Home education in the UK

Home education is increasingly popular in the UK. Known as ‘homeschooling’ in the United States, it simply means that parents take responsibility for their children’s education rather than delegating it to a school. Home education in the UK can take a variety of different forms; the law requires that education should suit each individual child or teenager, so there is no need to follow any system or curriculum.If you would like to ask questions or discuss home education with like-minded people, you can visit the Home Education UK page on Facebook.

Home education and the law

Home education is legal throughout the UK, although the laws in the four countries of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) are not exactly the same.

According to the 1996 education act in England and Wales, it is parents (not the state) who are responsible for providing their children’s education ‘at school or otherwise’. Their education must be suitable for the age, ability and aptitude of each child. The wording is the same in Northern Ireland. Scottish law says that ‘every child has a right to an education, and it is the duty of the parent of every school age child to provide that education, either by sending the child to school, or by other means.’

Thus it is up to each family to ensure that their children receive appropriate education, which will vary from child to child. Home educators in the UK do not have to be trained teachers, nor do they need any special qualifications to educate their children. Although some families choose to use a structured ‘homeschool’ curriculum, others pick and choose educational books from bookshops. Still others use the Internet and libraries to find suitable educational resources, and a growing number follow the ‘autonomous’ style of education, following the children’s interests, learning through discussion and life in general.

References: legal information for home education in Northern Ireland; Scottish government guidance on home education; summary of the law relating to home education in England and Wales.

Why home educate?

Sometimes parents take children out of school due to bullying or other serious problems. But there are a growing number of British parents who home educate their children from the start. This site explains some of the reasons that families in the UK are choosing home education. It has suggestions about how to get started and links to resources and legal information for home educators. There is also a guide to taking GCSEs for those who wish to do so.

If you’re concerned – as so many are – about the social side of home education, try reading the the socialising articles. You could also browse a few home educators’ blogs which describe everyday life for different people.

Estimated numbers of home educators around the UK are somewhat speculative. However, data collected in 2014 shows that in England alone there were over 27,000 home educated students known to their local education authorities. This does not take into account those in other parts of the UK, nor those who are unknown to their LEA. There is no requirement to register, and there may be as many more who are not known. If you are interested in seeing which regions have the highest numbers of known home educators, there’s a map that demonstrates this at the FutureSchool site.

Most recently added home education pages

What made our family decide to home educate?

Short version: we moved to Cyprus in 1997 when our sons were eleven and nine years old. We decided to home educate for a few months while we settled in. We liked it so much that we continued. They are now 30 and 28. One works in a media group in the UK after spending four years working on a ship. The other achieved a high 2:1 in his degree course in the UK, followed by an MA at Nottingham University. He worked in Cyprus for three years, and now teaches in the UK. Neither has any regrets about not having been to secondary school.

This site ‘Home Education in the UK’ started on February 1st 1999, so is now eighteen years old. You can read more about the development of the site in the page about this site.

Last updated: 22nd March 2017