Do children have to go to school?
The 1996 Education Act imposes a duty on parents or guardians to "secure the education of their children" of "compulsory school age" but this can be done either by regular attendance at school or "otherwise". Obviously, for most children this means that they will attend the school which serves their locality but for many and various reasons, a small minority of parents will want to take on the responsibility of educating their own children outside the state system. Some may send their children for private education to independent schools (whether day or boarding); others will want to fulfil the "duty to educate" themselves.
What is expected of parents if they decide to home educate?
If your child is below statutory school age [the term after his or her fifth birthday] then you do not need to do anything.
If your child is over five years of age and you intend to educate your child at home, we would be grateful if you could inform the Head of Education Services, Education Services, Conwy County Borough Council ,Coed Pella Road,Colwyn Bay LL29 7AZ in writing, stating that you intend educating your child at home as from a particular date.
If your child has been to school before, either within the County or before you moved here, then you need to write to the school and ask for him or her to be "de-registered."
Under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, parents of children not registered at schools need to "cause [the child] to receive efficient full time education suitable to his or her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he or she may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."
In the interest of all concerned, we encourage parents to engage with the Local Authority so that they can be offered support and guidance to help them fulfil their statutory duties.
We will write to parents who elect to home educate their child annually, to offer support. We would ask that you respond to our letters as, if parents choose not to engage with the Local Authority about the education provided at home, then the Local Authority will find it difficult, if not impossible, to establish whether it appears that the parents are complying with their statutory duties.
In such circumstances the Local Authority would have no option but to make more formal enquiries which, if not responded to, could possibly lead to the need to serve Notice giving parents a prescribed period of time within which to satisfy the Authority that suitable education is being provided. If parents choose to ignore the Notice it is a logical conclusion that the Local Authority cannot establish whether the home education provided is appropriate and therefore there would be no option other than to issue a School Attendance Order.
What is "efficient" education provided by parents?
What is provided need not be the same kind of "lessons" as are provided at school; it will be up to the parent to develop a programme of work which will help the child to learn according to age, ability and aptitude.
The Local Authority would reasonably expect the provision to include the following:
- Consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers - it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a significant role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education.
- An indication that parents have thought through their reasons for home educating and what they hope to achieve.
- Signs of commitment and enthusiasm, and recognition of the child's needs, attitudes and aspirations.
- Opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences.
- Involvement in activities to cater for the interests of the child and his/her stage of development.
- Access to resources/materials required to meet the objectives of the parents.
- The opportunity to interact with other children and other adults.
- The involvement of Careers Wales at an appropriate stage.
- Development of numeracy and literacy skills suitable to the child's age, aptitude and ability and taking into account any special educational needs that they may have.
What are the Local Authority's Duties?
The Local Authority's duties and powers in relation to home-educated children are contained in the Education Act 1996. These are fully set out in sections 437 to 443 of the 1996 Act and (except in relation to special educational needs) are limited to the provisions of those sections.
"437. - (1) 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 parents requiring them to satisfy them within the period specified in the Notice that the child is receiving such education". As mentioned earlier, if parents choose not to comply with the requirements of the Notice the Local Authority would have no option other than to issue a School Attendance Order.
What if my child is registered as a pupil of a Special School?
Here the situation is rather different. The 1996 Act identifies responsibilities for both parents and the Local Authority. The Statement of Need identifies the needs that must be met through suitable provision and parents must consult the Local Authority before considering educating their child otherwise than in the school named in Section 4 of the statement.
In the case of children at Special Schools early discussion is vital to ensure both parental and Local Authority responsibilities are met.
What if I don't send information but just keep the child out of school?
If you do not properly deregister your child your child would be considered as missing education.
Under the 1996 Education Act, the Local Authority must satisfy itself that parents are fulfilling their duty if it appears that they may not be doing so. This could be because concerns have been raised about the education, or because the parent did not respond to our letters. If you don't respond to our letters, following concerns being raised about the education, or otherwise provide any evidence to show that your child is receiving appropriate education, then it is a logical conclusion that the Local Authority cannot establish whether the education provided is suitable to the child's age, ability and aptitude. If this were the case the Authority would have no option other than to take steps in compliance with Section 437 of the Education Act 1996 i.e. issue a Notice requiring you to satisfy the Local Authority that you are providing suitable education and if you cannot do so a School Attendance Order can be issued requiring your child to attend a nominated school.
What happens if the Local Authority is not satisfied?
The Local Authority will suggest recommendations to ensure the home education provision is suitable and will give advice (and offer support) on how to improve the situation. This will be reviewed.
If we are still not satisfied (following that review,) then the Local Authority will request that your child be registered at a school and if necessary an Attendance Order would be issued. But we would stress that this will only occur if we are convinced that you are not educating according to your child's age, ability and aptitude and that support and advice has not changed that situation - and we hope that by detailed discussion, we will be able to show you exactly why this is so.
How frequently will the Local Authority contact me if I am home educating?
Normally, if the Local Authority has no cause for concern about the education being provided at home, then we will contact you annually to ask for an update and to offer support.
What about compulsory subjects?
There are none - however, basic literacy and numeracy skills should be given priority. Education does not always need to follow a set plan of "lessons" or a "timetable and you may choose to use materials and ideas from outside agencies such as:
Education Otherwise P.O. Box 1309,
Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope with your enquiry.
Web page address: www.educationotherwise.org
Please don't hesitate to contact the Local Authority if you need any further advice:
Head of Education Services (Chief Education Officer)