The Local Authority and Home Education

In the UK each Local Authority is responsible for ensuring that all children in their remit are receiving an education, this includes home educated Children. While Government guidance exists, each Local Authority (there are 152 in England) takes a different approach to doing this, which is why it’s important to understand exactly what their remit is and what is required of the you.

Once you start home educating it is important to familiarise yourself with the law as its relates to home education and the guidance for parents that you government provides (I have summarised them here as a starting point). This will help you to ensure you know your rights and can make sure they are not infringed on by a local authority who doesn’t entirely understand what they are entitled to and what they aren’t. 

This post focusses on Home Educating in England, if you are in another UK country, have a look at the Welsh Guidance, the Scottish Guidance or the Northern Irish Guidance.

A note on language: In 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.

The Relevant Legislation 

The law related to homeschooling is the Education Act 1996, section 7 states that:

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.

It is the “Or Otherwise” part that allows us to home educate while the rest (in very vague terms) sets out what his required from the education.

Section 436a of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives Local Authorities a duty to identify any children in their remit who aren’t receiving a suitable education. While in the past home educated children weren’t considered to be part of that remit, they now are. 

The Guidance for Local Authorities 

The Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities suggest the following steps for Local Authorities when carrying out their duty in relation home educated children:

When a child of Compulsory school age is identified as not attending a state school, initially the authority needs to find whether or not the parent is home educating the child. If they are, they need to find out if the education being provided is suitable. You can find out more about what constitutes a suitable education in my other post.

The Local Authority should begin with informal enquiries about the education provision, taking into account the legal definition from section 7 of the Education Act 1996 described above. While parents are under no obligation to respond, by not providing information, the Local Authority is entitled to conclude that no education is taking place.

It is generally best to respond to these enquires by providing a detailed report demonstrating the education that is taking place.

If following the informal enquiries the Local Authority are not satisfied that a suitable education is taking place, they may Issue a Notice to Satisfy. Parent then have 15 days (some authorities give more) to demonstrate that a suitable education is being provided.

If after this either no information is provided or the Local Authority still feel that, based on the information provided, a suitable education is not taking place, a school attendance order can be issued.

A school attendance order is a legal instruction for you to cause your child to become enrolled at the school specified in the order. 

If the parent does not enrol the child in the stated school, the Local Authority can prosecute the parent.

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

What is the Local Authority Looking for?

The guidelines for Local Authorities make clear that Home Education does not have to look like school:

“Many home educating families do follow a clear academic and time structure but it should not be assumed that a different approach which rejects conventional schooling and its patterns is unsatisfactory, or constitutes ‘unsuitable’ education. Approaches such as autonomous and self-directed learning, undertaken with a very flexible stance as to when education is taking place, should be judged by outcomes, not on the basis that a different way of educating children must be wrong.”

The guidance also says:

“…the information provided by parents should demonstrate that the education actually being provided is suitable and address issues such as progression expected and (unless the home education has only just started) achieved.”

This means that just saying what your philosophy is and what your plans are is not sufficient. The reports you give to the local authority should be retrospective and cover the learning that has been achieved. Focus should be on progress, what can your child do now, that they couldn’t before.

While some Local Authorities may ask to see work done by the child, this isn’t something they have a right to, as there is no requirement for home educated children to create such work. 

The local authority can request to see the child but parents are under no legal obligation to allow this (unless safeguarding is an issue but this should be addressed via Social Services). This risk with an in person meeting is that misinterpretations can happen and there is no paper trail to prove what was said.

The Home Education guidelines for parents state that Local Authorities may use minimum expectations in relation to Literacy and Numeracy and so these are areas you should focus on in your report.

Bear in mind that literacy and numeracy are different from the English and Maths lessons done in school. Literacy is about reading and writing so reading recipes and instructions, writing emails and shopping lists all demonstrate literacy. Numeracy is about being able to use numbers in everyday life so weights and measures, calculating sale discounts etc are all numeracy. For more ideas on bow to teach these topics with life learning, have a look at this post about how home ed is different from school.

Do Your Research

With 152 Local Authorities there is a great deal of variance in how they work. Finding out about yours can help you know how to approach things with them. The best way to do your research is to join your local home educators Facebook group and ask. You can also join a National group and search for your Local Authority.

boy doing maths with stickers, text reads: Homeschooling and dealing the the Local Authority

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