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Home education in England

Published Tuesday, April 23, 2019

This briefing provides information on home education in England and outlines current and past proposals for reform. It also notes issues raised with regards to home education and briefly summarises the relevant sections of selected reports. Education is a devolved issue; the briefing covers the position in England only.

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Current position

Recent estimates have suggested that there may be around 58,000 home educated children in England; the number appears to have increased substantially in recent years.

Parents who choose to home-educate their children are responsible for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any SEN they may have. They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and do not have to follow the National Curriculum. The parents of home educated children must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including bearing the cost of any public examinations.

Local authorities have no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of education at home. However, they do have duties to make arrangements to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to intervene if it appears that they are not. As part of this, the Department for Education recommends that authorities should ordinarily make contact with home educating parents on at least an annual basis so that they can inform themselves of the suitability education provided.

If it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education, intervention could include the issuing a school attendance order, although the Government encourages authorities to address the issue informally before serving such a notice. Local authorities also have a range of powers as part of their safeguarding duties, which may be used if, for example, it appears that a lack of suitable education appears likely to impair a child’s development.

Guidance on home education

Updated guidance on home education was published in April 2019, following a consultation launched in April 2018. Two guidance documents were published, one for local authorities and one for parents. Among other things, the guidance reflects legal advice received by the Government indicating that local authorities’ powers in relation to home education often go further than was previously thought.

Government consultation

Following an earlier call for evidence, on 2 April 2019 the Government published a consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school. The consultation closes on 24 June 2019.

The consultation seeks views on proposals to create four new duties in primary legislation:

  • A duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children of compulsory school age who are not registered at a state-funded or registered independent school.
  • A duty on parents to provide information to their local authority if their child is within scope of the register.
  • A duty on education settings attended by children on the register to respond to enquiries from local authorities about the education provided to individual children.

Commons Briefing papers SN05108

Author: David Foster

Topics: Children and families, Local authorities: education, Schools

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