet by the school or local authority,
distance to the school, lack of academic progress in school, stress or
some other school related issue. A few parents never send their children
to school in the first place, often these parents always intended
to home educate. It is very rare, for a parent to home educate against
the wishes of the child and this site does not normally support such
a decision. Over all the main cause of home education is that it
is in the best interests of the child.
Parents do not need to give any reason for home educating
and the law does not make any distinction between reasons for deciding
to home educate.
Who's choice is it to home educate?
It must always be that of the parents. Schools
may not off role (see below) pupils against the wishes of the parents.
Local authorities have a duty to provide an education to all children
in their area. If a school feels unable to provide a child with an
education, this is a starting point for a discussion between the
parents, local authority and the school, it is not the end of the
matter. The LA still has a duty to find an alternative provision.
The child should also be included in the decision making process,
but the LA may not demand access to the child so as to ascertain
if the child agrees with a parental decision to home educate, in
the same way that a child's consent is never expected when being
educated in a school. Indeed children who refuse school attendance
are often medicalised and such behaviour is seen as aberrant. The
law remains clear that it is entirely the decision of the parents,
this is in accordance with s7 Education act 1996 and Protocol 1,
article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is where a school either deregisters a child
against the wishes of the parents or, more often (strongly) advises
a family to home educate to avoid permanent exclusion. Sometimes
families are offered unsuitable alternative provision, such as PRU's
or other conditions which make the continued attendance at the school
either impossible or completely unpalatable. Some schools have been
known to force deregistration to remove children expected to score
poorly in examinations so as to improve their OFSTED assessment and
league table position. Such behaviour is serious and should be immediately
reported to the local authority along with any evidence you have.
Keep original evidence as such cases can become legal issues. If
your child has been forced out of school in this way, either you
or your child may have grounds for legal action against the school
or local authority and should take legal advice if you cannot settle
the matter amicably.
Having said this, we believe off rolling is comparatively
rare, although some schools in some locations may be making
extensive use of this strategy.
where a child looses his or her right to attend a
school the local authority must (since no one may be denied an education
ECHR P1 A2) offer alternative provision. This usually comes in one
of three forms. Another school, a PRU or EOTAS.
Where a child has significant special needs an
alternative school may be a special school, although such
places are usually in high demand. Where a child has significant
challenging behaviour which alternative local schools may feel
unable to meet the child's needs or keep their other pupils and
staff safe, finding another school may be impossible.
A Pupil Referral Unit may
be offered where the child's behaviour is such that specialist
care and attention to the child's behaviour is warranted. Such
places are in demand and one may not be available.
Education Other Than At
School is normally intended for long term sick children,
though again, children with severe behavioural challenges may
be offered this form of provision as a last resort. In this form
of education the Local Authority employ tutors who regularly
come to the home and tutor the child who is then expected to
undertake other 'home work' alone between visits. EOTAS is not
the same thing as home education. With EOTAS, the Local Authority
remain responsible for the day to day education of the child
while the parents will be expected to cooperate with the tutors.
While parents will normally be consulted over what
ongoing provision will be offered, in practice usually little choice
is available. Ultimately, should the parents reject the local authorities
final offer they will be regarded as having de-registered the child.
At that point they will be regarded as home educating. We strongly
suggest that parents avoid this situation as parents are rarely well
prepared to successfully home educate in circumstances in which they
did not freely chose to do so.
If you feel however that your child has been de-registered without
your consent or if you have been deceived about what support you
were to expect, you should first of all contact your local authority
without delay. Schools absolutely should not pressure families to
deregister their children, any attempt by a school to do so should
be reported to the local authority. Failing that you should contact
a local lawyer who specialises in education issues.
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.
While still relatively rare flexi schooling is a growing area in
england particularly in small rural schools.
While flexi schooling involves education at home for
part of the time it is not generally considered the same as home
education. Flexi schooled children are fully enrolled in a school
in the normal way and are therefore subject to the national curriculum,
particularly those elements tested in SATs. School head teachers
normally (nearly always) stipulate that flexi schooled children under
go the SATs along side their regular full time pupils since,
should they fail to take the tests, the school scores a zero for
that test. where a significant number of pupils score a zero or the
school otherwise has a marginal score, this can lead to the school
being placed in special measures.
See here or here for
Do I need to have qualifications?
You do not need to be a teacher or have any other
special qualifications. Research shows that children of parents without
higher qualifications do at least as well as those whose parents
have them. See my Legal pages
for further advice.
How do I start?
England & Wales: If
your child is at an ordinary school then the school must delete
your child from the register; you do not normally need permission
to HE. See my legal and deregistration guides
for further information.
England: You must
also formally deregister your child if you have asked and been
offered a place in a school, even
if the child has not attended.
