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It is not known how many children and young people are home educated in England, but there is evidence of an increase in recent years and that this has accelerated during the pandemic.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) estimated that in October 2021 there may have been around 81,200 registered home educated children in England. This estimate is very likely to underestimate the number of home educated children because registration is voluntary.

In March 2019, all local authorities responded to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) survey, which found that there were around 60,500 registered home educated children in England. However, this was before the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Responsibilities of those home schooling

Parents and guardians who choose to home-educate their children are responsible for ensuring that the education provided is efficient, full-time and suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. They are not required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and do not have to follow the National Curriculum. Home educating parents must be prepared to assume full financial responsibility, including the cost of any public examinations.

The role of local authorities

Local authorities have no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of home education. However, they do have duties to identify children not receiving a suitable education, and to intervene. As part of this, the Department for Education (DfE) recommends that authorities should contact people home educating on at least an annual basis, so they are aware of the suitability of the education being provided.

If it appears that a child is not receiving a suitable education, intervention could include issuing a school attendance order, although the Government encourages authorities to address the issue informally before serving a notice. Local authorities also have powers relating to safeguarding, which may be used if it appears that a lack of suitable education is likely to impair a child’s development.

Guidance on home education

Updated guidance on home education was published in April 2019, following a consultation launched in April 2018. Two guidance documents were published by the DfE, one for local authorities (689KB, PDF) and one for parents (458KB, PDF).

Plans for a register of children educated outside of school

In April 2019, the Government published a consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school. The consultation closed on 24 June 2019.

The consultation sought views on proposals to create four new legal duties effecting schools, local authorities, parents and guardians:

  1. A duty on local authorities to keep a register of children of compulsory school age who are not registered at a state-funded or registered independent school.
  2. A duty on parents to provide information to their local authority if their child should be on the register.
  3. A duty on education settings attended by children on the register, as part of or in conjunction with their home schooling, to respond to enquiries from local authorities about the education provided to individual children.
  4. A duty on local authorities to support home educated families, if the families request it.

The Government’s response to the consultation was published in February 2022. It set out the Government’s continued intention to legislate for a register of children not in school, and that the Government would engage further with LAs and the home educating sector in developing its proposals.

In May 2022, the Government published a Schools Bill which included provisions for a home schooling register. These provisions, and others in the Bill, proved controversial. The wide-ranging Bill was abandoned in December 2022, although the Education Secretary has said legislating for a register remains a priority.

Education is a devolved issue; this briefing covers the position in England only.

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