page is for local authority staff, however other professionals, such
as medical staff and journalists who come into contact with home education
will find it useful
If you have any questions regarding the contents of this
page contact me and I'm sure I'll be able to
The following is intended to help you understand the issue
of Home education, what home educators are about as a community and what
their views are likely to be. It should be of use to you when formulating
interviews on issues regarding home education. It is a new resource which
will grow as Home educators inform me more about the information required.
It also offers advice on how to relate professionally to home educators.
If you find any part of it unclear or if you consider
it to be incorrect please contact
who is responsible for a child's education
Parents are always held responsible for their children's
education. This is covered under section7 of the Education Act 1996
which states that it is the:
Duty of parents to secure education of children
of compulsory school age.
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)to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
but isn't the LA responsible for ensuring the education of all children
in their area?
No, there simply isn't any such legal provision. The
only general duty placed upon the LA is to provide an education is
for the LA to ensure that there are sufficient school places for all
those who require them (s13 Education Act 1996).
General responsibility for education.
(1)A [F1local authority] shall (so far as their
powers enable them to do so) contribute towards the spiritual,
moral, mental and physical development of the community by securing
that efficient primary education, [F2 and secondary education]
[F3and, in the case of a [F1local authority] in England, further
education,] are available to meet the needs of the population of
What is Home Education
Known as home schooling in the USA, home education (HE)
is where home educators choose not to register their children at school.
It should not be confused with EOTAS, where children are educated in
the home due to illness or some other reason, by tutors provided by
the local authorities.
What does home education 'look' like.
Home education can come in one of a variety of 'flavours'.
It can look like school at home or children can take responsibility
for their own education. A formal, didactic school approach to education
is relatively uncommon, most home educators educate their children
using some kind of informal approach, mostly typified by a conversational
approach supported by research, much as university education does.
Typically, children take responsibility for their own education. The
parents' role is best described as that of facilitator or guide.
Policies should be written in consultation with local
families. Not doing so is likely to lead to conflict, increased expense
for the local authority and reduced cooperation with local families.
Conflict between the local authorities and the families they serve
will ultimately lead to the local authority failing to meet the needs
Policies should follow the law. Local authorities may
not vary the law or add to it. Most home educators today are well versed
in the law and all are able to freely access support and advice on
Transgressive local authorities will find that inspectors
who overstep the law will become bogged down in lengthy exchanges of
letters with families and groups objecting to ultra vires demands.
There are groups of home educators in most parts of
the UK who would be eager to discuss local policies with their local
authority. Many of these groups have members with extensive knowledge
of the law and its application. Volunteers could be viewed by the local
authority as a valuable resource rather than the opposition.
New staff members
Inspectors should know the law and understand about
home education methods, needs and expectations. Offering a meeting
between local home education volunteers and new members of staff is
likely to pay dividends in terms of cooperation from local families.
The key to relationships between home educators and local authority
staff is trust.
Is it legal?
Many Home educators are unknown to their LA's as there
is no duty to inform them of the decision (except to deregister a child
from school). LA's will want to satisfy themselves that a parent is
discharging their duty to educate but may not prescribe what that education
might be except insofar as it fulfils the above criteria.
Do home educators receive state funding?
Whilst it is theoretically possible for an LA to give
funding to a child being home educated such funding is rare. While
most Home educators would welcome financial assistance they are for
the most part fiercely independent and would unhappy to lose any rights
Local authorities can receive back funding from the
DfE for such things as college places for children with SEN's where
this is thought necessary to provide the child with a suitable education and
this is becoming more common. The child need not have a statement to
obtain such funding.
Families of children with special needs may not be denied
help for medical related issues such as mobility, communication, physiotherapy
etc, even where normally those services are usually provided in school
settings. Parents cannot be required to return a child to a school
to receive such services.
Basically parents in England and Wales can de-register
on demand unless there is a school attendance order in place or
if the child is attending a special school funded by the local
authority. A unit catering for children with special needs at a 'normal'
school is not a special school. Children with statements do not need
permission to deregister.
The LA may not insist on an inspection as a condition
De-registration must be in writing delivered to the
school. (Some schools insist on written letter as opposed to an email.)
Such letters should be either hand delivered and a receipt given or
by a reliable 'signed for' postal service.
Assuming the child is not attending a special school,
the parent need not inform or contact the local authority at any point
in the process and does not need to give a reason for their decision
although there is nothing to prevent the LA from politely asking.
Further information on de-registration can be found here
What about child welfare?
Home education is not of itself a cause for concern.
