Legislation regarding home-education
While the Department of Education states that “in England, education is compulsory, but schooling is not and section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him/her to receive efficient, full-time education, suitable:
(a) to his/her age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he/she may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
The responsibility for children’s education therefore rests with the parents or guardians, and they have the right to choose to educate their children at home. Click here to view the original source for this for this.
There is no definition of efficient education in statute law. The Department for Education guidance states that it can be interpreted as meaning education which “achieves what it is intended to achieve.” It notes that this is not the same as the education being suitable. For the purposes of this guide, education is deemed to be conventional education where a child is being prepared for public exams, from home.
There is no legal definition of “full-time” in terms of education at home, or at school. The guidance notes that children attending school normally have about five hours teaching a day for 190 days, spread over about 38 weeks. It states, however, that home education doesn’t have to mirror this and that the question of whether an education is full-time will depend on the facts of each case. It adds that “education which clearly is not occupying a significant proportion of a child’s life…” will probably not count as full-time.
There is no definition of suitable education in statute law. Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996, the education must be suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child, and any special educational needs they may have. The guidance explains that this means the education “must be age-appropriate, enable the child to make progress according to his or her particular level of ability, and should take account of any specific aptitudes.”
Even if there is no specific link with the National Curriculum, there should be an appropriate minimum standard aimed at, and the education should enable the child, when grown up, to function as an independent citizen, including beyond the community they grew up in.
Be very cautious of approaches sometimes termed as ‘unschooling’, ‘de-schooling’, ‘no-schooling’ or similar, where some people advocate that their child needs to have any kind of imposed curriculum or study removed and only undertake education that the child chooses to engage with. Such approaches are very unlikely to be regarded as a ‘suitable education’ and there will be substantial risks that children in such a circumstance are unlikely to have learned the basic skills necessary to fully participate in adult life when they reach they age of 18. If a suitable education is not provided (for example, where children/young people are not taught basic literacy and numeracy), this could be regarded as a safeguarding risk and may even be regarded as neglect.
You should also be wary of illegal schools (which may, in some cases, be of a religious character) which are not subject to appropriate regulation to ensure that they comply with statutory minimum standards, such as the need to keep children and young people safe.
The education should not directly conflict with the fundamental British values as defined in Government guidance. Local authorities may use minimum expectations for literacy and numeracy in assessing suitability. Education may not be suitable even if it is satisfactory in terms of content but is delivered in circumstances which make it difficult to work (eg, in very noisy buildings). Education may not be suitable if it leads to excessive isolation from the children’s peers and so impedes social development.