Key information about the education system

 When does the child I am raising have to attend school?

All children aged five or above must receive some form of education. Most children will start school in the school year in which they turn five.

In England, children must continue in education or training until they are 17 (from 2013) or 18 (from 2015). In Wales, the school leaving age remains at 16. Generally, children attend primary school from ages 5 to 11, and secondary school when they are 11 or over, although in some places primary school is for children aged 5 to 9, with middle school for children aged 9 to 14 and high school for those aged 14 and over.

Young people who are over 16 might be in full-time education at a school or college, but they can also be serving an apprenticeship or in full-time employment (over 20 hours a week) combined with part-time education or training.

It is possible for children not to attend school provided they still receive full time education out of school – this is discussed further below.

The local council may take steps to ensure a child attends school if they think that they are not receiving full time education. For more information see here.

Can I educate the child I am raising at home?

Homeschooling is when parents/carers provide their child's education themselves or with the help of tutors. It is also called 'elective home education' or EHE.

Parents/carers who choose this option must ensure that their child receives a full-time education, although they do not have to follow the national curriculum. It is possible to arrange for homeschooled children to sit recognised exams.

If you choose this option, you may find you are monitored by the local council to ensure your child receives full time education, although they are not legally obliged to do this. However, if they think you are not providing the child with a suitable education, they may serve a school attendance order.

If the child you are going to educate at home has never been to school, you don't have to inform anyone, but if you're taking your child out of school, you must write to the head teacher.

Will the school speak to me if I am not the child's parent?

Yes. As the child's carer, the school has to treat you the same as if you were the parent of the child you are raising (i). This applies even if you don't have parental responsibility for him/her. This means that you are able to make decisions about the child's education, for example what school they will go to and what course they will choose, and you will also be held responsible for making sure the child receives an education, and attends the school where they are registered (if they are not being homeschooled).

(i) s. 576 Education Act 1996

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