About this site

__________

This page includes:

Purpose of this site

Legislation vs Guidance

Restrictions 2021

Police and Penalties

Current Legislation

What is a suitable education?

Are our children allowed to socialise during Covid?

Legal Status of Home Education

Further Info

__________

Purpose of this site

Many agree it is important for home educated children to be able to participate in educational activities safely and in line with the law. Educators, parents and carers also need to feel clear and confident about which educational activities are allowed.

This site was created to help a local group of home educators understand and follow the government’s legislation and guidance on restrictions on gatherings during Covid-19.

A section on online privacy was added after the surveillance involved in the pandemic response raised awareness and concerns about our civil liberties, data protection, and how much we are being monitored and tracked by various agents.

Jump to the privacy landing page: Privacy, Security and Social Media

Legislation vs Guidance

All legislation, including the most recent, can be found on the following government webpage:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/coronavirus

New regulations are passed, or amendments added, each time there is a significant change to the rules, and then guidance is written to help explain the law and also to give further advice on virus control.

In essence, the legislation is the law, and the guidance is more like advice or a polite request.

This screenshot from the government website explains the difference between legislation and guidance:

Please note that police only have powers to enforce the legislation, and do not have immediate powers to enforce the guidance. (Other than any parts of guidance which are the same as the legislation).

Sometimes the guidance ends up stricter than the legislation. For example, exercising once per day is guidance only, and police can’t enforce it. This is because the guidance is supposed to be advice for preventing virus spread, but isn’t the actual law.

You should not be fined or arrested on the spot if you are not breaking the rules in the legislation. (Rogue or over zealous police notwithstanding).

However, if they ask you to disperse and you don’t, it looks like they can issue a fine on that basis: https://bit.ly/3sjnrH2

Sign up to get emails when the government adds new coronavirus education and childcare information: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/education-and-childcare

Restrictions 2021

The “roadmap” for easing Covid restrictions in England has been good news on a public perception level, with schools allowing full face to face attendance from 8 March.

This does not technically affect EHE, as we have been legally permitted to operate throughout the lockdown.

However, from a public perception standpoint it is good news.

Under the current regulations, EHE gatherings are legally allowed.

The legislation gives a specific exemption for gatherings for the purposes of elective home education (see below). This is not in question.

Police and Penalties

Police only have the power to enforce legislation. (Enforce here meaning issuing a fine or arresting on the spot).

However, police may decide to try to disperse your gathering, on the basis of the guidance, or even if they eyeball your group and think there isn’t enough social distancing going on (anecdotal from police). If you then go against the police officer’s request, acting “belligerent” or insisting you have a right to stay out, it seems you can be issued a fine for going against the request of the police.

If you don’t disperse when asked, the penalty seems to be £200 for a gathering of under 30 people, and then £10K for over 30 people.

For info, here is the Police briefing: https://bit.ly/3sjnrH2

This thread on Twitter on how the Covid-19 regulations should be policed is also interesting (and reassuring). Barrister Adam Wagner invited police officers to contact him with thoughts.

https://mobile.twitter.com/AdamWagner1/status/1348361591188811781

This New Statesman article discusses over zealous policing: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2021/01/why-overzealous-policing-lockdown-threat-us-all

Please note that this area of law changes frequently and updates to the guidance may appear over the next few weeks. Please get in touch at homeedsurrey@tutanota.com if you spot anything missing.

Legislation

The relevant legislation is:

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021/364)

Education is still exempt from restrictions to gatherings.

Home Education is mentioned explicitly in the exceptions for gatherings, with reference to the Education Act 1996 (Section 7) (see section (f) in the image below).

The screenshot below shows the exceptions for gatherings from Schedule 1. Section (f) refers to elective home education, where it says “otherwise than by regular attendance at school arranged by a parent”.

What is a suitable education?

The exception for elective home education in the legislation refers to the Education Act 1996 (Section 7). Here is the Education Act 1996:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/contents

Here is Section 7 of the Education Act 1996:

The definition of “suitable education” in Section 463A(3) of the Education Act 1996 can be found here:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/436A

The meaning of “suitable education” in this context is explained further in the EHE guidance for parents. In brief, it is what you are already doing. (Presuming you are a bona fide elective home educator!)

To refresh your memory, the EHE guidance for parents is available from this page:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elective-home-education

Are our children allowed to socialise during Covid?

Yes, provided some face to face education is permitted. For the education to be deemed “suitable”, we need to make sure our children have contact with peers, according to section 2.10 of the EHE guidance for parents:

Some social contact with peers is therefore required for the education to be suitable.

There has been some discussion among home educators as to how far this definition should extend. How social is too social? How much isolation is excessive? This will be, in part, an individual decision based on your own child’s needs.

Based on examples given elsewhere in the guidance & regulations, I would argue that a “purely social” activity with no educational purpose would be something like a traditional children’s birthday party. Think about it. Do you see what I mean?

Most other activities, including teenagers hanging out (and negotiating with each other, meaning making etc) do have a place in a suitable education, comparable to playground and break room interactions which form part of a school day. (The “norm” to which many people compare things). That is purely my personal informed opinion, but I hope it helps you decide and consolidate your own position.

Legal status of Home Education

Whenever the regulations or guidance refer to “education”, that should include elective home education, unless it is specifically excluded.

The term “education” includes home education. Home education is legal education under the Education Act 1996 (Section 7). This law requires education to be received “at school or otherwise.” https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/7

That said, if schools are not open for face to face learning, it doesn’t necessarily mean home education activities have to stop. Guidance around different educational settings is becoming more finely tuned.

It is unlikely that any Covid-19 legislation will be able to alter the Education Act 1996 (Section 7) and shift the duty of education from the parent to the state. We can assume the duty to provide a suitable education still lies with the parents, unless anything explicitly says this has changed.

Further info

The pages on Outdoor Meets, Indoor Meets and Home Meets have info specific to those settings, alongside practical tips for avoiding misunderstandings when arranging educational activities.

The “Easy Read” page gives a chatty Q&A style explanation of why it’s legal to meet for home ed.

Use the menu (below or top right) to find the page you need for any further info.

Another useful source of info and commentary on the Covid rules is the human rights barrister Adam Wagner on Twitter. https://mobile.twitter.com/AdamWagner1

Updated 7 May 2021

__________

Disclaimer: This site is personal interpretation only, not legal advice, and not a substitute for checking the laws directly. It’s also not a “get out of jail free” card if you break the rules and arrange a purely social activity with no educational purpose. It also can’t guarantee you won’t meet a rogue police officer who oversteps their powers. Please decide for yourself!