Scotland and Northern Ireland:
You need permission, which they may not unreasonably
withhold. See Scotland & NI
SAO's & ESO's
You may not deregister a child where an SAO or ESO are
in force without the permission of the local authority. If you
are considering home education under these circumstances you need
specialist legal advice with experience of educational law and specifically
how it applies to home education, I may be able to help locate professionals
who may be able to help.
Not Enrolled at any school
If however your child has never attended school and
you have never applied for a school place you have no need to do
anything. There is no obligation for you to inform the local authority,
which in any event would be the responsibility of a school. However,
many local authorities have processes whereby they can identify rising
5 children living in their communities. So even if you have had no
previous contact with the LA, it is likely that they will contact
you to ask what provision you have made for your child.
Divorced and Separated Couples (with shared parental responsibility)
Since December 2003 a father who appears on the birth
certificate, regardless of marital status at the time of the birth
automatically has parental responsibility, so, both parties have
parental responsibility and can exercise it unilaterally providing
there are no court orders specifically saying that one or other parent
cannot do so.
Therefore either parent can send in a de-registration
letter without needing the other parent's consent, in the same way
as one parent can consent unilaterally to medical treatment on behalf
of their child.
However, the other parent could then seek to challenge
the decision in a similar way by re-registering the child. This does
not invalidate the first de-registration letter nor does it empower
the school to ignore the first deregistration. These two letters
should be treated in turn. If the child is deregistered and the place
then offered to another child, then the place is lost to the first
child, who will either need to find another school or be placed on
a waiting list. for obvious reasons, this is a highly unsatisfactory
situation for all, not least the child.
Ultimately should the parents fail to agree one or
other could apply for a specific issue order where the courts would
make the decision. The parents would then have to follow the instructions
of the court.
Clearly, if deregistration is likely to be an issue
of contention between two people with parental responsibilities,
it would be advisable to ensure that your ex-partner is agreeable
to the decision in advance as fighting court action can be stressful,
time consuming and expensive, not to mention, hardly in the best
interests of the child. Additionally if you act unilaterally and
the matter does later go to court, you are likely to be criticised
by the court for acting without consultation or the agreement of
the other parent and in so doing acting against the best interests
of the child, not withstanding that this was probably your initial
If your child has special needs and attends a special
school you need permission to deregister. See my Deregistration
Guide for further advice.
Can I home educate a child with Special Needs ?
Yes, there is no law prohibiting 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). However, you need to be able to show that you can provide
for these special needs should the LA enquire. See my legal and deregistration guides
for further information.
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 special educational needs are fulfilled.
Can I apply for an EHCP
Under certain circumstances, yes. see
What about Special Needs NHS services?
If your child requires special medical care, such
as hearing tests, speech therapy etc. this should continue as the
NHS service follows the child not the school. Contact the service
and ask how they intend to continue provision. If there is any difficulty
then contact your GP. If this fails then contact the local citizens
advice or a charity that supports your child's special need. Alternatively
contact the HE UK network.
The NHS may not refuse treatment to a home educated child on the
grounds that the service is normally provided within a school setting.
How does compulsory school age affect home educators?
As a parent you must provide a suitable education
for your child during compulsory school age. The law says that this
can be at home. See this guide
to work out the compulsory school age for your child.
What about post 16, further education?
From 2015 young people up to the age of 18 have have the
right to attend some form of education or training even if
they have employment. While LAs and the law talk about this in
terms of it being compulsory, there is no penalty for not
continuing your education. Although LAs must provide education
for all who ask and, I understand, employers must allow appropriate
training if the employee asked for it.
If you want to continue to home educate full time
after the end of compulsory education at age 16, you continue to
have the right
to claim Child Benefit. However if you begin to home educate
at this time then the child benefit office interpret the rules as
saying that you cannot claim Child Benefit.
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?
In law there is no duty for an LA to monitor a home
educated child's provision but in practice they often do.
Some LAs do not routinely monitor home educators,
other parents who's children have never been to school or who 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.
When you withdraw your child from school the LA will
almost certainly want to discuss your educational provision. You
should be allowed a reasonable length of time to acclimatise (de-school See
below) and decide how you intend to proceed. However If you ultimately
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. See here for
Will we have time to set ourselves up - deschool?
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?
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 duty 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. If this point
is an issue for you, you may ultimately need the services of an experienced
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. See my legal and home
visit guides for further advice.
What constitutes a 'full time' education.
Section 7 of the Education act 1996 stipulates that
all young people of compulsory educational age must receive a full
The term 'full time' has never been defined in law.
Some LAs try to suggest that home educators should follow the same
hours as schools. However, when providing education to sick children
unable to attend school, they tend to provide only around 5 to 8
hours tuition a week and call this full time provision.
In fact the term 'full time' has been interpreted
not so much in terms of hours as meaning that parents must ensure
that the child receives a full education sufficient to be deemed
suitable to satisfy the rest of section 7 of the Education act.
