What is a Full-time Education | Homeschooling UK

How many hours are children learning in school?

I’m often asked what I consider to be a full-time education so before I answered I wanted to spend some time figuring out what full-time looked like for the kids in my class when I was a teacher and how that compares to my own home educated children’s learning.

So ,the English EHE Guidance states that “there is no legal definition of “full-time” in terms of education at home, or at school. Children attending school normally have about five hours tuition a day for 190 days a year, spread over about 38 weeks. However, home education does not have to mirror this. In any case, in elective home education there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may sometimes take place outside normal “school hours”. 

For the sake of this activity I’m going to remove all of the time spent at school doing activities that aren’t specifically “tuition” to see how many hours kids are really “learning” at school. Obviously as an ‘unschooler’ I fully understand that learning opportunities are everywhere and a child may learn as much queueing up after break (whispering to a friend) as they might in a 60 minute maths lesson. But, let’s pretend for a moment that I’m an Local Authority Officer who believes that learning needs to look a certain way.

Pupils arrive ready for school at 9am and the school day ends at around 3.15pm.

That’s a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes spent at school for 190 days each year.

So, let’s start deducting those “wasted hours”:

Full time school learning compared to a day of relaxed home education:

  • 10 minutes morning register and figuring out who’s having school dinners or packed lunch.

  • 15 minutes for assembly usually either religious or about reminding children about school rules.

  • 5 minutes spent lining up quietly…and then repeating this process until it’s done “in silence”…before walking back to class.

  • 5 minutes at the start of every lesson to settle everyone, locate missing books and sharpen pencils. That’s 20 minutes in total.

  • 5 minutes during lessons for behaviour reminders. Keeping everyone on track, usually silent. This could be much higher depending on the class. Total 20 minutes.

  • 10 minutes during lessons for getting drinks, toilet, chatting off-task. That’s 40 minutes.

  • 5 minutes for telling kids what the objective of the lesson is. Even longer if kids have to write it down. 20 minutes total.
  • 5 minutes for packing away and tidying at the end of every lesson. That’s 20 minutes.

  • 15 minute morning break.

  • 1 hour lunch break

  • 10 minutes to sort out lunch issues after coming in from the playground. Who’s called who, what and why?

  • 15 minute afternoon break

  • 10 minutes to tidy up before going home. Locate bag, PE kit, lunchbox and coat!

  • That’s 4 hours 20 minutes to be subtracted so far which leaves 1 hour 55 minutes

  • Kids attend school for 190 days every school year. There are a few things that we need to subtract termly or annually.

  • Let’s assume a child has 3 sick days a year (although I’d consider higher more realistic for younger/ immune compromised kids especially).

  • 3 days for every ‘last day of term’. Hyped up kids, exhausted teachers, watching a movie and colouring pictures.

  • 1 days worth of Christmas Concert rehearsals, choir practice and end of term assembly. I honestly know schools that dedicate much longer to this than 1 day total!

  • Deduct a day for a school trip.


  • 30 minutes of fortnightly PSE lessons because home educated kids live real life all the time. 9 hours 30 minutes total (that’s shockingly low!)

  • 2 hours of PE lessons every week because home educated kids get to move when they want. That’s 76 hours.

  • 30 minutes golden time every Friday to reward compliance. That’s 19 hours.

  • Deduct 30 minutes for each termly headteacher reminder about behaviour and the importance of rules. That’s 1 hour 30 minutes.

  • Deduct 1 hour for annual assessments.
  • Eat some breakfast while we chat about what we want to do today.

  • We’ll read a book together that will no doubt inspire some creative project. At the moment they’re exploring mythical creatures.

  • They watch a YouTube video about a dragon and see an artist who makes poseable dragons.

  • They find the bits they need to sculpt a dragon using polymer clay. We look online for craft bits, order it and plan to visit a fabric shop. We figure out how much fabric we’ll need and how much it’ll cost.

  • We mould our clay for 90 minutes while chatting and asking Alexa to tell us jokes.

  • We decide we need to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.

  • We pack away, grab snacks and meet friends at the park.

  • Kids play freely for a good two hours before we .head home.

  • We chat in the car about the dinosaurs, other random topics and test each other’s maths skills.

  • We stop off in cafe for lunch. They order food and chat to waitress about the dragons they are making at home.

  • We arrive home and chill out watching another video by the lady who makes amazing art dolls.

  • Eldest wants to write a novel about mythical creatures while youngest plays dinosaurs. I help record his story as his ideas flow.

  • I play dinosaurs with youngest while eldest uses tablet to design the cover of his book.

  • I get dinner ready with one child while other is still sculpting clay.

  • He makes a frame for its body by following YouTube instructions.

  • We eat while they tell their dad (who’s been out at work today) what they got up to.

  • The eldest continues with his poseable dragon while youngest makes a dinosaur extinction setup with his Playmobil while asking Alexa about early life.

  • We look an image showing the age of rocks around the UK. We look at the map to plan a trip to the Jurassic Coast to look for fossils.

  • We head to bed to read a book about the dinosaurs and to read the latest installment of the novel the oldest has written.

  • I haven’t even attempted to figure out the hours spent learning when using an unschooling approach because once you realise that learning is everything and everywhere it feels impossible to begin to separate from everyday life.

That leaves us with 241 hours and 48 minutes of actual, sit-down, curriculum learning in an entire school year! You know the kind that many LA officers expect to see happening!

That’s just under 40 minutes per day if you’re learning for 365 days of the year.

Or it’s just under 1 hour 12 minutes if you prefer to yourself as “learning” during term time only.

Remember that as a home-educating parent you are not required to:

  • have a timetable
  • set hours during which education will take place
  • observe school hours, days or terms
  • To quantify and demonstrate the amount of time for which your child is being educated.
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