If your children are school, but you decide to educate them at home, then an important legal requirement is that their names must be removed from the school register. This is so that the school does not consider them to be truants. You must de-register whatever your reason for home educating.
Deregistering children already in school
If you live in Scotland, you need permission from your education authority in some cases when your children are in school. See the Schoolhouse page about local authority consent.
You also need permission to de-register if your child is in a special school, anywhere within the UK. See the HE-special page about de-registering children with special needs for more details.
If your child is currently in a mainstream school in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you need to de-register with a letter to the proprietor (usually the Head). However but you do not need permission to home educate. The letter does not need to be complicated or full of explanations. You do not even need to say that you are planning to home educate if you prefer not to. Remember that it is your right as parent to provide education appropriate to your child. Thus it should be sufficient to state that you are making alternative arrangements for a child’s education, since the legal responsibility lies with the parents. However, some school Heads (and LEA officials) are apparently unaware of the law, which can make life more difficult for parents. So, unfortunately, the process is sometimes stressful and lengthy.
The important point is to ensure that your child is removed from the school register. There are links to examples of letters that you can use as a basis on the Education Otherwise sample letter page. There is further information with another example at the Free Range Education deregistration page. If you are not delivering the letter by hand, you might want to send it by registered post.
Once the letter is delivered the school proprietor should inform the LEA. You do not have to do so.
The Head may ask you into school to discuss your decision. You are not obliged to attend any such meeting. But if you want to stay on good terms with the school it could be a good idea to have a short meeting. Please don’t attack the school system in general, or the particular school, although you may want to refer to any problems your child might have had.
If there has been bullying or problems with your child’s behaviour, the Head will probably be aware already that you are considering home education. If there have not been any problems, you still have the right to withdraw your child, but it will be easier if you have drawn up a list of reasons. It’s good to be confident in your decision, but remain friendly and open to a possible future relationship with the school.
Dealing with the Local Education Authority (LEA)
At some point the LEA may contact you to enquire about the educational provision for your child. This might be soon after deregistering, it might be months later, or it might not happen at all. In theory, they have no rights since parents are responsible for their children’s education. However they are entitled to make informal enquiries. If that happens, it is best for parents to respond courteously to any such enquiries, within reason.
The Government officially acknowledges that parents have the right to educate children at home, and that the LEA have no duties unless they have evidence that education is not taking place. See the DFES home education page, the official advice site for parents wanting to know more about education in general.
Nevertheless, some education authorities try and impose regulations. They might ask for lengthy questionnaires to be filled in, or try to arrange to meet children within the home. You may feel comfortable about meeting them within your home, but you are not obliged to do this. Nor do you need to reply in detail to any letters within the first few months. It is established that children coming out of school need a period of adjustment, or ‘de-schooling’. If the LEA contacts you immediately, tell them that you will respond more fully after a few months.
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