Therefore, in many respects the term 'full time' is
not really very helpful either to LAs assessment of home educational
provision or to parents trying to work out what they are obliged
in law to provide. Suffice to say that so long as the parents are
providing an education suitable to the child's needs, that would
be deemed to be sufficient to fulfil their obligations under the
In any event most home educators, particularly those
who autonomously home educate, tend to hold that education takes
place during all waking hours.
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.
Videos on how different people home educate
I have found a
number of videos that may help understand more about home education
and how it might work.
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.
One piece of advice would be not to spend a fortune
on such materials before you are sure you need them. I suggest that
you begin by finding out what your child is interested in and following
that for at least a while. This will help you understand better what
works for your child and what does not.
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. See my legal
guide for further advice.
Some LAs assert that parents have to provide a "broad
and balanced" education as in the national curriculum. The legislative
basis for this claim arises from section 351 of the Education Act
1996 as amended by the Education act 2002 which only applies to pupils
in school. Therefore such insistence is without legal foundation.
See the following article for
In fact the legal demand in section 7 of the education
act 1996, 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.
What about tutors?
Most home educators never employ tutors other than
occasional music 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). there are also online schools and distance
learning programs run by a number of private and charitable organisations.
Whoever you use, especially if you intend to leave
your child unattended with the tutor, it would be wise to ensure
that they can demonstrate to you that they have undertaken CRB
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.
Some home educators enrol children onto Open
University courses without using GCE's or GCSE's at all. This
strategy can work very well. There is a specialist
forum where families can discuss issues relating to examinations.
However, there are no grants available to cover the costs.
What about getting a job?
Finding work is a struggle for all young people and
home educated young people are no different. Most HE'd young people
come out of home education with fewer GCSE's, or their equivalents,
than those in school, not because they are any less educated but
due to the costs involved in taking the exams and this can be seen
by some as a disadvantage of home education. However few home educated
young people find themselves unable to take up their choice of employment
due to problems with qualifications.
From discussions on support forums several things
become clear. Most HE'd young people tend to be employed, at least
at first, by smaller employers who tend to be more flexible than
large corporate businesses who may well have rigid recruitment policies,
employers generally however look for a positive attitude above all
other qualities when interviewing a young person. Home educated young
people tend to have good social skills and a positive self reliant
attitude and are able to adapt well to the world of work, this
usually pays dividends when being interviewed.
Parents also report that having references from 'saturday'
jobs or voluntary work helps in this regard, especially where
it relates to the future career choice of the young person. Some
types of work however require minimum qualifications that cannot
be avoided, so it's probably advisable that young people hold GCSE's
or their equivalents in maths and english and care should be taken
to include any qualifications necessary for the career the young
person is interested in taking up. It's also the case that a significant
number of young people set up their own businesses. Few are content
to sit and do nothing.
If no other rout is available collage is free for
those reaching the age of 16 and many training courses include study
for examinations such as National Diplomas (which can have 'A' level
equivalence and GCSE's.) Modern Apprenticeships are unlike the
traditional apprenticeships some parents may be more familiar with
and these are also an excellent way forward for many young people.
Home Educating and Work
Many home educators are also engaged in work.
This either works by parents working 'around' each other, sometimes
one or both working part time, or one working from home. This
can be particularly problematic for single parents. Single parents
are expected to be gainfully employed if they intend to claim means
tested benefits and home educating your child is not accepted
as gainful employment.
Working while home educating is generally acceptable
providing it does not have a significant negative impact on your
You must always be able to show that the education is
suitable to the child. It is also important to ensure that your child
is safe and unstressed by your employment. And also that you
have considered your child's social life. It would not, for example,
be acceptable for a child to be isolated for eight hours a day most
days of the week.
There are also legal considerations. The NSPCC
- Babies, toddlers and very young children should
never be left alone
- Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature
enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone
for a long period of time
- Children under the age of 16 should not be left
- Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect
if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them
alone at home
- Regardless of their age, a child should never be
left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable.
- If a child has additional needs, these should be
considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
- When leaving a younger child with an older sibling
think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out
- would they both be safe? The maturity of the older child and
ability to 'parent' the younger child while you are absent, should
be carefully considered.
In short while there is no legislation for leaving
a child alone, it would be unwise to consider leaving a child under
the age of 12 alone, even for a short period. and at the very least
you need a trusted person on call and very close by who could offer
assistance where required. In any event leaving a child alone should
be considered very carefully regardless of the reasons.
Leaving a child in the care of an older, teenager
is also problematic, though there is no specific legislation
outlawing the practice at any specific age. There have however, been cases
where families have fallen foul of the law. It should be remembered
that if the person looking after the child is under the age of 16
then the parents remain legally liable for the child being cared
for. Careful consideration should be exercised when leaving a child
in the care of another child.
