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Navigating the Benefits and Challenges of Home Education

Did you know? Billie Eilish, Emma Watson, and Nadia Sawalha all experienced home education? Or that Emma Thompson took her daughter out of formal education because she couldn’t fit in to what her daughter described as the “sausage-factory style” education? In 2019, it was estimated that between 90,000 to 130,000 children were home schooled in the UK and the figure is rising significantly each year. 

What is home education?

Home education (or home schooling) is when a parent chooses to take their child out of the state-run or independent school sector and take on the full responsibility of giving their child an education. This can work better for some families, particularly if a child struggles in a mainstream environment with large class sizes. In the US, home education is more common than in the UK with 8-9% of children being home schooled. 

Benefits

Advocates of home education present several benefits including:

  • Personalised education – home schooling can be individualised to the particular needs, skills and interests of each unique child
  • More choice - there is no state-imposed curriculum to follow and parents can decide the subjects their children study and how this is done. Children must, however, be enabled to be literate and numerate, in accordance with their age, ability, aptitude and any special needs they may have
  • Classrooms can be anywhere - such as playgrounds, museums, alternative learning centres and vocational places, but you can do maths in the supermarket, chemistry in the kitchen and biology in the garden centre if you want to
  • Freedom – parents can educate their children in ways that suit their lifestyle best, and there is no need to follow a timetable of hours, days, or school holidays
  • Children’s engagement – often children do better with a 1:1 approach to their learning and if they have some autonomy over what they study, they can be more motivated or engaged
  • Life preparation – home schooling can provide a wide range of life skills that might not be taught in an institutionalised system
  • Higher education – a large percentage of home schooled children do well academically and go on to higher education
  • Less negative interactions – students who are home schooled may be protected from some of the problems that larger schools have such as bullying, child-on-child abuse or sexual harassment 

Disadvantages

Some of the disadvantages presented against home education include:

  • Changing to/from home education can create ‘gaps in education’ for the child if they come back into mainstream after being home schooled
  • Some people argue that home schooled children do less well at social interactions, although this is not necessarily borne out by research. Home schooled students do need social interactions in the form of local groups or outside-education friendships who meet up regularly
  • It takes time, energy and money
  • Schools can have a lot of resources at their disposal such as swimming pools, gyms, science labs, and specialised language labs that parents may not have access to

What are the legalities of home education?

All children must have a full-time education from the age of 5 in the UK, but they are not required to attend a formal school. Parents can home school their children at any age, but if a child starts school, then parents are legally required to inform their current Headteacher in writing if they subsequently want to home school them. The school cannot refuse, however, if parents request a part-time arrangement with the school, then the school does have the right to decline a part-time arrangement. 

It is recommended that parents who are home schooling their children, register with their local authority, who can provide support. The authority may make an informal enquiry to ensure that the child is getting a suitable education at home. If they are concerned, they can serve a school attendance order requiring the child be taught at school.

There is no legal requirement to follow the National Curriculum which is set out for state-maintained schools, however, parents will be required to take on the full financial responsibility for their child’s education including the cost of any public examinations. See a list of FAQs about home schooling here. 

What about children with SEN?

The right for parents to educate their child at home applies equally for children with SEN (special educational needs) as for those without, even if the child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP). However, if the child attends a special school, then the local authority will need to agree to have the child home schooled so parents will need to contact their local authority. 

What resources are out there for home education?

Just because a child is home educated does not mean that they have to sit in their parent’s home 24/7. In fact, many home-educated students have many more extra-curricular adventures and activities than their institutionalised peers. In addition, since the pandemic, there are many more opportunities for learning from all areas and many companies, museums and educational societies have lots of resources for parents and teachers alike. 

Some of the resources available for home education include:

Online schools – These offer an online education usually to older students (10+). Children can choose their classes and interact with teachers and peers despite being located in different areas of the country. Some online schools even offer opportunities for pupils to meet up at events and community gatherings. 

Correspondence courses - A correspondence course is also known as distance learning. They can include GCSEs and A Levels and can cover a range of subjects. They usually include all lesson materials (books, online lessons, videos) and access to a tutor or teacher who can give feedback and monitor progress.

Private tutors - These are usually experienced individuals or qualified teachers who provide individual tuition to students. Rates can typically range from £30 - £60 per hour. 

Parent-organised groups and resources - Many areas of the UK have groups of home educators on social media channels who arrange get-togethers, events and educational trips. They can socialise and share the load, pooling resources to better effect. They may have a vetting system, but most groups welcome new members and can be a great source of friendship and advice.

Home education organisations

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