Advice About the Law and Home Schooling

In basic terms, the Education Act law in both England, Northern Ireland, and Wales and in Scotland means that while parents are legally required to educate their children, no parent has to do so by sending their child to school. Parents are, however, required by law to ensure they receive full-time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude.

The Parental Responsibility in Home Schooling

Other information that parents considering home schooling are interested in include the following: parents or home tutors do not need to be a qualified teacher to educate a child at home, and, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, do not have to apply for permission from a school or Local Educational Authority (LEA) to educate a child at home. In Scotland, this is a little different: check the relevant page on Scotland and home schooling on this website. Home schooling parents are not obliged to teach formal lessons – the only rule is that a child must be educated, and that education must be ‘suitable’ to the child’s needs.

What Is A ‘Suitable Education’ in Home Schooling?

A case at Worcester Crown Court in 1981 (Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson) involved the judge defining a ‘suitable education’ as one which could: “to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and to enable them to achieve their full potential.”

Home schooling parents are not obliged to provide any specific or specialised type of education, and is not required to have particular standards of schooling premises, specific teaching or subject qualifications, cover any particular syllabus or follow the National Curriculum, or observe school hours, days, terms or have a structured timetable. Likewise, within home education parents are not obliged to follow an education that would replicate school, age-specific lessons.

The Rules When Starting Home Schooling

Different rules apply in Scotland in this case, which should be checked on the home schooling in Scotland page of this website. In other parts of the UK, home schooling parents do not need to seek permission to educate ‘otherwise’, except if their child is attending a special school and/or has special needs. If a child is already attending a mainstream school, the child should be ‘deregistered’, which usually involves parents writing a letter to the headteacher of the school to inform him or her of the family’s desire to home school their child.

The Involvement of Local Education Authorities With Home Schooling

According to sections 437 to 443 of the Education Act 1996, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) have a duty to take action on a child’s education – usually by requiring the child to attend school – only if the child is deemed to not be receiving an acceptable education. Otherwise, if the LEA do not believe that a child’s education at home is unacceptable, the LEA is not required to monitor home schooling educational provision; they may, however, make informal enquiries in order to ascertain information that a home schooling education is adequate. This might take the form of asking for samples of the child’s work, a written report of the education by parents, or a meeting with parents and sometimes also the child