A child receiving a home schooling education in the UK is not subject to regular monitoring or testing. There are no official attainment standards that need to be met. Home schooled children do not need to take exams such as SATs; in fact, they do not need to take any exams, and qualifications like GCSEs and A Levels are entirely optional. Teachers of home schooled children – be that a parent or tutor – does not have to teach a child the National Curriculum.
Indeed, some home schooled children choose to go down the ‘unschooling’ route, which involves the educational philosophy that traditional schooling methods, which involve curricula and grades, hinder the child’s education, particularly quashing the urge for learning for its own sake. ‘Unschoolers’ thus tend to learn through the child’s own path of curiosity, such as their own hobbies, interests, life experiences and episodes of social interaction. This method of ‘unschool’ learning is also wholly permittable in the UK education system, since there are no prescribed attainment levels for home schooled children, it is OK for children to be learning different things at different times, at his or her own pace.
Where the Law Gets Involved in Home Education
Parents whose children have never been to school, and who have not applied for registration at any school, do not need to inform the Local Education Authority (LEA) of their decision. However, if a child is already in school, or if you have already accepted a place for your child at a school, then it is advisable to contact the school to inform them that the child will instead receive a home education.
Children already in school in Scotland or in special schools, usually have to receive permission from the LEA to remove a child from school in order to begin a home schooling education. In other cases, where a child is going to be removed from an English or Welsh or Northern Irish school, parents have to formally deregister their child by writing to the headteacher, but do not require permission to begin a home school education from the LEA or the school.
How Home Education Can Be Monitored By The LEA
Once home schooling has begun, the LEA may be in contact with parents to find out more about the type of education they are providing for their child. There is no rule about when this might be – it could be days after a child has been deregistered from a school, but equally it might be many months or even a year afterwards; in some areas, LEAs may not contact parents of home schooled children at all. Policy is very much localised.
What the LEA does when (or if) they get in contact with home schooling families will also differ according to individual LEAs. Parents have the right to educate their children, but that education has to be suitable for a child’s aptitude, ability and age. The LEA are allowed – and in some areas encouraged – to make enquiries about whether children receiving home school education are fulfilling their individual abilities.
These enquiries may take several forms. Some LEAs will provide questionnaires for parents to fill in to answer questions about their child’s home education. Others will ask to meet with the parents and/or home schooled child. This meeting might occur within the family’s home or in a neutral meeting place; parents have the right to decide whether or not they want to allow the LEA representative into their own home, as the LEA does not have the right to ‘inspect’ the home learning location.
Other LEAs may open lines of communication between parent and LEA less formally: they might merely make telephone or written enquiries about how a child’s education is developing. In this case, parents usually decide to either invite the LEA representative to a meeting or respond in writing explaining the family’s educational philosophy and/or teaching methods. Sample examples of such letters are available on the internet for guidance, or families could contact support groups such as Education Otherwise.
Remember that while the LEA might make these enquiries, they do not have any responsibilities to do anything with the results unless they find evidence that a child is not receiving an education.