Understanding the Home Schooling Laws in England

Understanding the Home Schooling Laws in England

The landscape of education in England is evolving rapidly, with home schooling taking centre stage in this transformation. A BBC report highlighted that the home schooling populace grew by approximately 40% within a span of three years, jumping from 34,000 in 2014-15 to a notable 48,000 in 2016-17¹. Echoing this trend, The Guardian reported that in the academic year 2018/19, over 60,000 pupils were educated at home, which is a 13% uptick from the 52,000 of the preceding year². The most current data from the House of Commons Library research briefing paints a similar picture: from Autumn term 2022 to January 2023, there was a 6.5% increment in elective home education, with the count escalating from 80,900 to 86,200 children³. As the home schooling wave continues to gain momentum, it’s imperative for parents to be well-versed with the legalities associated with it in England. This article endeavors to shed light on the home schooling laws in England, serving as a beacon for parents and guardians considering this route.

Is Home Schooling Legal In England?

Yes, home schooling is entirely legal in England. The legal foundation for home education is enshrined in the Education Act of 1996. According to Section 7 of this Act:

“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

  • “Or Otherwise” Interpretation: The phrase “or otherwise” in the Act allows for education outside of the traditional school setting, which includes home schooling. This means that parents have the legal right to educate their children at home or in any other manner they see fit, as long as the education is efficient and suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude, and any special educational needs.
  • No Formal Notification Required: If parents decide to home school their children from the outset, they are not required to provide any formal notification to local authorities. However, if a child is being removed from a traditional school to be home-schooled, parents must inform the school in writing.
  • Local Authority’s Role: While home education is legal, local authorities have the responsibility to ensure that children are receiving suitable education. If there are concerns about the education a child is receiving at home, the local authority can make informal inquiries. Parents are not legally obligated to respond, but it’s often in their best interest to provide evidence of the education being provided.

What is Home Schooling?

Home schooling, also known as elective home education, refers to the practice of children being educated at home by their parents or guardians. Unlike traditional school settings where children learn in a structured environment with peers, home schooling offers a more personalised approach.

  • Flexibility: One of the primary advantages of home schooling is the flexibility it offers. Parents can tailor the curriculum to fit their child’s unique needs and learning pace.
  • Environment: Home provides a comfortable and familiar environment, which can be especially beneficial for children who might struggle in traditional school settings due to various reasons.

Responsibilities of Parents in Home Schooling

When parents choose to home school their children, they shoulder a significant responsibility. The law mandates that children receive a full-time education that’s suitable to their age, ability, aptitude, and any special educational needs.

  • Curriculum Choices: While parents have the liberty to design the curriculum, it should offer a balanced and broad spectrum of subjects.
  • Adaptability: The teaching approach must adapt to the child’s learning style, ensuring they receive an education that aligns with their aptitude and abilities.

Role of Local Authorities in Home Schooling

Local authorities play a pivotal role in the home schooling landscape. Their primary duty is to identify children who might not be receiving a suitable education.

  • Intervention: If there’s evidence suggesting a child isn’t receiving proper education, local authorities can intervene. However, the onus is on the local authority to prove the inadequacy of education.
  • Monitoring: It’s essential to note that local authorities don’t have formal powers to monitor home education. They can only intervene if there are significant concerns about the education a child is receiving.

Benefits and Challenges of Home Schooling

Like any educational pathway, home schooling comes with its set of advantages and challenges.


  • Personalised Learning: Tailored curriculum to suit a child’s unique needs.
  • Flexible Schedule: Learning can happen at a pace comfortable for the child.
  • Stronger Bonds: Families often report strengthened relationships due to the increased time spent together.


  • Resource Limitations: Unlike schools, parents might not have access to vast educational resources.
  • Potential Isolation: Home-schooled children might miss out on social interactions that schools offer.
  • Logistical Challenges: Managing the educational journey can be a daunting task for parents, especially if they are working.

The Role of Ofsted in Home Schooling

Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, inspects services that care for children and young people. However, its role in home schooling is limited. While they don’t specifically inspect home education, they do have a responsibility to ensure children are receiving a suitable education, irrespective of the setting.


Home schooling in England offers a viable alternative to traditional education. While it comes with its set of challenges, the rewards, in terms of flexibility and personalised learning, can be immense. For parents considering this route, Cambridge Home School Online provides a comprehensive curriculum, ensuring children receive a top-tier education from the comfort of their homes.


  1. Homeschooling in the UK increases 40% over three years.
  2. Children schooled at home up 13% despite fears over lack of regulation.
  3. Home education in England – House of Commons Library.


What exactly is home schooling?

Home schooling, sometimes referred to as elective home education, is when children are taught at home by their guardians or parents. This method differs from the usual school environment as it’s more tailored to the individual child. The key advantage of this approach is its flexibility, allowing parents to adjust the curriculum to their child’s specific needs. Moreover, home offers a setting that may be more conducive to learning for some children, particularly those who may find traditional school environments challenging.

Is it legal to home school in England?

Yes, in England, home schooling is completely legal. The legal basis for this form of education is rooted in the Education Act of 1996. The Act states that parents have the duty to ensure their child gets a full-time, appropriate education based on their age, abilities, and any special educational needs. This can be achieved either through attending school or alternative means.

Do parents need to notify anyone if they choose to home school?

If a child has never been enrolled in a traditional school, parents aren’t obligated to give formal notice to local authorities about their decision to home school. However, if a child is transitioning from a standard school to home education, parents are required to notify the school in writing.

What role do local authorities play in the home schooling process?

Local authorities are tasked with identifying children who may not be getting a proper education. If there’s a concern about the quality of education a child is getting at home, local authorities can make informal checks. Although they don’t possess the powers to routinely monitor home education, they can step in if there are significant worries about the child’s education.

Are there any challenges associated with home schooling?

While home schooling offers several benefits like tailored learning and a flexible schedule, it’s not without its challenges. Parents may face limitations in terms of resources compared to traditional schools. There’s also the potential for children to feel isolated due to reduced social interactions. Logistically, managing the entire educational process can be a hefty responsibility, especially for working parents.