Home Education and the Law

There are no specific laws about elective home education although there is non-statutory government guidance. (At the time of writing in April 2024 there are proposals for this guidance to be revised but nothing has been decided and the current guidance remains in place. Read more here https://edyourself.org/news/) There are however education laws which set out parents’ responsibilities and the duties of local authorities.

Parents: Rights and Responsibilities

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—
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) 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. This is governed by the Pupil Registration Regulations 2006 as amended. My page on deregistration is here. The Registration Regulations will change in August 2024, read what this means for home educators here https://edyourself.org/pupil-registration-regulations-2024/

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 “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 by 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.”

Local Authority Duties

Sections 437 – 443 of the Education Act 1996 provide for steps to be taken if it appears that there is very little or no education in place for a child, or if the LA has no information about any educational arrangements. Section 437 provides for the LA to serve a preliminary notice requiring the child’s parents to satisfy the LA that they are making appropriate provision for the child’s education. 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. My page on SAOs is here.

Local authorities have a linked duty under section 436a Education Act 1996 [Children Missing Education] to make arrangements to identify children outside school who aren’t receiving education. My page on Children Missing Education is here.

Government guidance on elective home education is non-statutory. The current guidance has been in place since 2019. My page on the guidance is here.

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.”

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