Home Education & The Law

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Table of Contents

Home Education Law in England

Consultation Launched New Home Education Guidance

April 10th 2018: The Department for Education has published revised draft home education guidance for consultation, together with a "call for evidence" on other possible changes. The deadline for responding is July 2nd 2018. Read more here.

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.

Compulsory School Age

"Compulsory school age" is set out in Section 8 (2) of the Education Act 1996 which says that "a person begins to be of compulsory school age—
(a)when he attains the age of five, if he attains that age on a prescribed day, and (b)otherwise at the beginning of the prescribed day next following his attaining that age."

Prescribed Days are defined in regulation by The Education (Start of Compulsory School Age) Order 1998 Statutory Instrument 1607 (Link) which states that "For the purposes of section 8(2) of the Education Act 1996 - (a)31st August and 31st December shall be prescribed days for 1998 and successive years; and (b)31st March shall be a prescribed day for 1999 and successive years."

In other words, a child whose 5th birthday falls on September 1st does not attain compulsory school age until December 31st of that year. This is relevant to deregistration


Parents don't have to request permission to home educate or notify anyone, but if your child is of compulsory school age and is attending 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.


Local authorities have a duty to make arrangements to identify children outside school who aren't receiving education but there is no statutory duty to monitor home education on a routine basis. Suitable education is defined in law as education which is suitable to the child's age, ability, aptitude and special needs.

23 Hours

DfE October 2014: "There is no minimum limit specified in law or in DfE guidance, beyond the basic requirement for full-time education if the child is of compulsory school age. 23 hours is about the length of time many school children spend in actual lessons, at least in secondary school, and someone may have seized on that as an indicator. But it has no legal basis..." More

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 attitudes 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

Read more about CME here

Special Needs and Home Education

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

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. Section 8 (2) http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/8
  3. Link http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1998/1607/contents/made
  4. deregistration http://edyourself.org/articles/deregistration.php#intro
  5. 1 page pdf Summary Law http://edyourself.org/law.pdf
  6. a duty http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/40/section/4
  7. More http://edyourself.org/23hours.pdf
  8. the School Attendance Order process http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  9. here http://edyourself.org/articles/ministersen.php
  10. Education Act 1996 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/437
  11. here http://edyourself.org/articles/sao.php
  12. big difference http://edyourself.org/articles/latotalnumber.php
  13. the high needs block http://edyourself.org/articles/funding.php
  14. The Government's home education guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php#firstcontact
  15. The Government Guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php#ifappearsnotsuitableed
  16. Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/40/section/4
  17. here http://edyourself.org/articles/cme.php
  18. here http://www.ehe-sen.org.uk/
  19. Archived page December 2013 as pdf http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.pdf
  20. Deregistering a Child from School http://edyourself.org/articles/deregistration.php
  21. Elective Home Education Guidelines http://edyourself.org/articles/guidelines.php
  22. Home education and SEN website http://www.ehe-sen.org.uk/
  23. HE-Special support list http://www.he-special.org.uk/
  24. Support list home education and SEN http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/HOMEEDUCATIONANDSPECIALNEEDS/info
  25. Home education SEND statistics 2016 http://edyourself.org/articles/sendstats.php
  26. Home education SEN statistics 2013 http://edyourself.org/articles/2013foissenandlocationehe.php
  27. New SEN Code Practice Home Education http://edyourself.org/articles/newcode.php
  28. EHCP, What Goes Where http://edyourself.org/articles/EHCPlayout.php
  29. Tribunal, Complaints, Ombudsman http://ehe-sen.org.uk/appealscomplaints.php
  30. Home Education Personal Budgets Direct Payments http://edyourself.org/articles/SENDPs.php
  31. SEN Tribunal Forms from Ministry of Justice website http://www.justice.gov.uk/forms/hmcts/send
  32. Baroness Ashton http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldhansrd/vo011029/text/11029-21.htm
  33. David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers: SEN Case Law http://davidwolfe.org.uk/SEN%20Noddy%20Guide%20November%202012.pdf
  34. Template Complaint Letters http://www.cerebra.org.uk/English/gethelp/legalhelp/precedentletters/Pages/default.aspx
  35. Edyourself SEN links http://edyourself.org/articles/helaw.php#SENlinks
  36. SEN Tribunal Forms from Ministry of Justice website http://www.justice.gov.uk/forms/hmcts/send
  37. Tandy Case, cannot cut on basis of cost http://www.ipsea.org.uk/Apps/Content/html/?fid=46
  38. Bailli Tandy Case http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/1998/20.html
  39. DM and KC vs Essex County Council 2003 http://edyourself.org/articles/caselaw.pdf
  40. Baroness Ashton http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200102/ldhansrd/vo011029/text/11029-21.htm
  41. David Wolfe, Matrix Chambers: SEN Case Law http://davidwolfe.org.uk/SEN%20Noddy%20Guide%20November%202012.pdf
  42. David Wolfe blog http://davidwolfe.org.uk/wordpress/archives/487
  43. Tribunal Judgements Page http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=3754
  44. http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/AAC/2015/523.html http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/AAC/2015/523.html
  45. Steve Broach analysis http://councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/help-resources/resources/case-law-review-9