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Homeschooling in the United Kingdom

by David Engle | Mar 24, 2022 | 5 min read

Just like any other type of schooling, homeschooling is an international endeavor. Millions of families around the world have made the decision to take their child’s education into their own hands, especially during and in the wake of COVID-19. And, like the United States, every country has its own opinions, philosophies, and laws surrounding homeschooling.

In this monthly series, we’ll take a look at different countries around the world and how they view homeschooling as well as the types of laws (if any) those countries have to govern homeschooling. The first country we visited was the second-largest country in the world, and the northern neighbor to the United States–Canada. Then we went island hopping to the Philippines and Puerto Rico before cruising on over to South Africa. We headed back to the Caribbean to the Dominican Republic, traveled all the way to Thailand, made our way back to Mexico, and then journeyed to the Middle East to explore homeschooling in Qatar and Saudi Arabia! After our first venture into Europe to look at Spain, we headed back to Asia to review homeschooling in India. In this edition, we’ll trek back West to the United Kingdom!

The UK is full of history and beauty–and also plenty of interesting facts:

  • The United Kingdom comprises the countries of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and several small islands.
  • At nearly 67.9 million people, the UK ranks as the 21st most populous country in the world.
  • By size, however, the United Kingdom is ranked 78th in the world.
  • Europe’s continental land is linked with the UK via the Channel Tunnel (aka “The Chunnel”). The Chunnel connects the cities of Calais in France and Dover in England, and is the world’s second-longest underground tunnel at 21 miles long.
  • London is the United Kingdom’s largest and most populated city, with nearly 9 million residents. Among these citizens, it’s estimated that more than 300 languages are spoken throughout the city.
  • There are more English speakers in the United States, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines than in the United Kingdom!
  • The Shard, in London, is the tallest structure in all of Europe at 1,107 feet high.
  • The UK is a very flat country; in fact, its tallest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland, at only 4,413 feet above sea level.
  • The United Kingdom is home to the mysterious monument Stonehenge. Thought to have been built around 3000 B.C., this ancient wonder stands in the county of Wiltshire in England.
  • There is no written constitution in the UK.
  • Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwlllllandysiliogogogoch. No, I didn’t fall asleep on my keyboard. That is actually the name of a town in Wales–not surprisingly, it is the longest name of any city in the world.
  • Queen Elizabeth is the longest-reigning queen in the world.
  • There are more than 100 football clubs (we know it as soccer here in the States) in the UK, where the game is wildly popular.
  • Americans love their coffee, Brits love their tea. Approximately 165 million cups of “cuppa” are consumed every day in the UK.
  • London is the only city with a population of over 1 million people. Birmingham is next with just under a million, followed by Liverpool (home of The Beatles), Nottingham, Sheffield, Bristol, Glasgow (Scotland), Leicester, Edinburgh (Scotland), and Leeds–all of which are home to between 450,000 and 875,000 residents. Of course, if you factor in suburban areas, these populations swell by quite a bit.

Rules and Requirements for Homeschooling in the United Kingdom

Homeschooling in the United Kingdom is a widely accepted form of education, one that is rapidly growing in popularity across the country. The UK government allows families to teach their children at home either full- or part-time. For families interested in removing their child from school, they simply must alert the school that they’re planning to educate their child at home; the school is obligated to accept the request if home education will be full-time. However, schools have the right to refuse a family’s request if the intention is to send the child to school part-time.

Parents are responsible for educating their child from the age of 5, but they are not obligated to follow the country’s national curriculum. Similarly, homeschooled children are not required to take exams such as the SATs, GCSEs, or A-levels (more on these later). Just like the US, there are no experience requirements for parents to teach their children; in other words, a parent or caregiver does not need to be a teacher or have educational qualifications to teach at home. Local school councils are permitted to make an “informal enquiry” to make sure a child is receiving a proper education.

To learn more about homeschooling rules and regulations in the United Kingdom, visit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and the UK Parliament’s House of Commons Library for some helpful information. 

The number of homeschooled children in the United Kingdom varies depending on where you look. For example, The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) estimated that, as of October 2021, there may have been around 81,200 registered home-educated children in England. However, the true number is most likely far greater as registration for home education is voluntary. In 2019, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) survey counted 60,500 registered home educated children in England as of March 2019. Post-COVID numbers figure to be significantly higher, however.

Thanks to the increasing popularity and overall acceptance of homeschooling in the United Kingdom, there’s no shortage of homeschooling support groups and resources available for those looking to educate at home in the UK. Here is just a handful of those groups:

Homeschooling in the United Kingdom also offers some amazing places to take in culture. In fact, there are 33 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including must-sees like the City of Bath, Westminster Abbey, Edinburgh, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Stonehenge, the Tower of London, and Giant’s Causeway. Not to mention the more than 170 museums in London alone, the British Library (second-largest in the world), Big Ben and Parliament, the Tower Bridge, the Eden Project, the Cotswolds, Buckingham Palace, the Isle of Skye, the Globe Theatre, Jurassic Coast, Loch Ness, The Needles, St. Andrew’s Golf Club, the White Cliffs of Dover, and the countless castles, cathedrals, parks, beaches, and villages the UK has to offer. All perfect field trips for homeschoolers!

The United Kingdom’s School System

The British school system is consistently one of the highest-ranking in the world. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Countries for Education research, the United Kingdom ranks #2 in education globally.

Compared with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Education GPS, which uses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to assess the reading, science, and math skills of 15-year-old students every three years, the UK ranked well above most OECD averages in reading, math, and science:

  • In reading, students in the UK averaged 504, significantly higher than the OECD country mean of 487.
  • In math, students in the UK scored 502, also well above the OECD country mean (489).
  • In science, students in the United Kingdom averaged 505, way above the OECD country mean (489).

If it’s not the quality of education, why are more and more families in the United Kingdom opting to homeschool? Perhaps it’s because many UK students are not as happy as those in other OECD countries. For example, UK students scored well below average on the topics of life satisfaction, positive feelings, sadness, and fear of failure. Additionally, the number of bullying incidents in UK schools is nearly five percentage points higher than the OECD country mean.

There are actually quite a few reasons why homeschooling is gaining steam in the UK. According to the ADCS’ Elective Home Education Survey Report 2021, the top reasons why parents opted to homeschool include:

  • COVID-related concerns
  • Philosophical or lifestyle choice
  • Health/emotional health
  • Dissatisfaction with school

These look very similar to the reasons provided by parents in many other countries, including the US.

Bridgeway in the United Kingdom

Bridgeway Academy is ready to be the homeschool partner for students and families in the UK. If you’re currently living in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales, or are planning on moving there, remember that Bridgeway offers plenty of amazing homeschool programs–plus accreditation, record-keeping, and support–that can be used anywhere in the world! And, don’t forget to look up fellow Bridgeway families–it’s a community that can be found in nearly two dozen countries across the globe, and the Bridgeway community is a strong one.

Download our free PDF about homeschooling with a U.S. based program and then contact our admissions team at (800) 863-1474 to start your homeschool adventure. Stay tuned–we’ll be bringing you homeschooling info from another international location soon!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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