Education is compulsory - school is optional

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HE and the Local Authority

The following information applies to England only. The procedure is broadly similar in Wales but the Welsh Assembly Government has published its own Guidelines.

Elective home education is the term used by the Department for Education - and therefore local authorities - to describe parents’ decisions to provide education for their children at home instead of sending them to school. This is different from home tuition provided by a local authority, or education provided by a local authority other than at a school.

Once you have written to the school requesting that your child's name be taken off the school roll (see our 'Deregistration' page), the school is required to notify your Local Authority that your child's name has been deleted from the register.

This usually but not invariably generates an initial contact from the authority; in most areas this contact will come from an Education Welfare Officer, and will often be an enquiry to ensure that the child is safe, has not been withdrawn to hide abusive behaviour, and that the parent has made an informed choice. Most Education Welfare Officers do not have teaching qualifications and they cannot ask to assess the child's work; they will be viewing your family from a welfare point of view. Awareness and understanding of home education among EWOs is very variable. This initial contact may be followed by some attempt by the local authority to "assess" your educational provision.

Local authorities may have between 6 and 600+ home educated children "on their books", i.e. children who are known to the authority, usually because they have been taken out of school. The job of overseeing home education may be a full-time or part-time post, or may simply be passed to someone who is already working in Education Welfare, Alternative Provision, Special Needs or Traveller Education Services. In some areas the job of overseeing home education may be carried out on a contract basis by a retired teacher, who will be paid for each assessment or inspection. Local authorities do not receive any funding for home education services.

In 2007 the Department issued Guidelines for Local Authorities in relation to the discharge of their statutory duties in relation to elective home educators within their area.

The 2007 Guidelines state:

Parents are required to provide an efficient, full-time education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of "full-time". Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of "contact time" is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal "school hours". The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. 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
    match school-based, age-specific standards
    (Section 3.13)


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.