Homeschooling: Everything You Need To Know About Teaching Your Children

03/08/2016 12:12

“Education is a fundamental right for every child and we recognise that parents have the right to choose to educate their child at home rather than at school,” says a UK report on Elective Home Education.

What is homeschooling?

The UK government defines homeschooling (or home education) is an elective process whereby parents decide to take full responsibility for the education of their children, rather than the state provided school system.

This is different to home tuition or education provided by a local authority, such as pupil referral units or children’s homes with education facilities. 

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What reasons might a parent choose to homeschool?

The report on Elective Home Education, lists the following reasons for why a parent might choose to remove their child from school. This might be a short-term intervention or a longer-term solution:

  • Distance or access to a local school

  • Religious or cultural beliefs

  • Dissatisfaction with the system

  • Bullying

  • Child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school

  • Special educational needs

How popular is homeschooling in the UK?

A BBC report published in December 2015 showed that there had been a 65% increase in homeschooled children since 2009.

Freedom of Information requests to local authorities showed 36,609 home-educated children in 2015 (out of an approximate school population of 9.5 million pupils). 

Although these figures only reveal those students that have been removed from school, rather than those who never started.

What are the legal requirements of homeschooling?

Official advice from the UK Gov website says parents are legally required to ensure your child (over 5) ensures a full-time education but you don’t have to follow the national curriculum.

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 says that what you are teaching has to follow some requirements: “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

According to Helen Lees and Fiona Nicholson, authors of the Wiley Handbook of Home education: “Home educating parents are not required to teach the National Curriculum, provide a broad and balanced education, have a timetable, have premises equipped to any particular standard or set hours during which education will take place.

Nor do parents: “Need to have any specific qualifications, make detailed plans in advance, observe school hours, days or terms, give formal lessons, mark work done by their child, formally assess progress or set development objectives or reproduce school type peer group socialisation.”

Parents do not need any specific qualifications..." Helen Lees

What do the experts say about homeschooling? 

Education experts Lees and Nicholson at the Newman University say: “Home educating is not well known and badly understood within and across the four nations of the United Kingdom. For some people, it is not even known to exist at all. 

“The concept is not an easy one to ‘get’ for many in the UK, possibly due to a longstanding equation of schooling with education itself.”

How do I take my child out of school?

Parents in most of the UK do not need permission to home educate unless the child is a registered pupil at a special school but you should start by writing to your child’s headteacher if you plan to take them out of school. 

Are there any practical tips to ensure I’m doing the best job?

Lia Haskett, Curriculum Manager at Explore Learning, says: “When thinking about home schooling your child it’s important to chat to other parents who have done it before so that you can get a really good idea of the resources available.”

Haskett recommends parents plan ahead to ensure they are following all the core subjects - if you’re struggling you can approach your local council for help in this area.

If you’re really struggling, you might want to get a private tutor: “Extra tuition provides a source of support for parents who want an external opinion on how their child is doing – and someone to talk to about their child’s development that they would have had through school.”

Otherwise, a great source of support are local home schooling groups in your area: “You can meet with other parents who are doing so.  You can find these online through websites such as Mumsnet or Netmums, or chat with your local councils.”

Can the council check on what I’m teaching them?

If the council wants to make an enquiry to the curriculum and education your child is receiving, they can make an “informal enquiry” to check on the suitability of your plans.

What happens if the council is not satisfied with arrangements?

There are several legal powers that a local council can deploy to ensure your child is getting the supervision and education required.

Parenting Order: This means you have to go to parenting classes. You’ll also have to do what the court says to improve your child’s attendance.

Education Supervision Order: A supervisor will be appointed to help you get your child into education. The local council can do this instead of bringing a prosecution against you. 

School Attendance Order: They can also serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school instead of alternative arrangements.

What advice would homeschooling parents give others?

Keris Stainton a blog post for The Huffington Post UK about homeschooling her eldest son after he complained he couldn’t keep up with the pace of his peers.

“We de-registered Harry at the beginning of September and I can honestly say we haven’t regretted it for a moment. I love the flexibility that home education brings...we have much more freedom than we had when Harry had to be at the same place at the same time five days a week.”

“It’s scary to step away from the norm - the thing that my parents did, I did, my husband did. But what made the decision easier for me - and certainly for my husband - was that, even though it is a big decision, it’s not an irreversible one,” says Stainton.   

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