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Home Ed - legal bits

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 13 years, 7 months ago

Home Educators Legal Questions.





Working together using this wiki 

This item is a work in progress; think of it as a shared online whiteboard. Add, edit, improve... If you have a question you can put it here for other home educators to answer.(Questions and answers relevant to England, Wales, NI are invited.)


Group members


  • Members of the home education community and supporters are invited to work on this item.




  1. See the Elective Home Education Legal Guidelines here.



Note to editors and readers: The deregistration section of EHELG2 has not been updated to account for the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006.






For information about Scotland please contact SchoolHouse, the charity with accurate legal advice in Scotland.


Northern Ireland


For Northern Ireland please see HEdNI


England and Wales



Does my Child have to go to school?





As the parent/guardian of a child, you are responsible to ensure that they receive a suitable education. However, as you are here, you probably already know that school is not compulsory. This is true unless your child is the subject of a School Attendance Order. Education is compulsory between the ages of five years and sixteen years but you can ensure you child's education either by regular attendance at school, or otherwise. You may have noticed, or even suffered yourself, from the commonly held and simplistic view that school=education and therefore education=school. It ain't necessarily so!! (Some might say the opposite is true!) You can allow your child to experience their education without using schools, from home and within their natural community in the way that you believe is the best for your child.


However, if your child is registered at a school you do have a legal obligation to ensure their regular attendance. To take advantage of the fact that they do not actually have to go to school, you must follow the proper legal procedure of deregistering them before you allow them not to go. (see below)





How do I begin?



If your child is not registered at a school, you can simply carry on as usual when your child becomes of compulsory education age and continue to provide for their needs at home. If your child is already a registered pupil when you decide to home educate, you must ensure that they are properly deregistered from school so that you are not at risk of prosecution for failing to ensure regular attendance of a registered pupil at school. (See the following question, "Do I have to inform anyone?)


Local authorities have a duty to record the details of children who may be missing education. Government guidance makes clear that this does not apply to children who are educated at home by their parents. However, as a part of this duty upon them, they may write to you to enquire into your child's place of education provision. Once they have been informed that your child is educated at home no further action will be required. They are likely to pass your information to the department of the local authority that deals with elective home education who may then make a general enquiry about your education provision.






Do I have to inform anyone?



Please note: this answer gives the position for England & Wales. If you are in Scotland, things are different.

If your child is a registered pupil at a school and you decide you now want him or her to receive education otherwise than at school, you do not need anyone's consent unless the school is a Special school. You are however legally obliged to inform the proprietor (for state schools, this means the head teacher) of the school, in writing, that you are providing your child with an education otherwise than at school and ask that the child's name is removed from the register on the same date.

You do NOT have to inform the Local Authority - that is the proprietor's legal obligation not yours!


If your child is registered under arrangements made by the local authority (LA) at a Special school, the consent of the LA is required before the child's name can be removed from the register. That consent should not be unreasonably withheld and a parent can appeal to the Secretary of State if the LA does not give consent.


If your child is not registered at any school then you do not have to inform anyone of your intention to home educate. This may happen, for example, when:


  • your child has only just reached the age for compulsory education;
  • your child has left primary school and is not registered at a secondary school;
  • you have just moved home into a new area, your child has been removed from their previous school register but is not registered at a school in the new area.


In these instances it is essential, if you think there is any possibility it may have happened, to make sure that your child has not been registered at a school against your wishes - eg at a secondary school where you have been offered a place you don't want or at a primary school that feeds from a nursery your child attends.







Does the LA have the right to monitor what we are doing?





Unfortunately, it is not unusual for a local authority to believe that they are responsible to ensure the suitable education of all children in their area. They are not. This is a parental responsibility. The local authority must provide school places for those in the area who need one and, in the case of elective home education they have a duty to act if there is an appearance of failure to provide a child with a suitable education and a right to make enquiries to see if there is any such appearance. Most local authorities do make a general enquiry for this purpose. Many authorities currently make annual enquiries although they are under no duty to do this. Some have been persuaded that after enquiries resulting in a positive "report" they should not continue to make enquiries routinely unless there is cause to believe that a suitable education may not be being provided. Local home educators should be able to give you a good idea of what happens in your area.


Guidelines produced by DCSF (November 2007) state:

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.



See our pages on the EHE guidelines to local authorities.






My LA wants a "home visit."



Some families say they find this useful, however, you might want to read "What is Wrong With Home Visits?" here.


You may answer the enquiries of the local authority into your education provision in a way that is in the interest of the child and that you feel best suits you in providing an appropriate response. The authority must act if there is an appearance of failure to provide a suitable education to your child and so you need to show in your response that there is no appearance of failure by providing them with some information about your educational provision. The standard of information provided should be sufficient to convince a reasonable person, on the balance of probabilities only, that there is no appearance of failure to provide an education suitable for the age, ability, and aptitude of the child and for any special educational needs they may have.





Do I have to follow the National Curriculum?





Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that everyone has a right to education and that the state must respect the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching is in conformity with the parent's religious and philosophical convictions.


Education law in England and Wales makes parents responsible to ensure an education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of their child, therefore, the education must be in line with the beliefs of parents and the needs of the child. The National Curriculum may not be appropriate for the needs of a child or the beliefs of parents and so it is up to the family whether it is used either in whole or part, or whether they choose to tailor their provision to the interests of the child and in accordance with their own educational philosophy and beliefs. See our page with examples of ed phils.


DCSF guidelines state:


2.5 ... Local authorities should recognise that there are many approaches to educational provision, not just a “school at home” model. What is suitable for one child may not be for another, but all children should be involved in a learning process.




3.13 ... Home educating parents are not required to:


  • teach the National Curriculum


  • provide a broad and balanced education


  • have a timetable


  • have premises equipped to any particular standard


  • set hours during which education will take place


  • have any specific qualifications


  • make detailed plans in advance


  • observe school hours, days or terms


  • give formal lessons


  • mark work done by their child


  • formally assess progress or set development objectives


  • reproduce school type peer group socialisation


  • match school-based, age-specific standards.


However, local authorities should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.



What Next?



You and your child have embarked upon an adventure! Every family can tell their own story. Large numbers of home educators network locally and regionally with other home educating families, either at meetings and activities or on the internet for the exchange of ideas, support and information. If you have other questions that you would like to see addressed on this page you can edit the page or contact AHEd. In the meantime, have a look at this humorous newbie guide to home ed!






(this page is the result of the opinion and experience of home educators and is to the best of our knowledge and understanding true and appropriate. However, it does not constitute professional legal advice.)


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