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Compulsory Education Age

5–16 years old

Legal Status

While education is compulsory for five- to sixteen-year-olds, the law has never required that such education be received in schools. Parents have the duty of ensuring that their child receives “efficient full-time education” which is suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and to any special educational needs he or she may have. This education may be provided “either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

The “otherwise” allows parents to opt to educate their children at home as long as they provide “suitable education”. There is no legal definition of “full-time”, and parents are not obliged to follow the national curriculum or to be in possession of any teaching qualifications. The parents’ reasons for opting for homeschooling are not relevant.

Where children are being removed from a school in order to receive home education, parents must comply with certain registration requirements; otherwise it can be difficult for Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to keep track of pupils who are being educated at home, especially if they have never attended a maintained school. Statistics released in 2011 indicated that there were 747 pupils being educated at home during the 2009–10 school year in Wales (WAG, 2011).

There is no duty on the LEA to conduct routine inspections of home education, and indeed parents are not obliged to respond to informal inquiries made by the LEA. However, if it appears to the LEA that the child is not receiving suitable education, the LEA is obliged to serve a notice on the parents requiring them to satisfy the LEA that the child is indeed receiving such education. If there is a failure to satisfy the LEA in this respect, the LEA is required to serve a “school attendance order” which requires the parents to register the child at a named school.

The Guidance issued by the Welsh Assembly Government indicates that there is considerable flexibility in terms of the method of delivery of home education and the content of such education. LEAs may offer advice and suggestions but may not specify a curriculum to be followed. In certain circumstances, if a number of pupils are being educated by parents outside their home, they might come within the definition of an independent school and in such case would have to register as such, therefore falling under the legal framework for such schools.


Additional Resources

 When Good Parents Do Nothing (The HE BYTE)

Homeschool families face strict regulations under a drafted Home Education Guidance introduced in Wales.