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The Law Relating to
Home Education

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1996 Education Act of the UK

(Important Note - Please Read)

The responsibility of parents in England and Wales is clearly established in section 7 of the Education Act 1996 (previously section 36 of the Education Act 1944):

7. 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.

What is a Suitable Education?

An interpretation of some terminology used in the Education Act 1944 (replaced by the 1996 Act) was provided by an appeal case which was brought at Worcester Crown Court in 1981 (Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson). In this case, the judge defined a ‘suitable education’ as one which was such as:
1. to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and
2. to enable them to achieve their full potential.
The diversity of modern society and styles of education give parents considerable freedom of choice in enabling children to achieve their potential. In the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985) (Times, 12 April 1985) Mr Justice Woolf held that:
"education is ‘suitable’ if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so."
Examining the meaning of the expression full-time shows the hours spent on teaching in schools are not relevant to home education, which generally takes place on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups, in very different conditions.

Provided the child is not a registered pupil at a school, the parent is not required to provide any particular type of education, and is under no obligation to:

  • have premises equipped to any particular standard
  • have any specific qualifications
  • cover the same syllabus as any school
  • adopt the National Curriculum
  • make detailed plans in advance
  • observe school hours, days or terms
  • have a fixed timetable
  • give formal lessons
  • reproduce school type peer group socialisation
  • match school, age-specific standards
  • seek permission to educate 'otherwise'
  • take the initiative in informing the local authority
  • have regular contact with the local authority

Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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