Education is compulsory - school is optional

Article Index

The Guidelines also remind LAs of their legal duty towards children who appear not to be receiving suitable education. This is found in Sections 437 to 443 of the Education Act 1996:

If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education. (s 437 (1))

Beyond this, nothing in the Education Act requires a local authority to carry out regular monitoring of provision where a child is receiving education otherwise than at school.

However, local authorities have duties under Children Missing Education (see our 'Children Missing Education' page under 'HE and the Law').

Case law (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported]) had already established that a local authority might initially ask parents who were educating their children at home for information.

In Phillips v Brown, Lord Donaldson said:

Of course such a request is not the same as a notice under s 37 (1) of the Education Act 1944 [now s 437 (1) of the Education Act 1996] and the parents will be under no duty to comply. However it would be sensible for them to do so. If parents give no information or adopt the course … of merely stating that they are discharging their duty without giving any details of how they are doing so, the LEA will have to consider and decide whether it ‘appears’ to it that the parents are in breach of s 36 [now s 7 of the Education Act 1996].

Some Local Authorities will write to a new home educator requesting details of timetables, tutors, hours of study and other unnecessary items. Whilst you do not have to provide any of that information, it may be prudent to acknowledge any communication from your LA in light of the many aspects of law relating to children and young people that have been affected by the 2004 Children Act, particularly the 5 Outcomes of Every Child Matters: Be Safe; Be Healthy; Make a Positive Contribution; Enjoy and Achieve; Achieve Economic Wellbeing.

If your local authority does approach your family and ask for information, and you wish to provide that information, you might might choose  any number of ways to do so. For example, you might offer either a written report; samples of work; a meeting at your home, with or without the child present; a meeting elsewhere, with or without the child; an endorsement of the educational provision by a recognised third party; or information in any other appropriate form.

Some families chose to provide an Educational Philosophy, and you can find information on Ed. Phils by following the link in this site's main menu.