Throughout this guidance, ‘parents’ should be taken to include all those with parental responsibility, including guardians (and foster carers, although in this case the local authority may be the corporate parent). We will also refer to children and young people as ‘child’ / ‘children’ as most of the advice is taken from legislation relating to those of compulsory school age.
As we saw in our Education – Other than at school (including at Home) page, parents have a duty under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 (referred to as section 7 for the rest of this page) to ensure their child receives an efficient, full-time education that is suitable to the their age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs they may have – either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Generally when we talk about Parental Provision of Education (the ‘otherwise‘), we are referring to what is known as ‘Home Education’ or ‘Elective Home Education’ (EHE). This is a term used to describe a choice by parents to provide education for their children at home – or at home and in some other way which they choose, instead of sending them to school full-time.
Educating a child (or children) full-time at home can be a rewarding task. Parents may choose to engage private tutors or other adults to assist in providing a suitable education, but there is no requirement to do so. There are other settings which may be used, for example parental support groups which offer tuition, and companies which give part-time tuition. This can also include provision made at further education colleges for children aged 14 and over.
However, parents are increasingly feeling that they have no choice but to remove their child from school’s roll and educate them at home (using their own resources of time and / or money). Regardless of whether you feel you have a choice or not, if as a parent, you ask the school to remove your child from it’s roll (in effect, the school’s register) then this will come under the definition of ‘Elective Home Education’ and the duty is moved from the LA back to you as the parent. It becomes your duty to ensure your child receives an efficient, full-time education that is suitable to the their age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs they may have.
On this page we will look at what the duties are on parents when they decide to ‘Home Educate’, the reasons why parents may chose to do this and what you can do if you have or are considering this (especially where you feel that you have no choice).
Please also look at our other page LA provision of Education, especially if your child has Special Educational Needs and you are only considering home educating because your child is struggling to attend school. If your child has Health Needs (including Mental Health needs) then please look at our Health Needs pages, especially the section around the LA’s duty to provide Alternative Provision.
As we have seen in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, the education your child receives should be ‘efficient, full-time and suitable to their age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs they may have. So what do they mean by ‘Efficient, Full-time and Suitable’?
There is no definition of this in statute law. However, it can be interpreted as meaning education which ‘achieves what it is intended to achieve’. This is not the same as the education being ‘suitable’ – because it is possible to deliver efficiently an education which is definitely not suitable for the child. Conversely, it is possible to deliver a suitable education very inefficiently.
You must make sure your child receives a full-time education from the age of 5, but there is actually no legal definition of “full-time” in terms of education at home, or at school. Children attending school normally have about five hours tuition a day which is the equivalent of 25 hours per ‘school’ week. They attend school for 190 days a year, spread over about 38 weeks.
However, home education does not have to mirror this. In any case, in elective home education there is often almost continuous one-to- one contact and education may sometimes take place outside normal “school hours”.
Home-educating parents are not required to:
- have a timetable
- set hours during which education will take place
- observe school hours, days or terms
In practice, the question of whether education for a specific child is full-time will depend on the facts of each case; but you as parents should at least be able to quantify and demonstrate the amount of time for which your child is being educated.
Education which clearly is not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life (making due allowance for holiday periods) will probably not meet the section 7 requirement for full-time.
There is no definition of ‘suitable’ education in statute law, although as stated in Section 7 as quoted above, it must be suitable to the age, ability and aptitudes of the child, and any special educational needs. This means that it must be age-appropriate, enable the child to make progress according to his or her particular level of ability, and should take account of any specific aptitudes (for example if a child is very good at mathematics, it might focus more on that than some other subjects). More generally, you should bear in mind that:
- even if there is no specific link with the National Curriculum or other external curricula, there should be an appropriate minimum standard which is aimed at, and the education should aim at enabling the child, when grown-up, to function as an independent citizen in the UK – and furthermore, beyond the community in which they were brought up, if that is the choice made in later life by the child;
- to be ‘suitable’, education at home should not directly conflict with the Fundamental British Values as defined in government guidance , although there is no requirement to teach these;
- local authorities may use minimum expectations for literacy and numeracy in assessing suitability, whilst bearing in mind the age, ability and aptitude of the child and any special educational needs he or she may have;
- education may not be ‘suitable’ even if it is satisfactory in terms of content and teaching, if it is delivered in circumstances which make it very difficult to work (for example in very noisy premises). This might also affect whether it is ‘efficient’ and indeed, whether it is ‘received’ at all for the purposes of section 7; and
- education may also not deemed suitable if it leads to excessive isolation from the child’s peers, and thus impedes social development.
