Home Education & The Law

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Home Education Law in England

Parents' Duty

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.


Parents don't have to request permission to home educate or notify anyone, but if your child is in school and you want to home educate, you need to tell the headteacher in writing to take your child's name off the school roll. It doesn't make any difference if your child has a statement of SEN, unless it is a special school. Families aren't required to produce examples of 'work' for inspection or meet anyone from the council. Parents aren't eligible for funding when children are home educated.

No Duty to Ensure Home Education is Satisfactory

Section 437(1) is the first step in the School Attendance Order process and is framed in the negative. If and only if it appears to the LA that a child is not receiving suitable education, the LA shall serve a formal notice on the parent under section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Prior to the formal notice, the law does not require the LA to "be satisfied". The LA is NOT required to ascertain suitability in all cases, only to act where there is an appearance of problem or failure. Examples in the Guidelines of how parents can provide evidence only arise after a problem has already been identified (ie "if it appears...")

There is no statutory duty to do anything at the outset, but if the LA chose to be proactive, it could take a general look (sometimes described as "informal enquiries") to see whether there seemed to be a problem which might require further enquiry.

DfE ministers and civil servants have repeatedly stated that there is no overarching duty to investigate all home educated children or to pass judgement on the education of each child or to insist on seeing all home educated children More See also here

The Government Guidelines say that suitable education has not been defined in law, but this is not correct. A "suitable" education is defined in section 7 of the Education Act 1996 which says that education has to be efficient and full time, and suitable to the child's age, ability aptitude and SEN. S7 is quoted in full in the Guidelines.

Section 437: School Attendance Orders

(1) If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.

(2) That period shall not be less than 15 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served.

(3) If (a)a parent on whom a notice has been served under subsection (1) fails to satisfy the local education authority, within the period specified in the notice, that the child is receiving suitable education, and (b) in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that the child should attend school,

the authority shall serve on the parent an order (referred to in this Act as a “school attendance order”), in such form as may be prescribed, requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order.
Education Act 1996

A School Attendance Order is only to be served after after all reasonable steps have been taken to try to resolve the situation. In most cases the SAO is threatened but not actually issued. Read more about SAOs here

Local Authorities

There are 152 local authorities and there is a big difference between the number of home educated children in each LA area and in local authorities attitude to home educating families Local authorities don't get any funding for home education services but money can be used from the high needs block

Home Education Guidelines

The Government's home education guidelines say that the parent is not required to provide any particular type of education and is under no obligation to:

teach the National Curriculum
provide a broad and balanced education
have a timetable
have premises equipped to any particular standard
set hours during which education will take place
have any specific qualifications
make detailed plans in advance
observe school hours, days or terms
give formal lessons
mark work done by their child
formally assess progress or set development objectives
reproduce school type peer group socialisation
match school-based, age-specific standards.

The Government Guidelines tell local authorities what they should do "if it appears that a suitable education is not being provided".[paragraphs 3.4 to 3.6] This doesn't mean that local authorities should routinely try and monitor or "evaluate" home education. Although local authorities may initially ask for some information, this isn't the same as a formal notice under section 437.

Duty to identify children not receiving education (CME)

Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 states that:

A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—

(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and

(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.

Children Missing Education Guidance

The latest version of Children Missing Education Guidance states that:

"Local authorities can use other duties and powers to support their work on CME. These include:...Serving notice on parents requiring them to satisfy the LA that their child is receiving suitable education when it comes to the local authority’s attention that a child might not be receiving such education"[p.6 CME Guidance November 2013]

Read more about CME here

Special Needs and Home Education

There is an entire website devoted to home education and special needs here

Children with special educational needs have an equal right to be educated at home. There will be a new SEN system and a new Code of Practice and regulations from September 2014. There is a good introduction to the changes here

Children who already have a statement of SEN will be transferred to the new system between 2015 and 2018. The local authority does have the power to arrange for a child's special educational provision to be made otherwise than at school, although this only happens rarely.

The fact that a school is named in Part 4 of the statement doesn't mean that the child is automatically registered. Nor does naming the school in Part 4 mean that a child will be obliged to attend the named school in future. Where a child has a statement of special needs the local authority has a duty to review the statement annually. The statement isn't enforceable on the parent.

Link Reference

This article is http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php. The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/7
  2. the School Attendance Order process http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  3. here http://edyourself.org/articles/ministersen.php
  4. Education Act 1996 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/437
  5. here http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  6. the high needs block http://edyourself.org/articles/funding.php
  7. The Government's home education guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php#firstcontact
  8. The Government Guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php#ifappearsnotsuitableed
  9. Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/40/section/4
  10. here http://edyourself.org/articles/cme.php
  11. here http://www.ehe-sen.org.uk/
  12. a new SEN system http://edyourself.org/articles/candfact2014.php
  13. here http://www.specialneedsjungle.com/sen-law-douglas-silas/
  14. the power to arrange http://edyourself.org/articles/orotherwise.php
  15. only happens rarely. http://edyourself.org/articles/2013foissenandlocationehe.php
  16. a duty http://ehe-sen.org.uk/statement.php
  17. Archived page December 2013 as pdf http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.pdf
  18. Deregistering a Child from School http://edyourself.org/articles/deregistration.php
  19. Elective Home Education Guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php
  20. Statements http://ehe-sen.org.uk/statement.php
  21. Home education and SEN website http://www.ehe-sen.org.uk/
  22. APPG SEN and Disability http://edyourself.org/articles/allpartygrouphomeeducation.php#apgsen
  23. Support list home education and SEN http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/HOMEEDUCATIONANDSPECIALNEEDS/info
  24. Legal changes to SEN system 2014-18 http://edyourself.org/articles/candfact2014.php
  25. SEN Tribunal Forms from Ministry of Justice website http://www.justice.gov.uk/forms/hmcts/send
  26. Baroness Ashton http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldhansrd/vo011029/text/11029-21.htm
  27. David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers: SEN Case Law http://davidwolfe.org.uk/SEN%20Noddy%20Guide%20November%202012.pdf
  28. Ipsea's Guide to SEN Law http://www.ipsea.org.uk/Apps/Content/html/?fid=46
  29. HE-Special http://www.he-special.org.uk/