In Scotland the law varies slightly and is being reformed. Please email or speak to someone from Schoolhouse (see 'organisations on the home education for a direct link to them) to check on the current legal position.
Contact Schoolhouse Home Education Association 311 Perth Road, Dundee DD2 1LG
24 hour information line - 0870 745 0967
Tel: 0870 745 0968 Fax: 0870 745 0969 E-mail: email@example.com
IS TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN AT HOME LEGAL?
The 1996 Education Act states in Section 7: Health Care
"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."
Compulsory school age, is the age when children must receive an education, not when they must attend school. This is from the age of 5yrs until 16yrs. Different LEA areas have different policies for starting children at school, but education is not compulsory until 5 yrs. In some instances it may be the term after their 5th birthday that a child starts school. There will now be one official school leaving date, usually the last Friday in June of each year. Children will have to receive an education until that date, even if they have reached 16yrs before then.
WHAT ABOUT SOCIALISATION?
Many people have an image of isolated children, without friends, sitting at a desk in the spare room at home with a parent. This is very far from the lifestyle of most home educated children. Home educated children have more opportunity than most school going counterparts to be part of the real community and mix with many people of varying ages and backgrounds. 'Home' education is probably a misnomer in this sense, because most home educating families take full advantage of the educational opportunities in everyday community life, rather than spending a majority of time inside the home. On the other hand, school children spend many hours in a school room, with one adult and 30 other people of the same age. Many families have the chance to meet with other home ed families in their area, to attend home ed support group meetings and to join them in attending 'schools' programmes at museums, science parks etc.. Children may also be part of groups such as Woodcraft Folk, Scouts, Drama Groups, Music groups. They may attend after-school-hours classes, such as ballet, chess, swimming, other sports. They may have many school-going friends in the neighbourhood with whom they meet after school, weekends and school holidays (and usually on teacher training days when home ed parents often become child minders!)
There is a common misconception, that children need to mix with large numbers of other children of similar age to develop proper social skills. It is a consequence of our education system that this usually happens, not a necessity that schooling is there to fulfil. Before mass schooling, children were neither social misfits or socially inadequate, yet they would rarely find themselves in a school type social circle. Research findings consistently report superior social skills, social maturity and emotional development of home educated children compared with their school-going peers.
DO YOU HAVE TO BE A TEACHER TO HOME EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN?
There are no requirements for the people teaching children from home to have any academic or other qualifications. I would suggest that the qualifications most necessary are: A keen interest in the child/rens education and welfare, Respect for ones child/ren and their own decisions about their education,A willingness to try things you haven't done before, Resourcefulness, A willingness to ask questions and not be afraid of feeling foolish for not already knowing the answer yourself!
HOW CAN YOU TEACH ALL OF THE THINGS THEY TEACH IN SCHOOL?
You don't have to.
But, that is not to say that you can't if the child wishes to learn it. This is the most important factor.These days all the information that teachers pass on to children is readily available outside of schools for parents and children to access. The progress in information technology since compulsory education began, makes acquiring this knowledge much easier. This is not to say that if you do not have access to a computer at home, then you can't home educate. Computers are becoming more widely available in libraries and open learning centres. Also it is important to remember that they are not the only source of information. Parents need to be facilitators, available to help their children access the information they want. Sometimes parents will need to, or choose to, learn alongside their children.
DO YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM?
As in independent schools, there are no requirements to follow any particular curriculum or indeed any set curriculum at all.Experience shows that if young children are not formally taught at all, they can still learn as much or more than they would in school, if they have varied life experiences, a stimulating environment and an adult around who is willing to answer umpteen questions, or help to find the answers. If you wish to be alittle more structured, home education has the advantage of being able to follow a particular child's interests. In this way during the early years it is easy to cover a wide variety of 'subjects areas' by studying one or two 'topic' areas, which also encourages basic literacy and numeracy skills.It is as well to remember that the National Curriculum is just one group of people's idea about what is suitable content for a child's learning. It happens to be compulsory (presently) in state schools, but the variation of possible curricula is endless.Children who have never been to school or have been out of school for a long period, retain or regain the natural pre school inquisitiveness that determines what and when they learn. If children choose to take formal exams when they are older they may then wish to or need to follow a particular curriculum. Experience shows that home educated children readily adapt to the imposed curriculum for courses that they have chosen to follow.
DOES SOME AUTHORITY CHECK ON YOU/ TEST THE CHILDREN?
