If your children are school, but for whatever reason you decide that you would like to educate them at home – whether due to problems in school, or because you feel that you can provide a better education, or simply due a lifestyle choice – then the one important legal requirement is that their names must be removed from the school register, so that they are not considered to be truanting.
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 proprieter (usually the Head), 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. It’s your right as parent to provide education appropriate to your child, so in theory, it should be sufficient to state that alternative arrangements are being made 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 can sometmes be stressful and lengthy.
The important point is to ensure that your child is removed from the school register. There are examples of letters that you can use as a basis linked from the Education Otherwise sample letter page, and further information with another example at the Free Range Education deregistration page.
Once the letter is delivered – and if you are not delivering it by hand, you might want to send it by registered post – the school proprieter is obliged to 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 (for instance, if your child might wish to return there, or if you have other children attending) you might decide to have a short meeting. It is, obviously, not a good idea to 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 within a few days of deregistering, it might be several 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 it has been established by law that they are entitled to make informal enquiries, and that 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 (and often daunting) 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 have no obligation to do this. Nor do you need to reply in detail to any letters within the first few months, since it is well established that children coming out of school need a period of adjustment, or ‘de-schooling’. If the LEA does contact you almost immediately, tell them that you will respond more fully when you have had a few months to get settled.
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