In Wales, like the rest of the UK, education is compulsory but going to school is not.
This means a parent has the right to teach their child at home, either full or part-time. When a child is educated at home it is referred to as home schooling, home education or elective home education.
Parents sometimes feel that they are better-placed to meet their child’s individual needs and learning style than a school.
There is no requirement for you to be a teacher or have any qualifications.
Children are home educated for many reasons, including:
- a child’s reluctance or inability, e.g. due to chronic illness, to attend school
- dissatisfaction with the education system generally
- distance or access to a local school
- as a solution to problems at school, e.g. falling behind or bullying
- ideological reasons
- religious or cultural beliefs.
Sometimes a child is educated part-time at school and taught at home the rest of the time – this is called flexi-schooling.
The right to an education
Under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 it is your duty as a parent to make sure your child receives efficient full-time education suitable for their age, ability and aptitude and for any special educational needs they may have.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that a child has the right ‘to learn and go to school’ (Article 28).
The National Curriculum
You don’t have to follow the National Curriculum; however, you must ensure any child of compulsory school age (usually 5-16 years old) receives a full-time education that meets the legal requirements.
Broadly speaking, this means the education you provide should allow your child to achieve their potential and prepare them for adult life.
It might help you plan lessons and assess your child’s progress if you use the National Curriculum as a framework. Visit Learning Wales for more information.
Taking your child out of school
If your child has already been attending school you must notify the school’s head teacher in writing if you plan to take them out of school. They will then remove the child from the school admission register so that you are not liable to prosecution for failing to ensure your child attends school.
If you are taking your child out of school completely the school must accept your decision.
If you want to send your child to school some of the time, the school must agree for this to happen – and they can refuse.
Telling the local council
There is no legal duty to tell your local council that you are home-schooling your child if they have never been registered with a school; however, you may be missing out on sound professional support and advice if you don’t.
While there is no duty for them to do so, some councils contribute to the cost of sitting external exams so it’s worth asking.
Keeping an eye on things
The Education Act 1996 places a duty on local councils to take action if they believe a child who is being home-schooled is not getting a suitable education. They might ask to visit your home to help you overcome any difficulties and get back on track.
If the council believes your child is not getting a suitable education at home, they must serve a school attendance order on you. This means you could be fined or prosecuted if you do not register your child with the school that is named.
If your child has additional learning needs
The law about home schooling applies equally to children with additional learning needs (ALN); however, there some further considerations.
If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP), this does not automatically end when you take them out of school. When reviewing the IEP, the council may decide that the child’s additional learning needs are now being met at home and, with your agreement, the IEP may cease.
In situations where the child’s additional learning needs are not being met by their home education, then IEP will continue and council will remain involved.
The Welsh Government has published advice for parents and carers.
Elective Home Education Wales supports home educators in Wales and list local groups.