Roles and Responsibilities of Parents and Local Authorities

The government recognises that education is a fundamental right for every child and that parents have the right to choose to educate their child at home rather than at school. The roles and responsibilities of parents and local authorities in this regard are covered by a document called Elective Home Education: Guidelines For Local Authorities and is published by the Department for Education. These guidelines have statutory standing and following these guidelines is obligatory on local authorities.

The guidelines quote section 7 of The Education Act 1996:
"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."
The mention of "otherwise" is what covers education outside of school, including home education. The guidelines go on to explain that an efficient education is one that achieves what it sets out to achieve. It needs to prepare the child for adult life in the community of which the child is a member. Emphasis is placed (section 2.3) on the fact that the education does not need to prepare the child for life in the country as a whole but for life in the community of which the child is a member.

There is no definition of what constitutes a full-time education, but the guidelines accept that education at home may not follow the rigid hours of the school structure and it is difficult to impossible to measure exact hours devoted to it.

Home educating parents are not required to teach the National Curriculum; provide a broad and balanced education; have a timetable; have premises equipped to any particular standard; set hours during which education will take place; have any specific qualifications; make detailed plans in advance; observe school hours, days or terms; give formal lessons; mark work done by their child; formally assess progress or set development objectives; reproduce school type peer group socialisation or match school-based, age-specific standards (section 3.13).
Local authorities have no duty to monitor the quality of home education (section 2.7), have no right to enter the homes of home educators or otherwise see children for the purpose of monitoring their education (section 2.14 - 2.16) and are required to leave home educators to just get on with the job (various sections) unless the LA already has information that the parents are not delivering a suitable education (section 3.4).

Except where the child is registered at a school for children with special needs no permission is required from the school or local authority to deregister the child (section 2.4). Parents can deregister a child from the school system by the simple means of notifying the school in writing (section 3.8). There is no action, notification or deregistration process for those children who have never been to school. When a child reaches the age of five parents can choose to register the child at a school or continue to educate the child at home as they have been doing since the child's birth.