It is estimated that over 50,000 children in the UK are now being home schooled and the figure is on the rise with many claiming it as “Education that works.”
Home schooling can offer an alternative approach to a child's learning, however, it is not without its challenges and could land parents in ‘detention’ with their local authority as the recent case of Edward Hardy and Eileen Tracy illustrates.
The family have found themselves in dispute with Westminster Council over the home schooling of their daughter, Lilian, one of the stars of hit stage musical Matilda, who the council are claiming is not receiving a suitable education.
But what does the law say when it comes to parents taking on the challenge of home schooling their children? Simon Roberts from DAS Law explains the legal position for parents who decide to take their children’s education out of the classroom and into the front room…
Do I need to notify anyone that I am home schooling?
If your child is already in school, you will need to write to the head teacher to explain that you are taking your child out to home school them. Your school cannot refuse this request, however they will notify your local authority that you have removed your child from school. If you want them to still attend the school part-time, you will need the head teacher’s permission.
You won’t need to contact anyone else, unless your child is in a special school – in this case, you will need to tell the council. This is so the local authority can ensure that the child’s special needs will be catered for in the provision of home education.
Do I have to follow the National Curriculum?
No. You have quite a lot of freedom with regards to what you teach your child, as long as they are receiving a full-time education.
They do not need to follow any sort of weekly timetable, and they don’t need to take any exams. However, this doesn’t quite give you free rein to do anything – your local authority can step in if they don’t think your child is receiving a suitable education.
Can my home schooling be stopped?
Yes, if the local authority believes that you aren’t providing a good enough education for your child, they can apply for a School Attendance Order (SAO). This will specify a school that the child must attend. However, if you can later put together evidence to prove that you can provide a sufficient education, you can have the order revoked.
The local authority can make informal enquiries about the education that your child is receiving. You can show evidence of work the child has done, or allow someone from the local authority to come to your home and witness the education in action.
You aren’t legally required to respond to these enquiries, but if you don’t, the local authority may interpret this as evidence that you aren’t providing a suitable education and seek an SAO.
Can my child be home schooled and attend school part-time?
Yes, this practice is known as flexi-schooling. You will need to get permission from the school if you want – however, they do not need to accept your request.
What help is available?
Your local council will have guidance to help you decide whether or not home-schooling is right for your child – this government tool can help you find the right guidance for your area.
You can also get in contact with Education Otherwise, a charity that offers a lot of resources and guidance for home-schoolers.
Depending on where you live, there may be other groups who can help. For example, Cardiff Home Education is a charity set up to support families who home educate and provide a weekly session for home educated children.