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Home education

19 January 2017

Educating your child at home

This information is for anyone who is considering educating their child at home and for experienced home educators looking for advice, guidance and contacts. For more about what home education means, please see our frequently asked questions.
 
As a parent, you have a statutory duty to ensure that your child accesses a suitable education between the ages of 5 and 16. Most parents choose to provide this education by sending their child to school but, for a variety of reasons, a small number decide to take full responsibility for their child’s education and educate their child themselves, at home. This is called opting for elective home education.
 
A decision to home educate can only be made by the parents of a child. Schools must not seek to persuade parents to educate their children at home. If your child is registered with a school, we suggest that you arrange a meeting with the headteacher to discuss why you are considering deregistering your child.
 
Essex County Council recognises that elective home education is a perfectly legal choice and that home education is considered, in law, to be equal to an education that is provided in a school. 
 
 
Parents who elect to home educate are not required to have formal qualifications to educate their child at home. However, a decision to home educate should be taken following careful consideration and parents need to be mindful that they will take on the full financial responsibility to provide their child with an efficient, suitable and full-time education and that they will not receive any support in this respect from the Local Authority. Where parents wish for their child to sit public examinations, they will be required to make arrangements for their child to be entered and cover any costs for such examinations.
 
On a termly basis, the Local Authority will be offering workshops to registered home educating parents where they will be able to network and access examples of good practice. Register if you would like to be invited to these workshops.
 
There are a number of national and local organisations who are available to advise and guide home educating parents on where they can access support when considering how they will provide their child with a suitable education. Our list of useful contacts/addresses also includes details of a number of websites which provide parents and students with access to resources and online tools which may complement the educational experiences that elective home educators may wish to include as part of their child’s home education.

The duty of parents

It is important to note that parents have a right to educate their children from their own philosophical, spiritual or religious standpoint. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states:
 
“The parent of every child of compulsory school age has a legal duty to ensure that he (or she) receives efficient full-time education suitable to:
- his (or her) age, ability and aptitude, and
- any special educational needs he may have

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”
 
An 'efficient' and 'suitable' education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but definitions have been provided within case law, where 'efficient' has been broadly defined as an education that "achieves that which it sets out to achieve" and a 'suitable' education is one that "primarily equips a child for life within the community of which 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 he wishes to do so."
 
There is no legal definition of full time. Children in school normally spend between 23 and 25 hours engaged in education each week. Children in home education are taught in very different conditions and there is no direct comparison with school based timetables or educational arrangements. Please refer to the Department of Education EHE Guidelines for further information.

Taking your child out of school

If your child is in school you must formally de-register by writing to the headteacher and informing them that you intend to teach your child at home. If your child has never been to school, there is no action for you to take prior to starting home education. However if you register with Essex County Council you will be entitled to attend regular workshops.
 

Home education for children with special needs

There is no law prohibiting the home education of children with a statement of educational needs, provided they are not attending a special school, in which case you will need the consent of the Local Authority (LA). The Local Authority will continue to hold annual reviews throughout the lifetime of the statement.

Returning your child to school

If at any time you wish to return your child to school, the admissions service will be able to advise on how to go about this. The normal admissions procedure will apply and will be subject to a place being available in the appropriate year group at your preferred local school.

Taking examinations

You can arrange for your child to take examinations as external candidates with an examination centre. Please be aware this can involve considerable research and financial implications.
 
The examination boards should be able to provide a list of centres near to your home. Study, through a reputable correspondence college, should also provide you with access to an examination centre. Contact details for both examination boards and correspondence colleges are available on our useful contacts/addresses page.

The duty of the Local Authority

Section 437(1) Education Act 1996 stipulates that:
 
“If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him (or her) to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.” 
 
Local authorities are encouraged to make informal enquiries before serving a notice on parents and parents are advised that it would be sensible for them to respond to any informal enquiries, despite them being under no duty to do so.
 

Helping your child stay safe

Many parents have concerns about what their children do online and who they could be talking to, and not every parent feels confident talking with their children about this. If you would like information about helping your child stay safe and learn about the warning signs of child exploitation, you may find our guides helpful.
 

Young Essex Assembly

In Essex, children from all educational backgrounds, including those educated at home, can join the Young Essex Assembly, the elected youth council for Essex. Made up of 75 young people aged 11-19 who live or study in Essex, they are elected to represent the voice of all young people in the county and campaign to make a positive difference to their lives.