Educational Philosophies

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Below are examples of educational philosophies that some families have found useful in the past. They are not intended to be copied wholesale but rather to form a basis for your own philosophy of education and resource list.

It should be noted that since the provision of education for children is compulsory it is important to state within any educational philosophy that you regard your duty to provide an education to your children as being of the utmost importance.

  • Autonomous: This one is appropriate for a style of education broadly known as "Autonomous"
  • Unstructured: This one will suit an unstructured approach
  • Structured: This one is a somewhat more structured approach
  • SEN: This one is written by parents of a child with special educational needs
  • Autonomous style: This one is one is influenced by Holt, Neil and Fortune-Wood designed for a child with a specific learning difficulty
  • Islamic: This one is written by an Islamic family

If you have written one and are willing to share it with others please send it to me.

NB: all personal details have been removed.

Why Write an Education Philosophy?

(Originally an article in the Journal of Home Education: issue 2 May 2006)

For the last few years those offering advice to home educators have strongly suggested that an initial submission to a local authority should include a statement of the family's educational philosophy. Why?

Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act covering England and Wales states that parents have a duty to cause their children to receive an efficient education suitable to age, ability and aptitude and any special needs. Efficient is not defined by the Act but a senior judge created case law when he said that efficient in this context means, "that which achieves what it sets out to achieve"1. What should education achieve? Firstly it must be 'suitable', i.e. suit the child for the society in which she finds herself, providing that this would not prevent living in wider society2. Who gets to determine the form of education which should be employed to achieve this? To understand the answer to this question one must look to European law. The second sentence of Protocol 2 Article 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights says:

"In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."3

Here "philosophical convictions" includes any parental convictions relating to education. This was itself part of a decision made by the European courts:

"The second sentence of Article 2 (P1-2) implies ... The State is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents' religious and philosophical convictions. That is the limit that must not be exceeded."4

But what is meant by philosophical and can this extend to pedagogy? In another ruling relating to the use of corporal punishment in a Scottish school prior to it being outlawed in the UK the European courts ruled that 'convictions':

"is more akin to the term "beliefs" (in the French text: "convictions") appearing in Article 9 (art. 9) - which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and denotes views that attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance."5

From this context it emerges that "philosophical convictions" means any serious, cohesive belief held to be important by parents must be taken as the primary measure by which education is determined as efficient. This includes their educational and parental philosophies as well as religious and world view beliefs.

An educational philosophy would however be viewed deficient in law if it failed to offer a suitable education and neither would it be acceptable to claim that the family's educational philosophy was not to offer any education to their children at all since the first sentence of Protocol 2 Article 1 says:

"No person shall be denied the right to education."6

An educational philosophy should therefore make it clear that the child's right to an education is paramount. Having done so, by offering a cohesive, thought out educational philosophy as part of a submission to the local authority parents then establish control of the way any assessment of their provision should take place. The parents' educational philosophy becomes the context within which any assessment of provision is made. Claims by some local authorities that a suitable education must include various listed subjects may contravene the parents' human rights should the list be in contradiction to the parents' philosophy providing that the parents' philosophy is consistent with Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. For example in a recent submission to the DfES Cambridgeshire LA stated that:

"It is difficult to conceive of an education being deemed adequate unless the premises are equipped to a particular standard, work is marked, and detailed plans are made in advance."7

It is highly likely that such a presumption contravenes the human rights of many parents within Cambridgeshire LA and, by providing an LA with a parental philosophy of education home educators can take the first and crucial step towards preventing LAs from wrongfully prejudging what is acceptable education; this is not the remit of LAs.


I would like to acknowledge the help of Joke Sperling in directing me to the European case files.


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