Contrary to statements frequently made by local authority
staff, local authorities have no duty to protect the welfare of all
children in their area. If you consider the implications of such such
a duty it quickly becomes apparent that it would be impossibly to fulfil.
Local authority staff are however required to have a mind to the
welfare of children they encounter when performing any task (s175 of
the Education act 2002).
Local authority staff who do have reason to believe
that a child is at significant risk of serious immediate
harm should immediately inform the local child protection team as per
local protocols. Child protection teams have significant powers under
sections 17 and 47 of the Children act 1989.
There is no duty for a family to inform the local authority
that they are home educating and the discovery of such a family should
not, of itself, be regarded as being a cause for concern. There is
no reason to believe that such children are at any greater risk than
any other child.
Are there not SCR's showing HE children, unknown to their LA are at
No, there is no SCR to date (October 2018) involving
a home educated child where the LA did not have ample opportunity to
act. In nearly all cases the child was known by the authorities and
in one case professionals had reported the existence of and concerns
for the child and the LA failed to act upon these concerns, the child
But would not a compulsory register help.
We believe a compulsory register would not work. for
the following reasons
- Nearly all children attend school at some point and
when the child is deregistered the school informs the LA of the child's
existence, thus most children are already known.
- it would require a the LA to divert much needed resources
search out for those families refusing to register. This would impact
on children known to be in need of LA assistance
- Making a register compulsory would not discover those
families who are determined to keep their children hidden. Such families
do not even register their child's birth, there is no reason to suppose
they would go on to register them as home educated.
- Some local authorities in England, regularly make demands
of families that go beyond the law. A register would be seen by many
as a means of such authorities to facilitate further legally unsupported
- While most home educators would comply with the law,
the behaviour of many LA's has eroded the relationship between families
and their authorities. As a consequence, many families would refuse
to register. This would criminalize many, otherwise caring, law abiding
families who are fearful of their LA's behaviour based upon previous
- Many families see it as an outrage that an LA which
has already failed them then harasses the family to allow them to asses
whether they themselves are providing an education. The irony of this
situation does not escape them.
- LA staff are, in nearly all instances, untrained in
either the law, theory or practice of home education. Few inspection
staff hold degrees or teaching qualifications let alone understand
the needs of families with complex SEN's and disabilities. Almost none
undertake training along side home educators with a view to understanding
how home educators work. Some few are retired head teachers used as
consultants to undertake assessments. Such professionals mostly expect
to see 'school at home' as they too are untrained in either the law
as it relates to home education or how home education works in practice.
As a consequence home educators find themselves on the wrong end of
demands for which is are no legal support.
Home education of itself is not a welfare concern.
Medical professionals are not education professionals
and as such they do not have an educational remit. They rarely understand
the realities of home education let alone have training on the subject.
If the child is present, medical professionals
should refrain from making comments regarding either home education
or the parents decision to home educate. Not only will such
comments greatly annoy the parents, they are likely to have a lasting
negative impact on the child's confidence, both in her/his self and
their parents decision or support in home educating them. Such
comments in front of the child may damage the trusting relationship
between the professional, the child and the parents.
Where there are no concerns raised about the child's
welfare, there is no reason to report the family as home educators
to the local authority. Not withstanding local agreements and policies
between the LA and local Health trust, such a notification could well
be found to be contrary to privacy law. Several complaints have been
made by families for such reporting and these have been upheld by the
relevant professional bodies. If you are in doubt we strongly suggest
you contact your own professional body or failing that union.
However, should medical staff become aware of other,
perhaps related, significant concerns for the child's welfare they might
want to consider contacting the local educational authorities and discussing
their concerns with them. If they continue to hold serious concerns staff
should contact the local child welfare services.
Contacting home educators
The nature of any first contact quite often determines
how the future relationship between a family and the local authority
First contact is often undertaken not by a member of
the elective home education team but by a member of the education welfare
department. Home educators report that such contacts are often very
damaging. EWO's too frequently appear to receive little to no training
regarding the law on home education and frequently make inaccurate
statements to, and demands of, the family. Sometimes they attempt to
prevent a deregistration from going ahead, they may even refuse to
deregister the child until an assessment of the education is made under
the misapprehension that the LA has the power to refuse to deregister
While home educators are not opposed to the use of EWO's
for first contact, it is imperative that staff are aware of their powers
and duties laid out in law and do not succumb to the temptation to
misrepresent the law to the family. In most cases the family will already
know their basic rights and an attempt to misrepresent them will be
seen by the family as a denial of their legal rights. This could permanently
damage the working relationship between the family and the local authority.
