HED0071

Written evidence submitted by Ms Mary-Ann Horley

 

We are a home educating family with one child who has never been to school, although he did go to preschool. We decided to home educate due to our own poor experiences in school and a lack of evidence of an improvement.

 

I have addressed the consultation points one by one.

The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education;

Safeguarding

I don’t really see why home educated children are at greater risk than schooled children. Unfortunately anyone could be abusing their children but we don’t give social services or police a blanket role to check all children every week/month/term. Maybe we should, but that’s a far greater philosophical debate.

 

I think safeguarding should be the priority for ALL children, and an emphasis on the safety of children not at school risks stirring up even greater prejudice against this group. Local authorities should be funded to provide safe, reliable and accessible support for children at risk whatever their setting.

 

Quality of home education

I don’t think you can judge the quality of any form of education until many years after a person has grown up, and I think “assuring the quality” of any sort of education is impossible. But if we take basic skills as a measure, only 64% of students in England achieved grades 9-4 in English and Maths (https://lginform.local.gov.uk/reports/lgastandard?mod-metric=9214&mod-period=2&mod-area=E92000001&mod-group=AllRegions_England&mod-type=namedComparisonGroup) in 2018-19. Therefore I don’t think meaningful assurance of education is going on in school settings and I believe that home educated students shouldn’t face pressure over and above those in school.

 

I think that both points would be also addressed by creating new and properly resourcing existing libraries, activity centres and outdoor activities. The YMCA does excellent work in this area, my local council Newark and Sherwood run an excellent forest school programme in non-covid times, as does Lincoln council.

whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;

I attended a consultation meeting for home educating parents and the DfE a few years ago and there was much discussion about whether it should be compulsory for local authorities to hold a register, or whether it should be compulsory for children to be on it. It’s my impression that councils all hold registers anyway and I don’t see the point in legislating that they must unless it’s going to be compulsory for children to be on it.

 

If all children are on the register (or their parents are at risk of punishment) then what duty does the council have to do with that information? If it’s just that we have to write once a year with a description of what we’ve been doing educationally, which seems to be the status quo, then fine, but I wouldn’t be happy to see greater surveillance without evidence of an advantage for the children in question.

the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;

My son is seven, Year 3 age. His education for the equivalents of Years R to 2 was almost entirely informal with just a small amount of formal reading and maths, and now he does a little bit more but not much. Most of his science and geography learning has been outdoor-based. He seems to be about where he would be expected to be in terms of the National Curriculum, and he understands secondary-level concepts in science. We prioritise his social activities and he has excellent social skills and can relate to and play with any children he meets, whether schooled or not, and with or without special needs. My husband and I have none of these skills despite going through 13 years of school.

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 and higher education;

I don’t have any personal experience here, but I do know that many of my friends have seen private practitioners as waiting lists have been very long to see NHS paediatricians, educational psychologists etc. This is often something they can ill afford.

 

We happen not to need financial support as we are a two parent family with both of us able to work, but I do think that a parent on Universal Credit should be free from having to seek work if they are home educating.

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’;

The authorities don’t seem to understand how our groups work when making laws about unregistered schools and similar. The vast majority of activities have the parents present and I think that this makes them automatically not an unregistered school but some clarification would be helpful.

 

My son has never been to school so I have no idea how it works, but it seems to me that there should be a well-publicised procedure that parents should be able to use if they have been pressured to give up a school place that they do actually want.

the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education;

I don’t think inspection should play any role if it is by people without experience in home education and other informal forms of education. I would be pleased to see a support network of experienced home educators and other youth workers.

 

I would support an initiative for healthcare services to contact any children not seen by a GP/practice nurse in a year, with follow up if necessary.

 

I am concerned that there is a wide variation of attitudes and expectations from EHE Officers, with some telling parents that they must do "school at home" and others taking a more realistic view.

what improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012;

I don’t know as I have only been home educating since 2017 and have had no contact from the local authority.

the impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, and what additional measures might need to be taken in order to mitigate any negative impacts.

I think greater clarity on how groups can go ahead is badly needed, recognising the fact that parents are in attendance and considered to remain responsible for their children, and also that the parents increase the amount of people mixing.

October 2020