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Does your child have to be educated at school?

Do children have to go to school?

No, education is compulsory but not necessarily by attendance at school. The 1996 Education Act states 'it is the duty of parents to secure an appropriate full-time education for their children'. Most parents carry out this duty by sending their child to school.

However, for a wide variety of reasons you might decide to take on the duty to educate your child yourself, by opting for 'Elective Home Education'. It is important to know that parents have a right to educate their children from their own philosophical, spiritual or religious standpoint.

At what age is it compulsory for children to receive full time education?

The law requires all children to be educated from the start of the school term following their fifth birthday. The age when children may leave school is changing and by 2014/15 education will be compulsory until the age of 18.

What is the parents' actual duty?

Under section 7 of the 1996 Act, it is the parents' duty 'to cause the child to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he/she may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise'.

What is meant by efficient, suitable and full-time education?

Education is considered efficient and suitable if it enables children to achieve their full potential, and it prepares them for adult life in their community, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he/she chooses to do so.

Full-time does not mean you are bound by school hours and terms, as this measurement of contact time is not relevant to home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact, and education may take place outside school hours.

  • Updated: 10 Jun 2019

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