Not at School

  • As a child or young person under the age of 18, you have the right to an education, but you don’t have to go to school
  • Your parents are responsible for making sure that you get an education
  • When any decisions about where and how you should be educated are being made, the adults involved should take account of your views, and make decisions that are in your best interests

In Wales, if you are between the ages of 5 and 16, you should be in full time education, but you don’t have to be educated at school. Your parents are responsible for decisions about how you are educated. Most parents in Wales do choose to send their children to school but other options are available.

  • Your parents might choose to educate you at home.
  • You might go to a Pupil Referral Unit
  • If you are ill on a long term basis, you might get some of your education in hospital
  • If you are in youth custody, in a Young Offenders institution, a Secure Training Unit or a Secure Children’s Home you should still have access to education

As long as you are getting an education that develops your personality and your talents, your mental and physical abilities, teaches you about being part of society and encourages you to respect your own culture and other peoples’ cultures, it doesn’t matter where this happens.

In this section of the website, we look at some of the questions you might have about not going to school – home education, pupil referral units, what happens if you’re in detention or too ill to go to school. If you have any other questions about your rights and the law around going to school, you can email us: childrenslegalcentre@swansea.ac.uk

Your parents, or the people with parental responsibility for you, must make sure that you receive an education. The Local Authority where you live has to make sure that if you’re not at school, your education is ‘efficient’ ‘suitable’ to your age, your ability and what you are interested in and good at, and ‘full time’.

It is a duty of your local authority to make sure children and young people receive a suitable education even if they are not at school. If there is a reason why you cannot go to school – perhaps because you are ill, or because you have been excluded from school, you should still receive an education.

You can be educated at home if that is what your parents think is best for you.

You might go to a Pupil Referral Unit, which is a kind of school set up by the LEA specifically for children, and young people who cannot go to ‘mainstream’ school.

If you can’t go to school because of a medical condition or illness, you may be able to access education at hospital. You can find out more about this here.

If your parents, or the people with parental responsibility for you, decide that it is better for you to be educated at home, they can choose to do this. It’s called ‘Elective Home Education’.  Your parents can only choose to educate you at home if they can provide you with an ‘efficient’ and ‘suitable’, full time education. Most parents who choose to home educate will be very focused on making sure you get the right education for you. Being educated at home can give children and young people freedom to learn in ways that suit them better than school.

If your parents decide to home educate you, they must make this decision based on what is in your best interests, rather than their own. They must also take into account what you think about being educated at home, and they must remember that this may change over time.

Home education is a choice that your parents can make for you if they consider that it is in your best interests. If you are at school, your parents can take you out of school at any time, but it must be their choice. Your parents shouldn’t be pressurised to take you out of school for any reason.

If your school has reasons to think that you shouldn’t be at school, they should follow the proper processes for exclusion. A school can only do this if your behaviour has seriously breached the behaviour policy and if allowing you to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of you or others in the school.

Your local authority has a responsibility to challenge a school if it thinks the school is pressurising parents to take a child out of school and home educate.

If you’ve never been to school, there’s no obligation on your parents to tell the local authority that they are not going to send you to school. Your parents might want to get in touch with the local Authority to see what sort of support might be available to them if they are home educating, but this will be their choice.

If you are at school and you are going to move to home education, your parents should write to your school to explain that they are going to home school you. The school then has to take your name off the school register, and give your name, and address to the local authority within 10 days.

If you are registered at a special school and your parents decide that they want to home educate you, they have to get the agreement of the local authority. Your parents must write to the school to tell them that they want to educate you at home, and the school will let the local authority know. Your name will stay on the school register until the local authority has agreed to the change.

The Local Authority has to identify children who aren’t at school and who aren’t getting a proper education elsewhere, for example at home.

If your parents have decided to home educate you, the Local Authority will want to know that you are getting an ‘efficient’, ‘suitable’ and ‘full time’ education. The Local Authority will get in touch with your parents and will want to talk to them and to you every so often to find out about the education you are receiving. They may want to see some of the work you have done, and ask you questions about what you are learning. The Local Authority has to recognise that the education you receive at home may be very different from the education you would receive in school but can still be ‘efficient’ ‘suitable’ and ‘full time’.

The Local Authority can issue a School Attendance Order (SAO) to your parents, which requires them to register you at a named school. This may be because the Local Authority is worried about the type of education you are receiving at home, or because your parents haven’t given them enough information about your education.

Before the Local Authority can issue a SAO, it has to give your parents at least 15 days to give more details to the Local Authority, or to explain how they are going to change the education they are providing so that it is suitable, efficient and full time. If the Local Authority is still worried about your education, it can issue a Notice of Intention to serve a SAO. This gives your parents another opportunity to provide information about the home education you are receiving, or to challenge the Local Authority.

If an SAO is issued, you must be registered at the school that is named or your parents can be prosecuted in the magistrates court and could end up with a fine if the magistrates agree that your parents aren’t providing you with an education.

The Local Authority can also apply for an Education Supervision Order (ESO) which requires you and your parents to follow the directions made in it. An ESO makes the Local Authority responsible for advising, supporting and giving directions to make sure you are properly educated.

If you are being home educated, and you want to go to school, you will need to discuss this with your parents (or carers). Your parents are the main decision maker when it comes to your education. As long as they are doing a good job of your education, it is unlikely that anyone from the local authority will step in and make you go to school.

As you get older, you may be happy to continue your education at home, but if you want to go to school you will need to try and come to an agreement with your parents about where and how your education will continue. Your parents can still make the final decision but they should talk to you and take your views into account when they are making the decision.

It is possible to split your education between home and school. This is called flexi-schooling and can be useful if you and/or your parents don’t want you to spend all your time at school but your parents can’t home educate you full time. If you are flexi-schooled, you will remain on the school roll, and have some of your lessons in school, but you will also be educated at home. You don’t have a ‘right’ to flexi-schooling’ but your school may be prepared to agree to an arrangement like this. You and your parents will need to talk to your school about it.