What is the Homeschooling Law in the UK?
Updated: Aug 23
In UK law, every parent has the right to educate their child at home if they wish to do so. In our post-COVID world, homeschooling will inevitably become more common as many parents may want to keep their vulnerable children at home for the unforeseeable future. Parents do not need to be qualified teachers or hold any other educational qualifications. They are not obliged to follow the national curriculum, and students who are homeschooled do not have to sit exams such as GCSEs and A-Levels. Despite these freedoms, the UK still has in place specific legal rules for homeschooling that parents must follow if they wish to educate their children at home. Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act in UK law states that it is the “duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age”.
What is the homeschooling law in the UK?
If your child is currently in formal education, you must inform the school that you plan to educate them at home. If you wish to follow a plan of “flexi-schooling” whereby your child’s education is split between school and homeschooling, the school must approve this. The school can refuse this option if they wish, but they cannot refuse a parent’s decision to homeschool their child full-time.
If your child hasn’t started school yet, but you've been offered a school place that you no longer wish to take up, you must formally remove your child’s name from the register. If your child hasn’t started school yet and you have not applied for school placement, you do not need to do anything to begin homeschooling officially. According to UK homeschooling law, all children must start to receive full-time education by the age of five. In each of these instances, parents are not obliged to contact the local authority, though it is highly recommended. If they are not contacted, they may contact you to ask what provision you have made for their education. This may be through a home visit or a meeting outside the home, or they may ask you to provide written evidence such as a report, samples of work that your child has done at home or verification from an independent tutor.
If your child has special educational needs and is in a special school, you'll need permission from the local authority before their name can be removed from the register. Additionally, if your child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the council will need to be contacted, even if they are at a mainstream school or haven't yet started school. This is to ensure that your child’s needs are being met, and additional help may be offered toward their homeschooling. While there is no legal obligation for homeschooling families to be inspected (unlike schools, which have regular inspections from Ofsted), many local councils do monitor homeschooled students to ensure parents are complying with the homeschooling law – namely 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”
If the local authority has any concerns about your child’s wellbeing or the quality of home education they are receiving, they have the right to issue a School Attendance Order. This order compels parents to send their children to school or pay a fine.
Local Education Authority
Local education authorities (LEAs) are the local councils in England and Wales that are responsible for education within their area. LEAs are generally not standalone authorities but operate within the broader local authority. In London, the 32 London Borough Councils and the Common Council of the City of London are the local authorities responsible for education. Since the Children Act 2004, each local education authority is also a children's services authority. LEAs have a wide variety of responsibilities including distribution and monitoring of school funds and co-ordination of admissions, including allocation of the number of places available at each school. If you are thinking about homeschooling your child, it is a good idea to get in touch with your LEA to devise a plan that will ensure your child is receiving the best homeschooling education possible that is in line with UK homeschooling law.
The rules for homeschooling vary between local councils, so parents should find out the procedures for their local authority before starting homeschooling. Many parents may also wish to outsource some of their child’s homeschooling by employing private tutors or homeschooling companies, such as Threshold Education.
More education on homeschooling can be found on the government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/home-education