No one really knows how many children are home educated in the UK. Estimates suggest around 60,000. Home education is chosen for many reasons including faith, disaffection with the State system, bullying, or difficulty in finding suitable schools. Unlike the US, home education in the UK isn’t predominantly Christian. Some Christians home educate but many home educators aren’t Christians. Amongst Christians there are varying views on home education from support to complete antipathy.
Why do Christians home educate in the UK? Various reasons are given but often because of concern about the secular/atheistic world view of the National Curriculum which is taught in State schools.
Home education is legal in the UK and home educators do not need either to register or to teach the National Curriculum. The law states that parents must ensure that their child receives an “efficient full-time education suitable to her/his age, aptitude and ability” and this can be “either by attendance at school or otherwise.”
Many home educators are unknown to the Local Authorities (councils) but some will be known to the Elective Home Education teams and receive inquiries or inspections. Any child who has been in a State school and removed will be known to the teams; those who have never been to school or who have been to private schools may not be known to the teams. Children may also become known to the Local Authority via the family doctor or other health services or via social services.
What is it like to home educate in the UK? I’ve never home educated elsewhere but this is a list of points that I suspect are rather different from home education in the US:
- Groups are smaller. We go to two Christian home education groups. One has five families, whilst the other is a little larger, with 12-14 families. This means that we tend to know the mothers and children fairly well, which can be good for friendship and support. The downside is that there isn’t usually a choice of courses in the groups.
- Most parts of the country have some sort of group but some people may travel some distance to reach them and there are Christians who haven’t been able to find a group.
- It isn’t easy to judge where there are no statistics but the number of Christians home educating seems to be increasing. This means that most groups have larger numbers of smaller children. This may also be because people only home educate younger children. In my personal experience, most Christians home educate to age 16.
- Exams are a difficulty for us as these are set up in a very “school” orientated way. Home educating parents have to negotiate the complexity of researching curricula, exam technique and exam centres. This is both time consuming and expensive.
- On a much more positive note, the UK has a rich history and is a brilliant place for field trips. We’ve been to Roman, Norman, Tudor and World War II sites. Some amazing places combine several eras in one.
Inside the Tower of London
- Many sites put on special events for groups of home educators for a small cost and our major museums and galleries have free entrance.
- Our climate-the British always talk about the weather but only rarely is it really bad enough to avoid going outside.
- We aren’t so far from continental Europe. Many families learn French and for those of us living in the south of England, France is closer than Scotland.
Recent trip to the Black Forest area of Germany
Sarah lives with her family in England. She loves to explore the history and countryside around her and blogs at Delivering Grace.