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A home educated child doing a science experiment

The choice of how to educate a child is that of the parent, provided that the education is suitable to the child’s ‘age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs (the child) may have’. In law this is catered for by s7 of the Education Act 1996.

Parents can and do decide to home educate their children at any stages of the child’s education. For most parents, the choice to home educate is a lifestyle choice, requiring significant commitment in terms of time and resources; it is not something that parents generally decide to do without a great deal of research and thought.

Professionals naturally want to act professionally and appropriately in all circumstances. Home education is not something which is usually covered during professional training, which can make it difficult to know how to proceed, when coming into contact with home educating families in the course of their duties.

This information relates to England and Wales and is based on professional legal advice.

General points for professionals to consider

Reasonable cause for concern that any child is at risk of significant harm, should be referred to children’s social services, regardless of the education status of the child.

Data obtained by professionals must not be shared unless GDPR exemptions apply.

Data can also be subject to protection under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Home educated children and their families are:

  • not required to seek permission from any public body to home educate;
  • not a safeguarding concern and a home educated child is not a vulnerable child by virtue of being home educated;
  • not required by law to have professional oversight;
  • engaging in education, not ‘out of school’ or ‘missing education’;
  • entitled to be in a public place during normal school hours;
  • neither hidden, nor invisible, but are uniquely visible.

Information for Specific Professionals

Our full information for teachers and other school staff can be found here.

Points to note, in addition to the general points, are:

  • No consent is required to home educate a child unless the school is a special school, or the child is subject to a school attendance order.
  • Parent(s) must notify the school in writing that they are withdrawing the child, although only one parent need notify the school.
  • If the parent has not given notice to the school the child may be a child missing education.
  • Schools must act promptly on notifications of withdrawal and remove the child from the roll. A school may not legally delay removal of the child from the school roll for any reason.
  • The parent need not give a reason for their decision.
  • The parent is under no obligation to meet with the teacher or any other staff and staff should not seek to dissuade the parent from home educating.
  • Most often a choice to home educate a child is not a reflection upon the teacher, or school.

Our full information for social workers can be found here.

Points to note, in addition to the general points, are:

  • Parents understand that the social worker must follow up any referral.
  • Social workers have a role in educating others, including schools and education officers, to the fact that home education is not a safeguarding issue.
  • Despite home educated children having a higher rate of referral to Children’s Social Services, they have a similar, or lower rate of child protection plans.
  • Home educating families are not required to meet with the local authority education officer.
  • There is no legal requirement for home educators to follow the National Curriculum, follow set hours, reach state school attainment targets, or be assessed.
  • There is no legal requirement for any child to take GCSEs.
  • Home educated children are often outside during school hours.
  • Home educated children are found to be more socially well adjusted on average than are school children.
  • Where social workers show a positive response to home educating families, relationships are strengthened.
  • Negative, or disparaging responses to parents can lead some to disengage with much needed services.

Our full information for Police officers can be found here.

Points to note, in addition to the general points, are:

  • Truancy patrols do not apply to home educated children.
  • Police officers have no power to remove a home educated child as a truant and they should take no further action where children indicate that they are home educated.
  • Detaining a home educated child without reasonable cause to believe that an offence has been committed, is unlawful.
  • Children are not required to stop, or to answer questions asked by police officers.
  • Refusal to provide information to a police officer is not cause for arrest or detainment of a child.
  • Police officers have no role in questioning the family about the child’s education provision, once the parent has confirmed that the child is home educated.
  • Police officers must not detain children in order to facilitate the questioning of home educated children by local authority staff.
  • Police officers should not act on a referral made solely on the basis that the child has not been seen by the local authority.
  • Neighbour complaints in respect of home educated children, are usually based on misunderstanding of the law.
  • Police officers do not usually have a right of entry to a home educated child’s home.
  • Concern for welfare, or a request for a welfare check, is insufficient cause to justify an entry to a child’s home. See: Syed v DPP [2010]
  • Parents are entitled to refuse police officers entry, or sight of the child.
  • Unless there is a real concern that something serious is about to, or has already occurred to a child, police have no duty, and therefore no power, to take any action.
  • Where police officers show a positive response to home educating families, community relationships are strengthened.
  • Negative, or disparaging responses to parents can lead some to disengage with police services.

Our further information for medical professionals can be found here.

Points to note, in addition to the general points, are:

  • Any information shared within the patient and medical professional relationship, is subject to confidentiality.
  • Medical professionals must ensure that patients’ rights are protected when handling sensitive data.
  • Home education information can of itself be classified as special category data.
  • Inappropriate data sharing can lead some families to disengage with health services, affecting not only their health, but also potentially the health of their local communities.
  • Medical professionals must also maintain an awareness of the common law duty of confidentiality.
  • GMC data control guidance can be found here.
  • Where medical professionals show a positive response to home educating families, patient relationships are strengthened.
  • Negative, or disparaging responses to parents can lead some to disengage with health services.