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. Thank you.
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 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. 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
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
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
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
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 purpose.
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.
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
"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 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.
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
Working while home educating is generally acceptable
providing it does not have a significant negative impact on your child's:
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 alone
- 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
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 schooled applicants.
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
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. 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 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 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 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
- visit other local home educators prior to your final
- 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
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
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 in retirement.
- 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
- 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.