The primary responsibility for providing a child with an education lies with the parents/guardians of the child.If the parents choose to provide the education without using schools, they are responsible for making sure that the education the child receives is 'suitable' as stated in the 1996 Education Act, Section 7.The Act does not define 'suitable' but some guidance may be taken from a judgement at Worcester Crown Court (1981 Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson), that an 'efficient' system of education is one which "achieves that which it sets out to achieve", a "suitable" education as one which is such as "to prepare children for life in a modern civilised society and to enable them to achieve their full potential". The Education Act does confer a duty upon the LEA to intervene 'if it appears ... that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise'. If this happens, the LEA have duties laid out in the Act to present a School Attendance Order. At any time during the procedure the parents may ask for the order to be revoked because they are now (or always were) providing a 'suitable' education 'otherwise'. Some LEAs choose to take on extra duties to those defined in the Education Act 1996, with the intention of 'monitoring' the provision of home education in some way. Although there is no legal requirement for parents to comply with these activities, the judge in the Phillips v Brown case (1980) said that the LEA should be allowed in that case to make informal enquiries, even though he acknowledged that the parents had no legal duty to respond. He also concluded that it may well be seen as reason to believe a 'suitable' education is not taking place, if parents did not respond. When parents do agree to contact with the LEA, there is no legal guidance as to how that contact should proceed. However, the LEA have no right of entry to a family home, no right to see or test the children, no right to ask for samples of work. Of course a family may agree to any or all of these but do not have to. The venue, frequency, length and format of any visits should be agreed between the family and the LEA, as there is no legal requirement set for any of these points. A family may choose not to meet with the LEA at all, but to provide their reassurances to the LEA in some other way such as a report of their philosophy and methods or references from suitable others such as a teacher they may know. Home educated children are not obliged to take any kind of tests or exams. However many of them choose to, often earlier than they would in school so that they can spread the load over several years rather than taking lots of exams in one year. Many home educated children go on to further education institutions/universities.
DO YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW A TIMETABLE?
Home education has the benefit of children being able to study what they want, when they want, which is more likely to be productive than forced learning. Some people imagine that left with this free choice, children will not choose to work, but on the contrary, given autonomy over their learning, children often study for very long periods and in greater depth than parents would impose. Even if they don't, the quality of learning that happens in a short burst of interest is likely to be more useful than hours being forced to sit and study when the mind is focussed elsewhere. Many parents would find it hard, even in retrospect, to timetable their child's education because their informal style means learning happens all the time and can't be defined as times when books and paper are evident.
WHAT SORT OF PEOPLE HOME EDUCATE?
There is sometimes a belief that only rich people and 'hippies' would choose to home educate. The truth is far from that. There are home educators from all social classes, in varying financial situations and with very different family make up and philosophies. The only thing that these families are guaranteed to have in common is a belief that at this particular time in their lives, home education is the best educational choice for their children. Many people choose to home educate for philosophical reasons that they have had time to consider. Others turn to home education when the school system is failing them, academically, socially, emotionally or otherwise. In particular in the late 1990s, bullying in schools is an oft unresolved problem that leads parents to withdraw their children to the relative safety of their community and home. These parents are often pleasantly rewarded when they find that their children 'flourish' in the home education situation.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HOME EDUCATE?
The first thing to understand is that there is no financial support from the government. You will be considered to have turned down your place in the state system and be 'privately' educating, so all costs are borne by the family. The good news is that in general it only needs to cost as much as you want it to. Many families who are withdrawing children from school, feel at first a need to be quite structured in their approach and will go out and spend lots of money on books and materials. Try and resist this urge. As time goes on, families realise that there are very many free and inexpensive resources available. This is where contact with long-standing home educators is useful for picking up hints and ideas. Libraries are of course a great resource and the fact that you don't have to follow the NC means that you will be able to get hold of books that aren't being covered in the local schools, as well as being able to use the libraries when they are not busy. Librarians are usually very happy to help home educating families to locate appropriate books, CDs etc. Some families choose to employ tutors to cover certain subjects that they feel less confident about. This can add considerably to your costs. I would suggest that you consider the necessity of studying that particular subject at that time carefully, have more confidence in your own and your children's ability to tackle it without an 'expert' and ask around in the local home ed community about sharing skills. Save precious financial resources for absolute necessities. Also there are many free resources available on the Internet. With technology becoming less expensive and often available through libraries and cyber cafes, this is becoming a valuable source of learning. Home educating families become very resourceful and share their resources and information with others, so again local support groups are invaluable.
CAN CHILDREN GO ON TO TAKE GCSEs AND A LEVELS FROM HOME?
However, there is no denying that it can be more difficult than for those children who are in school, not academically but for reasons of practical arrangements and finance. You can choose a 'do-it-yourself' approach and send for the syllabus from an examination centre, arrange to have coursework monitored by an accredited person (if the course involves coursework - some such as IGCSE have alternatives without coursework) and arrange to sit the exam at a local exam centre. All of this will have to be paid for and done in plenty of time. You may choose a correspondence course where these things will be dealt with for you. You may choose to employ a tutor who can then monitor coursework, and arrange to sit the exam locally at an approved centre as an external candidate. Some parents manage to get children admitted to further education colleges pre 16yrs of age and this is left to the discretion of college Principals who will give first priority for places to over 16s. It is sensible to speak to other home ed families in your area who have travelled this path before. Many parents are concerned about whether they will be able to guide their children adequately through subject matter that they are not familiar with. In some cases it may be very difficult and outside help such as tutors may be needed. However, much of the time families will find that if they have the appropriate materials, a sufficiently motivated and interested child will be able to manage these courses and exams without 'expert' help.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HOME EDUCATING IN THE UK?
