Home Education & The Law

Legal references on this page apply to 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."

Read barrister Ian Dowty's commentary on section 7 here, including legal definitions of parent, compulsory school age, efficient education, full-time education, and suitable education, plus education otherwise.

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 school in writing to take your child's name off the school roll. It doesn't make any difference if your child has an EHCP, unless it is a special school. Read more about elective home education with an EHCP here.

It is only a parent who can register a child with a school. The child becomes a registered pupil from the "expected first day of attendance" which is the first day that the parent has agreed or notified the school that the child will attend. (If the child is simply sent in to school on or after the expected first day, this also signifies agreement)

A child cannot not "become registered" at a school by the parent filling in a preference form or by the school being named on the EHCP or ordered by the SEN tribunal In the EHCP scenario the parent can refuse to register the child at the school on the basis that the child is to be home educated instead, see LB Richmond upon Thames v AC 2017 as per HHJ Ward "There is no obligation on a parent to send a child to the school named in the statement but there is an obligation to secure that the child is properly educated.")

A child is not automatically registered at a school virtue of a School Attendance Order; the parent also has to agree that the child will attend. It is somewhat of a misnomer to call it an "Attendance Order" since it is actually a registration order "requiring him [the parent] to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order." Read more here

Local Authority Duties

Government guidance on elective home education is non-statutory which means it does not impose a legal duty. The current guidance has been in place since 2019. Read my page on the guidance here. NB 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.

The phrase about routine monitoring no longer appears in home education guidance but was nevertheless affirmed in this written parliamentary answer on May 10th 2019 "Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis."

Children Missing Education

Local authorities have a duty under section 436a Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to identify children outside school who aren't receiving education. Government home education guidance says "Until a local authority is satisfied that a home-educated child is receiving a suitable full-time education, then a child being educated at home is potentially in scope of this duty. The department’s children missing education statutory guidance for local authorities applies. However, this should not be taken as implying that it is the responsibility of parents under s.436A to ‘prove’ that education at home is suitable. A proportionate approach needs to be taken."

CME guidance refers to situations where it is not known if a child is home educated; here is the relevant extract :"Children who cease to attend a school – there are many reasons why a child stops attending a school. It could be because the parent chooses to home educate their child. However, where the reason for a child who has stopped attending a school is not known,the local authority should investigate the case and satisfy itself that the child is receiving suitable education."

School Attendance Orders

A School Attendance Order is issued when the authority is not satisfied that education is being provided otherwise than at school and where the authority considers it expedient that the child should attend school. Read more about the School Attendance Order process here

Related Pages

Schools Bill The Schools Bill has been DROPPED
EHE with EHCP How the law applies when the child has an EHCP
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
Educational Philosophy When and how to write an ed phil
Autonomous Education Explaining your values and suitability to the individual child
SEN Introduction home education and special needs

Link Reference

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