Written by: Toni Foot
Is it legal to educate my child at home?
Yes. Parents (or carers) are obliged to ensure that their child receives efficient full time education appropriate to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. Most parents fulfill this obligation by ensuring their child attends school, but that is not the only way to do so. Some parents decide that a school environment is not appropriate for their child and that they could be better provided for through education at home. Could home schooling work for your children? You should consider your child’s individual needs, including how you can provide opportunities for socialising (there are many groups and organisations that can help with this).
What kind of education do I have to provide?
Anyone can choose to educate their child at home, regardless of their level of education or qualifications. You do not have to be a qualified teacher, nor do you have to follow the national curriculum. Home education provides a perfect opportunity to tailor your child’s education to their needs and interests, allowing you to pursue areas of study in any way you see fit. Many home educators say that learning doesn’t happen within prescribed hours, rather that it becomes an integral part of everything they do together. You may decide that you can provide a complete education alone, or you may choose to employ tutors to provide some aspects of your child’s education. There may also be the possibility of combining home education with school education if that is appropriate for your child, in agreement with your child’s school (flexi-schooling).
Which qualifications or tests does my child have to complete?
There are no required qualifications for children educated at home. SATs (standard attainment tests) are only a requirement at state schools and therefore do not apply to home education. The same applies to the national curriculum and any other qualifications (such as GCSEs) usually taken at school. However, you may decide that you would like your child to take these qualifications anyway, in which case you need to contact an examination centre (usually a college, but other providers may also be available in your area) to discuss examination as an external candidate. It is likely that your child will be able to study for these qualifications at home, although examination boards do have strict requirements regarding who can mark any coursework or exam work completed by the student. Many home-schooled children take courses through the Open University as these can be accessed easily from home.
Where do I start?
If you decide to educate your child at home and they have never attended school, there is no need to notify anyone. If they have attended school at some point since the age of 5, you will need to withdraw your child from school. You can do this by writing to your child’s headteacher and asking for them to be removed from the school’s register. The headteacher is required to notify the Local Authority (LA) in your area and the LA may then contact you to ensure your child has access to appropriate education.
Will my child’s education be monitored?
The LA is obliged to ensure every child receives adequate education within the compulsory education age range (currently 5 – 16, although this will be extended to 17 in 2013, then again to 18 in 2015). This means that you may be asked to demonstrate how you intend to meet the educational needs of your child to your LA. If they have concerns that your child’s education is insufficient or inappropriate, they may issue a School Attendance Order (SAO). You have the right to appeal this order, but to be successful you will need to be able to demonstrate to the court that you are able to provide an adequate education for your child.
What support is on offer for home-educated children?
There is no financial support available to parents who choose to educate their child at home. Parents are also responsible for any fees charged for entry to examinations. However, there are a variety of other forms of support available, including social groups and advice on various aspects of providing education for your child. Contact your LA for services available in your area, or have a look at www.home-education.org.uk for further information.
What options are available for my child after compulsory education?
Your child can still access a wide range of qualifications and courses of study should they wish to do so. They can choose to take up formal qualifications such as GCSEs or A levels, either as external candidates (studying at home, but examined through an examination centre) or by enrolling in a course at a registered provider (such as a school or college). If they do not have any existing formal qualifications it may still be possible for them to be granted entry to courses – they may be asked to attend an interview or provide examples of their work to demonstrate they are able to study at the required level.