Home Education Frequently Asked Questions
Here you will find some of the most common frequently asked questions for those currently Home Educating or those of you who are thinking about Home Educating your child or children.
Is Home Education Legal?
Yes, Home Education (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.’
Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that: “No person shall be denied the right to education. 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 is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
Why Do People Home-School their Children?
- Dissatisfaction with the state system – this is becoming an increasing current issue and is linked to concerns around poor academic achievement despite ability; lack of support for learners’ needs; lack of respect for children, their personalities and gifts; the increasing stress of testing and attainment targets; restriction of the curriculum; intense pressure and unreasonable expectation put upon
- Religious/cultural beliefs
- Bullying (see Anxiety in Children and Low Mood and Depression )
- Philosophical/ideological views
- To provide a more personalised and adaptable form of education
- Parents/carers desire to spend more time with/have a better relationship with their children
- To provide an alternative education to the National Curriculum
- As a short-term intervention or solution for a personal reason
- A child’s difficulty fitting in with schooling methods or school routine
- To provide an alternative environment to group schooling
- To provide a more familial environment for dealing with a child’s special needs/feeling that a child’s special needs could be better catered for at home
Is Home Education becoming more popular?
Responses to Freedom of Information requests carried out by the BBC in December 2015 from 190 local authorities showed 36,609 home educated children. However, this figure is argued to be as high as 80,000 bearing in mind that a number of children will not be registered as being home schooled because they have always been home-schooled or for other reasons such as no registers being kept.
The increase in popularity of home-education is likely to be the single most important educational sensation in the twenty first century.
How do I de-register my child from school?
If your child has never been registered at a state school (or if you move to an area served by another LA) you are not obliged to notify the LA, although you may do so if you wish.Section 2.4 of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities states that in England and Wales parents may decide to exercise their right to home educate their child from an early age and so the child may never have been previously enrolled at school. They may also elect to home educate at any other stage up to the end of compulsory school age.
Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home. All is required is that the parent writes a letter to the head teacher or proprietor of the school to request that the child be removed from the school register. The school must delete the child’s name from their admissions register upon receipt of written notification from the parents that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school and it is then their responsibility to inform the Local Authority. Unless your child is attending a special needs school there is no requirement for parents contact the LA themselves. This should (in law) be done by the school.
If your child attends a designated Special Needs school arranged and financed by the LA, then you need permission to de-register (Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 8(2) 2006). This includes any state special needs school and any independent special needs school arranged by the LA. The decision by the Local Authority is usually very prompt. Any refusals must have had full consideration with very good reason. Refusals are exceptionally rare.
Parents do not need permission to de-register a child from an independent special needs school where the place was arranged and paid for by the parents.
In England you must also formally de-register your child if you have asked and been offered a place in a school, even if the child has not yet attended.
In Scotland the law does differ slightly in that you need to get permission to de-register a child. Click on this link for more info.
The law in Northern Ireland appears to be much the same as that in England and Wales; there is nothing in NI law that states that permission for deregistration is required.
Do I Need to be Qualified to Teach My Children at Home?
Not at all-there are no requirements that parents should be qualified or trained. Good parents are perfectly well equipped to provide an appropriate and successful education to their children.
What is Flexi-Schooling?
Flexi Schooling is an arrangement between the parent and school for a child registered at the school in the usual way but attending school only part time; the rest of the time the child is home educated. There are a variety of reasons why parents may want to arrange flexi-schooling for their children, for example Illness (on the part of the child or the parent), a desire to home educate while making use of school for some school-taught subjects, school phobia/problems with attendance, a staged return to school after an absence for whatever reason, or perhaps because the parents wish to home school but can’t do it full time due to work commitments.
Neither local authorities nor schools are likely to agree to such arrangements unless it is clear that it is in the child’s best interests. It is an offence for a parent to fail to ensure that a child of compulsory school age regularly attends the school at which s/he is registered. However, Flexi-schooling is legal providing the parent are able to obtain the agreement of the head teacher of the school at which their child is registered.
The child will be required to follow the National Curriculum whilst at school but not whilst he or she is being educated at home.
What if my child has Special Educational Needs?
Parents’ right to educate their child at home applies equally where a child has Special Educational Needs (SEN). This right is irrespective of whether the child has a statement of special educational needs or not.
Where a child has a statement of SEN and is home educated, it remains the local authority’s duty to ensure that the child’s needs are met.
3.23 A parent who is educating their child at home may ask the local authority to carry out a statutory assessment or reassessment of their child’s special educational needs and the local authority must consider the request within the same statutory timescales and in the same way as for all other requests. Local authorities should provide information to home educators detailing the process of assessment and both local authorities’ and home educators’ responsibilities with regard to provision should the child be given a statement. The views of the designated medical officer for SEN should be sought by the local authority where a child with a statement is educated at home because of difficulties related to health needs or a disability.
Crown copyright 2007 and 2013 www.dcsf.gov.uk Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities Published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families
Can a child with an Education, Health and Care plan be educated at home?
Section 10.30 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years states:
‘Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 parents have the right to educate children, including children with SEN, at home. Home education must be suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and SEN.’
Will we be Monitored?
Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis. Your Local Education Authority can make informal inquiries regarding your children’s education, but they do not have any legal authority to do this and no rights and do not have any legal right of entry to your home and no right to test your children.
They do have a duty to intervene if they have reason to believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education. (see 2019 Law on LA Contact)
Some Home Educators are happy to have an LEA representative visit them at home and discuss methods and progress. Others prefer to send a written Educational Philosophy to the LEA or meet with them on neutral ground to discuss matters. Some Home Educators never even hear from the LEA.
