Home educating your child

Child being home-educated

For most children, mainstream school works well – they get a rounded education and the social skills they’ll need as they go out into the world. But if things really aren’t working out for your child at secondary school, don’t panic – there are other options

Why might you consider an alternative to your local secondary school?

  • Perhaps your child has not been accepted into your first, second, or even third choice secondary school.
  • The schools in your area don't have a good reputation so you're considering a move to a different postcode.
  • You know your child is very bright and they're just not being stretched at school.
  • Your child has a real talent for dance, music or drama but the amount of time taken up with practice and rehearsals means fitting in school work is difficult.
  • Although things started well, school has now become a battle and your child has become very anxious.
  • You are planning to take some time to travel or perhaps move overseas for work, and you want your child to continue with the UK curriculum.
  • Your child has suffered from bullying and although the school have been supportive, your child is now refusing to go to school.
  • Your child has a health issue that has meant they have missed a lot of school and find it difficult to attend.

Here’s what the law says:

  • You must ensure your children receive an education suitable for their age, aptitude and ability – that education can be at school or at home.
  • You don't need special permission from your local authority to home educate, but you do need to notify the school in writing to say that you are withdrawing your child and are taking personal responsibility for their education.
Woman teaching child

What are the alternative education options?

1. Look for a different type of school

In the UK, schools broadly fall into two categories – those which are paid for by the government and those which are not; however there are variations within these. Faith schools have to follow the national curriculum but choose what they teach in religious studies – and may have different admissions criteria. Free schools are funded by government but aren't run by the local authority so they have more control over how they do things. To find out more about whether these are a good option for you, ask around locally or start a thread on the Mumsnet Local Talk boards. The schools' websites should also give you more of an idea about their ethos.

2. Decide to teach your child yourself

You may well decide to teach your child at home yourself – it’s perfectly legal in the UK and you won't need any teaching qualifications. You can decide when and what to teach your child and you can apply to enter them privately for GCSEs or A-levels too. One-to-one teaching can be very effective – but as it might be a long time since you were at school, the prospect of getting your child through GCSEs on your own might seem a bit daunting.

3. Join a local home education community for support

There are plenty of groups online for parents that home-school. Local groups can offer a lot of support and suggestions for learning activities, materials and resources. There are many types of home education groups – some are more like regular get-togethers, others are formal GCSE tutor groups. If you are in an area without any of these groups, the Mumsnet home education Talk topic provides encouragement and support, and the answers when you’re stumped.

4. Enrol in an online secondary school

Online secondary schools can be a good solution for some pupils and their families. Just as many everyday activities can now be done online – for example banking, shopping, work and most recently consulting a doctor – the internet also provides alternative possibilities for learning.

What are the advantages of online schools?

  • Accessibility: If you live in a remote location, or your child has a health issue which makes it difficult for them to get to the local school, using the internet to learn may be a solution.
  • Flexibility: Online schools can allow greater flexibility for pupils in special circumstances, for example if your child has a talent for drama or sport and needs to fit rehearsals or practice around school work.
  • Concentration: Because the learner is more in control of their immediate physical environment, there is the possibility of being exposed to fewer distractions, which can result in an improvement in concentration.
  • Socialising: Pupils who may suffer from social anxiety can choose how and when to participate and engage in social exchanges.

Child studying at an online school

About InterHigh

InterHigh School is the only UK online secondary school to be listed in the Good Schools Guide. It caters for students from Year 7 through to Year 13, and offers GCSEs and A-levels as well as vocational qualifications. The school is an approved exam centre for all the major UK exam boards – Cambridge, Edexcel, AQA, OCR and WJEC. Pupils can choose from a variety of core and additional subjects to create their preferred mix of topics.

What Mumsnetters say about InterHigh School

“My 12-year-old son is enjoying it so far and the educational standards appear to be high. He seems to be covering more work each week than he was at regular school, but in less time. His English teacher is a PhD.”

“My 13-year-old is at Interhigh and we're very happy with it. She hadn't attended regular school for quite some time but she's settled into IH really well, made lots of friends and is going on their activity weekend.”

Find out more on the InterHigh website

InterHigh logo

For more information from parents who've been there, head to the Mumsnet home education Talk topic.