Written evidence submitted by a member of the public

I am a home educating mother of two boys aged [age] and [age] based in [county].  We have been home educating for three years now and took the decision to home educate due to school just not being a good fit for my [personal information]

I felt I should contribute some evidence because I am an active member in home educating social groups and despite an active and lively discussion there many people are scared to voice their opinions for fear of being stopped from home educating. I am passionate about our community and want my voice hear.

Our experiences of the home education community has been a very positive one, my children are extremely happy, we have a vibrant, inclusive and intelligent community that works hard to provide social activities and unique opportunities for our local area and we have a helpful and supportive local authority who seem to try and understand and work with home educators.  I have watched my children thrive and have been able to support and encourage their education.  Before 2020 our experience was what I like to call “national curriculum with embellishments”.  I track our progress against the national curriculum ( mostly because I want to be able to prove our work and also leave the door open should my children ever chose to return) but we often deep dive into topics or move ahead quicker when it makes sense to us.  We have a strong social group and regularly attended workshops, museum visits and sports events with our local home ed community.

The home education community has a very strong online presence and a strong sense of helping others in the community and as a group we all take an interest in how home education is portrayed and handled nationally as well as our own local area and the disparity is extreme.  Some local authorities are helpful and supportive ( maybe my willingness to give evidence is because I feel I have a good local authority who supports) and others regularly flout the law, are threatening and abusive and many see home educating as some sort of threat to children that they don’t understand.   It is this that I think causes so many home educators to view any government role, inspection or assistance with such suspicion.   Local authorities should do a lot more to win the trust of the home education community as then surely the community will work with them.

The community you are trying to reach is nervous and anxious – not because we don’t want to respond but because we have been badly burnt in the past. We are all aware of the sudden increase of parents trying home schooling/education because of Covid and worry what that means for us long-term home educators.

Problems with off-rolling and extreme religion and indeed abusive households are always linked with home education despite numerous studies showing there is no link between abuse and home education. The majority of the community is genuinely just trying to do the best for our children within the current legal allowances.

2020 has been a year none of us ever could have predicted, the following happened to us :-

During lockdown itself – being home educators actually helped massively.

Our house is full of resources, books and we regularly use online learning forums or programmes so actually our school type learning didn’t change and if anything increased.  But our ability to attend groups and sites obviously was curtailed and that’s a huge part of our learning.  We were able to carry on with a fairly normal routine throughout lockdown and partake in some new resources which hadn’t previously been available.  We spent time offering help to others who suddenly found themselves doing it.

So many things have become apparent during this year though -

1)      We are a very strong community – we rally around nationally and offer support to new and old home educators alike – if you ask how to teach something on social media you are flooded with people trying to help.  We talk, we listen and we learn together

2)      Home educators work hard to find resources, there are huge co-op groups that work to get us all discounts and access to programmes – but there are still many companies that refuse to work with home educators – or swear its impossible to do online – that was proved to be totally wrong during lockdown. 

3)      Home educators are used to a “mixed” type of learning – something that schools are now having to adopt in a hurry – we have a wealth of experience in this area

4)      When it came to exams and also discussions about home schooling or returning to school post covid – it has been shown time and time again that we are a large but virtually hidden community – people are often surprised we exist, view us with horror. The government itself never mentions us.

With regards to exams my children are still a little young though I had been considering them taking their Maths gcse in particular a few years early because they are so far ahead with it but I have been shocked at the treatment of private candidates during this time.  While I appreciate the unknown nature of this time means that not everyone will be covered by the attempts to help – the whole idea of a private candidate seemed to be totally forgotten – home educated pupils don’t have coursework – mock results etc to prove their work – and many do not use tutors either but will still have worked hard and studied for their exams.

It seems to always have been a struggle to get places to accept private candidates and I’m not entirely sure why – home educators pay all the fees and admin costs so it cant be for cost reasons.  I have concluded that it will be a bit of a mission and probably fairly expensive getting into exam centres when my children are ready.  For a government that wants people to level up – anything that makes taking exams harder and more expensive seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

As a home educating parent I work incredibly hard to provide the best education possible to my children, and any suggestion otherwise is incredibly hard to understand.  When I first started home-educating , the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield did an awful documentary which highlighted a small minority of negatives within the home education community and the uproar was intense – why are we always so badly represented from people who are supposed to work to understand us.  The recent changes proposed in France have had social media humming for days with fear and uncertainty and it’s such a shame. 

October 2020