Home education can seem an immense topic, and up until recently there was not a tremendous amount of support, documentation or information for prospective homeschoolers to be guided by, With the rise of the internet, however, all of this has changed, and home education is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional schooling methods. According to reports, there are around 20,000 home educated children currently in the UK, and the number only looks set to rise.
One of the main areas of confusion surrounding home education is usually the legality of the situation. With school forming such an important and central focus for society, it seems implausible that it can be legal just to remove your child from an established school and begin teaching them yourselves. While the process requires a little more work than this, in essence, this is precisely what you can do.
How Does Homeschooling Work?
At its core, home education is deceptively simple: it is merely a system whereby children and young people are removed from traditional mainstream schooling, and instead receive their education at home, via tutors or, more commonly, parents. This is perfectly legal, and there are a few simple requirements which parents have to follow if their child is already in the school system.
Is Home Schooling Legal?
The Education Act 1996 (which applies to Wales and England) states in Section 7 that parents have a duty to secure the education of those children who are of mandatory school age (usually considered 5-18). It is the job of the parent to ensure that a child who fits this age bracket receives an appropriate and full-time education, which is a suitable match for their ability, aptitude and age. The education must also take into account support for any additional or special education needs which they may have, and states that this must be maintained by attendance at a school, “or otherwise.”
The crucial part of this wording is “or otherwise,” and this is the section which covers home education, meaning that it is a perfectly legal and valid form of education. There is also no reason for parents to submit their learning programmes or any other proof to Local Authorities; the legislation states that while all local authorities do have a duty to provide safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. In this role, the LEA can insist on seeing any child to check their welfare if there are any grounds for concern, but they cannot ask questions regarding whether or not the education being received is suitable.
Put simply, once parents have made the decision to home educate, it is not considered the business of the Local Authority or any other party to make enquiries into the exact nature or form of this education; they only have the power to take action if they have genuine concerns for the welfare of a child.
Parental Obligations For Homeschooling
Not only do Local Authorities have no right to enquire as to the exact nature of the education, but they also have no power to constrain or restrict parents in any other way once a child has been deregistered from school. No permission is required, and the parent does not even have to take the step of informing the LEA; the former headteacher will do this.
In addition, lessons can take place anywhere – there are no prerequisites or set standards – and may contain any information. Unlike children in traditional school settings, homeschooled children are under no obligation to follow the National Curriculum or present plans or programmes of learning. Timetables can be totally flexible, and the parents are not required to show that their child meets age-specific standards.
If you are planning on entering your child for formal examinations in the future, itis important to ensure that they cover the content which will give them the best chance of passing; papers will have required subjects and knowledge, and this will need to be included to give your child the best chance. If, however, you opt out of formal examinations, this is not a priority, and lessons can take any form, subject, topic or location.
Deregistering Your Child
If your child is currently attending school, then there is one piece of paperwork you will have to submit to the headteacher. This simply states your intention to home educate your child from a specific date and allows the headteacher to remove your child from the register and inform the LEA of your decision. Once this is done, you are free to begin your home education programme, whatever form that may take. Upon receipt of this letter, the duty of the parent to ensure that their child attends school regularly comes to an end, and it is important to remember that neither the LEA nor the headteacher may disregard or interfere with this decision, save for a few specific situations.
If the child is registered at a special needs school, parents must inform the LEA of their intention to homeschool. This helps to ensure that any support remains in place and can be transferred from the school to the parent or new educational setting. In these scenarios, parents will also be provided with a chance to show that they can provide a suitable education which considers the additional needs of the child; time must be allowed to make any adjustments which the LEA deem necessary.
Making a choice to home educate may seem bold, but the truth is that there is a great deal of support for parents who make that decision for their child. Legally, parents have every right to withdraw their child from school at any time, and, except for very unique circumstances, can expect to enjoy a peaceful, quiet educational experience without interference or resistance from any authority.