Our guide to elective home education

There are many reasons parents decide to educate their child at home, like religion, personal preference, their child's specific need or as a short term intervention.

If you are educating your child at home, you need to make sure you are giving them a suitable full time education from the start of the term following their 5th birthday. See our school term dates and information about school age.

For more information on educating your child at home please read our guide to home education (PDF, 65.9 KB). To discuss educating your child at home call us on 03000 416969 or email educationathome@kent.gov.uk.

Educating your child at home is a big decision and will require a great deal of your time and energy, but when properly engaged in your child's education it can be a beneficial and satisfying experience for both parents and children.

You will not receive any financial assistance, so there will be expenses including:

  • costs associated with teaching resources
  • access to the internet
  • learning materials
  • the cost of taking exams if you want your child to gain qualifications.

It may be difficult for one person to teach a broad range of subjects so you may also need to consider if you will be paying for a tutor for some or all of the education.

Going to school is not simply about lessons and exams. There are the friendships, socialising with other people, development of communication skills and learning from a range of teachers sharing wide ranging interests and experiences which may be missed.

If you are home educating you should try to meet with other home educating families to see if there can be opportunities for children to socialise with other children their age. We would recommend you talk to your child about how they feel about home education in this wider context.

If you want your child to return to school at any point, or wish to take exams like GCSEs or A-Levels, you need to think about how they will be prepared for this.

Further information

Read examples sent to us by home educating families:

You can also read the elective home education guidelines for local authorities on GOV.UK.

You will need to provide a full time, efficient education that is suitable for the child's age, ability and aptitude. You do not need to be a qualified teacher, but by working together and identifying how and what your child wants to learn you can equip them for their future.

If your child has special educational needs, the education must meet these needs. If you think your child has special educational needs you can contact us for advice.

The education you provide should prepare your child for life in our modern society and enable them to progress towards reaching their full potential. You don't need to follow the National Curriculum, but think about how your child will develop a range of skills, for example:

  • communication
  • observation and awareness
  • problem solving
  • creative and imaginative
  • numerical
  • physical
  • personal and social

We recommend you consider some elements of the core subjects, for example Maths, English, Science and ICT but how and what you choose is your decision.

Details of what is covered in the National Curriculum is available on GOV.UK.

Teaching time

As a guide, children who go to school attend for 190 days a year, and the following weekly teaching hours are recommended by the Department for Education and Skills:

  • 21 hours for 5-7 year olds
  • 23.5 hours for 8-11 year olds
  • 24 hours for 12-16 year olds

If your child is already at school you must write to the school to inform them of your decision to home educate and ask for the child's name be taken off the school roll. The school will inform us, (the local authority) that you are going to be responsible for educating your child.

If your child has never been registered at school, you don't have to do anything, but we encourage you to tell us so we can keep you up to date with information and events you may be interested in. Call 03000 416969 or email educationathome@kent.gov.uk.

Children with special educational needs

If your child has special educational needs (SEN) you can still educate them at home, whether they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan or not. If your child has an EHC plan, we have a duty to make sure the child's needs are met, and that you make suitable provision, including for your child's special educational needs.

However, if your child goes to a special school, you will need permission from us before you can take your child out of special school and start home educating them.

Relationships with the school

If you have had a disagreement with the school, this alone should not be a decision to take your child out of school and educate them at home. In these instances please speak with the headteacher or contact us to help you broker a resolution to the situation that is acceptable to you and in the child's best interest.

Also, if you are feeling pressured into starting home education, speak to us so we can provide you with support.

Before you start

When we are informed that you plan to educate your child at home, we will contact you to offer an initial visit to provide advice and guidance which may be helpful to you when planning to home educate.

During this visit we would talk about how you plan to provide a suitable education, and ways you can keep evidence that you are doing this. We will also put you in touch with helpful organisations and websites that offer useful support for home educators.

With your agreement, we will come and see you again after a few months to see how you are progressing, and then make periodic contact at your discretion to offer support if and when needed.

If you do not require a visit you do not need to agree to one, we will not impose where parents choose not to engage with us. (Our elective home education policy sets out strictly limited situations where there are strong indications the child may not be receiving a suitable education where we would expect a meeting to be arranged).

You can use this template as guide to help provide information about your child's education:

Providing a suitable education

We have a duty to act if it appears that home educated children are not receiving a full time, efficient education that is suitable for the child's age, ability and aptitude.

We will contact you to discuss your approach to education, and ask for evidence, such as:

  • reports
  • examples of work and logs to record learning
  • getting work endorsed by someone independent
  • meetings with us to discuss work and progress.

Usually any concerns can be addressed informally. But if not there are statutory procedures that we enter into.

  • We will write to you about the concerns.
  • There is an opportunity to adapt the education being provided.
  • We will then review the work the child is doing.
  • If suitable education is still not being provided, we may consider a School Attendance Order (SAO), requiring parents to register their child at school. This is only the case once all reasonable steps have been taken to resolve the situation and would be a last resort.

Safeguarding

We have a duty to safeguard all children, including those who don't attend school.

If you are employing others to educate your child, for example tutors, we strongly recommend you carry out the appropriate checks and references and have arrangements in place for how you supervise them. Find out about Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS) on GOV.UK.

We have general duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and a responsibility to do this through our work. We must act upon any concerns that a child may be at risk of significant harm, in accordance with our child protection procedures available on the Kent Safeguarding Children Board website.

However, such powers cannot be used in order to establish whether the child in question is receiving suitable education at home.

If you want your child to take exams, such as GCSEs, your plan must include the year your child will sit exams, deadlines for applying, where they will take exams, and you will need to be familiar with the details of the correct syllabus to follow.

Many subjects also have coursework, which will need to be marked by someone the exam board has approved.

You will also need to contact an exam centre directly and register your child for the exams. You will be responsible for all the fees.

Exam boards

Exam centres

  • The Tutorial Foundation - accepts private candidates for nearly all examinations, based in Bromley, Kent.
  • AQA List - a list of exam centres, schools and colleges- who accept private candidates to sit AQA examinations.

Home educating families often choose to enter their children for International GCSEs (i-GCSEs). These are often 100% exam based.

College courses for 14-16 year olds (key stage 4)

Home educated young people aged 14 to 16 can go to college, either full or part time, and the government will pay for the course. It is up to the colleges whether or not to admit under 16s. These students can do any course agreed by the college, not just a designated 14-16 course, although many colleges still don't offer GCSE courses. Read the full details on GOV.UK.

Find details of all colleges in Kent.

Planning your future career, education or training

We usually encourage young people to explore their future options around career choices, and continuing their education and training, from around the age of 14 read our information about making these choices.

Returning to school

Should your circumstances change, and you need or want your child to return to school, you need to apply for a school place through an in year admission. If you need any help or support in accessing a school place you can discuss this with us, your elective home education contact can guide help with this process.

If you have been using the National Curriculum as a guide for your teaching, this could make it easier for your child to return to school, children can contribute along with their peers on familiar subject matters.