Homeschooling FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions on Home Ed)

If you are considering homeschooling in the UK, you might have a lot of questions about how it works, hopefully this post will answer at least some of them and leave you feeling more confident about home educating.

I’ve kept the answers to the FAQs fairly brief but most answers contain a link which will give you more information on that topic.

A note on language:┬áIn my posts, I refer to “homeschooling”. In the UK, the correct term for educating your child at home is “home Educating”, with homeschooling referring to a child doing work at home that has been set by school. I use the the term homeschooling in my posts because many people who are new to home educating will use the term homeschooling when searching online and I want to make sure they can find the information.

Is Homeschooling Legal in the UK

Yes! Homeschooling is legal in all parts of the UK, with slight variations on the guidance within each UK country. There are elective home education guidelines for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and you should familiarise yourself with the one for your country.

Will Anyone Check Up on Us?

The Local Authority has a responsibility to make sure all children in its remit are receiving a suitable, full time education. This means that they will get in touch with home educating families to ask them to demonstrate that they are providing that education.

You don’t have to accept home visits from the local authority, information can be provided via a written report that describes the learning that is taking place.

Can I Start Home Educating half way through the Year?

Yes, you can start home educating at any age and at any time in the year. You can also not send your child to school in the first place if you prefer.

Do I Need Qualifications to Homeschool?

No. Parents are not required to have any qualifications in order to home educate their children. Rather than teaching children, home educators facilitate their child’s learning, through everyday life and the many great resources that are available.

How do I Start Homeschooling

To start homeschooling, you simply send a deregistration letter to the head teacher of the school. If your child has never been to school, you don’t need to notify anyone.

image for linked Facebook group, text reads "homeschooling and home education information and support UK" with blue border

Do I Need to Give Notice that I Plan to Home Educate?

No, when you send the deregistration letter it can be with immediate effect so you can send it in the morning and keep your child home that day to begin home education.

What if I Change My Mind?

If you change your mind, you can still send your child back to school. Whether to not they can go back to their previous school depends if they have places or not. If no school has places then the local authority will find you a school place although it may not be very local or a school you would necessarily choose.

Some Local Authorities have a policy that if a home educated child wants to return to school, they must return to their previous school. I suspect this policy wouldn’t stand up in law due to parent’s right to choose.

Some schools give a cooling off period when you inform them that you are deregistering and hold the place open for a set number of days. Technically this isn’t legal because the law says there should be no delay once the criteria for deregistration has been met but some parents are happy to have that option.

Do I Have to Follow The National Curriculum?

No. There is no requirement to follow any particular curriculum, including the National Curriculum, when home educating. You can of course follow a curriculum if you want to.

What Do I Have to Teach My Child?

While there are no set rules around what your child has to learn, the education you provide should allow them to live independently when they are adults. This is usually interpreted to mean that they learn literacy and numeracy and have the opportunity to exercise and socialise. You can read more detail in this post on what to teach your child.

Can I Still Use Other Services?

When you deregister your child, they are still entitled to use other services including the doctor, the dentist, the optician and all other NHS services.

They can still have vaccinations, usually through the school nurse (who isn’t actually based in a school) or through vaccination catch up clinics. Ask your GP if you aren’t sure.

Is there any Funding Available for Homeschooling?

The short answer is, no. A small number of local authorities, mostly in Wales, offer a small amount of financial support, usually towards the cost of exams. Have a look at this post on the cost of homeschooling in the UK.

Is there any support available for Home Educating?

The local authority doesn’t usually offer much support beyond a list of resources. There is however a great community of home educators who support each other. If you search for “Home Education” on Facebook, you’ll find lots of great groups offering support.

Does my Homeschooled Child have to Take SATs

Absolutely not. SATs exist to check that schools have done their job in educating the children in their care, they are irrelevant for home educators.

High Schools can use SATs results to “set” children in High School. If your child is planning to go to high school after a period of home education, they should discuss your child’s ability with you to decide the right set for them. Most High schools do their own assessments early in year 7 anyway and so there is lots of movement between sets in the first terms.

Does my Home Educated Child Have to take GCSEs?

No, GCSEs and not compulsory for home educated children. Some home educated children take alternative qualifications.

Can my Child take GCSEs?

Yes, they can take them as a private candidate but unfortunately you have to pay for them. There are a small number of GCSEs that are tricky or impossible to take as a home educated child and a few that need to be take as IGCSE to avoid practical elements. This post explains more about GCSEs for home educated children.

Can my Child go Outside During the School Day?

Yes, they can, either with you, or if they are old enough, without you. It’s possible they might be approached by a police officer or a member of Local Authority staff who are conducting a truancy sweep. If this happens they just need to say that they are home educated. It’s possible they might want to phone you to confirm it. This happens very rarely so isn’t something you should worry too much about.

How Will My Child Learn?

It’s totally up to you how your child learns. Some parents take a very structured approach with formal learning in specific subjects, using tailored resources. Others take a more flexible approach and follow their child’s interests. You can read more about the different approaches in this post on Homeschool styles.

How do Homeschooled Children Socialise?

Most communities have a home education community with activities and meet ups where home educated children can make friends and socialise. To find yours, search Facebook for “home Education” and the name of your town or County.

Home educated children can also socialise with old school friends, cousins, family friends, children they met at after school activities likes sports or uniform clubs as well as practicing social skills with adults they meet at places like shops, libraries, museums and other services.

Can I Homeschool and Still Work?

This will very much depend on your work and the age of your child. Older children may be happy to work on learning you set while you go out to work. If your children are too young to leave home alone then it will probably only be possible if you work from home or have childcare. This post on homeschooling and working discusses it further.

Can Home Educated Children go to College?

Yes. Most colleges offer level 1 courses that don’t have any entry requirements and these can be accessed by young people who have been home educated and not taken any GCSEs. If your home educated young person does take GCSEs, they will be able to apply for any course they meet the entry requirements for. Have a look at this post on post 16 options for more information.

Some colleges also run specific programmes for home educated young people between 14 and 16 years olds (school years 10 and 11). Provision varies around the country so you’ll need to contact your local college to see if they offer it. There is often a requirement that the young person has been home educating for 6 months before starting the course and is known to the local authority.

Can Home Educated Children go to 6th Form?

As long as they meet the entry requirement (usually at least 5 GCSEs at grades 4-9, sometimes more) home educated children can apply to 6th form to do A-Levels just like schooled children.

Can Home Educated Children go to University?

Like all young people applying to university, home educated young people will need to meet the entry requirements for their course in order to apply. Many universities welcome home educated students because they are experienced in independent learning. Trinity College Cambridge has even recently started a programme to encourage home educated applicants.

You could also consider the Open University, which doesn’t have specific entry requirements.

How Many Children in the UK are Home Educated?

In January 2023, there were an estimated 86,200 home educated children who were known to the Local Authority. There will actually be more than this as many children who have never been to school are not known to the local authority home education department. For comparison, there are more than 10 million school aged children in the UK.

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