Written evidence submitted by [a member of the public]

[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.]


I am a home-educating parent to two children. We have been home educating for nearly [number] years now and are so thankful that we discovered the option, and indeed that it is an option for children in this country.

My daughter completed Reception at school, but we decided to withdraw her as she has [personal information]. She also was unhappy not having enough time to learn through play when she entered year 1. [personal information] and school do not go easily together. What we’ve discovered, after being very nervous at the outset, is that there are many ways of learning. We are child/interest led mainly but dip into different curriculums. We now have a son as well who has never been to school. Home educating allows the children to learn when they are ready, at their own pace and develop their gifts and interests. My daughter still struggles with  [personal information] and the freedom within our day allows us to plan a day that will work for her.

The issue I mainly want to address is the effect covid has had on home educated children. I have to confess that I am really concerned. The current guidance for settings out of school state that you can only meet for educational purposes and not just as an excuse to socialise. However, it neglects to actually engage with how many home-educating families function. We do most of our learning at home as a family, as our children cope better this way. We do dip into workshops and join with regular sports groups, drama groups etc but in terms of socialisation, we do this through meeting up with other home-educating families on an informal basis, e.g. going for a walk in the woods, playdates, activities together at home (baking for instance).

Free play is absolutely crucial for children. It helps develop teamwork skills, communication, opportunities to express empathy, and so on. These do not come so easily in a more formal setting. I’m really concerned that if restrictions tighten, the need for socialisation for home-educated children will not be addressed. Some children do not cope so well in groups so they need to meet with, for example, one other family as it is more manageable for the children (those with anxiety, sensory issues, and so on). I do think this needs to be considered if schools are still kept open during a lockdown so that home-ed children are able to access their groups and socialise, within reason, just as children are able to play at break time etc.

Other comments I would like to offer: home educators generally feel that there is no support offered from the local authority. All they are really able to do is give you website links to look at etc. Most home educators have already discovered these for ourselves. The things that home educators really need are equal access to support services (i.e.  Occupational Therapy, speech therapy, ADHD assessment, dyslexia assessment, etc). Only families who have the money to pay for these privately can get support. I know the reason why this is the case, but it still seems to be totally unfair. We don’t have any tax breaks for home educating – we are still paying towards schools despite not using them, yet we are also expected to pay for all the educational and support needs that our children need. We also have to pay for exams. There are fewer and fewer places that will accept external candidates for GCSEs, which makes me so sad. Neither one is better than the other – school or home ed – they are different ways of learning and should both be celebrated. This is not what it feels like when we are pushed to struggle for access to what should be for all.

Regarding regulation: I can see that it is such a difficult issue. As a trained youth and community worker, I can see why you would like a statutory register and the right to visit families at home. However, I also experience the other side. Initially I felt that having a visit was no problem but as I sat in the kitchen waiting for the LEA representative to arrive to vet how we were doing, it felt intrusive. Home education is just an integral part of our family life. It also depends very much on who you get, as to how knowledgeable they are about the different ways children and families learn. We still engage with visits and have been lucky with good LEA officers, but I do think a shift needs to take place in how home-educating families are viewed. If it is a chosen path, the LEA worker should be looking for all the positives and the achievements, rather than what they have not achieved yet. This is what families need: to celebrate their achievements and share the successes of their very individual children who learn in completely unique ways.


October 2020