Home Education & The Law

Legal references on this page apply to England.

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 more 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.

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.

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."

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."


Related Pages

Legal Talk by Ian Dowty
School Attendance Orders
Portsmouth Judicial Review
School Leaving Age
Educational Philosophy
Autonomous Education
Government Home Education Guidance
Deregistration
Pupil Registration Regulations

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