Even where the family do not yet know their rights, in most cases,
they will soon contact HE support structures or forums where they will
find many hundreds of parents who have extensive knowledge of the law
in this area.
It is far better to present a positive, cooperative
relationship firmly founded on the LA's legal duties right from the
very first moment. This is far more likely to win respect and cooperation from
specific issues include:
Most families find cold calling highly stressful.
Cold calls are probably the worst possible form of first contact
that an inspector can make. Even experienced home educators view
the prospect of an unannounced visit by a local authority representative
with immense apprehension.
A cold call will upset and stress the member of the
family who answers the door and this is likely to result in a very
negative, perhaps even extreme and hostile response from the family.
News that a family has been cold called will travel like wild fire
around, not only, the local home education community but also the
national community. It will lead those who advise families at both
local and national level to treat the whole of the LA with caution.
In consequence, future cooperation between the home education community
and the LA is likely to suffer. Cold calling should only therefore
be undertaken as a last resort when all other methods of contact
Additionally even where a family has welcomed an inspector
into their home on previous occasions, the inspector should resist
the temptation to cold call when 'passing by'. It may seem unthreatening
and even supportive but it may not be received that way.
These are also disliked by families. The authority
cannot know who is likely to pick up the phone and family members
often feel at a loss as to how to deal with such calls. Also, since
contact between a local authority and a family has the potential
for leading to legal action its best for all concerned that all contact
leaves a written record. Appointments and notices etc should therefore
be sent in writing.
First contact should be made by writing a letter to
the family. Such a letter should be simple, clear, friendly and supportive.
care should be taken not alarm the family. In particular any legal
statements should be legally accurate, clear, unthreatening and businesslike.
In line with case law, families should be given time
to put provision in place and to adapt to this new lifestyle. This
is known as de-schooling and can take several weeks. So
while initial contact may well be made within days of de-registration,
requests for information regarding the families provision should
be delayed. It should be bourn in mind by the LA team that, at the
point of deregistration, families (including perhaps particularly
the children) are often stressed by both the process and what has
proceeded the decision. The period of adjustment therefore can vary
greatly depending upon circumstances from just a few weeks to a few
months. Requests for such delays are normal, supported by case
law and should not, of themselves, be regarded as suspicious.
There should be no expectations regarding home visits
or form filling exercises, neither of which are legally required.
If such forms are included (beyond asking simple details about the
child's name age etc) it should be made clear that filling them
out is optional. families may well prefer to write their own reports
or replies in their own way since forms rarely allow for an
accurate expression of the families actions, decisions or reasoning.
There should be no expectation that the family follows
a formal curriculum or syllabus. Neither are families required to
show a child's work to the inspector, though some chose to do so.
An offer to meet either at the family home or a neutral
location could be made. A request for information about the families
educational provision is also acceptable providing it does not unreasonably
limit the form in which such information is offered.
Offers of support may be made and an information sheet
carrying information of where support may be found, both locally
and nationally could also be sent.
De schooling, does it have any legal status?
yes. Insofar that a judge said that a reasonable period
of time should be given to the family to put plans in place before
the LA make demands upon them.
"Essentially the duty of an education authority
in carrying out that function 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, Judge LJ Slade presiding
De schooling was originally written about by John Holt,
the American researcher, writer and teacher, but has come to mean a
period of change during which the family as a whole adapt to the whole
process and context of education.
It is commonly held that a family could require as much
as one week for each year the child has been in school, with a minimum
of a couple of weeks regardless. That could mean a period for as much
as a couple of months for some children, although in most cases it's
a shorter period.
Allowance should also be made where families have suffered
from a particularly traumatic experience (severe bullying harassment
or abuse for example), that might hinder their ability to swiftly set
up an educational regime at home. In such circumstances education may
properly not be their top priority. In performing their duties in this
respect the LA should carefully and compassionately consider their
duties under s175 of the education act 2002.
It should not however be assumed that nothing is happening during this
time, simply that the family is undergoing rapid change in what it
understands to be 'education and learning' as well as in the relationships
between family members. Yet, to expect monitoring would be stressful
for the family and rather pointless for the LA. It is unlikely in the
extreme that what the family describes as their provision at say, one
week in, would even remotely resemble the family routines at say six
It would be far better to come to some reasonable agreement
with the family before approaching them. doing so a month or so into
their new life may generate a much more sensible response than making
demands right at the start.
