Home Education in the UK: so how does it work?
Home education is becoming an increasingly popular option in the UK, and it has been attracting increased media attention. So, here is a bit of information about home education, how it works, what are your responsibilities the benefits and the downsides.
Who is responsible for educating children?
The legal responsibility for the education of children, here in the UK, lies ultimately with parents. Most parents choose to delegate this responsibility to the state, and therefore opt into the schooling system. Some people either never choose to delegate that responsibility or choose to revoke it via a formal deregistration process/letter (depending which country you live in). In these cases, the children are classified as home educated.
But why would you choose to home educate?
The reasons for home educating are varied. Some believe in it philosophically as part of a life style choice, others choose to do it due to unmet Special Educational Needs, bullying, dissatisfaction with school culture, testing regimes and/or National Curriculum standards and/or content.
What are the benefits of home educating?
When you home educate you have the total freedom and flexibility to define what is education and how it happens. You are free to create the perfect learning environment for your children. You can use whatever content, mediums, pace, structure and methods that work best for you.
Under the current Elective Home Education Guidelines, as home educators:
- you are free from National Curriculum, so you can determine educational content
- you can weight your subjects according to your children’s strengths and interests
- you can be flexible and spontaneous as you do not need to have a timetable
- your learning can happen anywhere, there is no requirement to create a classroom at home
- you can choose whatever hours work best for you and your family
- you are not required to have any specific qualifications
- you are not required to make detailed plans in advance, you can if you wish
- you are not required to observe school hours, days or terms
- you are not required to give formal lessons or get tutors for your child
- you are not required to mark work done by your child
- you are not required to formally assess progress or set development objectives
- you do not need to reproduce school type peer group socialisation
- you do not need to match school-based, age-specific standards
Within home education, learning can take place using a broad and wide set of mediums which can include: family discussions, set topics, YouTube videos, tv programmes, books, arts and crafts, trips, days out, lapbooks, video games, tablet apps, films, nature, gardening, workbooks, online courses, free unstructured play, cooking and baking, home education groups … the list is endless.
As a home educating parent, you have a certain legal responsibility.
This is: you must ensure your child is receiving an efficient, full time education suitable to age, ability, aptitude, and taking into consideration any special educational needs.
An efficient education is understood to be an education that achieves that which it sets out to achieve. A suitable education is understood to be one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which s/he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if s/he wishes to do so”. There is no 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. Within home education you often have almost continuous one-to-one contact and education often takes place outside “school hours”.
Financial Support and the cost of Home Education
There is no financial support available to home educators. By retaining or taking back responsibility to educate, you also take on the financial responsibilities too which includes any trips, resources, exams etc that your child may take. Some children with an EHCP may be able to access some funding.
Home Education can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. There are a wide range of free resources (particularly online), subsidised subscriptions, inexpensive meetings/courses and with the internet at our fingertips information is often just a tap away. Whilst it is true that some families choose to drop to one income so one parent/carer can provide the education, many people in a very wide variety of circumstances also make home education work for them.
But what about Socialisation!
This is perhaps one of the biggest concerns when deciding to home educate and will certainly crop up when you discuss it with other people. If you ask most home educators socialisation is absolutely not a concern. Most local communities have active home education groups who arrange trips, meet ups, groups, classes etc. Children get to mix with a wide age range of other children and other adults within their community. Whilst it is true that home educated children may not spend as much time in close proximity to other same aged children, many home educators feel that home education offers a more real-world socialisation.
Can I home educate if my child has Special Educational Needs?
Absolutely yes, even if your child has an EHCP or attends a special school (deregistration is slightly different if your child is in a LA funded special school). Many parents find their SEN children thrive within the flexible environment of home education and can prioritise non-academic skills.
If a home educated child wants to take exams they do it outside the schooling system as an external candidate. Home educated children may have restricted options for exams and may commonly take IGCSEs rather than GCSEs. Home educated children do not have to take exams if that is their choice. Alternatively, there are other courses, qualifications and exams that can be taken if that more suits your child.
SATS and OFSTED inspections are not required of home educated children, they are a school measures not child measures.
The Local Authority can make enquiries as to educational provision if they believe education is not being provided. If they aren’t satisfied after working with you, they can start the process of issuing a compulsory School Attendance Order. However, the LA must adhere to the Elective Home Education Guidelines, so it is worth being familiar with them. This all said, the LA (in England at least), do not have statutory rights to routinely monitor or assess the quality of provision or work.
How do I go about home educating?
In England, in most cases, it is via a simple deregistration letter to the Head of the school (templates available online). More information is available from the websites/Facebook groups listed at the below.
For more information:
Below are useful websites for more detailed information on home education in England, Scotland and Wales. It is prudent to ensure consent from both parents when deregistering. The websites below can offer guidance in the case of single parents or situations where dual consent may be complicated. Please note that there are different processes are involved in different countries, it is best to confirm obligations prior to deregistering.
National Facebook groups for people considering Home Education or already Home Educating:
Home Schooling UK: https://www.facebook.com/groups/homeschooluk/
Home Education UK: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Homeeducationuk/
Home Educating Our Special Needs Children: https://www.facebook.com/groups/312513312123284/
Many areas of the country have local home education Facebook groups. A quick search should pull them up.