As there are no official records kept, there is no accurate number available. Estimates, which I imagine are very conservative, vary between 10,000 and 20,000 children being home educated. This does not account for children not attending school due to long term illness, pregnancy, exclusion, or being part of a travellers community. The figure would probably be nearer to 90,000 if these children were accounted for. Although a recent newspaper article suggested that there could be as many as 50,000 home educating.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY CHILD HAS BEEN IN SCHOOL AND I WANT TO START HOME EDUCATING?
If your child is not yet 5yrs, or has finished primary school and not registered yet at secondary school or you have just moved area and not registered at a school yet, then you simply withdraw the child from school (if necessary) and home educate. A letter to the Head would of course be courteous and in the case of under 5's, may save the child being registered by mistake. If however your child is a registered pupil at a school, then you must write to the proprietor of the school, informing (him) of your intention to educate 'otherwise' and saying that you wish the child's name to be deleted from the register. It is important that it is the proprietor, who may be the Head or the Board of Governors or in some cases the LEA, who receive this letter, so do check first or address it appropriately. It would be courteous to send the Head a copy. It is wise to hand deliver or ask for confirmation of receipt of the letter and of removal of the name from the register. The proprietor then has a legal duty to inform the LEA within 10 school days, of the withdrawal of said child from the register. The LEA may then get in touch with you to ask about your provision for the child's education. Again it is very useful at this stage to have the support and backing of a home education support group who can make you aware of all of your rights and duties. You do not have to seek permission to home educate or to present any plans for your education beforehand. Once you have sent the letter telling the proprietor when you are withdrawing the child, you commence home education immediately.
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS NOT YET SCHOOL AGE BUT I KNOW I WANT TO HOME EDUCATE?
You simply go ahead with your plans. A child who is not yet 5yrs is not officially registered as a pupil even if you have put them onto a waiting list. It is courteous and will cause less problems later, to take the child's name from the waiting list. You have no need to seek permission or tell anyone of your plans, though some parents choose to contact the LEA if they want the input of an Education Advisor. Experience however shows that LEAs very, very rarely have anything useful to offer a family and are more likely to be obstructive than helpful. In particular, they have no financial or resources obligations and are unlikely to help in this area. If you are unsure about anything, you are more likely to get the help you need from the independent support groups and local home educating families than from the LEA.
HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE CHILDREN TO LEARN AT HOME?
This varies tremendously from family to family, but on the whole, children who are home educated, especially those who have never been to school or have been out for some time, are usually well self-motivated. The difference is that they do not have to sit for hours on end studying things that do not interest them or that they find too difficult. They can study what interests them and take time off if things are getting on top of them. Natural enthusiasm for learning that starts pre school, is not quelched by rigid timetables, enforced subjects, limited teaching style, peer pressure etc. We all have different learning styles and in the home education situation a child can choose the style that suits them best and so are more likely to be motivated and do well, than those who have styles imposed externally. Children who hold a large part of the responsibility for their own education usually take that responsibility seriously, even from a very young age. Children can get together with other home educating children to study areas of common interest, with mutual support rather than a competitive non-sharing attitude. Sometimes when children first come out of school, especially if they have had difficult experiences in school, don't want to do any sort of work to begin with. This can be quite a worrying time for parents, especially if they are anticipating a visit from the LEA. Experience shows that trying to force these children to work is rarely fruitful and left alone they usually take 6 to 12 months to adjust to the relative freedom of home education and realise that learning nothing is very boring. Waiting for this to happen can be hard, but a reasonable LEA officer will be aware that the whole family needs time to adjust.
CAN A CHILD WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS BE TAUGHT AT HOME?
There are no restraints on teaching a child with special educational needs at home, other than those the family already experience outside of the education arena. It is perfectly possible and legal to home educate, even when a 'Statement' has been applied. If your child is in a mainstream school, the procedure for commencing home education is as for any other child (see above). If your child attends a Special School you will need permission from the LEA but they should not withhold that permission unreasonably. It may be wise to get advice from a support group. There are many children with special needs being educated at home and the support groups may have advisors with experience in specific areas.
CAN MY CHILD ATTEND SCHOOL PART-TIME?
It is legal for your child to do this, but you do not have the automatic right to do it. This means that you have to get permission from the headteacher and governors. If they agree, your child still attracts full funding and is marked 'absent with leave', or 'authorised absence'.
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