The DfE guidance to local authorities on home education
produced in 2007 made it quite clear that there is no duty in law for
a local authority to make regular inspections. It also explains, perhaps
a little less clearly, how inspections that are undertaken should be
conducted. While there is no law preventing an authority from asking
about education one year to the next, there is no actually duty for
them to do so.
The duty to make informal enquiries (contained in section
437 of the Education act 1996) only applies where a local authority
has a positive, substantive reason to believe that a child may not
be in receipt of a suitable education. For example if a neighbour were
to be told by a parent that they don't bother educating their child
and then the neighbour reports this to the LA; or where a school has
good substantive reason to believe that a parent would be unable to
educate their child at home.
The argument that a child's needs change from one year
to the next does not constitute a positive duty in law to assume that
the parents may no longer be providing a suitable education for the
child one year on from the previous inspection. Unless the local authority
has positive substantive reason for thinking that the parents may no
longer be able to meet those changed needs.
Section 437 of the Education act 1996
The law that covers these issues is entirely contained
within section 437 of the Education act, 1996. Section 437 has two
parts, the first and second sentences, the first being a filter for
In the first instance the only duty laid upon an LA
is to determine if a reasonable person might conclude that there is
reason to believe that a child may not be receiving an education. Only
when the LA can say yes to this first part, the filter, should they
move to the second part and ask about the details of the education
being provided. There is no initial duty to assess the suitability
of the educational provision.
Therefore an initial contact should not be to assess
the education a child receives but whether there is reason to think
that the child is receiving no such education. The difference may seem
subtle but it is highly significant in law, and would have relevance
should a case be taken on to a court.
When an inspection has been completed the inspector
should send a written report to the family telling them how the local
authority felt the exercise went. If families hear nothing following
an inspection they can feel rather confused. A report, however short,
can be reassuring and offer closure to a family in what may have been
a stressful time.
If the local authority concludes that the provision
was unsatisfactory they must write to the family in a timely manner
and explain exactly what they felt the problems were and perhaps make
suggestions as to how they could be remedied. It is best not to initiate
formal proceedings until it becomes clear that no amount of reasonable
negotiation between the LA and family will resolve these remaining
issues. Local authorities might consider asking the family to contact
other prominent home educators either nationally or locally in assisting
the family in this process, they may themselves offer to help make
Home visits, safe and well visits
There is no duty placed upon the local authority to
inspect homes, see children or to discuss their home education
experiences with them or to enquire whether they are happy being home
educated, any more than a local authority would routinely expect to
inspect the homes of children aged 3 or 4 not attending a nursery or
be required to ask school children if they would be happier being home
There is no legal basis for what is commonly called
'safe and well' visits. Families are not required to allow such visits
and, without some other substantive cause for concern, local authorities
have no reason to regard a refusal as suspicious.
Legal advice has been given to home educating families
to routinely refuse home visits. While some families are happy to allow
such visits, many others are not. Local authorities should not regard
them as mandatory, nor may they draw any conclusions from a refusal.
Many families around the UK never receive home visits through the entire
period of their child's compulsory education.
If the local authority wants to meet with parents, a
non confrontational, sympathetic approach should be followed. The local
authority may want to consider suggesting a neutral, non threatening
venue such as a cafe or room in a library.
If the child is present, a local authority representative
should avoid depreciating comments regarding either home education
or the parents decisions. Not only will such comments annoy the
parents they are likely to have lasting negative impact on the
child's confidence, both in her/his self and their parents decision
or support in home educating them.
Statements of Special Educational Needs
Statements can only mandate a local authority to make
some form of provision. Parents cannot be made to provide any particular
provision in parts 3 or 4 of a statement. Parents will however need
to show how they would otherwise provide for their child's special
Is home education a growing phenomena?
Yes, long term growth appears to be close to 15%, but
this has dialled back somewhat since 2007. Currently, the best research
done by home educators using FOI's suggest growth is now around 9%.
However, since total numbers of home educators are much higher, deregistrations
are more noticeable to the public and authorities.
Why do families home educate?
Families home educate for a number of reasons. They
can be broadly divided into two categories.
Many Home educate because they had a problem with a
school. Typical problems include bullying, poor educational standards,
a structural problem with the local school's ethos, or issues concerning
special needs provision. Sometimes the reason for Home education is
that the family failed to get their child into the school of their
choice, or has general objections to the national curriculum or requirements
such as the literacy hour. They may have become concerned over reports
of drug abuse in their school
Others home educate because they have some objection
to the very idea of schooling. It might be philosophical, political
or religious. For example they may object to the idea of "caging
children up for 6 hours a day", they may feel that education should
be a community activity rather than an institutional one, perhaps they
believe it should remain a family obligation to educate their children,
They may believe that they as parents can do a better job than the
school, they may be travelers. They may want more control over the
content of their children's education. Indeed it may be any of a number
It is frequently the case that a family will begin to
Home educate for the first reason but as a family's experience of Home
education grows they continue to Home educate for the second reason.
