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Homeschooling Guide for UK Parents

21.05.2024

As a parent considering homeschooling in the UK, you may have many questions and concerns. You are not alone in this journey, and a wealth of information and support is available to help you navigate the world of homeschooling.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the legal aspects of homeschooling in the UK, discuss parents' responsibilities and requirements, delve into the benefits and challenges of homeschooling, and highlight available support and resources for homeschooling families.

Navigating the UK Homeschooling Landscape

Homeschooling, officially known as elective home education (EHE) in the UK, offers an alternative to traditional schooling. Some parents may choose to educate their children at home for various reasons, such as philosophical or religious beliefs, concerns about the environment of traditional schools, or their children's specific learning needs. In some cases, parents opt for homeschooling to provide one-on-one instruction that a teacher in a conventional classroom setting cannot offer due to the number of students.

 

As a parent homeschooling a child, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child receives a suitable education. This involves providing a comprehensive, effective, and appropriate education that caters to your child's age, ability, and aptitude. It is essential to inform your local authority if you plan to homeschool your child. 

If the local authority suspects that a child is not receiving an appropriate education, they have a duty to investigate. However, parents are not obligated to follow the National Curriculum.

Legal Aspects Of Homeschooling In The UK

Summary:

Parents in the UK have the legal right to homeschool their children instead of sending them to a traditional school. This right is established under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause them to receive efficient full-time education suitable -

(a) to their age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs they may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Homeschooling falls under the category of "education otherwise than at school." Children are considered of compulsory school age from the age of five until the last Friday of June in the academic year in which they turn sixteen, and they can be homeschooled until the age of 18 if desired.

The law requires parents to provide an "efficient" and "suitable" education for their child. "Efficient" education is interpreted as achieving its intended goals, while "suitable" education must be tailored to the child's age, ability, and aptitude, as well as any special educational needs. 

There are no specific requirements regarding the curriculum or qualifications of parents who choose to homeschool. However, it's advisable to ensure the education provided meets certain standards to demonstrate its suitability.

Children have the right to express their views on homeschooling, according to Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. While this doesn't give children authority over parents' decisions, it's important to consider their opinions and ensure homeschooling is feasible and suitable for them.

According to the Education Act 1996, "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."

Responsibilities And Requirements For Parents

Before starting homeschooling, there are important steps parents should take:

1. Notification to Local Authority: If your child has never been enrolled in a school, you're not legally obligated to inform the local authority about homeschooling. However, it's highly recommended that you do so to access advice and support. Some local authorities have voluntary registration schemes linked to support services.

2. Informing the School (if applicable): If your child is currently enrolled in a school, you're not required to inform the school about withdrawing from homeschooling. However, it's advisable to do so to prevent misunderstandings. Schools are obligated to inform the local authority if a child is removed from the register for homeschooling. Parents aren't legally obligated to inform the local authority directly, but doing so is sensible for accessing support.

3. Special Circumstances: If your child has an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) Plan and attends a mainstream school, the same principles apply. However, if your child attends a special school arranged by the local authority, you need their permission before withdrawing the child. Disputes can be settled by the Secretary of State. Also, if your child is attending school due to a school attendance order, it must be revoked by the authority before homeschooling.

4. Financial Responsibility: If your child isn't attending a state-funded school or under alternative arrangements by the local authority, you bear full financial responsibility for their education. This includes direct and indirect costs, such as loss of income if a parent stays home to educate.

5. Monitoring and Reevaluation: If it becomes apparent that homeschooling isn't providing a suitable education, parents should promptly contact the local authority to secure a school place and minimise interruption to studies. The local authority must find a suitable school place for compulsory school-age children if homeschooling isn't viable.

According to the Elective Home Education: Guidance For Parents published by the Department For Education, "If at any stage, it becomes apparent to you as parents that in fact, you cannot provide suitable home education, you should contact the local authority as soon as possible with a view to securing a suitable school place for your child, and minimising any interruption to studies."

What Are The Responsibilities Of Your Local Authority?

1. Monitoring by Local Authorities: Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify children not receiving a suitable education. While they don't have formal powers to monitor homeschooling, they may make informal inquiries to ensure children are receiving suitable education.

2. Enquiries and Meetings: Local authorities may request information or meetings with homeschooling parents to assess education provision. While parents aren't legally obligated to comply, cooperation can prevent misunderstandings.

3. Policies and Support: Each local authority has its own policies on homeschooling. Parents should familiarise themselves with these policies and may seek advice and support from the authorities.

4. Notice and Compliance: If a local authority believes a child isn't receiving suitable education, they may issue a notice requiring parents to demonstrate compliance. Failure to satisfy the authority may lead to a school attendance order.

5. Special Educational Needs (SEN): Children with SEN have the right to homeschooling, and local authorities must ensure their needs are met. If parents can't provide suitable education, the authority may arrange alternative provision.

6. Oversight of Local Authorities: Ofsted inspects local authority operations regarding vulnerable children, including those homeschooled. However, they don't oversee the education received by individual homeschooled children.

Benefits And Challenges Of Homeschooling

Benefits of Homeschooling:

  • Family Bonding: Homeschooling boosts family time with field trips and hobbies, strengthening bonds and offering unique educational experiences beyond traditional classrooms.

  • Personalised Attention: Parents can personalise their children's education by adapting the curriculum and teaching methods to their unique needs. This approach helps overcome learning obstacles and fosters deeper understanding by dedicating extra time to specific curriculum areas.

  • Exploring Passions: Homeschooling tailors curriculum to children's interests and learning styles, igniting a love for learning and allowing ample time for exploring extracurricular activities.

  • Flexibility: Homeschooling provides scheduling flexibility and customisation for each child's needs and interests, accommodating various family lifestyles, and supporting students with different learning paces and strengths.

Challenges Faced by Homeschooled Children:

  • Homeschooling can create tension between parents and children, as parents have to balance the roles of caregiver and educator.

  • Homeschooling offers personalised learning benefits but may limit socialising opportunities. Parents should seek social activities for their children to overcome this challenge.

Challenges Faced by Homeschooling Parents:

  • Homeschooling demands time and planning from parents, which can be challenging for those with other commitments. It can also be tiring for single parents to manage everything alone.

  • Homeschooling puts the entire educational responsibility on parents, which can be overwhelming, especially for those without teaching experience or expertise in certain subjects.

Accessing Support and Resources for Successful Homeschooling in the UK

1. Local Homeschooling Networks: Joining local homeschooling groups can provide invaluable support and opportunities for both parents and children. These networks offer practical advice, social interactions, and a sense of community. You can find local groups through online directories, social media platforms, or by contacting your local education authority.

2. Online Educational Platforms: Accessing online learning resources can significantly improve your homeschooling experience. These resources offer structured programs across different subjects, and platforms like MyEdSpace provide a broad range of educational materials suited to various ages and learning styles. 

3. Curriculum Planning: Choosing the right curriculum is crucial for homeschooling. Look for materials that meet educational standards and match your child's interests and pace of learning. Local councils and educational consultants can provide guidance and support for selecting appropriate resources.

Conclusion

Homeschooling can be a rewarding educational option for families in the UK who are committed to providing their children with a customised learning experience. 

To create a successful homeschooling environment for your child, it is important to understand the legal aspects of homeschooling, take on the responsibilities as parents, embrace the benefits while navigating challenges, and access available support and resources. 

Every family's journey will be unique, so trust yourself as you embark on this exciting adventure of educating your child at home.

Author: MyEdSpace
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