Being educated at home

Guidance for parents who are considering educating their children outside the school system.

Most parents choose to send their children to school to be educated, but you are legally entitled to educate your child at home.

You should at no point feel pressured to make this choice. Before you take the decision to educate your child at home and remove them from school roll, please contact the Elective Home Education Team for advice and guidance.

You should consider how you are going to devise, resource and deliver a full-time education to your child. Elective home education can be a demanding and rewarding experience. It is important you feel confident to do this.

You don't have to be a teacher, work to a timetable or follow the national curriculum (although you can if you wish).

If your child has never been to school or you are new to the area you don't have to inform the local authority, however we believe it would be beneficial for you to do so to benefit from the information the local authority has to offer.

If your child is registered at a school, you must write to the headteacher by sending a letter or email informing them that you wish to educate your child at home. The local authority will then contact you to ask for some basic information about your provision.

You must contact us if:

  • Your child attends a special school - you must contact your named SEN officer for their consent to your choice of elective home education. In this case we will ask the school to remove the child from the school register once we have received the necessary information detailing how you will meet the educational provision as detailed in your child’s EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan).
  • Your child is registered at a school or academy as a result of a school attendance order - you must ask the council to revoke the order.

If you would like to talk to our Elective Home Education Team about your decision to home educate, or you would like any further support and advice about any information on this site, please don't hesitate to contact the EHE team at ehe@oxfordshire.gov.uk or alternatively 01865 323513.

What about children’s rights?

The United Kingdom has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 12 of the UNCRC requires states to provide a right for children to express their views and for due weight to be given to those views, in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. This does not give children authority over parents, and a decision to educate a child at home is a matter for you as parents. You should, however, consider whether home education is realistically possible in your family’s particular circumstances, and if your child is happy to be educated in this way. The local authority may wish to gain the child’s opinion on the suitability of the home education received (as distinct to the question of the child’s preference for being educated at home rather than at school).

Frequently asked questions

What is ‘efficient’ education?

There is no definition of this in statute law. However, it can be interpreted as meaning education which ‘achieves what it is intended to achieve’. This is not the same as the education being ‘suitable’ - because it is possible to deliver efficiently an education which is definitely not suitable for the child. Conversely, it is possible to deliver a suitable education very inefficiently. 

What is a ‘full-time’ education?

There is no legal definition of “full-time” in terms of education at home, or at school. Children attending school normally have about five hours tuition a day for 190 days a year, spread over about 38 weeks. However, home education does not have to mirror this. In any case, in elective home education there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may sometimes take place outside normal “school hours”. (refer to link above)

What is a ‘suitable’ education?

There is no definition of ‘suitable’ education in statute law, although it must be suitable to the age, ability and aptitudes of the child, and any special educational needs. This means that it must be age-appropriate, enable the child to make progress according to his or her particular level of ability, and should take account of any specific aptitudes (for example if a child is very good at mathematics, it might focus more on that than some other subjects). (Refer to link above)

What about compulsory subjects?

For home educated children there are no compulsory subjects. The National Curriculum applies only to children of compulsory school age who are registered and on roll at a school, including community special schools and voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools. A number of home educating parents ask us about the National Curriculum and use it to support their education plans.

It is helpful to be aware of the National Curriculum if your child wishes to go to school, college, university or some other training at a later stage. Further information about the National Curriculum is available on the internet on the Department for Education website https://www.gov.uk/topic/schools-colleges-childrens-services/curriculum-qualifications

What is ‘Raising the Participation Age’?

The Education and Skills Act (2008) places a duty on all young people to participate in education or training until their 18th birthday. From summer 2013 young people were required to continue in education or training until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17. From 2015, they are required to continue in education or training until their 18th birthday.

The DfE has accepted elective home education as one way for young people to comply with this legal duty, i.e. home education can continue after the end of compulsory school age. Please see the link below for further information about support available to 14-16 year olds in Oxfordshire looking for work, training and education courses. http://oxme.info/cms/learn/learning-home

How do I go about it?

If your child is registered at a school you must first inform the Headteacher, in writing, who will de-register your child from that school. It is highly likely that the Head Teacher will want to meet with you before removing your child from roll to better understand your reasons for taking this decision and seeking to address and worries you have had about school to prompt this decision.  An Oxfordshire County Council Officer may also be invited to meet with you to ensure you are making this decision for positive reasons and are able to meet the great demands of elective home education. If your child has never been to school or you are new to the area you don't have to inform the Local Authority. However, we believe you would find it valuable to register your child with us to receive information the Local Authority has to offer its home education community (please see below).

