Taking children out of school: what to expect

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Taking children out of school: what to expect
Home education allows families to spend more time together. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Most parents don't make the decision to take their children out of school lightly, whether school isn't working for their child, they want to give her a different educational experience, or they want to spend a year sailing around the world. Home education is legal in the UK, though the procedure for removing your child from school in England and Wales is slightly different from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Schools and local authorities have legal obligations that require them to follow up your child's withdrawal.

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The law

UK educational law states that children have a right to an adequate education, either through formal schooling or otherwise. Parents who decide to take a child out of school must provide an education that's suitable to her age, needs and potential, but the law doesn't specify the structure or style of education. In Scotland and Northern Ireland parents must ask permission to withdraw their child from school, but in England and Wales parents don't need the school's consent, though they must inform the school of their decision.

Deregistering

When parents withdraw their child from school and start home education, they should notify the school straight away. Unauthorised school absence is treated as truancy, and the school and local Education Welfare Officer have legal processes they must follow unless your child is officially withdrawn. This procedure is called deregistering. A simple letter explaining that you've decided to provide education at home is sufficient. In England and Wales you don't have to include reasons for your decision. Mentioning that you're acting in accordance with Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 8(1)(d) 2006 helps make clear to the school what's happening. Parents of children attending schools for special educational needs must also inform the local authority.

Attendance orders

Local authorities can ask parents to provide evidence that their child is receiving an adequate education. Usually, local authorities write to parents soon after a child is deregistered and state what actions they take concerning home-educated children. Evidence you can provide can include your own report on your child, samples of work, a report from a recognised third party such as a teacher, or a meeting with the local authority inspector, with or without your child. You can choose what evidence to provide. If an inspector believes your child isn't receiving an adequate education, the local authority can issue an attendance order, which is a legal document requiring your child's attendance at a named school.

Home visits

Local authority inspectors sometimes visit homes to gather information about the education of homeschooled children. You might receive a letter or phone call to arrange a convenient time for the visit. Parents can decide whether they're willing to allow the inspector into their home or meet the child face to face, but once they have agreed to a visit the local authority may decide they're acting unreasonably if they change their minds. If you refuse a home visit, the inspector will still require evidence of your child's education. Local authorities sometimes inform parents their family will be referred to social services departments on welfare grounds if they refuse a home visit, but refusing a home visit isn't legal evidence of welfare issues.

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