This article provides some facts and a guide for parents living in England and Wales who are considering home-schooling their child.
What is Homeschooling?
Homeschooling (or Home Education) is when a parent takes on the full responsibility of providing an education for their child rather than sending them to a school. Homeschooling can be very fulfilling for children and their families and often leads to children achieving better-than-expected academic outcomes and qualifications. Being home-schooled does not limit a young person from attending university and having a fulfilling career. In the US, where homeschooling is more commonplace, many universities and employers actively seek out home-schooled young people in their recruitment efforts. UK research has also found “home-schooled children to develop as well or better socially, emotionally, and psychologically than institutionally-schooled children.”
Homeschooling can offer an exciting and successful approach to a child's learning and is beginning to earn a reputation in the UK as ‘education that works’. In 2023, it was estimated that between 125,000 to 180,000 children were home-schooled in the UK, and the figure is rising significantly each.
In the UK, homeschooling is gaining momentum and popularity amongst families, as home-schooled students demonstrate its success, both academically and socially. More parents in the UK are now taking on the responsibility of educating their own children and are choosing homeschooling as an alternative to sending their children to school.
Why choose to home-school?
Parents choose to homeschool their children for all kinds of reasons. Some choose to homeschool their children because they are dissatisfied with their local schools or cannot get a place for their child at the school of their choice; others are seeking an extra academic challenge for very academically, athletically or artistically gifted children; others have children with learning or physical needs that a busy teacher cannot cater for; others have children who find the school environment too stressful for them to progress and to reach their potential; others choose to homeschool for their philosophical or religious beliefs.
Ultimately, parents choose homeschooling for their child if it is in their child's best interests.
Parents do not need to give any reason for choosing to home-school their child, and the law does not distinguish between reasons for deciding to home-school.
How does homeschooling work?
The thought of homeschooling may initially seem daunting, but most parents' apprehension is due to the fact that so little is understood about how homeschooling in the UK works. There are many assumptions and misconceptions surrounding homeschooling. The reality is that there is no set curriculum, prescribed hours, or inspection to oversee families who choose to home-school their children.
Any parent can choose to teach their child at home, either full or part-time. In England and Wales, homeschooling is given equal status with schools under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, which states, “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him/her to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his/her age ability and aptitude, and (b) any special educational needs he/she may have, either by attendance at school or otherwise.”
A parent is required to write to their headteacher if they plan to take their child out of school. The school must agree and accept this position if the parents are removing their child completely from the school. If the parents are looking for a part-time arrangement, with the child in school for part of the week and the home-schooling for the remainder, then their school has the right to refuse this arrangement. Parents must formally de-register their child from school if they have been offered a place in the school, even if the child has not attended.
Parents must ensure that their child receives a full-time education from age five but do not have to follow the National Curriculum, which is a requirement for state schools only. In law, there is no duty for a Local Authority to monitor a home school’s child provision, but in practice, some do. You are not required to allow home visits other than in rare and extreme circumstances. Parents are advised to provide tuition in at least the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.
Generally, there is no financial support for homeschooling. However, some Local Authorities may be able to arrange access to borrowing resources from local libraries or provide access to sports centres and other council facilities. Local Authorities may also hold lists of other home-schooling families in the area, who often combine together to organise social or sporting activities.
Primary SATs testing is only a requirement at state Primary Schools and is, therefore, neither required nor relevant for homeschooled Primary Children. Parents can arrange for their children to take exams as external candidates at local schools or exam centres. Most academic subjects can now offer an Exam Board option suitable for children who home school, avoiding the need for Coursework, Practical or Controlled Assessments. Children will need to be registered for GCSE, IGCSE or A-Levels by January for Public Examinations sat in the following May and June. The approximate fee for each exam entry is £50 to £60.
A wealth of online teaching resources is available to support homeschooling but very little provision for direct, high-quality teaching. Many families end up teaching their own children or supplementing the teaching through the use of tutors.
Some facts and good reasons to home-school your child
(1) It gives you the opportunity to create a tailor-made education, one that suits the learning needs of your child.
(2) One-to-one teaching is very effective, so your home-schooled child will make much more progress with much less teaching time; often, a school day’s worth of learning within two hours of teaching. This allows you much more light and space during the week to do other things.
(3) The school day and week are flexible and can provide a much better school/work balance for your home-schooled child and family. There are no school runs nor limitations on school holidays. Lessons can start and finish at times more palatable for teenagers or busy households.
(4) Homeschooling ensures that your child receives the individual attention of a teacher, ensuring that they reach their full potential. Teachers can adapt their teaching to your child to bring the greatest benefit.
(5) There are fewer distractions in a home setting, with no noise or distraction from classmates, which can sometimes negatively impact on your child’s concentration and performance.
(6) If your child is shy, they often will not ask questions in a classroom environment. In a home school setting, your child will feel more able to ask questions and gradually develop confidence.
(7) You can always decide to return your child to the school system at some later stage and have the best of both worlds.
(8) The social aspect of homeschooling is relatively easy to put into place. You can join local groups (often linking through Facebook) where you meet other families with the same ambitions. If you are interested in homeschooling, a good first step is to talk to other parents who do it.
As generations of home-schooled children grow up, some having never been to school, and move forward into further education, universities and employment, they are living proof of how successful it can be: a system that encourages the most gifted to flourish and a life-saver for some whose destiny in school may have been of academic failure, as their learning needs were not individually catered for.
This is the greatest advantage of homeschooling; it allows parents to create a tailor-made education that suits their child's learning needs. Because of its flexibility, parents who home-school have a choice about what, when, where and how their children learn.
Success in homeschooling is found in the same way as success in school. The single most significant factor determining the quality of education a student receives is the quality of their teacher. It requires a teacher to have a broad and rigorous knowledge of subject content and curriculum; it requires a teacher to have enthusiasm, energy, patience and resilience; it requires a teacher to have developed skills in managing young people; it requires a teacher to have a desire to make a real difference to the lives of others.
How much does it cost to home-school your child?
Some families choose to provide all of the tuition for their children. You do not need to be a qualified teacher to do this. The cost is thus minimal, with only expenses for teaching resources and exam entries required.
Some families choose to use a tutor to help them shape their curriculum and teaching programme, perhaps providing just one or two hours of tuition or planning each week. The tuition fees would typically be £40ph to £44ph for a qualified teacher.
Some families choose to use a tutor to provide the majority or all of the tuition. Typically, for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and 2, between 8 to 16 hours each week, tuition fees from £30 to £40ph. Typically for Key Stage 3, GCSE, IGCSE and A-Level, generally 2-3 hours per academic subject each week, tuition fees from £40 to £50ph.
Teachers To Your Home has considerable experience and success in providing homeschooling for children of all ages, abilities and needs. They provide qualified teachers to support families by scheduling a complete homeschooling programme, teaching regular one-to-one lessons weekly, monitoring progress, helping organise public examinations and supporting and advising parents.
You may also wish to consider pairing up with other homeschooling families to share the tuition and the costs for homeschooling.
For further information about home schooling: