Legal Information

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Key Points:

  • deregistration is on demand and can be immediate (this may not apply to Special Schools where permission must be sought but should not be unreasonably denied)
  • the Board has no right or duty to monitor the education you provide, visit your home or meet with you or your children, you can keep things in writing if you prefer
  • you can respond to any concerns they may have in the format you feel best - their forms are only a suggested format 
  • you are not required to follow the National Curriculum or any other, while some home educators use a curriculum others do not
A reasonable summary is available on the official NI Direct official information page

Home Education is a legal option for every family in Northern Ireland. It is not necessary to seek permission from the Department of Education or your local Board of Education. If your child is registered at a school, you must deregister the child (by writing to the school principal); neither you nor the principal need permission from the Board or the Department of Education.

There may be an exception to this when a child who is attending a Special School - in this case the parent might need permission to deregister the child.

You do not need to hold any formal teaching qualification, or any formal qualification of any kind, to educate your children at home.

There is nothing in Northern Irish law which states that the Education and Library Board has the right to monitor your educational provision, to meet with your children, or to visit your home.

You are entitled to decline to meet with the Board at your home or elsewhere, many home educators prefer to keep all communication in writing so that everything is clear and documented... and while you should never ignore a letter from the Board you can repond in the format you prefer, so don't worry if any forms you are sent don't seem to apply to your circumstances. This page details the information we have on the way the various Boards currently operate

There is nothing in Northern Irish law which requires you to follow the National Curriculum or any other curriculum.

Some parents in Northern Ireland have been told (by schools or Education Boards) that it is not legally possible to deregister a child from school. A new Department of Education NI Circular makes it clear that they are wrong. More details on this can be found on our 'Deregistration from School' page.

The section of Northern Ireland legislation which allows for home-education as a legal and equal option to school is:

Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 SI 1986/594

Section 45

1. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

What this means is that education is the responsibility of the parent, and that the parent can choose how they provide education. The majority of families choose to fulfil their legal obligation by having their children attend school; however other forms of educational provision are available and permissible.

The following legislation is used when it appears that a parent is not fulfilling his or her obligations as outlined above:

Schedule 13 Enforcement of duty imposed by article 45

Part 1

1(1) If it appears to a board that a parent of a child of compulsory school age in its area is failing to perform the duty imposed on him by article 45(1), the board shall serve on the parent a notice requiring him, within such period not being less than fourteen days from the service of the notice, to satisfy the board that the child is, by regular attendance or otherwise, receiving efficient full-time education suitable ....

2(1) Where, at any time whilst a school attendance order is in force with respect to a child, the parent of the child makes an application to the board by whom the order was made requesting ... that the order be revoked on the ground that arrangements have been made for the child to receive otherwise than at school education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, the board shall amend or revoke the'order in compliance with the request unless it is of the opinion that

- (d) no satisfactory arrangements have been made for the education of the child otherwise than at school.

A useful summary of the legal position in Northern Ireland prepared as a brief for MLAs, during the recent consultation, is here.

The situation is different in the Republic of Ireland and information on home educating there can be found here.  This link ONLY applies if you are outside Northern Ireland.  We include the link because we occasionally get enquiries, and of course many people move between N Ireland and ROI.

2014 Consultation

The five boards conducted five consultations on one document in 2014 - a new policy they hope to implement throughout Northern Ireland.  It is not clear when any findings will be released.

Even if implemented this policy cannot have legal force.

The Education and Library Boards do not have the power to change the law. If they wonder why we don't trust them enough to invite them into our homes they should look at the way they twist and misrepresent the law.

HEdNI believe it is important to fight this policy because of the way it could be used to bully and intimidate, but it is important to keep this in context. This isn't law.

What is wrong with the policy?

- most importantly it is outside their power. The legislation gives them no power or duty to do anything beyond investigating "where is appears" that a suitable education is not being provided.

- entry into the home. Not even the police have access to private homes without reasonable suspicion of wrong doing. Such access violates our human rights.

- access to the child.  Home educated children cannot be compelled to be interviewed.

- confusion of welfare and education issues. Home education is not a welfare issue, it is offensive to imply otherwise. If there are welfare concerns then refer them to social services. If there are not then don't vaguely refer to welfare as an excuse to ignore the rights of home educating families.

- delaying deregistration. This is an old fight, which they have already conceded. The boards have no power to delay deregistration.

- requiring a 'programme' of education. The Boards have no ability in law to dictate or approve the content of education. The strength of home education is it's diversity, flexibily and personalised nature. 

Please write to your MLAs and ask them to insist that the Boards act within the law.