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Home Educating in England – The Law

Many new home-educators in England are unsure as to their legal position when choosing to home-educate their children.  Hopefully the information offered below will help to clarify the legal aspects and your responsibility as a parent. 

The responsibility of parents is clearly outlined in section 7 of the Education Act 1996 (Previously section 36 of the Education Act 1944), which reads as:

Compulsory Education

7.  Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age

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.

What is the legal definition of a ‘Suitable Education’?

A clarification of some of the language used in the Education Act 1944 (replaced by the 1996 Act) was provided by an appeal case at Worcester Crown Court in 1981 (Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson).  In this case, the judge defined a ‘suitable education’ as one which was: 

  1.  to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and

  2.  to enable them to achieve their full potential.

Modern society and it’s diversity, and the numerous methods of education, offer parents a lot of freedom in order to help their child to reach their full potential.  

In the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985) (Times, 12 April 1985) Mr Justice Woolf stated that:  

Education is ‘suitable’ if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.