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As shown on our page on the law relating to home education, local authorities may make initial enquiries about the provision for education where they become aware that a child is out of school. Government Home Education Guidelines state that families do not have to supply a timetable, follow a curriculum, work for a "school day" or provide "school at home" type conditions. In addition, home educated young people are not required by law to study for formal qualifications although some families choose to do so. Educational philosophies are useful because they comply with the law as far as information about educational provision is concerned without impinging on any areas which the family may not wish to share with the authority (such as access to the child or samples of written work). An educational philosophy is sometimes called an "ed phil."
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states that:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(2) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Therefore the home education is "suitable" if it is suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and SEN of the particular child.
How much is enough?
When a local authority first becomes aware that a child is out of school, the authority will probably contact the parent and ask for information about the education being provided for the child. It is debatable whether the family should respond to this initial request by "sending an ed phil and report" as is sometimes advised. It is also debatable whether this "informal enquiry" is actually required by law or is simply custom and practice.
As I have said on my page about autonomous education, it's not going to be easy if you simply don't give the authority any information whatsoever about your home education, though the law is clear that the choice of how you present the information is up to you.
It has been said that sending an educational philosophy will define the parents' belief system by which any efficient education must be judged. However, at the outset, the authority should not be "judging" the provision at all. Some parents may opt to send a comprehensive erudite philosophy and report with the aim of forestalling/pre-empting any further questions, but this goes much much further than the law requires and may inadvertently give the misleading impression that a full-blown educational philosophy is a minimum requirement, which is certainly not the case.
In response to initial enquiries, the parent might nevertheless wish to take the 3 elements of the structure suggested below and write a short paragraph (ie no more than a few sentences) on each of the following: "beliefs"; "resources"; "a few examples of belief in practice", simply because it is useful to set the context for the child's home education, but this is not about "proof" or "evidence".
Distinction between request for information and formal notice under s.437
The 1996 Education Act section 7 says that the parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age ability and aptitude and to any special needs he may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
Government Home Education Guidelines say that "if they choose not to meet [with the local authority], parents may be asked to provide evidence that they are providing a suitable education. Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form."
"Such a request is not the same as a notice under section 437(1), and is not necessarily a precursor for formal procedures"
Government Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities 2.8
It should be noted that the word "evidence" in a strict sense only applies when the parent has received a formal communication under the s.437 School Attendance Order procedure. See our SAO page for further information.
Suggested 3 Elements to Educational Philosophies
- The Belief Statement. This is your "philosophy of education" or the values which are important to you and your family
- The List of Resources used in your day to day home education
- How you are putting your beliefs into practice. (Also Known as "The Report") Give examples of how your home education works in practice. Many families also find it useful to keep a record when they first start home educating, to remind themselves of all that they are doing on a daily basis.
Education In Conformity with Parents' Religious and Philosophical ConvictionsHome education is recognised as efficient if it achieves what it set out to achieve, hence it is important for parents to set out what they are trying to achieve. Moreover, it is accepted in law that parents may have diverse philosophical convictions when it comes to their children's education. The Human Rights Act 1998 quotes Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights declares that "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions." There is an important case in European Law,Campbell and Cosans, where "education in accordance with the parents' philosophical convictions" has been defined as convictions being "akin to the term "beliefs" (in the French text: "convictions")and denoting views that "attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance."
Home Education Following Bullying in SchoolHome education following bullying may be viewed as a "negative" reason for home education so it is good to make the point that your family is able to undertake home education, irrespective of whether or not you actually want to be home educating. However, you might also wish to remind the authority that the after-effects of bullying can last for years and that your family's immediate priority may be to rebuild self-confidence, and establish emotional wellbeing and resilience. Some children who have been bullied at school are only gradually able to integrate and socialise with their peers and the law supports the family acting in accordance with its beliefs in this area.
Benefits of Offering Educational Philosophy Where Child Has Special Educational NeedsFor families where children have special educational needs, particularly when the children are on the autistic spectrum, writing an educational philosophy can be an invaluable way for the parents to explain the provision they are making for their children. For example parents may wish to highlight the value they place on "soft skills" such as learning how to mix with other people or "life skills" such as managing money and planning daily schedules. The parents' report can legally take the place of an intrusive or traumatic visit to the family home.
Autonomous Home EducationIf you receive a form from the authority asking you to give details on how you teach or plan to teach particular subjects, it doesn't necessarily mean that the authority has a fixed view of what constitutes education. Any paperwork you receive will most likely be in the standard form which is sent out to all families and the authority won't know that the form is inapplicable to you – and to other autonomous families - unless you give feedback to that effect. If you are unable or unwilling to complete the form, and don't return it and don't give any feedback, or if you tell the authority what you think they want to hear, then you may be setting yourself up for further problems. It is not going to be easy if you simply don't give the authority any information whatsoever about your home education, though the law is clear that the choice of how you present the information is up to you.
Read more here http://edyourself.org/articles/autonomousedlocalauthority.pdf