Home Education Policies in Europe

What’s been said?

A thirty-four page document entitled Home Education Policies in Europe was issued in October 2018 by the Publications Office of the European Union. It is part of a range of EU publications on educational policy.

The report details home education policies for primary and lower secondary levels of education in the 38 Eurydice countries. Eurydice is  “a network of 42 national units based in all 38 countries of the Erasmus+ programme,” whose task is “to explain how education systems are organised in Europe and how they work.”

Part 1 opens with a short comparative overview. A helpful map on page 5 indicates three categories of country where:

  • HE is only authorised in exceptional circumstances – 13
  • HE is not authorised – 2 (Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Macedonia)
  • HE is authorised at the request of parents – the remainder

A comparison chart follows, indicating each country’s position on “top level criteria defined for home education”. These should be noted carefully, as the national descriptions in Part 2 go on to detail the situation in each country according to these four main regulated criteria:

  • The level of authorisation needed in order to HE
  • The level of qualification required by the educators
  • Educational supervision and assessment of the child’s progress
  • Examinations/tests which must be passed by students

Readers will be interested to look carefully at the United Kingdom section beginning on page 21.

The English section includes reference to the DfE’s Call for Evidence and the recently updated  House of Commons Library Briefing, Home education in England (2018).

The Welsh section is similarly up to date, linking to news reports on the Welsh Government’s Jan 2018 announcement of “a consultation on developing a database of children not on a school register, to help local authorities in monitoring home education.”

The document reports that HE in Northern Ireland is governed by the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, and a link is also provided to the government website.

The Scottish section references guidance on HE issued by ministers under Section 14 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 and concludes with advice to Scots HE parents about potential difficulties with regard to internally assessed components of some qualifications.

Why does it matter?

It is helpful to be aware of the situation for home educators in other nations, both for practical purposes and when speaking or writing about proposals to increase registration and monitoring in England.

Familiarising yourself with the contents of this report will both broaden your perspective on HE and help you to realise how precious our current freedoms are.

Although the document’s introduction allows that “compulsory education is not a synonym of compulsory school attendance,” the application of the regulated criteria listed above make it evident that a choice to home educate in various countries may not be at all straightforward.

The heading “Home education is authorised at the request of parents in the majority of countries” could be read in a positive light, but it becomes clear as one progresses through the small print that the opening summary was actually more realistic: “In a dozen countries, it [HE] is possible only in exceptional circumstances. In many cases, parents have to ask for authorisation from top level or local authorities. The qualification or the minimum educational level of the educator is defined in half of the countries. Students’ progress is monitored and assessed everywhere except in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where no regulation exist. Students must pass examinations at the end of the education level in some cases.” [Emphasis added]

There are two issues for our consideration therefore: a) is it theoretically possible for parents to take responsibility for their child’s education in a particular country? And b) in real terms, how many obstacles are thrown across their way?

For visual confirmation of how unusual the situation is here in the UK, do make time to look at Figure 2 on page 6. The absence of required criteria by comparison with other countries is very striking, particularly in the category “Educational supervision and assessment of the child’s progress”. The brief section devoted to HE in The Netherlands (page 18) however implies that the days of freedom there could be numbered: “Full-time compulsory education at home is not (yet) regulated by national legislation.”

What can I do?

Perhaps you did not realise before reading this how unique the UK is in Europe when it comes to home education. Now that you are aware, we hope that the threat to parental responsibility and the associated freedom to home educate will encourage you to continue making effort to ensure that these are not usurped by the state, no matter where you live in the UK.

One important question to ask your elected representatives [in whichever parliament they are members] as you think through the implications of this report – do you see the state or the parents as having the final say over home education? If the answer is not to your liking, make them aware of Human Rights guarantees of parental responsibility and the right to a private family life. Keep up the pressure!

We also suggest that you keep a PDF copy of the report on file for future reference.