Educational Philosophies

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Local authorities may make initial enquiries about the provision for education when they become aware that a child is out of school. Home educated young people are not required by law to study for formal qualifications or match age-specific school standards, although some families may choose to do so. Read my page on autonomous education (also known as unschooling or self-directed learning) here.

It is really important to know what government guidance says about parents' duties and local authorities' duties. My page on the guidance is here. It covers: monitoring; education being suitable to the individual child; children missing education; deschooling; the section 7 requirements (age, ability, aptitude and special needs); literacy and numeracy; informal style of home education; parent choosing how to present information; progress; home visits; when to serve a formal notice as first step towards School Attendance Order.

Problems with school may be viewed as a "negative" reason for starting home education so it is good to make the point that your family is committed to undertaking home education, irrespective of whether or not you actually want to be home educating.

For 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 take the place of an intrusive or traumatic visit to the family home.

NB The annual review of an EHCP is generally not the right place for an educational philosophy. The EHCP AR has its own rules and is looking specifically at progress towards the Outcomes in Section E of the Plan, plus many LAs have their own template Section A or "Child/Family Views" forms. Read more about EHCP Reviews here

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.

In response to initial enquiries from the LA, the parent might 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"; "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".

  1. The Belief Statement. This is your "philosophy of education" or the values which are important to you and your family
  2. The List of Resources used in your day to day home education which includes 1 to 1 time with engaged adults as well as eg access to laptop/tablet/wifi
  3. How you are putting your beliefs into practice. (Also Known as "The Report") Give examples of how your home education works in practice

Home 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 which 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" was 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."

In some cases the authority would prefer to meet the family in person or to see samples of the child's work, so to an extent anything you write about your home education may be rated less highly by the authority no matter how long or how academic or impressive your submission. But if you take into consideration the authority's preference for a face to face meeting or whatever, you should be able to tailor what you write so that the same boxes are ticked, in terms of painting a picture in words (or by literally sending pictures) of how your home education works in practice for your individual child, and if you should decide to go ahead with a face to face meeting, you have established the framework and the ground rules for any discussion and you can refer back to what you have written if the conversation strays off topic.

Related Pages

The Law Starting page for law relating to home education
Schools Bill The Schools Bill has been DROPPED
Child's Right to Education The law is phrased in the negative -"no one shall be denied the right to education"
Legal Presentation by barrister Ian Dowty
School Attendance Orders section 437 - 443 - LA can't register your child at school
Children Missing Education section 436A - what CME guidance say about local authority duties
Portsmouth Judicial Review The judge ruled that Portsmouth council was not acting outside the law
Government Home Education Guidance The Guidance is non-statutory and does not introduce new powers or duties
Deregistration Taking a child out of school
School Leaving Age Raised to 18 but not compulsory
Autonomous Education

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