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

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