There are no legal requirements for parents educating a child at home to do any of the following:
- acquire specific qualifications for the task
- have premises equipped to any particular standard
- aim for the child to acquire any specific qualifications
- teach the National Curriculum
- provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum
- make detailed lesson plans in advance
- give formal lessons
- mark work done by the child
- formally assess progress, or set development objectives
- reproduce school type peer group socialisation
- match school-based, age-specific standards
However, many home-educating families do some of these, at least, by choice. It is also likely to be much easier for you to show that the education provided is suitable if attention has been paid to the breadth of the curriculum and its content, and the concepts of progress and assessment in relation to your child’s ability.
In any circumstances where a child cannot attend school, the local authority should be offering alternative provision to reduce the likelihood that a child will end up without suitable education (we will look at this more in our LA Provision of Education page). Notwithstanding that, there are many reasons why parents do choose to educate children at home, including those set out below:
- Ideological or philosophical views which favour home education, or wishing to provide education which has a different basis to that normally found in schools
- Religious or cultural beliefs, and a wish to ensure that the child’s education is aligned with these
- Dissatisfaction with the school system, or the school(s) at which a place is available
- Bullying of the child at school
- Health reasons, particularly mental health of the child
- As a short term intervention for a particular reason
- A child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school, including school phobia
- Special educational needs, or a perceived lack of suitable provision in the school system for those needs
- Disputes with a school over the education, special needs or behaviour of the child, in some cases resulting in ‘off-rolling’ or exclusion
- Familial reasons which have nothing to do with schools or education (eg using older children educated at home as carers)
- As a stop-gap whilst awaiting a place at a school other than the one allocated.
Some of the reasons listed above may provide a stronger basis than others as a foundation for successful home education. In particular, if you are considering home education because the school system is not currently working well for your child, or because you have other family problems which make it difficult to ensure school attendance for your child, you should consider what other steps you could take to secure a more satisfactory education.
In summary, therefore, parents should consider:
- why you are thinking of educating your child at home?
- what does your child think about the idea?
- do you have the time, resources and ability to teach your child properly?
- is your home suitable for undertaking teaching and learning, in terms of noise, space and general environment?
- What support do you as parents have from others? What would happen if you were unable, perhaps through illness, to provide teaching for your child for a period of time?
- can you provide social experiences, access to cultural and aesthetic experiences and physical exercise, to help your child develop?
- Do you envisage educating your child at home for the whole of their time of compulsory school age, or only temporarily? What are your long term intentions for the education of your child?
Deciding to educate your child at home instead of sending them to school is a step which should not be taken lightly. It will mean a major commitment of your time, energy and money. Think hard before making a final decision. It is especially important that you as parents consider the nature of the education you intend to provide for your child before you begin to teach him or her at home.
Think about the curriculum you will provide, and whether it will allow your child to reach his or her potential now and in the future, including whether you expect your child to sit public examinations such as GCSEs or not.
You also need to consider your child’s views and whether home education is in your child’s overall best interests, including their social development.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) requires us as a country to provide a right for children to express their views and for due weight to be given to those views, in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
This does not give children authority over parents, and a decision to educate a child at home is a matter for you as parents. You should, however, consider whether home education is realistically possible in your family’s particular circumstances, and if your child is happy to be educated in this way.
The local authority may wish to gain the child’s opinion on the suitability of the home education received (as distinct to the question of the child’s preference for being educated at home rather than at school), as this can be relevant to any decision it needs to make on whether the Section 7 requirements are met.
Remember that if you choose to educate your child at home, you as parents must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility for the child’s education, including bearing the cost of any public examinations (which would have to be entered via an external examinations centre, which may be some distance from your home). Some local authorities may provide financial or other assistance to home-educating families for public examinations, but this is discretionary.
Other costs to consider include books, paper, IT and other equipment, and educational visits and sporting activities. Local authorities can consider giving support when special educational needs are being met through home education and additional costs are incurred as a consequence of those special needs. Even in these cases, assistance is discretionary.
Some local authorities operate support groups or forums for home-educating families, or provide access to advice; but again, this is discretionary.
If your child has never been enrolled at a school, you are under no legal obligation to inform the local authority that he or she is being home educated, or gain consent for this. However, it is strongly recommended that you do notify your local authority of the fact, in order to facilitate access to any advice and support available. In West Sussex you can do this by contacting the EHE team who can also provide you with a free Parental Information Pack . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on: 033 022 23300
If your child is currently on the roll of a school you are not obliged to inform the school that he or she is being withdrawn for home education or gain consent for this. However, it is sensible to do so, in order to avoid subsequent misunderstandings as to how you intend to fulfil your parental responsibility for your child’s education. The school is obliged to inform the local authority of children removed from its admission register and will give home education as the reason, if notified of this by the parent. Parents of children withdrawn from school for home education are not legally obliged to inform the local authority themselves – but again it is sensible to do so (via the EHE team), to facilitate access to advice and support.
