Parents may decide to exercise their right to home educate their child from a very early age and so the child may not have been previously enrolled at school. They may also elect to home educate at any other stage up to the end of compulsory school age. Parents are not required to register or seek approval from the local authority to educate their children at home. Parents who choose to educate their children at home must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations. However, local authorities are encouraged to provide support where resources permit – see section 5. Parents must also ensure that their children receive suitable full-time education for as long as they are being educated at home.
Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of “full-time”. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of “contact time” is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal “school hours”. The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Home educating parents are not required to:
teach the National Curriculum
provide a broad and balanced education
have a timetable
have premises equipped to any particular standard
set hours during which education will take place
have any specific qualifications
make detailed plans in advance
observe school hours, days or terms
give formal lessons
mark work done by their child
formally assess progress or set development objectives
reproduce school type peer group socialisation
match school-based, age-specific standards
However, local authorities should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.
In their consideration of parents’ provision of education at home, local authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers – it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education
recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations
opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences
access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.
If a local authority considers that a suitable education is not being provided, then a full written report of the findings should be made and copied to the parents promptly, specifying the grounds for concern and any reasons for concluding that provision is unsuitable. If the authority is not satisfied that a suitable education is being provided, and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice to the parents under section 437 before moving on, if needed, to the issuing of a school attendance order (section 437(1)).