Whatever the reason all Home educating families are dedicated to their
children's future and firmly believe that it is in their child's best
What is the day to day routine?
Day to day routines also vary. There is no obligation
in law to follow any particular curricula, syllabus or set hours. Some
families may set aside so many hours a day. Some follow curricula,
perhaps correspondence courses, while others follow their child's lead
using what is known as "purposive conversation" as a tool
for learning. Others (rarely) attempt to copy school even to the extent
of having a timetable and a room set aside where teaching is done and
resources are kept.
There is a tendency for families to become less formal
as their experience and confidence grows. As their trust in their child's
thirst for knowledge develops they tend to follow their child's lead
When a child has been recently withdrawn from school
after particularly traumatic events (bullying for example) there is
a period of readjustment to a more natural form of family life. Sometimes
the whole family needs this period of calm and reflection before they
can begin the process of living again as a family. This is often known
as de-schooling, a process where the influence of school is relinquished
by the family psyche.
Do families follow the National Curriculum?
There is no requirement in law to do so as only state
schools need to comply with it. However, while some parents do follow
the national curriculum to some extent I have never encountered a family
that does so completely. Occasionally a family may keep the national
curriculum in mind if they intend to return the child to the system
at some later date.
Broad and Balanced Education
Some local authorities and even legal professionals
who do not fully understand legislation believe that all children,
including home educated children, are subjected to a broad and balanced
education. Failure by families to comply with demands that they provide
one can even land them in court. While, if properly represented they
easily overcome such cases, it is stressful and expensive for both
the family and the public purse.
The reality is that the only legal obligations on families
are entirely and exclusively identified in section 7 of the Education
The expectation that parents provide a broad and balanced
education comes from a quite different section of the act which refers
specifically to pupils. The term pupil, however, is defined in the
act as a child of compulsory educational age attending an institution
of learning, home is not an institution in the legal sense of the word
and so home educated children cannot be pupils. It therefore follows
that their parents are not subject to the legal duty to provide a broad
Indeed, the education home educating parents are compelled
to provide, suitable to the specific needs and aptitudes suitable to
that particular child, is, in many ways, much more rigorous.
How do children socialise?
This is often the first question asked of most home
educating families as it is often thought that children are isolated
in their homes meeting no one. In fact Home educating families rarely
see this as a problem. Home educating children often meet up and attend
other groups such as woodcraft folk, girls and boys brigade, scouts
etc. as well as attending classes like dance, climbing, gymnastics,
history and environmental and natural history groups etc. Additionally
Home educators use resources such as libraries and museums. One Home
educating parent put it this way "the only problem I have with
my children's socialisation is how to fit it all in". The problem
is perhaps in the term "Home education", it is rarely the
sole preserve of the home. Some parents prefer to call it "Home
Many Home educating families and people they encounter
report that Home educated children often relate better on a one to
one basis with adults as they don't have as a dominant experience the
influence of a hierarchical relationship found in schools. This helps
the child become more responsible. The "us and them" attitude
is often totally lacking in their behaviour. There is less peer pressure
as parents have improved relationships with their children. Bullying
is almost totally absent from large gatherings of Home educators.
Do they do all the exams?
Home educators do not do SAT's testing which are the
preserve of state schools. The purpose of SAT's is to audit the quality
of schools which receive state funding. However There are facilities
for Home educating children to take GCSE's and A levels etc. by enrolling
as external candidates. Sometimes Home educating children will take
exams early (sometimes as young as aged 14) and spread the load. Other
children enrol in NVQ's and GNVQ's. Another option for older children
is to enrol into individual adult courses for subjects difficult to
supply at home an option usually possible at the discretion of the
head of the collage. Open University is becoming a popular choice with
children as young as 8 taking short and degree foundation courses.
there are also free courses in most subjects available
on the internet.
Can they get into University?
Yes. It is possible to obtain a University place either
in the normal way or sometimes by portfolio entrance depending upon
the course. Enrolment tutors have a growing awareness of home education
as a phenomenon and are often quite keen to have such students at their
collages. In the United States Harvard University has gone as far as
reserving places for home educated students. Also Open University is
becoming a popular choice sometimes as an alternative to GCSE's or
GCE's or as complete degrees.