HED0049

Written evidence submitted by Ms Louise Kerbiriou

 

Submission of evidence about home education

October 19th 2020

Louise Kerbiriou

 

 

I am a Home educating parent, with 17 years of experience, including getting a dyslexic child through the current system. My 3 children did not attend school until attending 6th form at the age of 16.

 

I believe that the current system works well in many areas, such as safeguarding and quality assurance, but is massively lacking when it comes to examination support for all children, especially those with additional needs such as dyslexia. I do not believe that a statutory register is required to maintain the current system or to make improvements to exam arrangements, but families that wish to enlist further support if it were to be offered are likely to be willing to be registered to gain this. The risk of making a register compulsory currently, is that it will make local education authorities feel an obligation to try and assess the quality and quantity of home education, and they are not in a position to do so. As with many areas of education, home education is a hugely nuanced and varied, and the current local education officers usually have little to no experience of this in the long term and are unable to fully comprehend how it works for individuals.

 

The benefits of Home education are extensive. It can be tailored to the interests and needs of each specific child, at a time that is correct for them and it can occur in a variety of settings rather than one fixed and often stressful place as occurs in traditional schools. No two children are alike and it provides a fully flexible and adaptive system of learning. In particular it is able to engage children in a creative manor that is frequently difficult to provide on a school with large class sizes and a national curriculum to follow. It is the lack of this rigid and externally imposed structure in particular, that gives home education the freedom to provide such a good learning experience for a child. In the future we are likely to need an increasingly creative and adaptable population to meet the changing needs of our world, and I feel home educated individuals will be more able to make these adjustments because their education was broader, more creative and involved a higher degree of lateral thinking. They are usually more autonomous learners and therefore more able to see what skills they might require and have a better understanding of how to gain these, than a child who has had little to do with the education that has been provided for them and little say in what this has consisted of. These aspects have already been noted by universities accepting Home Educated young adults, and there is an increasing view that our current school education system is not producing the skills that our society needs. One final point, is that a number of children learning at home are doing so because they were struggling in school and so have left. There are many reasons for this, in terms of mental and physical health, as well as from an educational point of view. It is vital that we maintain and support this alternative pathway for children who need something different.

 

The biggest issue that needs to be resolved for home educated families is in regard to exam access. This is getting increasingly difficult, is expensive and is completely lacking any support from local education authorities which is highly inequitous. Exams can be very expensive, particularly exams that require an oral component such as foreign languages, and many families are low income so this may mean a child cannot sit exams that would be free to a school child. In addition, there are fewer and fewer examination canters willing to take external candidates. There is little incentive for them to do so and it generates more work for their education officers. When a child has educational needs, such as dyslexia, this becomes almost impossible. I am not sure I have ever felt more disadvantaged than in trying to get my son some additional time, that has been proven as needed by specialists, in his exams. We have found only one centre willing to provide this for him, and it involves a nearly 200-mile round trip (plus overnight stays when exam times dictate the need) to Hampshire for him to sit each exam. In sitting 3 GCSEs this November, this involves 7 trips. The regulations regarding additional needs for exams are designed for school children, when they make sense, but they are very discriminatory when it comes to home educated children. It is impossible for the degree of evidence required to be provided by the exam centre and so they refuse to allow the child to sit exams with them. This urgently needs to be sorted out. It is very unfair to allow this situation to continue. I think that local education authorities should have a responsibility to ensure home educated children have access to an exam centre within the local area and also provide the means to obtain any additional requirements they might need. It would also be very beneficial for the exam fees to be paid or reduced, particularly for those of low income.

 

 

There have also been some very negative effects of COVID-19 on the examinations of home educated children. Many were unable to sit the exams at all, as there was insufficient evidence on academic attainment to give predicted grades. Some children have tutors who can provide this, but some families are not able to afford these, do not feel they are necessary as a child can learn unaided or did not use ones with sufficient qualifications and so these children all missed out on the opportunity of getting exams in summer 2020. I think that the whole way examinations are provided needs to be reassessed to ensure that these issues do not occur again in the future. This would only be necessary in the GCSE or A-Level exam years and would not require any additional input until then. It would be possible, for example, for an examination centre to collect evidence throughout the GCSE year, and therefore be in a position to give predicted grades. This could be collected at intervals and in exam conditions if necessary.

 

I do not believe that there are any issues with home educated children making the transition to higher education, they seem to function well in the vast majority of cases.

 

In summary, I believe that Home Education provides many advantages for children but access to examination centres and learning support is severely lacking. Local education authorities do not need to change their current policies only to supplement them with examination support, both financial and in terms of sitting the exams. They should be obliged to ensure that there is a place for every child to sit exams, with any necessary support (e.g. extra time, or financial) so that these child are not at the disadvantage they currently are.

 

October 2020