These points also apply to children with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan attending mainstream schools. However, if your child attends a special school and this was arranged by a local authority (through an EHC plan), then the permission of the local authority must be obtained before his or her name can be removed from the admission register. If the local authority refuses consent, you can ask the Secretary of State to settle the dispute. The other circumstance in which the local authority’s consent is necessary is if your child is attending any school as a result of a school attendance order; this order must be revoked by the authority before you can have your child’s name removed from the admission register.
As set out above, you must ensure that the child receives an efficient and suitable full- time education so long as he or she is of compulsory school age. If he or she is not attending a state-funded school – or being educated under alternative arrangements made by the local authority – you assume the full financial responsibility for the provision of education. You should therefore consider how you can do this if you intend to educate at home. Such costs may not just be direct but also indirect (for example, loss of income if a parent is at home educating a child).
If at any stage, it becomes apparent to you as parents that you cannot provide suitable home education, you should contact the local authority as soon as possible with a view to securing a suitable school place for your child, and minimising any interruption to studies. If your child is of compulsory school age, the local authority must find a suitable school place – or ensure that education is provided in some other way. However, as pointed out above, this may not be in a school of your choice.
There may be circumstances where you feel as parents that the only choice you have for your child is between staying at the school or home educating. However this can often be avoided, especially if concerns are shared at an early stage with the appropriate people.
Disagreement with school – If you are considering home education for your child due to a disagreement with the school or a teacher, talk to the teacher concerned, or to the head teacher if appropriate, before you make your decision. This is particularly important for children in years 10 and 11 who are already preparing for public examinations.
Pressure from school – Remember that pressure should never be put on you as parents by a school to remove your child from a school to avoid formal exclusion, or because your child is having difficulty with learning or behaviour. This practice – sometimes called ‘off-rolling’ – is unacceptable, and if pressure of this sort is put on you by any maintained or academy school (mainstream or special school), you should inform the local authority.
School not suitable for child’s needs – If you genuinely believe that your child’s current school is not suitable, then you should also discuss with the local authority what alternatives might be available before taking any decision as to home education of your child.
It is also unwise to consider temporary home education as a means of getting your child into a school other than the one he or she is currently registered at.
If you remove your child from a school in order to educate at home, but then change your mind, there is no guarantee that a place would still be available at the school; an application would have to be made in the usual way through the local authority’s process for in-year admissions – or if applicable, direct to the school.
If no place was available at your child’s former school, the local authority would then be obliged to find a state school place, or arrange for education to be provided otherwise than at school. Local authorities are also aware that some parents have attempted to use temporary ‘home education’ as a means of circumventing a school place allocation at the start of primary or secondary education.
Under the Education Acts, local authorities should have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, as long as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure.
Although children being home-educated are not normally registered at any school, parents sometimes choose to make arrangements for a child to receive part of the total provision at a school – the purpose of this will often be to provide education in specific subjects more easily than is possible at home. Such arrangements are sometimes known as ‘flexi-schooling’.
Schools are under no obligation to agree to flexi-schooling, but some are happy to do so. When a child is flexi-schooled, the parents must still ensure that the child receives a suitable full-time education but the element received at school must be taken into account in considering whether that duty is met, just as it should be when a child attends other settings on a part-time basis as described above.
Parents who choose to educate a child in these ways rather than sending the child to school full-time take on financial responsibility for the cost of doing so, including the cost of any external assistance used such as tutors, parent groups or part-time alternative provision. If the child attends state-funded school or FE college for part of the week, that will have no cost to the parents. Examination costs are also the responsibility of parents if a child does not attend school full-time, although some schools or colleges attended part-time may meet the costs, or the local authority may have a policy of assisting with such costs for children educated at home.
If your child attends a special school, you’ll need to get the council’s permission to educate them at home. You do not need the council’s permission if your child attends a mainstream school, even if they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
If your child has an EHCP it is even more important that conversations are held before you remove your child from the school’s roll.
We will talk more about the LA’s responsibilities if a setting is not able to meet your child’s needs in our ‘LA Provision of Education‘ page. However, you should talk to your Planning Co-ordinator in SENAT before making any decisions and ideally an emergency Review of the EHCP should be organised to discuss the situation.
