Elective home education guidance for parents

These guidance notes are intended to help parents who have decided to, or who are considering, educating their child at home, rather than at school. The education of a child at home is a great responsibility for a family. It demands a serious commitment of time, patience and energy. This information should make clear the current legislation, together with Surrey Children's Service's policies and ways of working. We hope the questions and answers will clarify the situation and help you reach the best decision for your child.

Before you decide

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. Whether education is full time should be viewed on a spectrum, but education which is clearly not occupying a significant proportion of a child's life (making due allowance for holiday periods) will probably not meet the requirement under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.

What does education at home really mean?

There are many styles of education and you must choose the one that is best for your child. It might be influenced by your philosophical, spiritual or religious outlook or by your child's specific needs. There is a vast variety and potential within home education with no particular method being better than another.

You might decide to teach your child yourself, or make arrangements to plan and teach in small groups with other home educators. Alternatively, you might decide to employ a private tutor or use a distance learning course provider.

Irrespective of who actually teaches your child, it will be up to you to ensure that your programme is helping your child to learn. You will be responsible for arranging the most appropriate curriculum for your child and meeting the full cost of his/her education.

You must also ensure your child receives suitable, full- time education for as long as he/she is educated at home. The Local Authority recognises that there are many approaches to educational provision.

What is suitable for one child may not be for another, but all children should be involved in a learning process.

What does it cost to educate a child at home?

There are no funds available for parents who decide to home educate their children but families successfully home educate on any budget. Inevitably you will incur some expenses.

Please consider the costs involved in providing:-

  • Books
  • Materials
  • Resources
  • Educational Trips
  • Physical Exercise
  • Examination Fees
  • Tutors or Distance Learning Courses
  • Work Experience
  • College Placement for Under 16's

Will your child miss the social aspect of school?

You will need to consider the social development of your child, which would be enhanced through sharing activities with other children.

Joining a variety of clubs and special interest societies, etc can prove very enriching, as can mixing and sharing skills with other people of all ages.

Helpful points to consider about home education

  • Your child is positive about the suggestion of home education.
  • You are convinced it is the best course of action for your child.
  • You have the time to devote to your child's education on a regular basis.
  • You have the ability to teach your child effectively.
  • You will be able to educate your child to the required level if they wish to take GCSE examinations.
  • You are prepared to buy the necessary resources, if you do not already have access to them.
  • You have some support available.
  • You have the space to create a quiet working area and somewhere to store the resources you will use.
  • There are opportunities for physical exercise.
  • Social experiences with other children are available.
  • You are not choosing to home educate as a way of getting out of quarrels with a headteacher or school, or as an excuse for not sending your child to school on time or regularly.

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