- deregistration is on demand and can be immediate
- the Education Authority has no right or duty to monitor the education you provide, visit your home or meet with you or your children, you can keep things in writing if you prefer
- you can respond to any concerns they may have in the format you feel best – any forms are only a suggested format
- you are not required to follow the National Curriculum or any other, while some home educators use a curriculum others do not
Is home-education legal? Isn’t school compulsory? I’ve heard about parents being taken to court because their children didn’t attend school!
The law does not require school attendance; it requires educational provision. Here’s what it says:
“The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
Home-education is legal throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. The prosecutions you may have heard about involve truancy, which is a a completely separate issue. Truancy involves children who are registered at school but who do not attend – by definition, a child who is not registered at school cannot be a truant.
Do we need permission to home-educate?
You don’t need anyone’s permission to educate your child outside school. If your child is registered at a school, you must inform the principal in writing that your child’s name should be removed from the register. Some teachers and principals believe that you need permission to home-educate, but this is not the case. This remains true where the child is registered at a Special School, as clarified in the Guidaence (Section 6.2)..
Will I get any help from the Education Authority?
It’s unlikely. Few home-educators find that their regional team is able to provide much useful assistance, and certainly there is no financial help available (though home-education does not need to be costly, so that shouldn’t put anyone off).
Will we have home visits or be monitored in some way?
There is nothing in Northern Irish law which says you must have home visits, provide samples of your children’s work or allow anyone to meet your children. There has always been a great deal of variation in how home-educators are treated by their local EHE team, even within the individual regions, however we hope that the new guidance supported by good training will help to iron out the inconsistencies.
The new Northern Irish Guidance in Elective Home Education is welcomed by HEdNI who were involved in the drafting, it should come into force in September 2020.
The new Guidance is not perfect but with good training and proper implementation we believe it will be positive. However parents should always keep themselves well informed, treat any interventions with due caution and never hesitate to seek proper legal advice. Guidance, even largely good guidance, is not law.
What if my child has a statement of special needs?
You can still home-educate. Deregistration is on demand whether the child is in a mainstream or special school (see Section 6.2 of the new Guidance).
Does my child have to take SATS?
No. SATS are intended to assess the educational provision made by schools, not the learning of any individual child, and thus are unnecessary for home-educated children. Many home-educators feel that not having to put their children through the pressure of SATS is a great advantage.
A little more detail…
The relevant Northern Irish Guidance on Elective Home Education comes into force in September 2020.
The Guidance is broadly welcomed by HEdNI who were involved in the Working Group which drafted it. While it is not perfect, with good training and proper implementation we believe it will be positive in standardising the EAs approach and empowering parents to meet their duties as educators.
However it is worth repeating that parents should always keep themselves well informed, remember that Guidance is not Law, treat any interventions with due caution and never hesitate to seek proper legal advice.
Home Education is a legal option for every family in Northern Ireland. It is not necessary to seek permission from the Department of Education or the Education Authority . If your child is registered at a school, you must deregister the child (by writing to the school principal); neither you nor the principal need permission from the Board or the Department of Education.
You do not need to hold any formal teaching qualification, or any formal qualification of any kind, to educate your children at home.
There is nothing in Northern Irish law which states that the Education Authority has the right to monitor your educational provision, to meet with your children, or to visit your home.
You are entitled to decline to meet with the EA at your home or elsewhere, many home educators prefer to keep all communication in writing so that everything is clear and documented… and while you should never ignore a letter from the EA you can repond in the format you prefer, so don’t worry if any forms you are sent don’t seem to apply to your circumstances.
There is nothing in Northern Irish law which requires you to follow the National Curriculum or any other curriculum.
The situation is different in the Republic of Ireland and information on home educating there can be found here. This link ONLY applies if you live outside Northern Ireland. We include the link because we occasionally get enquiries, and of course many people move between N Ireland and ROI.