Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal?


The Education Act 1996, section 7 states - The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable 1. to his age, ability and aptitude, and 2. to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

The word 'otherwise' is what makes home education legal. This applies if you live in England or Wales and more details can be found on the Education Otherwise site. If you live in Scotland the law is a bit different and Schoolhouse is your best source of information.

How many children are home educated in Surrey?

The short answer is, nobody really knows. There is no legal requirement for parents to tell their Local Authority that they intend to home educate so unless their child was previously registered at a school in the county the council may not know. The last estimate Surrey County Council seems to have published is 500, but since our experience is that they know about less than 50% of home educating families it could easily be 1,000.

How do home educated children socialise?

photo of kids being socialThis seems to be the question most frequently asked of home educators. There are plenty of opportunities for home educated children to socialise; there is a thriving network of HE families across the country, and SW Surrey is no exception! There are various social groups that meet regularly, where children of a wide age-range can get together to learn and play. In Guildford there are home ed ice-skating and climbing sessions. Local home educating parents run an art group and a science club. People also arrange one-off activities and day trips, recent examples include "A Talk on the Wild Side" where a large group of home educated children had the opportunity to see, and learn about, various animals from owls to hedgehogs; a visit to the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum; and a trip to the Shah Jahan mosque in Woking.

There are many Camps and Gatherings which home educators can go to, which run from April to October. These range from the very low-key, just a few families camping together, to the opposite extreme like HESFES which has a couple of thousand attendees from all over the world and a hectic schedule of activities.

Home educated children often enjoy activities like Cubs/Scouts, Brownies/Guides, swimming lessons, dance classes, sports coaching, etc, which are open to all. In fact, many home educated children have social lives which are the envy of their schooled friends!

Here are some links to other home educating parents' thoughts on the socialisation issue: Education Otherwise.

How do you know they're learning what they need to / a broad and balanced curriculum?

The most important thing to know is that home educated children do NOT have to follow the National Curriculum or meet anyone else's definition of a 'broad and balanced' program. Basic literacy and numeracy are the only things that could be considered 'required' so they can function in modern British society.

Some parents choose to follow the National Curriculum for various reasons and they know they're covering it in the same way school teachers do, by referring to government documents which are freely available on the web.

At the other extreme, where the education is autonomous whatever the children are learning is by definition what they need to be learning.

How do I find out about home education groups, classes and events in my area?

This depends on where you live and how the groups near you operate. Rather like home education itself, HE groups are all different. Some have regular meetings, others only meet up for specific events. Some communicate via a written newsletter, a web site, an e-mail list, message board, word of mouth or a combination of these. Some advertise their existence to the world, others you'll only hear about from another home educator. Our group is very much a co-operative and we use a Yahoo Group which is open to all local home educators (once we know you're 'legit') to suggest and organise things. Reoccurring events are listed on this site, just contact us for details.

Is there a membership fee for your group? How do I join?

There is no membership fee and there isn't really a formal thing you need to do to join. Just turn up to an event and say hello and you're a member.

I'm a home educator unknown to the LA and want to stay that way. If I'm stopped by a truancy patrol do I have to give them my name and address?

NO. If they are following the law when you encounter a Truancy Patrol you should simply explain that you home educate and they should then say "thank you for your cooperation" and let you go on your way. The Crime and Disorder act, section 16 gives the police a power to remove truants. HE children are by definition not truants, section 16 does not apply to them and for the hard-of-thinking that fact is reiterated in government guidelines on the power.

Unfortunately the current SCC & Surrey Police protocol says otherwise and the 'corporate culture' of the SCC truancy team is that they have all sorts of powers and responsibilities that they in fact don't, so you may find yourself needing to stand your ground if they claim that their 'Truancy Stop Form' has to be filled in. It doesn't. It has no legal basis what-so-ever.

If the person questioning you is an Education Welfare Officer (EWO - council employee) you don't have to answer their questions. If the person questioning you is a police officer then you move under the jurisdiction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and it's called a Stop and Account. They stop you, you account for you child/ren not being in school, but you STILL do not need to give them your name and address and they are strictly prohibited from detaining you for refusing to provide that information. Furthermore the officer is obliged to provide you with a written record of the encounter including their name and number (they should offer this but if they don't you can request it). You will need to tell them what your self described ethnicity is. Stop and Search - Know Your Rights.

There are of course laws that cover child welfare but unless there is a clear reason why the officers should have a welfare concern, and you stating that you HE is not a reason, they can't use them to get around the 'limitations' of a truancy sweep.

In Surrey complaints about the behaviour of Police Officers should be sent to the Chief Constable, Surrey Police Headquarters, Mount Browne, Sandy Lane, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1HG. Complaints about EWOs should be sent to Marilyn Parsons - Truancy Team Manager (CCed to Jenny Ealy - Integrated Services Manager), Surrey Children's Services, County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2DN.

© R O'Hare November 2008. This web page is licenced for your personal, private, non-commercial use only. No automated processing by advertising systems is permitted.