A (very) rough guide to setting up a group

Christmas Event at the North Down Co-Op

1. the most important thing is to have at least 3 or 4 families who are relatively keen and committed to meeting regularly - once it's going you'll probably attract others but you need a base of people to run it.

2. I'd start by meeting informally a couple of times - either at someone's house or a soft play/park wherever.  You can get to know each other a little and talk about what you've got in mind.  A group that meets regularly somewhere public is great in itself.  Decide how often you want to meet (twice a month is an option which has worked well in the past) and for how long (probably around 2-3 hours).  WIll you be eating together, or each bringing your own picnic, or avoiding lunchtime altogether?

3.  If you want to have a space to yourself so you can have crafts and so on then the next stage is to find a hall/community centre/other venue, which is convenient to travel to.  Make sure it is cheap enough that the start-up families will be happy to pay the rate without needing extra members.  Ideally you should be happy to cover it between 2 or 3 families if necessary.

4. Decide who will handle booking the hall, who will handle any money etc.  Don't let anyone take on too much or they will start feeling put-upon!

5. Decide how you want to structure your time - anything is OK, from a coffee and a run around, to themed meetings (like the North Down and North Coast meets), right up to shared lessons or tutors(!)

6. Consider setting up a facebook group, or ask HEdNI for a section of the website forums to chat about what you're going to do, and keep in touch.  The central HEdNI group loves to be kept in touch but group-specific stuff is often best discussed amongst the group.

Contact with the Boards

Princess Puppet
Rainbow Owl
Futuristic Shapes made in Cinema 4D
The Boards ceased to exist on the 31st March 2015 but until a centralised policy is passed we will continue to see variation and inconsistency between the approaches of the different regions. A highly contentious policy proposal was released in 2014 but was subsequently abandoned and work is underway on new Guidance.   HEdNI are currently hopeful that this new guidance with be constructive and legally accurate, we expect a consultation in the Summer of 2017.

We are seeing more consistency slowly develop but the historical comments below may have a bearing on the approach you recieve.

The current standard first letter recieved from EA regions appears to run as follows:

"Dear xxx,

The Education Authority has received correspondence dated xx/xx/xx stating that you have begun to educate your <son/daughter>, xxx at home.

Child Benefit for home-educated children over the age of 16 years

Some home-educating parents have been told by the Child Benefit enquiry line that they cannot receive Child Benefit for a child who is over the age of 16 unless that child is in full-time education in a recognised institution (i.e. school or college), and that their Child Benefit will be stopped. This information is incorrect.

If your child was home-educated before the age of 16, and if the home-education is still considered full-time, you are entitled to continue to receive Child Benefit.

The Full Time Education Section (FTES) deals with all enquiries about home-educated children over the age of 16, and the Enquiry Line must send such enquiries to FTES. This is stated quite clearly in the guidance notes used by the Child Benefit enquiry line, but it seems that some of those staffing that line do not follow this.

If you are contacting the CB office about a home-educated child over the age of 16, you should ask that they pass your enquiry to the FTES (you cannot telephone this section directly yourself) and that they call you back. If writing or emailing, you should make sure your letter or email says “for the attention of FTES”.

As your child approaches the age of 16, you will receive a Child Benefit form asking about future plans, and you should also ensure that you send this back “for the attention of FTES”.

Deregistration From School

Pirate Play
Subtracting Big Numbers
Christmas Lantern
Titanic Costumes
Exploring the Museum
A pirate with a pinapple

If you are a Head Teacher who has been asked by a parent to delete the name of a child from the school register:

See DENI Circular 2010/07 and 2017/15 The relevant parts of the Circular are Section 8 and Code 3, and also Section 14 or "Removal of pupils’ names from the register" (vi).

If you are a parent who wishes to deregister your child:

If you choose to deregister your child in order to home-educate him or her, you must inform the Head Teacher of the school at which your child is a pupil. You do not need to inform the Education Board. You do not need to seek permission to deregister. You do not need to get approval of your plans for home-education.  The situation is a little more complicated if your child is registered at a Special School, where permission may be required.

We strongly recommend that you read this website thoroughly, and get in contact with other home-educating parents.

To deregister:

Supplies and resources

Supplies and resources

This page lists some of our favourite places to find “teaching supplies” other than the ever faithful Amazon and Ebay(!)– but remember that resources don’t have to be book-shaped!

