Education is compulsory - school is optional

What is HE?

A group of children engaged in an absorbing activityHome education (HE) is an alternative to school; it is parents' right in law to keep primary responsibility for the education of their children instead of delegating it to a school.

Local authorities in England and Wales know of around 20,000 home educated children. These children are primarily known because they have been in the school system. If a parent wishes to take a child out of school in order to home educate, there is a legal process which must be followed and which culminates in the school notifying the local authority.

Since there is no legal duty for parents to notify the authorities of their intention to home educate if the child has never been to school, there will also be a number of home educated children who are not officially known to the authority. Official estimates vary, but the number of unknown children in England and Wales is not likely to be more than 20,000 in total.

The most common reasons for home education are

  • to provide a more personalised and adaptable learning environment for the child;
  • because the parents object to the National Curriculum and teaching to the test in schools;
  • because young children are felt not to be ready for formal academic instruction;
  • in order for the family to spend more time together;
  • as an expression of the family's philosophical or religious convictions; or
  • in reaction to negative events in school such as bullying

In addition, a number of children with special educational needs are home educated when school cannot meet the child's needs.

Finding Out More About Home Education

Detail of a board game and piecesMost people choose to send their children to a school to be educated, but contrary to popular belief it is both legal and reasonable to educate your child at home. If you think that you may not be sufficiently resourceful to home-educate, bear in mind that thousands of families in the UK, and millions in the English-speaking world, are now practising home-education.

The majority of home educators are not qualified teachers. Once you start "home" educating, you will find that you can work on just what you want, when you want, that it isn't expensive, that the children don't get lonely, that public exams can still be taken, and that it is possible to educate children with special needs.

Educational Philosophies

See our page on Educational Philosophies for more information about different types of home education.


Education Otherwise frequently receives enquiries from parents about home education, often relating to how they should engage with their local authority. This has been particularly concerning for parents since the publication of the Elective Home Education Departmental Guidance for Local Authorities (EHEDGLA), in April 2019.

Education Otherwise, in conjunction with the Centre for Personalised Education charity, has obtained advice from a Queen's Counsel (or QC, a title given to a senior barrister) in order to help us provide accurate information to parents. The QC we instructed specialises in public law and education law, and is a former part-time Chair of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, and a current member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's panel of counsel. The QC also trains lawyers and others in education and public law.

Education Otherwise is revising its information in line with the advice received from the QC. The revised information will be posted on the website when ready. In the meantime, but also as a matter of good practice, parents should of course always obtain their own legal advice if they have concerns over any issues.