Homeschooling UK law
Home schooling- isn’t that illegal? Don’t kids have to go to school in the UK?
That is something we get asked a lot. Perhaps the most unusual thing about our family (apart from the fact that we live on a small tropical island) is that our children don’t go to school. Instead we home educate, with our educational philosophy being inspired by our desire to be gentle parents and based on the autonomous education style.
I’ve covered autonomous education more in this post about unschooling, and for now I will answer some questions that we get asked a lot, probably most days. Home education is not something that many people are aware of and if they are it is generally shrouded in myth and mystery, perhaps influenced by an experience of meeting one or two home-schooled children. Homeschooling UK law is an area that most people are unaware of, and people may be wondering “is it legal to homeschool my child?” or “can I homeschool my child?” The answer is usually, “yes”.
It is my aim to help people understand what home education is and is not and why we as a family find it so beneficial, so I have posted a few articles on homeschooling, including this one on homeschooling uk law.
Homeschooling UK law: The Basics
Here are five points to bear in mind when considering homeschooling UK law:
- Home schooling, or home education (same thing, different names) is perfectly legal in the UK. School is an opt-in service, where parents go through an application system to get their child a school place. If this process is not completed, the child is home educated.
2. Children are not required to attend school unless they are enrolled in a school and have not de-registered, in which case they have a school policy of attendance to abide by unless there are mitigating circumstances such as illness.
3. Children have a legal (and moral) right to a ‘full time and age appropriate’ education, but the definition of this is not laid out with details of time structures or what is age appropriate. So for example, we may be up at the crack of dawn reading books, or (like last night) up late making Christmas decorations and baking; we are not required to fit ‘education’ into any particular time frame. There are several homeschooling curriculums online, including free homeschool curriculums, but we do not find it necessary to stick to a curriculum for the reasons I explain in this post.
4. Age appropriateness is completely contextual- some children, like my friend’s daughter, are very ready to do basic equations at age 5. Our five year old is very interested in DSLR photography and video making, rhyme schemes and dress-making. A ten year old we know still enjoys playing with dolls, learning how to thoroughly and properly care for a baby as she wants to be a nursery assistant when she is older. One of the benefits of home education is that we can lawfully and thoroughly meet the needs of each child according to their individual development.
5. If a child who is in school wishes to be home educated, the delivery of a deregistration letter to the school fulfils the legal obligation to begin home educating (unless the child is in a special school because of additional needs). There is no legal obligation to attend further meetings with the school, or to have immediate visits from the council. In some extreme circumstances, where the parents are not meeting the needs of the child, a school attendance order may be issued to force the child to attend school. This is exceptionally rare, as the vast majority of home educating parents are committed, attentive and determined to help their children achieve their full potential. To summarise, home education in the UK is perfectly legal in most circumstances. Read my article here for the two exceptions to this rule.
6. If your child has a statement of special needs and is in a special school, or a judge has assigned a SAO (school attendance order) for your children (this is usually only in extreme circumstances), you cannot home educate without getting legal permission.
If you have questions or queries about the legality of home schooling in your circumstances, search for your local home schooling Facebook groups; generally there is a supportive online community and more experienced home-edders are happy to help you navigate the often confusing process of talking with the Local Authority or your child’s school.
For more posts about homeschooling and the method we use, click here.