As well as videos and computers etc, how about people?

And the world in general?

There’s a wealth of knowledge all around you, even if you don’t realise it – resources are everywhere! 

Schools Surplus is a website which sells off the surplus stock from several educational supply companies. If you don’t find anything that interests you, keep checking back, as their deals are sometimes amazing. I’ve saved over 90% on some items here.

Schofield and Sims sell workbooks and more. Excellent value.

CGP Books write and sell revision guides and study books based on the National Curriculum. They cover Key Stage 1 up to GCSE, and include books on maths, English, science, history, geography, French and other modern languages. They have recently chosen to end their policy of allowing home-educators to buy at “schools” prices.

The Big 'S' - What about Socialisation?

Child hiding in box - irony
NSKA HEdNI Drama Group with Kids In Control
Sports Day
Sticks and streamers- conducting practice at a choral meet

This is one of the most frequently-asked questions about home-education. But briefly, the answer to this depends on what you mean by “socialisation”.

Do you mean “How will my child make friends and get to spend time with others his/her age?

If so, the answer is “in lots of ways”. Your child can spend time with other local children outside school hours, and you can go along to the many events organised by other home educators. He or she can be part of organisations like Scouts, or local drama groups, or dance classes, or St John’s Ambulance, or martial arts classes, through the various home education groups and co ops or… well, you get the idea. In fact, your child will probably have more time and energy available for those kinds of activities because he or she won’t be spending all day in school and all evening doing homework.

Many home-educating parents also find that their children develop friendships with people of many different ages and backgrounds, rather than mostly having friends who are similar to themselves.

Our 'groups' page is a good place to start...

Or perhaps you mean “How will my child learn to get along with other people, to fit in? Will my child grow up to be a misfit?

How To

A lovely way to do maths, on the floor with the dog!
Tesco Tour with the North Down Co Op
Long Muliplication
3 Portal Ball made in Cinema 4D
Home Educated kids looking at a huge image of the moon

How do we start?

If your child is in school, you must deregister him or her. If not, you don’t need to inform anyone – just get on with it.

How do we home-educate?

There are many different ways to home-educate, ranging from school-at-home (complete with workbooks and chalkboards) to autonomous (child or interest-led) education. Most families probably fall somewhere in-between. You can use workbooks or not, have formal lessons or not… it’s entirely up to you. Many families find that their children need a period of no formal lessons when they first come out of school, as a time to adjust. This is well-recognised and is known as deschooling.

Must we keep to school hours or terms?

No – your family can learn in whatever way suits you all best, and at the times which suit you all best.

Do we need to follow the National Curriculum or teach specific subjects?

No. You may wish to follow the Northern Ireland Curriculum (or the National Curriculum for England and Wales, which is largely the same, is more readily-available on-line, and has many more workbooks etc written for it), but there is no requirement to do so.

Legalities of Home Education

Tesco Tour with the North Down Co Op
Paper Sea Dragon
Sunny Day
Bones of the Hand

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.

You will find more information about the law and education in Northern Ireland on our Legal page and on the official NI Direct official information page.

Do we need permission to home-educate?

What kind of people home educate and why?

Meeting a snake
Reading Together

All kinds of people home-educate, and they do so for a wide variety of reasons.

Home educators can be wealthy or broke; conservatives or radicals; religious or atheist; have large families or only children – or anything in between.

Some people choose to home educate because of difficulties or potential difficulties at school, such as bullying, or because their child learns at a different pace to the “average” child.

Others don’t like the school choices available to them.

Some choose to home educate because they want to give their children a faith-based education; others because they want to avoid the kind of religious education offered in schools.

Some feel that 4 years of age is too young to be starting school (no other country in Europe has compulsory education starting so early).

Some want their children to have a more rigorous academic experience; others want their children to have more freedom.

Most will have a combination of several of these reasons.

How many home-educated children are there in NI?

Microscope work

It isn’t possible to give an accurate figure.

There is no official register of home-educated children in NI – and there’s no legal requirement to inform anyone that you are home-educating.

In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that approximately 1% of “school-aged” children are educated at home; the proportion is probably lower (but growing) in Northern Ireland.

On a less numerical level...

There are enough!  

Enough to make a vibrant community of families- you will find there are groups to meet with, outings to join, friends to make and other parents ready to volunteer their experience and support.

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