The Elective Home Education – Guidelines for Local Authorities states:
2.15 … local authorities have general duties to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (section 175 Education Act 2002 in relation to their functions as a local authority and for other functions in sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004).
These powers allow local authorities to insist on seeing children in order to enquire about their welfare where there are grounds for concern (sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act 1989). However, such powers do not bestow on local authorities the ability to see and question children subject to elective home education in order to establish whether they are receiving a suitable education.
Crown copyright 2007 and 2013 www.dcsf.gov.uk Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities Published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families
What Hours/Timetable will we Need to Adhere to?
Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of ‘full-time’. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of ‘contact time’ is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal school hours. The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Section 3.13 of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities
Will we Have to Teach the National Curriculum?
‘As a parent, you must make sure your child receives a full-time education from the age of 5 but you don’t have to follow the national curriculum’. www.gov.uk/home-education
What about Socialisation?
Home-educators often hear reservations from family and friends about home-schoolers’ socialising, or ‘socialisation’.
- Do home educated children become isolated from their friends or other children?
- Are they able to make or maintain friendships?
- Will they be able to fit into society as adults if they haven’t been through traditional school?
- Do they become too dependent on their parents, and reluctant to go out to meet new people?
Children can become socially isolated as much at school as they can if they are home educated and it often has a lot more to do with other factors than whether they go to school or not.
What About Tests/Exams/Assessments?
No testing or assessments such as SATs are required. Parents can obtain non-statutory tests or example papers if they wish to in order to gauge a child’s development. With regards to GCSEs, some young people enter as private candidates or arrange for part-time attendance at further education college to study for the exams. Others use correspondence or distance learning courses.
Although home educated children are not required to follow the National Curriculum a number do. National Curriculum tests and assessment arrangements are developed and administered by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) on behalf of the Secretary of State. Information to support these arrangements is provided both electronically and in hard copy through the QCA’s website at www.qca.org.uk or by telephoning their publications office on 08700 606015 Crown copyright 2007 and 2013 www.dcsf.gov.uk
From November 2014, the Department for Education now recognises that English and Maths IGCSEs, taken by home-schoolers, will be seen as equivalent to regulated GCSEs. Condition of Funding
For home schooled children who have studied for a public exam like GCSEs or A levels either independently, through a private tutor, or via a distance-learning course, it is usually the child’s own responsibility to find an exam centre, register for the exam, have the coursework assessed, and enter the exams. Exam boards, such as OCR and Edexcel, provide guides for private examination candidates – you can call the exam boards directly visit the board’s website.
What has Ofsted got to do with home education?
In 2015 Ofsted provided inspectors with new advice and guidance about elective home education which asks LAs to provide the number of children who are electively home educated as known to the authority.
The guidance states that ‘
The data we receive about home-educated children, alongside a report in respect of children not in full-time education, are important elements of evidence for inspectors to evaluate how effectively local authorities monitor the progress and safety of children who may be vulnerable and/or need support.’
When inspecting Local Authority children’s services, Ofsted inspectors ask LAs about children missing education and also ask for the number of home educated children in the area and how LAs deal with home education. However, it also makes clear that Ofsted does not have a mandate to inspect the quality of Elective Home Education. The statutory duty on LAs to identify as far as possible those children not receiving a suitable education does not extend to home-educated children; LAs do not have a duty to evaluate the quality of the education provided for home educated children – e.g. through routine visits – although they may intervene if it appears that the education is unsuitable.
Ofsted is a publicly funded body which inspects and regulates publicly funded services caring for children and young people, and also inspects publicly funded bodies providing education and skills for learners of all ages. Parents who take responsibility for their own children’s education outside the state funded system are not publicly funded and are not inspected or regulated by Ofsted.
What is De-schooling?
This is the period of time immediately following the removal of a child from school. It is the period of re-adjustment and settling that home- schoolers refer to as de-schooling. It is essentially a period of time for both the child and parents to get used to the new routine and lifestyle which no longer involves getting up and ready for school. This period can be quite significant for some families and is quite important as the family introduces their new routine.
The length of time this takes can vary from just a couple of weeks to many months and is dependent upon a number of factors such as include the personality of the child, family circumstances, the circumstances surrounding their decision to home educate and the time needed individually for them to adapt to the changes. It also depends on how long the child was at school because if they have been attending school for some years they will be to some extent institutionalised and will need longer to get into a new lifestyle.
Does the law on Home Education Differ Throughout the U.K?
Not particularly – all parts of the UK have similar arrangements. While home education is legal in all parts of the UK and the law essentially the same in most details the actual legislation, applicable case law and procedural application of the law, depends upon where in the UK you live. This web site is written with particular reference to the law in England and Wales.
Information relevant to the legalities of home education in Scotland may be found in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2001. Guidance on home education to parents and local authorities was published by the Scottish Government in January 2008.
In Northern Ireland parents have the primary responsibility for ensuring that their children receive an effective education.
The responsibility of parents is clearly established in section 45(1) of the Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 SI 1986/594. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Can home educated children go to college pre-16?
Yes, but in England only. Home educated young people aged 14-16 in England are able to attend college and the Government will provide funding for the course. The funding changed in September 2013. It is up to the colleges whether or not to admit under-16s. Children who are over compulsory school age are automatically funded. That is not the case for younger children. The Local Authority has the discretion to fund a college placement for a home educated child and can even reclaim the money. These students can do any course agreed by the college, not just a designated 14-16 course, although many colleges still don’t offer GCSE courses. The rules are different for home educated young people because the parent retains responsibility and so the college does not have to make special arrangements for pastoral care or offer a full curriculum.