FAQ on Home Education UK Law

Am I allowed to home-educate my children? 

Home education is a valid, alternative form of education and an option for the majority of families in the UK. Most parents are entitled to home-educate if they choose. You don’t need to seek permission from anyone or gain their approval first – it is a legal right.  

There are exceptions, such as where a child has a pre-existing School Attendance Order or if they are attending a specialist school due to special needs. In these instances, permission to home-educate does need to be sought from the Local Authority (LA). 

So, can I just take my child out of school? 

If your child is registered in a school, you need to notify the school that you are withdrawing your child to home-educate them – I’d recommend doing this via email so there is an electronic record of you doing so.  

If your child has never been to school then you aren’t legally obliged (in England, 2023) to notify the LA that you are home-educating. However, this is a contentious issue and (I believe) the law will eventually be changed so that all home-educated children need to be registered.  

I have never sent my children to school, but I did write to the LA when my son was five and explained I was home-educating. I was completely certain the neighbours we had at the time would complain, possibly to the police, when they realised my kids weren’t in school. I couldn’t have stayed hidden, so it felt prudent to contact the LA first.  

Of the parents I’ve know who haven’t notified their LA, all have eventually been reported anonymously and the LA has contacted them for more information. However, I haven’t observed any negative consequences being imposed on parents who didn’t self-report; they were treated the same as everyone else on the register.  

How are parents ‘on the register’ treated? 

It helps to understand the law before answering this. Whilst it is the right of parents to home-educate, every LA has a legal duty to ensure children in the area are receiving an education that’s efficient and suitable for their ages and aptitudes. They must also safeguard children living in the area. 

Generally, my interactions with our LA have been respectful and every year I’ve submitted a report of the educations we’re providing for our children, which has been accepted as sufficient proof of learning.  

However, every LA does have teeth and by law they must take steps to ensure local children are safe, well and being educated. Where they aren’t satisfied with the evidence provided, they will ask for more. My LA can be very formal and lay out the law if they aren’t satisfied with the standard of education being provided by parents, which can feel intimidating and threatening.  

What about home visits? 

For a while my LA did try to visit our home by writing a letter informing me which day they were visiting, but as they don’t have a legal right to come inside our home, meet my children, or see their work, I always wrote back to say they couldn’t visit and I’d include a detailed written report with the letter.  

Other people I know have agreed to home visits.  

Why didn’t you agree to a home visit? 

When I first contacted my LA in 2006, the home visit consisted of an Ofsted inspector observing the home education for a day, then writing an Ofsted style report on his observations, with additional advice and commentary for the parents to digest between their sobs of dismay.  

At the time my eldest was only five years old, and there really wasn’t a great deal of formal learning to observe. He was learning through play and experience, we were going to meet with friends, going on trips and outings etc. I didn’t think a trained high-school teacher and Ofsted inspector would be especially impressed (or understanding) of the fact that my five year old didn’t know his letters and couldn’t write his name, but was excellent at splashing in puddles and knew an awful lot about dinosaurs. 

I didn’t agree to a home visit as I didn’t feel it was appropriate to us.  

Your LA sends out Ofsted inspectors? 

They used to.  

Then one dreadful year they assigned an educational social worker to every home-edder, without explaining what they were doing. The social worker called at homes unannounced, expecting to be allowed in to interview the children. We were camping when ours dropped by, so we came home to find a badly written note had been shoved through the letterbox. I wrote a formal complaint about the poor communication and received an apology.  

Happily, times have changed and our LA now has an Elective Home Education Team which holds coffee mornings so we can get to know each other and meetings where we can exchange ideas. It’s relatively pleasant to deal with them compared to twenty years ago. 

What do you put in your report? 

Essentially, because I’m a belt and braces kind of girl, I write something that would stand up in a court of law. I’m not following the National Curriculum, the education we do is best described as semi-structured, so I include just about everything we’ve done over the year to prove my kids are healthy, having good childhoods, learning and being prepared for adulthood and independence.  

I usually begin by outlining my philosophy and giving an overview of what model of education we’re following; to show there is method in the madness.  

I outline all the things we’ve done as a family over the last year (trips out, holidays, activities, board games – anything we’ve done together which could be considered educational).  

I also write a summary for each child, which includes classes, clubs, activities, lessons, responsibilities, tutors, pets, hobbies etc that are personal to them.  

I outline each child’s academic progress over the last year, including any courses they’re doing, GCSEs they’re preparing for, books they’ve read, workbooks used etc. As some of my children have dyslexia, I detail what extra provisions are in place for them and explain their additional needs.  

As everyone is aware, a major concern about home-educating families is that the children are being abused, neglected, or deprived of a ‘normal’ life outside the home. Taking this into account, I always mention the fact my children have seen loads of people (including health professionals) over the year – whether that’s the dentist, optician, orthodontist, friends, the congregation in juma’, clubs, classes etc. The point I make is that my children are active and engage with others outside the home, they aren’t hidden, unwell or unhappy.  

Final thoughts on the LA? 

I’d definitely encourage people to know their rights and be willing to assert themselves if necessary, but begin by aiming for a courteous relationship with the LA and being polite and businesslike.  

Consider that the people you’re dealing with are probably nice and well-intentioned. In all likelihood they want to protect and help children, they are not evil robots who want to snatch your children away and lock them in cages. 

There’s really no benefit in winding the LA up, being aggressive, ignoring them, yelling about your rights or insulting them. They might not wholeheartedly approve of your home-schooling on a personal level, but provided you can prove you are acting within the law and are fulfilling your children’s rights, they can’t legally stop you from home-educating.

Katie Holden

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