Written evidence submitted by Rachel Graham


The following is based on my experience of elective home education of my five children. Prior to home educating, I taught for nine years as a full time qualified teacher in primary schools. My home education experience is continuous from 1999 until the present. That is more than twenty years of home educating my own children preceded by nine years of classroom teaching.


There have been clear measurable benefits for my children that show home education has been suitable and successful. As parents we have been able to provide an individual learning plan for each child that provided for creativity, physical, social and academic education according to their age, needs, aptitudes and abilities. This was far more individualised than is possible in school.


It can be difficult for someone starting out as a home educator to show this future success. My first contact with the local authority involved an inspector reporting that I had not given enough consideration as to how my then six year old would sit GCSEs. A process that is not difficult but can easily change within a decade. Involvement with Local Authorities can be undermining if an officer shows prejudice and doubt as to the efficacy of home education. This is not healthy for either parent or child.


The support for home educators is usually from other home educators, and support groups are numerous. No one organisation could possibly speak for all home educators even within one area. These home education groups look to connect families who live nearby, share interests or want to organise trips and workshops. Constructive and encouraging support from local authorities is rare. If their starting point tends to be suspicion, this is unhelpful and can be detrimental to the self-esteem of a child who may feel pressurised to perform.


The local authority officer is also put in a difficult position legally if they give wrong advice. Home educators are the people who have responsibility for their child’s education and are the people who know the child’s needs and aptitudes. 


Elective Home Education is not school at home. During lockdown of Summer 2020 many parents new to home education tried to reproduce school at home and found it difficult. That is not how most families home educate. As many of us use museums, libraries, sport centres and social groups we also found Summer 2020 challenging as these places were closed. However, we already had virtual social networks in place, which pre-pandemic we had used to organise social events. We have books, art, science and other educational materials, and already had structures in place to continue to provide an education.


It has been useful that the Government has included information for home educators within its regulations for education outside of school for September 2020. I was shocked that some people thought “lockdown home schooling” was at all like elective home education. Home Educators have needed to be very organised to keep our groups safe while still enabling our children to learn together. It was heartening that the Government included us.


In the past local authorities have had various ways of communicating with home educators. While having no duty to monitor us, many have had ultra vires policies as documented in the government’s own records. I have no knowledge of any local authority offering any support to home educators during lockdown. I am sure they were very busy but it was interesting to see that actually we were known to be fine, as we have established self-help groups. Therefore, resources are better targeted at specific areas like special needs or exam centres rather than chasing self-sufficient families. Offering help within libraries would be a far more efficient way of connecting with families who would like advice.


Some children who had difficulties this year were those who had prepared, booked and paid for summer exams. My own children were not in that situation this year. My experience of preparing my children for exams is to work alongside them using textbooks, our own research and experiments, and to work with other families in small study groups sharing resources. We would not have had enough evidence for a predicted grade, as we did not use tutors. However, our children would have had a portfolio of work that they could have shown to 6th form colleges.


I think that where a child has been disadvantaged and held back a year if 6th forms could not accept other evidence than exam results, then the funding for a Level 3 qualification should be extended by an extra year for the full range of courses that would have otherwise been available.


Most elective home educators are not asking for assistance from local or national government. Resources would be better directed towards Special Educational Needs wherever a child is educated. Elective home educators have responded to calls for evidence before. The last call has not seen a published response. Most elective home educators to that last call argued against a register and regulation. We gave evidence as to why that would have a detrimental effect on our children.


Registers with monitoring and punishments do not allow for the freedom to educate with privacy for our family life without affecting our philosophy of education. Having experienced an inspection in my own home just for choosing to home educate I can affirm that it is not benign however well intentioned, as I have outlined above.


If Local Authorities offer support worth receiving then families might sign up. We have not always been treated well! What we tend to see is officers, and often not the same one twice, who have no real experience of home education; they come with a degree of suspicion and an undisclosed set of criteria by which to judge families. They invite themselves into our homes, despite our suggestions to keep to the law and published government guidance. They know we are home educating and they do not need to monitor us.

They cannot know the personality, interests and abilities of the child they are meeting. Instead a child and parent feel forced to perform and prove themselves as if they are wrong doers. It would be rare to meet an officer who comes with an open mind. Even if they do they will have to follow a local policy written by someone who will have paid lip service if at all to any consultation for that policy. If any home educator is asked for an opinion by the local authority, that will count as consultation and engagement, regardless that the home educator will ask them to follow government guidance and many do not.


Any officer will have expectations of “normal”. They will have a list of what they expect to see while at the same time publishing local guidance which says there is not a list.


Huge numbers of home-educated children go on to university or to obtain other higher education qualifications. This information is not collected. In the past I have offered my local authority information about post 16 outcomes for my children. This has been ignored. Where data is collected in society, it may be deliberately conflated with information from children who are educated outside mainstream school where this has not been a not a positive choice by the family. The presentation of home-educated families by local authorities tends to be framed in the negative despite officers witnessing imaginative and creative learning. They know that the outcomes are very good where a family makes a positive choice to home educate.


Unfortunately, if this call for evidence conflates the forced home schooling during the pandemic with those of us who choose to home educate, then you may get some negative responses. These will not truly reflect the reality of elective home education for those families who were educating before summer 2020 and continue to the present. Families who may choose this path for the first time in September 2020 may not be able to access groups in person because groups will be running with limited numbers and extra precautions. However, it is doubtful that local authorities will be better placed to give advice.


If advice is offered it needs to be accurate and of good quality. It should reflect the opportunities for positive experiences that are found in normal non-pandemic times.


Elective Home Education is a positive and rich choice for many families. Sadly some local authorities have limited understanding of elective home education. They do not seek to learn about the post 16 outcomes and use that knowledge to better understand home education. Instead they produce tick lists and flow charts and expect families to conform to them. They confuse who has responsibility for a child’s education. It is the parent. That is why for children in schools, which do not meet their needs, we see a child failed twice by adults around them, by the parents and the school. I hope the government will also have regard to the last call for evidence where many parents submitted thoughtful evidence.



October 2020