Moving on to University?
As many home educated young people intending to go
to university will hold irregular qualifications the 'trick' here
appears to be 'good planning'. Writing to the university early on
and establishing an interest in a course or field of study asking
about their attitude towards an application from a home educated
young person will often yield very good results. 'Portfolios' of
work and experience is extremely useful, and one cannot begin too
soon in building this up. For example, a young person with an interest
in history should join local and national historical societies and
read up on his or her periods of interest. In this way they
can show a long term, deep interest in the subject area with better
than average knowledge. Often schools don't even study the subject
so it's possible that a home educated young person with some OU qualification
in the subject area would give them a decided advantage over
Recent changes to University enrolment have made things
a little more rigid, so planning far ahead is highly advisable. If
your child is hoping to enter university, you should be researching
what is required from the age of 13 to ensure you can fulfil
all the requirements.
It should be noted however that it's rare that we
hear about a home educated young person who has been hampered in
their career by home education. The general experience is that most
either go to university whether at the normal age or before or do
so soon after. There are also significant numbers who move into areas
of work that don't require degrees and the general experience is
that promotion from the 'bottom' run of their career choice is relatively
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. See my legal
guide for further advice.
What is the likely effect on friends and family?
Most people are poorly informed about both the legality
of home education and the day to day practicalities of how home education
works. Despite this, for reasons that remain unclear, some people
make assumptions about the law and react very negatively to the news
that someone close to them intends to home educate.
During the research for The
Face of Home Based Education 1 I found a clear pattern to the
reactions friends and members of extended families of those
who home educate.
Often members of your close extended family will assume
that home education is difficult, expensive, legally suspect and
unlikely to produce confident well balanced and properly educated
young adults. Overall they are likely to be fearful for your children's
The reaction of close friends however can sometimes
go further than these simple concerns and be surprisingly vehement.
This has led many who home educate to conclude that some of their
friends friends felt that their decision to home educate was an implicit
criticism of their own parenting decisions.
In practice nearly all home educators who have gone
through this experience find that as time passes those close to them
see the children's progress and tend to view the decision to home
educate more favourably. That is not to say that you may not lose
some friends or the support of some close family members along the
Besides being confident that you have made the right
decision, which should be the case anyway, the best way of tackling
this seems to be to be to prepare well. Considering the following
points may help.
- visit other local home educators prior to your
- understand the legal situation well enough to explain
it to those close to you.
- have ready answers on the issue of socialisation,
it is always raised.
- present your decision to friends and family in
an unthreatening way, do not suggest that school is of itself inadequate,
even if this is how you feel.
- stress that this decision was your families solution
to your own specific circumstances
- Stress also that home educated children tend to
achieve well both academically and in work, there is good research
to support this
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 who lack knowledge or experience of home education, whilst
it is of the least concern to families who have home educated for
There is lots of support around for home educating
children and families, and in most parts of the country there are
plenty of things happening and
plenty of opportunity to socialise. See the following article.
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.
Local groups often organise events, classes and visits
to places of interest. some larger groups organise overnight trips
to places of greater interest. These are not just educational opportunities
but places where young people can socialise and develop networks and
even long term relationships.
Many older children who have home educated for a while
develop substantial networks of contacts and use instant messaging
facilities of friends they have made both locally and at camps..
Is there any way of contacting other home educating
Yes, there is an extensive network of HE
support groups and online e-mail mailing lists.
What are the disadvantages?
There are very few real, long term disadvantages to
home education and most find it an enriching experience, but
there can be some issues you have to consider.
- Examinations can be expensive. While costs can
be minimised, there is still often some cost towards the end of
your child's compulsory education.
- Course work, if you decide to use it, can also
be expensive, though many (most) don't use it.
- Lost income is probably the main cost. If the parent
gives up a well paid job the hit the family suffers on income can
- Loss of pension pot. While the parent who
gives up work can protect their government pension rights by ensuring
child benefit is paid to them (they get basic NI credits), they
will not accrue a private or company pension. If the
relationship between the parents breaks up, or if the parent responsible
is a single parent, this can result in a considerably lower income
- A few parents, especially those on a lower income
with little or no transport and especially those living in rural
areas report isolation. difficulty reaching local home education
events and lower population density meaning fewer home educating
families living close by can mean families have to consider social
contact for both parents and children.
- Many home educators report initial tensions with
existing friends and family who see their decision to home educate
a challenge to their own decisions to send their children to school. These
can be mitigated in time by making new friends among the home educating
community and family usually come around as the children do well
at home. So while in the long run this ceases to be a problem,
it can be more of an issue when the children are younger and you
are starting out.
- You must be prepared for the possibility that you
will attract the attentions of the authorities. While the home
education community is experienced in dealing with these interventions,
it can come as a surprise and some find it stressful.