Every parent in England has the right to home school their children if they wish to do so. Parents who home school are not required to follow the National Curriculum, but they are required to demonstrate provision of a full and rounded education for their offspring. The short video attachment looks at who the National Curriculum applies to in England.
The education provided by parents at home must be full-time in line with typical school hours and be suitable for the child or children’s ages, aptitudes and abilities, as well as accounting for any special educational needs they may have.
Sir Peter Birkett founded an independent school for children with special educational needs and is experienced at meeting the various requirements of children with all types of learning difficulty. Parents educating their children at home are also expected to bear the financial burden, which may include fees for examinations as well as provision of appropriate resources.
The figures for how many children are home schooled in the UK are only ever an estimate as, although there is a registration process, it is voluntary. However, estimates show that the number of children being home schooled has increased significantly in recent years. The embedded infographic looks at some of the key statistics for home education.
Local authorities do not have a duty or any formal powers to monitor home school situations. However, they do have a responsibility to ensure every child receives a suitable education. This means that in cases where children being schooled at home are identified as not receiving a suitable education, authorities then have a responsibility to intervene.
Recommendations from the Department for Education include contacting home schooling families at least annually to remain informed regarding the suitability of the education being provided. In most cases, local authorities are encouraged to address issues such as these informally before acting. If informal action does not alter the situation, interventions could include the issuing of a formal school attendance order.
Why Home Educate?
There are various reasons why some parents choose to home educate their children. These could include religious beliefs or cultural practices, or philosophical or ideological views, which prevent the child from attending organised education.
Some parents take their children out of school to be educated at home due to repeated incidences of bullying, for health reasons including mental health, or due to a dissatisfaction with the current educational system or with the specific school the child attends or would attend.
It may also be introduced as a short-term measure while certain challenges at home or school are addressed, as a stopgap while awaiting a place at a different school, or because a child is unwilling or unable to attend school for a time.
Special educational needs can also play a role if the parent believes there is not suitable provision or accommodations available at the school the child should be attending.
At present the guidelines in England are not clearly defined in law. While education must be efficient, full-time and suitable, there are no legal definitions of these terms, so they are judged on a case by case basis.
The Department for Education does provide guidance for parents who choose to home school to help define these terms a little more clearly. Parents can choose to educate their children themselves, employ private tutors or use online resources, and there is no requirement for the education to take place in the home environment.
The PDF attachment looks at some of the key pros and cons to educating children at home.