Home education in the UK

Home education is increasingly popular in the UK. It is known as ‘homeschooling’ in the United States. It 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.

Home education book

I had many requests, since starting this site in 1999, to put some of its content into book form. Since sites and books function differently, I had to decide on a focus and edit it significantly. But finally, with the help of my husband, I succeeded in editing, finishing and self-publishing the book: Home Education: What? Why? How?

It became available, in both paperback and Kindle form, in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the site. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it free as part of that package.

The book is, as the subtitle states, a guide for beginners. It answers the kinds of questions I was asking when we were thinking about home educating, and during our first year. It looks at some different styles of home education, and explores some of the possibilities. Inevitably the focus veers towards informal/autonomous education, since those who choose more structured styles will have clearer goals and more organised timetables. Some anecdotes are included as examples from our own experience. The epilogue explains why we started and continued educating our teenage sons at home.

If you read it I would welcome constructive comments, positive or negative. If you would like to ask questions, you can visit the Home Education UK page on Facebook.

Why home educate?

Sometimes parents take children out of school due to bullying or other serious problems. But there are a growing number of parents who home educate their children from the start. This site explains some of the reasons that families in the UK (and elsewhere) 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, it’s clear that the numbers are increasing. Data collected in a recent census showed that in England alone there were over 80,000 home educated students known to their local education authorities in October 2022, and 86,000 just three months later.

This did 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, so there may be many more who are not documented.

Home education in the UK and the law

Home education is legal throughout the UK, and has been for many decades. However, the laws in the four countries of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) are not identical.

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. What exactly that means 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 resources. A growing number follow the ‘autonomous’ style of education. That means that they follow 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 educationThe law relating to home education in England and Wales.

Temporarily teaching your child(ren) at home

If you educate your child at home for a short period, perhaps due to illness, or because their school was closed during the pandemic, this is considered ‘crisis education’ or ‘distance education’. It is not the same as elective home education, although there may be some similarities. In general, with crisis education the child’s school gives resources or remote teaching. With elective home education, you and/or your child decide what to do each day. With crisis education, the school might require certain assignments, or ask your child to follow a specific curriculum. If you expect your child to return to school as soon as is reasonably possible, then your situation is not that of an elective home educator.

However, many who started with crisis education (particularly during the pandemic) loved having their children at home, and the children found it rewarding to learn in their own way. Some behavioural problems disappeared with one-on-one attention, and a more flexible structure to the day. If this applies to you, you might want to consider elective home educating long term. In the UK that’s still easy to do and you’ll find pages on this site about getting started and de-registering from school.

Navigating this site

This site has a collection of articles about home education, most of which were written while we were home educating. You can find links to some of the most popular ones in the menu at the top, or the one in the sidebar, or browse the site via the sitemap. There are also pages on some ‘educational’ topics. Many of these are about maths, and how to introduce mathematical ideas. You can find a list of these on the maths index page. If you are interested in finding general resources for home education, there are some pages with suggestions. They are roughly sorted by subject.

There are also pages with links to UK curriculum providers, to home education general sites, and more. I regularly add links to local groups and try to stay up to date with international sites. If you would like me to add your group or site, or if you find incorrect or broken links, please let me know.

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 36 and 34. One son worked in a media group in the UK after spending four years working on a ship. He now works for a software company in the UK. The other son 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, taught music at a private school for five years in the UK, studied at Cambridge for two years, and is now ordained, working as a curate and teacher.

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

Site last updated:  15th May 2024