Deciding how and where to educate your child is the biggest decision that a parent can make, with things not moving forward within the education system since the African and Caribbean community first came to the UK in the 1950’s & 60’s (en-mass) many parents are opting to home educate their child. This gives parents the power to decide what their child learns, their child develops at their own pace, builds stronger families and there is also statistical evidence that home educated children do far better academically. However there are on going debates between those who suggest that home educated children struggle to make friends and are social outcasts. However, with Black girls climbing the academic pole at a faster rate than boys there is much work that still needs to be done for our children’s education. Read More
What is home education?
Home Education (HE) is when parents take the full responsibility to provide an education for their children in ways other than by schooling.
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.
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 and Wales. The laws in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man are different.
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.
If the council wants to check on your child’s education
The council can make an ‘informal enquiry’ to check your child is getting a suitable education at home. They can serve a school attendance order (opens in new link) if they think your child needs to be taught at school.
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 the UK Especially among parents of African Children.
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.
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 at least as well as those whose parents have them.
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.
- 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.
- Special schools: If your child has special needs and attends a special school you need permission to deregister.
- Scotland and Northern Ireland: You need permission, which they may not unreasonably withhold.
- 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.
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 to remove the child from school by applying for a specific issue order. It would not alter the validity of the original de-registration letter as far as the school or local authority are concerned.
Clearly if deregistration is likely to be an issue of contention between two people with parental responsibilities it would be best 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 if it can be avoided. Additionally if the matter does later go to court, you are likely to be criticised for acting without consultation or, better still, the agreement of the other parent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 many LA’s talk about this in terms of it being compulsory there is in fact 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.
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.
Since there is no duty upon LAs to monitor there is no duty upon home educators to respond. However if you don’t respond the LA are allowed to infer that you are not providing an education and may subsequently issue you with a School Attendance order (SAO). This process is governed by section 437 of the Education act 1996
LAs often try to dictate how you respond to their enquiries. Despite this how you actually respond is up to you. Providing your response is reasonable under the circumstances. The LA may not insist on any particular form of response and must look at any reasonable evidence you offer them.
Your Response to Monitoring
The best advice available says that you should always respond to a monitoring exercise and the best response is to produce three documents.
An educational philosophy
A list of resources
An outline showing how you use these resources to meet your educational philosophy.
The list of resources should include all resources available to you. They should include not only your own personal resources like books and computers but also access to the library and membership of any social groups that are relevant. List everything of relevance.
An SAO requires that you register your child with a named school within 15 days. You may however defend yourself in court by arguing that you are providing an education at home.
It is probably best not to have to go to court so making some kind of a response will be preferable. If you have been issued with an SAO or believe you may be issued with one and you don’t know what to do next the best course of action is probably to join the online forum where people will be able to offer you support and information about how to move forward from here.
Do not ignore any correspondence from the LA, this will almost certainly result in court action against you and remember you have only 15 days from when you have received an SAO to respond, so treat this as urgent.
LAs may not insist on home visits. They have no right of entry into the home to check upon the child’s education or your provision.
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?
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 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 lawyer.
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.
The Black Child Agenda Conference
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 time education.
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 recieves a full education sufficient to be deemed suitable to satify 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 law.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 checks.
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 and Wolsey Hall Oxford (which offer discounts to home educators). Some home educators enroll children onto Open University courses without using GCEs or GCSEs at all. This strategy can work very well.
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 English & another qualification, however 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.
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 schooled applicants.
Recent changes to University enrollment 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 full-fil 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 rapid.
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.
What is the likely effect going to be 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.
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 future.
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 friends feel that their decision to home educate was seen as a challenge to, or rejection 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 way.
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 final decision
- understand the legal situation well enough to explain it
- 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 these issues.
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 some time.
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.
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 families?
Contact us today and we will be happy to provide you with more details
Why Home Education
In a society that doesn’t act on children’s preferences, that treats families who do as criminals, with professionals who dismiss the alternatives out of hand and medicate children to justify the use of force, school refusal creates a perfect storm of stress for families trying their level best to help their children make sense of the world.
The right to home educate stems from the long standing right, and responsibility, of parents to determine the nature of the education of their own children. Without this responsibility children’s education would become a state controlled monopoly in which a child’s education would be subject to government policy.
We believe that the state has interests other than those of the child’s and while many of those interests may be important and worthy of consideration, the final decision should remain with the child and family. We do not expect Doctors to make clinical decisions based upon the benefits each option has to society and neither should a child’s future be a subject of government policy in that way.
If the state gains the power to grant or refuse parents the right to home educate their child, then the state would damage an important parental responsibility. However with the rise in “terrorism” the current government are aiming to implement new laws to make home education a governmental registration structure.
However we believe that parents should retain the right to determine the nature and place of a child’s education while the state should remain, as it now is, the parent of last resort, intervening only where it can show that the parents have violated the child’s human right to a suitable education.