WRITING A HOME ED PHILOSOPHY
NOT TO BE USED IN RESPONSE TO A FORMAL NOTICE TO SATISFY (send a more detailed report in response to formal enquiries).
No Legal Obligation
There's no legal obligation for home educating families to write an educational philosophy, (often referred to as an ‘ed phil’) but most experts strongly recommend that you include one (or some sort of education plan) in your initial submission to the local authority about your intention to home educate, and many local authorities have come to expect one (although they can't insist upon it). They appear to be widely using these submissions as a way of satisfying themselves that:
- An education is taking place
- The education is efficient and suitable
Government Home Education Guidelines
Government Home Education Guidelines state that families do not have to supply a timetable, follow a curriculum, work for a "school day" or provide "school at home" type conditions. In addition, home educated children are not required by law to study for formal qualifications although some families choose to do so. Many LAs feel that they have a duty to monitor and do ask for this information to be supplied on a yearly basis. Some Local Authorities do not accurately represent the law in their letters and insist that you must supply lengthy information and examples of work. You do not have to do this but supplying enough information for them to be satisfied that you are providing an efficient education is recommended. If you wish to send a report in response to their informal enquiries, the sample letter below gives a brief guide of what to include.
We recommend that you consider what information you are willing to share with the LA. Often, they will send out a questionnaire for you to complete; many home educators find that this either doesn’t suit their situation or contains questions which they are not happy to answer. Therefore, it is much better to provide your own report rather than completing the questionnaire because then you can supply only the information you are comfortable with and have room to explain your family’s way of carrying out the home education. It should be remembered that your response to initial enquiries from the authority is not about "proof" or "evidence".
If you choose to write an educational philosophy then it is advised that it includes some form of report/provision detail, as a philosophy on its own is often not adequate for the LA.
Some home educators write an educational philosophy purely to show their local authority as evidence of what they're doing with their child, but they're also helpful in focusing your mind on how you're going to approach home education. If you accept a visit from the local authority or education welfare then you may not need to supply any information in writing as you can discuss the provision, show any resources/materials being used and can demonstrate any work being completed.
An educational philosophy should not be prescriptive but rather a guide to how the education will look; it needs to be flexible to change just as a teacher’s lesson plan would be flexible to differing situations.
Home education is recognised as efficient if it achieves what it set out to achieve, hence it is important for parents to set out what they are trying to achieve. If you're considering writing an education philosophy, it's worth remembering the general principles of education – to encourage a person’s physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, moral, social and cultural development; take some time to learn how your child learns before you write your educational philosophy.
The EHE Guidelines for Local Authorities says:
Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.
Local authorities should bear in mind that, in the early stages, parents' plans may not be detailed, and they may not yet be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an "efficient and suitable" educational provision. In such cases, a reasonable timescale should be agreed for the parents to develop their provision. It is important to recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision. Local authorities should, therefore, consider a wide range of information from home educating parents, in a range of formats. The information may be in the form of specific examples of learning e.g. pictures/paintings/models, diaries of educational activity, projects, assessments, samples of work, books, educational visits etc.
Education in Conformity with Parents' Religious and Philosophical Convictions
Home education is recognised as efficient if it achieves what it set out to achieve, hence it is important for parents to set out what they are trying to achieve. Moreover, it is accepted in law that parents may have diverse philosophical convictions when it comes to their children's education. The Human Rights Act 1998 quotes Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights declares that ‘the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’
Mental and Emotional Health
Please remember that mental/emotional health is just as important as physical health and just as, if not more, important than education. If your child has experienced bullying, anxiety, depression or any other issues it is perfectly feasible and understandable for you to concentrate on addressing these issues along with or even prior to commencing a full programme of home education. If this is what your current priority is, include it in your ed-phil and explain how you will be addressing it. The local authority should give you time and space to work on mental health, especially in today’s difficult climate and also because a child cannot effectively learn if they are enduring ongoing, debilitating mental health problems.
Updating Educational Philosophy
Many families, who home educate, update their educational philosophy annually and send the revised version to the local authority. Although this isn't a requirement, it can satisfy the local authority that your child is receiving a suitable education and reduce the likelihood of them requesting face to face meetings. Many local authorities are now requesting at least a yearly update as standard. You can, however, update it when it suits you; there may be times when you wish to change the approach you are taking or introduce new subjects or methods, for example.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to complete an education philosophy and everyone’s will look different.
SEE BELOW FOR EXAMPLE…
Contact Name Your Address
Local Authority Address
Re: (name of child/ren, DOB)
Dear (name of contact)
I write in response to your request for information about the educational provision for (name of child/ren). I would like to remind you that the EHE guidelines clearly state that
“Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis”.
The LA does have a duty to respond to any concerns they may have, however, I have not been notified of any such concerns. However, as a gesture of good-will I shall include for you some information about our education provision. The information included is not exhaustive and is subject to change at any time.
Then include your education plan/philosophy which could incorporate the following:
- An overview of the type of learning environment you will have or the type of teaching/learning you are aiming to go for. (e.g. structured/autonomous/unschooling)
- Your educational goals for your child. These could be specific and include exactly what you want the child(ren) to learn or they could be general goals which give the broad area of study you are going for. This can include the subjects you will be covering.
- A summary of how you expect your child to meet those goals.
- An overview of the resources you'll use. Again, these could be specific (e.g. materials or named textbooks and websites that you will use) or generic (e.g. using the library or the internet).
- Give examples of how your home education works in practice. Many families find it useful to keep a record, to remind themselves of all that they are doing on a daily basis and to help them monitor progress.
- Clubs, groups and meet ups that the child(ren) attend.
- How any other people might be involved in their education. This could be family, friends, colleagues etc, community groups or agencies.
- How you will address any learning or physical difficulties.
- How you will encourage mental health.
- How will you assess your child(rens) progress?
We hope that the information supplied will satisfy you that an efficient, full-time education is taking place and we are happy to provide this information on a yearly basis.
N.B If you are not happy to be continuously monitored by the LA you could include the following:
As mentioned above, we now do not expect to receive any more requests for information unless a reason for concern comes to your attention in which case we would expect to be notified, in writing, of any such concerns.