HED0031

Written evidence submitted by Evans

Call for Evidence response

Home educator of two SEN children

  1. The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safe-guarding and assuring the quality of home education

Safe-guarding duties:

The Local Authority Guidance (published in April 2019) clearly and explicitly states (section 7.3) that there is no proven correlation between home education and safe guarding risk.  A review of all Serious Case Reviews in the country concluded that home education was never a causative factor. All caring people agree that the safe guarding of all children is critical. Decisions however, need to be based on the reality and evidence, and not on theoretical fears, possibilities and maybes. Home educated children are, by the nature of their situation, uniquely visible. A fact noted by Graham Stuart MP and previous Chair of the Education Select Committee. Their education is fulfilled in, around and through the communities in which they live. They are educated in the real world, in their communities, highly visible by significant numbers of people. All children are registered at birth (or on entry to the UK), have NHS numbers, registered at doctors, dentists etc – no child is therefore “invisible”. Safeguarding and child welfare should not be conflated with home education.

Quality assurance duties:

By law, parents are legally responsible for their children’s education. Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act clearly states that it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure every child of compulsory school age receive efficient, full-time education suitable:

(a)    To their age, ability and aptitude, and

(b)    To any special educational needs they may have

Either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

The Local Authority, therefore, has no legal duty to assure the quality of home education. The updated Guidance for Parents published in April 2019, also clearly states (in section 5.1) that the Local Authority has no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of education at home. The Local Authority Guidance, published at the same time, clearly outlines the process to undertake should the Local Authorities have a concern that parents are not fulfilling their legal obligation.

Even if this Guidance were to be changed, significant obstacles remain as to how this quality may be judged. Many parents are home educating because they have judged that schooling does not meet their quality criteria for the education of their children. To continue schooling (in this situation) would cause them to fail their legal responsibility, as outlined in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, quoted above. Any quality assurance done by the Local Authorities would need to be predicated on the quality standards defined by parents (as those who hold the legal responsibility). This creates a circular process which is neither useful, beneficial nor meaningful.

It is my opinion, that the Local Authorities already have sufficient powers within current legislation and Guidance to fulfil their duties. This should not be confused with control over home education, which they may not feel they have. In law, control and responsibility for educating children remains with parents, not Local Authorities.

 

  1. Whether a statutory register of home educated children is necessary

There is no need for, purpose of, or benefit in having a statutory register of home educated children. Creating it and maintaining it will be costly; money that could be more effectively spent on providing better support for home educated children, which would confer real benefits for these children.

At minimum, all children are registered at birth or on entry to the UK. They are therefore all known and visible.

Education is the legal responsibility of parents, which they can chose to fulfil either by regular attendance to school, or otherwise. As noted in the response to question 1, Local Authorities already have sufficient powers to fulfil their duties regarding safe-guarding, and have a process if concerns are made regarding a child’s education.

Any register would not confer any additional benefit or information, nor offer children any additional “safety”. As noted earlier, child welfare and home education should not be conflated, they are different issues. Also noted earlier, the Department of Education already states that there is no correlation between safe-guarding and home education.

 

  1. Benefits children gain from home education, potential disadvantages

Benefits:

Real life learning

Home education allows for true personalisation of learning and education, and could not be further from the one-size-fits-all schooling model. It allows for learning to occur in the way humans are evolved to learn, natural learning, being part of, observing and modelling real people, in real life.  It allows children to learn and grow intimately connected to the real world and the society and community in which they live. Learning is real and in context, not confined to worksheets and theories inside four walls. In home education learning, living and loving are inextricably linked. Learning is owned by the learner and not something done to them 9am-3pm, 5 days a week, 39 weeks of the year for 13 years. Learning happens all the time, anytime, anywhere and from anyone or anything. Children progress at a pace that is developmentally correct for them. Learning can take any form that resonates with that child, and can be flexed as the child changes and develops. Every child is unique, every child’s path is unique, every child has a gift and (as home education is infinitely broader than school curriculum) home education allows every child to find that gift and bring that to the fore.

Home education allows children to flourish within the loving support of their families. This builds and promotes strong, healthy, loving, family relationships.

Home education starts from a basis of ability not deficit. Within home education we know that you can learn anything at any point in your life. Learning as a life-long skill is fostered, making children flexible and adaptable at all ages, and that continues to serve them as they become adults. You can take a qualification as and when its needed, or is interesting, at any time of life. There is no “falling behind” or being “too late”, there is no race, no competition to beat everyone else. There is no comparison, no looking over their shoulders, consequently their sense of value and worth is strong.

Diversity and difference is far more accepted in home education, as conformity and uniformity isn’t the main aim.

Personal Skills

Collaboration, working together, problem solving, perseverance, creativity, communication skills, social soft skills are all at the forefront of home education. These are the skills needed in the real life, in the real work, in actual workplaces. Home educated children have autonomy, so gain personal responsibility, self motivation, self direction and are intrinsically motivated. Passions, interests, skills and talents are honed. We work from a premise of deeply knowing themselves and then pursuing passions, then finding routes to achieve those passions/careers.