If the LA agree that home education may be the best way to meet your child’s needs (usually in the short term), they still remain responsible for providing this. If you however, make the decision without it being agreed then you will become responsible for all the provision to meet your child’s educational and special needs.
When parents feel strongly that their child with SEN (with or without an EHC plan) should be educated at home but cannot undertake this themselves, and the local authority agrees that it would be inappropriate for the child to be educated in a school, post-16 institution, or early years setting, then the local authority itself may arrange that the special educational provision that the child needs is made elsewhere.
This can – if you agree – mean that it is provided in the home, but not by you as parents. The local authority has power under section .61 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to do this. If this happens, the EHC plan should clearly explain the arrangements.
If you are educating a child at home already and come to believe that he or she has special educational needs, you can ask the local authority to carry out a statutory assessment or reassessment of your child’s special educational needs and the local authority must consider the request within the same statutory timescales and in the same way as for all other such requests.
You are under no legal obligation to inform the local authority that your child is being home educated, or gain consent to do this. However, as we read earlier, it can be a good idea as the LA may be able to offer information and support that will benefit you and your child.
It is the County Council’s statutory role to identify Children Missing Education (CME) and ensure that they get back into it. They also have a duty under section 22 of the Children and Families Act 2014, to try to identify all children in their areas who have SEN. This includes home-educated children.
As a result of these, if for any reason the LA are concerned that your child is not receiving an efficient, full-time and suitable education then they can (and likely, will) make an ‘informal enquiry’ to check this. Please note: the local authority does not have any right of entry to your home to check home education suitability even when your child has special educational needs.
However, if they establish that your child is not receiving an education that is efficient, full-time or suitable, they can serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school.
For children with EHCPs
If your child has an EHC plan, it is the local authority’s duty to ensure that the educational provision specified in the plan is made available to the child – but only if the you as the parents have not arranged for the child to receive a suitable education in some other way. Therefore if the home education you provide as parents is suitable, the local authority has no duty to arrange any special educational provision for the child; the plan should set out the type of special educational provision that the local authority thinks the child requires, and should also state that parents have made their own arrangements under section 7 of the Education Act 1996.
The authority will of course continue to check the suitability of the home education as required by sections 436A and 437 of the 1996 Act, and if at any point it considers that the home education is no longer suitable, it must ensure that the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan is made available as well as taking the steps in relation to school attendance.
By law, children must start their full-time education in the term following their fifth birthday. In West Sussex your child may start either full or part-time in the September following their fourth birthday. Even though other children may start then, parents do not have to arrange suitable education until a child reaches the official ‘compulsory school age’ and therefore the LA’s duty to provide a suitable education to those under compulsory school age does not apply in the same way as the rest of the guidance on this page.
However, the LA do have to be careful not to discriminate and if they are offering a school place to children from the term after their 4th birthday then they must make this available for all children, should parents want this option.
There may be times when you have concerns about your child starting school, (maybe they have SEN, or you think they are too young) and there are a few of options to consider:
Home educate – You can decide not to apply for a school place (usually in the autumn/ winter of the year before your child is due to start school). You can contact the EHE team and let them know your decision – but this is not compulsory. And remember, if you change your mind you can contact the admissions team who will need to find a school place or an alternative (but bare in mind you may not get a choice of where or what this is).
Deferred – You may be able to defer your child’s start to later on in the academic year (as long as it no later than the term following their 5th birthday. Some children start after the Christmas or even the Easter holidays (or go part time until then). This requires the permission of the headteacher (not the LA) and whilst permission cannot be given until a school place has been confirmed, it is worth having a chat with the school before you apply, to see if this would be considered.
Delayed – If your child is ‘Summer Born’ (i.e. born between 1 April and 31 August) you have the right not to send them to school until the September following their fifth birthday. This also applies to parents of children who were born prematurely and who would have naturally fallen into a lower age group if they had been born full-term.
However, there is still no automatic right to a child being able to start in reception class where that is not their normal age group. Each case must be considered under its own merits and a decision made by the admission authority for the school. It may therefore be that if you delay your child’s start, when they do start it could be that they enter straight into Year 1. You will need to complete a form and ask the LA to consider your request. More information can be found via WSCC admissions page
Continue at nursery – If your child is at nursery and you want them to continue you will need to get their permission as there are funding implications to this decision. You can find out more by speaking with the Family Information Service.
If your child has an EHC plan and you are considering any of these options then please speak with your Planning Coordinator in SENAT who is responsible for your EHC plan.
Elective Home Education – Departmental Advice for Parents
Elective Home Education – Departmental guidance for local authorities