The Law and Home Schooling in England and Wales

In England the Education Act on 1944 means that parents are legally obliged to educate their children, but do not have to do so by sending their child to school. The Direct Gov website (by the Government) lists a parent’s duty. This is: that a ‘child is not obliged to follow the National Curriculum or take national tests, but as a parent you are required by law to ensure your child receives full-time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude’.

Parents or home tutors do not need to be a qualified teacher to educate a child at home, and do not have to apply for permission from a school or local educational authority (LEA) to educate a child at home. Home schooling parents are not obliged to observe school hours, days or terms, or indeed any kind of fixed timetable. Formal lessons are not required either – the only rule is that a child must be educated, and that education must be ‘suitable’ to the child’s needs.

Parents of home schooled children who are already registered at a school (rather than those home educated from birth) do, however, have to notify the school in writing that they are taking your child out of school. Parents must also recognise any special educational needs that a child may have, and if a child’s special educational needs have already been recognised and that child is receiving his or her education within a special school, parents must notify the LEA about taking the child out of the school.

The Education Act’s Exact Wording

This is taken from the Education Act:

  • 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 education needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
  • This latter phrase, ‘education otherwise’ has been taken on by a leading support group for home schooling education, ‘Education Otherwise’.

The Duty of the LEA In England

Local authorities are permitted to make informal enquiries to home schooling parents to ascertain whether a child’s education provision is suitable to his or her needs. If an LEA does make such an enquiry, a suitable response might be for a parent to write a report on a child’s progress and present it to the LEA, or to provide the LEA with pieces of your child’s work, or to offer to show a representative from the LEA a lesson taking place in your home, or to have a meeting an LEA representative in other location, either with or without your child.

If the LEA representative believes that a child is not receiving a suitable education, then the LEA can serve a school attendance order. But the LEA is not allowed to specify the kinds of education a parent should provide, or carry out an inspection based on their background of expectations of formal schooling.