Is it legal to home school in England?
One of, if not the most unusual thing about our family is that our children don’t go to school. Instead we home educate, with our educational philosophy being inspired by our calling to be gentle parents and based on the autonomous education style. I’ll cover autonomous education more in another post, and for now I will answer some questions that we get asked a lot, probably most days. Home education is not something that most 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. 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 am going to blog the answers to a few FAQs that we hear on a regular basis.
“Home schooling- isn’t that illegal? Don’t kids have to go to school?”
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. 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. 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. 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. (I will go through the ‘but that’s not school?!’ issue in another post). 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. 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.
If you have questions or queries about the legality of home schooling in your circumstances, take a look at the Educational Freedom website and/or 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.
Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.