Suitable Education

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 explains what is meant by suitable education for a child educated “otherwise” than in school.

“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.”

This definition of suitable education as suitable to age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs appears again in sections 436A – 443 of the Education Act covering local authority duties and powers when children are educated otherwise than at school. 436A (3) says “In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.” SOURCE

7 (a)Age Ability Aptitude

Age, ability and aptitude all appear on the same line and hence are clearly meant to be read together. For the individual child it will be a matter of balancing these three elements, not just focusing on the child’s age to the exclusion of the other aspects of 7 (a).

Ability and aptitude are given equal weight with age in 7 (a). Ability is obviously not the same as aptitude, otherwise there would have been no need to include both terms. Ability relates to what the individual may be able – or not able – to do whereas aptitude is about a particular skill, talent, knack or special interest.

The inclusion of “aptitude” rounds out and personalises section 7(a) and makes it unique to the child in question. If s 7(a) did NOT mention aptitude it would result in a more standardised form of educational provision.

7 (b) Special Educational Needs

Special educational needs gets its own line in the legislation. As well as balancing the three prior elements of age, ability and aptitude, consideration must also be given to the particular child’s SEN. The law looks at disability as well as learning difficulty. A learning difficulty is defined as “a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age” . For disability, the focus is on whether it “prevents or hinders [the child] from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools” . This legal definition can be found in section 20 of the Children and Families Act 2014 SOURCE

The child’s needs not being met in school or the child’s constant struggles with school may be what prompts parents to start looking into home education as a way to rebuild the child’s confidence and self-esteem.

Full Time

There is no definition in law for the number of hours a week when a child is home educated compared with the hours in school. The Ombudsman says that “If councils provide one-to-one tuition, the number of face-to-face hours could be fewer because the provision is more concentrated.” [SOURCE]

Child’s Best Interests

When a child is receiving alternative provision arranged by the local authority the law is clear that the child’s health must be taken into account when deciding how much education is appropriate. Section 19 (3AA) of the Education Act requires the LA to consider the child’s best interests, where “for reasons which relate to the physical or mental health of the child, it would not be in the child’s best interests for full-time education to be provided” . SOURCE Read more about EOTAS and alternative provision here