A Suitable Education?

Richard Davies


UK law requires that all children must undergo a period of “suitable education,” provided by a school “or otherwise.” This compulsion is resourced by an increasingly complex education system of institutions. A small group of parents, however, explore and utilise educational spaces beyond, and distinct from the school to educate their children. Despite its size this group has become a matter of considerable political interest, focused on the limitations of state agents to act to ensure that a suitable education is being provided. A particular complication in this debate is the lack of a consensus on what a suitable education would look like. In this paper, I focus on framing a defensible account of a suitable education. I want to make two sets of claims. The first is that the UK State has three distinct tasks in relation to the education of children, each task places a different requirement on the action of the State and makes a different contribution to any definition of a suitable education. The second is that there is a robust theoretical debate concerning what “education” looks like. I argue that whilst this does not allow us to specify a suitable education in detail, nevertheless we can be more specific than case law presently expresses.


Elective home education, suitable education, liberal education, policy, schooling, democratic state

Full Text:



Alexander, H. (2007). What is common about the common school? Rational autonomy and moral agency in liberal democratic education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 41(4), 609-624.

Badman, G. (2009). Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England. London: TSO.

Biesta, G.J.J. (2005). Beyond learning: Democratic education for a human future. Boulder, CO: Paradigm.

Brighouse, H. (1995). In defense of educational equality. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 29(3), 415-420.

Davies, R. (2003). Education, virtues and the good life: An inquiry into the ability of schools to inform and motivate their students’ moral behaviour. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Oxford, UK. Available from: http://www.academia.edu/823694/DPhil_Thesis_Education_Virtues_and_the_Good_life

Davies, R. (2013). After Higgins and Dunne: Imagining school teaching as a multi-practice activity. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 47(3), 475-490.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Touchstone/Kappa Delta Phi.

Dickens, C. (1838/1997). Oliver Twist or the parish boy’s progress. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/730/730-h/730-h.htm

DCSF. (2007). Elective home education: Guidelines for Local Authorities. London: Department for Children Schools and Families. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/288135/guidelines_for_las_on_elective_home_educationsecondrevisev2_0.pdf

Frankena, W.K. (1973). Education. In P. P. Wiener (Ed.), Dictionary of the history of ideas: Studies of selected pivotal ideas, Vol. II. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Retrieved from www.ditext.com/frankena/education.html

Gardner, P. (1993). Should we teach children to be open-minded? Or is the Pope open-minded about the existence of God?. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 32(2), 39-43.

Hare, W. (1979). Open-mindedness and education. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

Hirst, P.H. (1974). Knowledge and the curriculum. London: Routledge and Kogan-Paul.

Hirst, P.H. (1999). The nature of educational aims. In Marples, R. (Ed.) The aims of education (pp. 123-132). London: Routledge.

House of Commons Education Committee. (2012). Support for home education (Vols. 1 & 2). London: TSO.

Kraftl, P. (2013). Geographies of alternative education. Bristol: Policy Press.

Lees, H.E. (2013). Education without schools: Discovering alternatives. Bristol: Policy Press.

McLaughlin, T.H. (1990). Peter Gardner on religious upbringing and the liberal ideal of religious autonomy. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 24(1), 107-125.

McLaughlin, T.H. & Hare, W. (1998). Four anxieties and open-mindedness: Reassuring Peter Gardner. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 32(2), 283-292.

Monk, D. (2009). Regulating home education: Negotiating standards, anomalies and rights. Child and Family Quarterly, 21(2), 155-184.

Perry, L. (1972). Training and education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 6(1), 7-29.

Peters, R.S. (1966). Ethics and education. London: Allen and Unwin.

Phenix, P.H. (1964). Realms of meaning: A philosophy of the curriculum for general education. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ramaekers, S. & Suissa, J. (2012). The claims of parenting: Reasons. responsibilities and society. Dordrecht: Springer.

Rawls, J. (1993). Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Reich, R. (2002). Bridging liberalism and multiculturalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Reich, R. (2007). How and why to support common schooling and educational choice at the same time. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 41(4), 709–725.

Rousseau, J-J. (1762/2002). Emile or on education. (Trans. Fowley, B.). Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/5427/pg5427.html

Tan, C. (2004). Michael Hand, indoctrination and the inculcation of belief. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 38(2), 258-67.

Thomas, A. & Pattison, H. (2008). How children learn at home. London: Continuum.

Webb, S. (2011). Elective home education in the UK. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.

Welsh Assembly Government. (2012). Consultation document: Registering a monitoring home-based education. Cardiff: Author.

White, J. (1990). Education and the good life. London: Kogan Page.

White, J. (2006). Autonomy, human flourishing and the curriculum (review article). Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(3), 381-390.

Winch, C. (2012). Vocational and civic education: Whither British policy?. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 46(4), 603-18.

Winch, C. (1996). Quality and education. London: Wiley.

UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3712c.html [accessed 5 January 2015]

UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b38f0.html [accessed 5 January 2015]

Comments on this article

View all comments

...open to be different...

Other Education works in association with the following partners: http://www.othereducation.org/public/site/images/hel1/yorksj_logo_120

and is sponsored by the silence and mindfulness App Calm Me Down http://www.othereducation.org/public/site/images/hel1/google_play_icon_85

Please see copyright notice at the end of each published work for specifics.

ISSN: 2049-2162 © Other Business Ltd, 2012-2017. Other Education™ is a not-for-profit trading entity of Other Business Ltd whose registered office is: Bernard Rogers Accounting, Bank Gallery, High Street, Kenilworth. Registered in England: 08567212