Families take fight to High Court over rights to home educate their children

  • Video report by ITV Meridian's Education Correspondent Christine Alsford

Families in Portsmouth are taking a fight over their rights to home educate their children to the highest court in the land. 

In an increasingly bitter row, the local authority has issued several orders instructing parents to send their children back to school unless they can prove they are being well educated at home.

But many say the City Council lacks understanding about how education outside of a formal school setting works and the local authority are acting unlawfully. 

  • Vicky Campbell, Home Educator

Critics of home education worry about a lack of oversight and opportunities for children to socialise, but for many of these families home education has been a joy and a lifeline.

Local councils have a statutory responsibility to ensure that however it's done, every child is receiving a suitable education. 

If they don't think that's happening, they can issue what's called a School Attendance Notices, demanding a return to a mainstream classroom within two weeks.

The average number of notices during 2020 was 2.27%. In Portsmouth it was 40%.

The hearing will not only decide whether Portsmouth Council's actions have been fair and reasonable, but will set a precedent that will impact across the country. 

The ruling should include what evidence local authorities can demand to prove home educated children are learning and progressing.

Critics argue the current system leaves councils trying to make judgments about educational standards with no fixed criteria to go on. 

But supporters of home education say they need to understand and embrace doing things differently.

The case will now be heard by the High Court next week.