Social Skills

Children learn a larger more socially acceptable set of social skills. They are interacting with children of all ages and with a wide variety of adults, who have many different roles in their lives, and communities.  Far from socialisation being a problem, its far more natural, mature and sophisticated within home education. Friendships are based on mutual interest and respect, not year of birth.

 

Potential disadvantages:

None.

Potential difficulties though include the cost of accessing formal examinations and access to exam centres. The cost of sitting exams is significantly higher for parents of home educated children than for schools, for entry to the same exams. This is a barrier that can disadvantage some children/families. In a similar way, access to examination centres for home educated children can be exceptionally difficult to achieve and/or costly.

 

  1. The quality and accessibility of support (including financial support) available for home educators and their children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities, mental health issues, or caring responsibilities, and those making the transition to further or higher education.

When we elect to home educate, we do so knowing that we take on the financial responsibilities. Easy access and fair cost to take formal examinations would be a considerable help to those going down this route.

It should not matter whether a child is schooled or home educated as to whether they can access appropriate support services to meet SEND needs and mental health issues. However, this is not the reality many home educators face when trying to access, or keep services, when they choose to home educate. Ensuring parity of access to services e.g. EHCps, OT, SaLT, Personal Budgets, physiotherapy, CAMHS etc could be greatly improved. However, there is a conflict of interest in the system whereby the assessing body (LA) is also the body who authorises, commissions and pays for services. As home educators do not have the backing of a school they are easy targets for being side-lined for services.

Many parents find that the flexibility of home education in itself better meets the needs of their children than the rigid school systems that left their SEND children unsupported.

  1. Whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded, including where they may attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to “off-rolling”

 

Wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children:

Already covered in Q1.

It is my opinion, that the Local Authorities already have sufficient powers within current legislation and Guidance to fulfil their duties. This should not be confused with control over home education, which they may not feel they have. In law, control and responsibility for educating children remains with parents, not Local Authorities.

If you are equating academic achievement to passing exams, then ensuring home educated children get easy access to exam centres and exams at a fair cost, would help ensure more exams were passed. However, as home educators we think outside the box, therefore we have very many ways of illustrating true learning, skills, knowledge and potential that goes way beyond short-term memory tests.

Attendance at unregistered schools

Attendance at unregistered schools should not be conflated with home education. If a child is attending an unregistered school then OFSTED is responsible for identifying, investigating and shutting down that setting. If OFSTED do not feel they have sufficient powers, then these need to be strengthened. If a child is attending an unregistered school then that child is not being home educated.

Children who are permanently excluded

These children are not being home educated. The LA remains responsible for finding appropriate provision for the education of that child.

Children who are off-rolled

By definition, these are children that were on school roll. Schools are already legally required to inform the Local Authority when a child is de-registered from school roll. The Local Authority already have processes and powers to contact the parent. They can easily ascertain whether the child has been off-rolled. If the child has been off rolled this is a school and school system issue. This is not relevant to a Call for Evidence regarding home education.

  1. The role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education

The question is unclear as to what is meant by “inspection”. The Local Authorities have no duty to monitor home education. Education of children is the legal responsibility of parents not the Local Authority. Safe-guarding and quality has already been discussed several times. Parents are the best placed people to know the aptitude and abilities of their individual children (as required by law), not a person unconnected or unknown to the child or the family.

 

  1. What improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-2015 Education Committee published their report on “Support for Home Education” in 2012.

None –there has been no actual positive changes in support available to home educators.

Only the review of Guidance has been undertaken from the total measures suggested in the published report.

There has however, been a marked increase in the negative attitudes of authorities/MPs/professionals regarding home education. This serves to highlight very poor knowledge of what it means to home educate. Home educators are routinely (and increasingly due to budget pressures) discriminated against when accessing services and support. They have been subject to a blanket assumption to guilt of abuse and educational neglect, where the onus increasingly appears to be on home educators to prove their innocence. No other subset of the population is in this position, and this is in direct conflict with our legal rights. The irony is that many people are home educating because the schooling system has failed to meet the needs of, ensure the mental, physical or emotional safety of, or deliver the quality and kind of education as parents we felt our children deserved.

  1. The impact of Covid19 has had on home educated children and any additional measures that might need to be taken in order to mitigate impacts.

Many home educated children, that were due to take exams, have suffered as a result of not having teacher assessments to submit. Many home educators are reluctant to put forward for further exams due to the ongoing uncertainty, especially in light of the costs and access issues.

Larger groups and organisations have been able to restart due to having insurance and space to ensure social distancing. However, many of the smaller groups and informal groups have been unable to restart. Many home educated children have SEN issues preventing access to large/formal groups and these children have been particularly hard hit. The rule of 6 means only very small families can meet, and only outside homes in order to meet social distancing regulations. Whilst this was easier in the warmer months, it will have a significant detrimental impact as the weather worsens.

Whilst as home educators we are flexible and have been using the internet, Zoom, Discord, FaceTime etc to connect with friends, learn, develop social skills and access information/courses this does not substitute for real life connection. Some thought on exemptions similar to those afforded schooled children would help mitigate this impact, especially if these restrictions are likely to be in place for some time.

October 2020