What if my child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan?

You are within your rights to educate a child with special educational needs otherwise than at school. The Special Educational Needs Team will continue to coordinate an annual review for each child with an EHC plan. For children who are registered at a Special School and have an EHC plan the situation is different: consent from the Local Authority must be sought before removing your child from school to home educate. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/792/pdfs/uksi_20160792_en.pdf

When a child has a EHC plan, it is the local authority's duty to ensure that the educational provision specified in the plan is made available to the child - but only if the child’s parents have not arranged for the child to receive a suitable education in some other way. Therefore if the home education is suitable, the local authority has no duty to arrange any special educational provision for the child; the plan should simply set out the type of special educational provision that the authority thinks the child requires but it should state in a suitable place that parents have made their own arrangements under s.7 of the Education Act 1996. The authority will of course continue to check the suitability of the home education as required by sections 436A and 437 of the 1996 Act, and if at any point it considers that the home education is no longer suitable, it must ensure that the special educational provision specified in the EHC plan is made available. (Elective Home Education Guidance for Local Authorities, 2019.

What happens next?

Once informed of your decision to home educate, the Elective Home Education team will forward a copy of the booklet ‘Information for Elective Home Educators’. You will be asked to provide some basic information regarding the education of your child and offered an appointment with an EHE Link Worker to talk about your proposed arrangements for your child’s education and address any initial queries you may have about home education.

What support is available from the Local Authority?

The Local Authority can offer parents advice and support through a home visit conducted by a team of specialist EHE Link Workers as well as on going telephone and email correspondence. The team will refer to other agencies/colleagues where other identified needs have been identified or if requested by the parent. The team liaises with the health services to support EHE families with routine immunizations and health information. Up to date information can be accessed via the link below.

Support not available from the Local Authority

The Local Authority is unable to offer direct teaching or provide materials/resources for children being educated at home. You will also be responsible for organising and arranging any work experience placements. Should you wish to do this you will need to ensure that the employer has the appropriate insurance in place. Similarly, should you wish your child to take formal qualifications, you must find an exam centre willing to take a private candidate and pay for any associated costs.

If you choose to employ a private tutor or tutoring service, it is your responsibility to ensure that this person has the right knowledge and skills to take on this role. It is entirely appropriate that any tutor should also be able to demonstrate Disclosure and Barring Service clearance and provide references.

How is the EHE Team involved in education at home?

The EHE Team has a duty to intervene under section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996 if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education at home. The EHE Team will offer a home visit to discuss your child’s education.  This will also include speaking to the child directly.

The main advantages of a home visit are that our team can offer support and guidance face to face and it allows you to present a wide range of work in context and to discuss your child’s work in a comfortable and private environment.

What if the EHE Link Worker has concerns or reservations about your education at home programme?

If the EHE Team believes that a suitable education is not taking place then further information will be sought and further visits, consultations and/or a referral may be offered to other agencies with the aim of helping you to overcome the difficulties within a mutually agreed time scale.

If, in the end, the EHE Team still considers that your child is receiving a less than suitable education then it is Oxfordshire County Council’s duty to issue a School Attendance Order. This will require you to send your child to a school named on the Order (Section 437, Education Act 1996).

Can my child attend school part-time?

Where parents have entered in to flexi-schooling arrangements, schools may continue to offer those arrangements. Pupils should be marked absent from school during periods when they are receiving home education.

Flexi-schooling arrangements are agreed between headteachers and parents, and at the discretion of the Head Teacher. The local authority is not involved with these arrangements.

Can my child attend a Further Education College?

Colleges can claim the cost of course fees on an individual basis for home educated young people under 16. Please contact your local college for further information about courses available (see appendix 2 for contact details).

Abingdon and Witney College, City of Oxford College, Banbury and Bicester College, and Swindon College offer courses to 14-16-year-old home educated young people. However, places on these courses are limited and not usually equivalent to full time provision.

What will happen if we decide to move?

We would be grateful if you let us know your new address by writing to, or phoning, the EHE team

What if I decide to educate at home and then change my mind?

If at any time you should wish your child to enter or re-enter the school system, the Admissions Team can offer advice and support as required. You can also contact the EHE team for advice and guidance.

Further information

National Careers Service

The National Careers Service is a free careers service for adults and young people aged 13 and over in England. Advice and guidance can be accessed via the telephone and online. The National Careers Service provides confidential advice and guidance to help your child make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.