The Legal Bit – England & Wales
You are legally allowed to Home Educate – as long as your child is not on a school roll (you will need to deregister the child if they attend a school).
It is the parents responsibility to ensure a child is educated, this can happen in school or elsewhere. Home Educators are not legally expected to recreate school at home, nor expected to follow a Curriculum.
Monitoring and visit requests:
You’ve probably read a lot about LAs trying to monitor Home Educators, or that families have had horrible experiences.
We would like to explain that, whilst these stories seem to be fairly common, this is only because they are the more talked about events. After all who is going to keep talking about something that has no impact?
We do advise keeping contact in writing with your LA to ensure there is a paper trail in the event of any issues.
You can use our sample letters as a basis for saying no to visits and monitoring.
Whilst the LA has no duty to monitor the changes to the EHE guidance suggests they can now ask for a written report about the provision, we suggest once a year is a reasonable request. See our sample report here.
If you do not want any one from the Local Authority in your home you do not have to let them in.
Do not ever feel pressured, upset or worried about visits, opting not to have one is a legal option and cannot legally be used against you.
Many people find that their children are upset just by the thought of allowing a stranger in to the house, let alone that they’re there to talk about the education.
You send the DEREGISTRATION letter to school and you can immediately stop sending your child (no permission needed/SEN school is different). The school will forward the letter onto the LA who will sometimes send out an EWO to knock on your door (doorstepping). You DO NOT have to let them in. You can be polite and tell them that you are happy with your decision to Home Educate and do not need their service. Also say that you will happily correspond with the EHE in writing. Be aware that job titles will differ within the home ed department.
The EHE person will make contact with you, often as early as the same day you deregister, sometimes it can be months (if ever) before you hear from them. The content of this contact can vary dependent on the LA area. A good LA will tell you about local groups and support networks. They will explain that visits and form filling are not legal requirements. Often the forms are not relevant to home education, we suggest you providing a report rather than filling in their forms.
LAs should include some written information based on the governments EHE guidance. If you read the government guidelines and familiarise yourself with them, you are more likely to know when/if your LA is acting outside of them (ultra vires).
Sometimes an LA may write to tell you that they have arranged to visit you on a set day and time; they may try claiming they have a duty to monitor, or that they have to meet the child or see work, which is not acceptable, especially if you are new to Home Ed. In Wales there is an automatic assumption that the education is adequate therefore even less of a reason to demand a visit.
What ever the LA sends you, you should ALWAYS respond, never ignore them. Respond with one of our sample letters or contact us if you are not sure.
There are, of course, some helpful LAs out there, so it is useful to chat with local families to find out the general consensus. But remember, you may consider someone nice and another person may think they are awful. The same goes for each EHE advisor – they are a person, and what they consider suitable with regards to education may differ from your views. The EHE guidelines do not give them any recommendations on the support/advice they should offer, so it all comes down to the personal viewpoint of the individual advisor.
Once the LA have had contact from you, they will let you know how often they will be contacting you. Legally, because they have no duty to monitor, an annual ‘how are you’ kind of letter is acceptable. However, many don’t do this and will send another visit request as often as 3 monthly! If you need support please do contact us.
If it comes to their attention, or they have a reason to believe, an education isn’t being provided or isn’t adequate then they can make further enquiries. If this is the case, the LA should make it clear what their concerns are. These can be from a concerned neighbour/medical professional etc. or from a previous visit where they decided the education wasn’t adequate (though this may be based on the advisor’s prejudices and/or biased opinions). In these circumstances it is advisable to respond, again in writing, detailing the educational provision and addressing their concerns.
Other relevant legislation and Government guidance:
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996:
Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age.
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.
R v Secretary of State for Education, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust. Judicial review 1985, The Times, 12 April 1985
Mr Justice Woolf said: ‘Education is suitable if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the wider country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.
Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996:
If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.
The Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 s 8 (1) (d):
(1) The following are prescribed as the grounds on which the name of a pupil of compulsory school age shall be deleted from the admission register—
(d)in a case not falling within sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, that he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school;
Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson. Appeal 1981 Worcester Crown Court (unreported)
The Judge defined the outcomes of a suitable education as 1. to prepare the children for life in a modern civilised society; and 2. to enable them to achieve their full potential
Statutory guidance and departmental advice
Home Educated Children On receipt of written notification to home educate, schools must inform the pupil’s local authority that the pupil is to be deleted from the admission register. Schools should not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home as a way of avoiding excluding the pupil or because the pupil has a poor attendance record. Schools and local authorities should not seek to prevent parents from educating their children outside the school system. There is no requirement for parents to obtain the school or local authority’s agreement to educate their child at home.