Journalists, please read these notes to ensure your reporting of elective home education matters is both accurate and respectful of our minority community.
Ours is the largest home education peer support network in Scotland with approximately 4500 members and close links with the national charity Home Education Scotland. Our press office can be contacted on 07729 623532.
Please always use correct terminology (‘home education’ or ‘elective home education’, not ‘homeschooling’, and ‘consent for withdrawal’, not ‘deregistration’). ‘Home schooling’ is an American term which is not generally used by home educators in the UK and ‘deregistration’ (like ‘registration’) does not apply in Scotland.
‘Home schooling’ is just one of many possible methods, whereas ‘home education’ is the inclusive term that covers the full diversity of approaches taken by parents who choose to fulﬁl their legal duty to provide an education for their children themselves.
Home education and the law
Parents have the legal duty to ensure that their children are suitably educated between the ages of five and 16 and may discharge that responsibility either by sending them to a state school or ‘by other means’, which includes the provision of a home-based education.
You should be mindful of the fact that home education has equal status in law to state and private schooling and that it is up to parents to determine the means of their children’s education.
For more detailed information, please refer to our section about the law relating to home education in Scotland.
Home education statistics
There are no reliable figures for the number of school-age children who are in home education in Scotland, since schooling is an opt-in service and it is parents, not the state, who are responsible in law for providing suitable education for their children during the compulsory years.
There is no requirement for families to register with, or otherwise inform, their local authority if they decide to home educate, except when they seek to remove their child(ren) from a public (state) school, with several exceptions set out in guidance.
Our ‘Home Truths’ research, published in March 2020, includes statistics returned by local authorities in response to our FOIA requests, but these exclude the many families who are not in contact with their councils.
Reasons for choosing home education
Historically, home educating families in Scotland have tended to be evenly split between those who have proactively chosen to home educate from the outset and those who have withdrawn their children from school, mostly due to bullying or unmet additional support needs.
Over the past several years, however, there has been a perceptible shift as interest in home education has increased significantly, and support networks across Scotland have all reported a surge in membership.
A breakdown of reasons for home educating, given by respondents to our 2018 survey, can be found here.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also had an impact on parental decisions on education, as illustrated by our 2020 survey of a selected segment of our membership in order to ascertain the post-lockdown educational plans of those whose children had previously been in school.
Additional Support Needs
Children with disabilities, chronic conditions and additional support needs (ASNs) are increasingly likely to be home educated due to these needs being unmet, or likely to be unmet, in schools. They often derive significant benefits from the individually tailored education parents can provide to suit their specific learning styles and needs.
There are now many activities and groups dedicated to the needs of home educating families, including social media networks, local and interest-based groups. Home educated children also participate in ‘out of school’ activities where they can meet and mix with schooled children if they choose.
While school pupils are segregated into same-age groups on a daily basis with limited scope for social contact, home educated children have myriad opportunities to mix with people of all ages and backgrounds, including their peers, in the real world.
Curriculum and timetables
There is no requirement to follow Scottish curriculum for excellence (CfE) or any formal curriculum, although some families choose to do so. It is worth labouring the point that (home) schooling and (home) education are not synonymous.
Timetables are irrelevant to most home educating families, who enjoy much more flexibility than school teachers catering for 20+ children, but many schedule in regular activities to suit their own particular routine.
Home educated young people are not obliged to take exams at all, although many choose to do so, sometimes earlier or later than their schooled counterparts. Scottish school-centric qualifications are more difficult to obtain due to the ‘hoops’ of internal assessments, but IGCSEs, A Levels, International Bac and American SATs are just some of the alternative routes that can be pursued by home educated private candidates. Others have elected to attend FE colleges and study via the OU.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to home educated candidates whose existence has largely been erased from the consciousness of school-centric policy-makers across the UK. Please refer to our blog for further details.