Written evidence submitted by Penny Clarkson


Home Education Inquiry – my response as a grandparent who shares the home education of the children


INTRODUCTORY SUMMARY: Although there are 3,494 words in this document, around 750 of them are the points the Committee wants us to address and the summary of the Support for Home Education document.


The Committee invites written submissions addressing any or all of the following points:

  1. The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education
  2. whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;
  3. the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;
  4. 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;
  5. 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’;
  6. the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education;
  7. 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;
  8. 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.’


1.1 REPLY: Home education is in itself not a safe-guarding issue, and the Government and Local Authorities (LAs) would do well to trust parents not suspect them.  It would certainly make for a more respectful relationship both ways, especially if the authorities were genuinely able and willing to offer support.  LAs should employ former/current home educators, who understand how education can work for home educating families, not former teachers who see their Elective Home Education (EHE) role to be about getting children back into school. 

1.2 Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 is clear that it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their child will receive efficient full-time education suitable - (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Therefore it is for the parents to assure the quality of the home education.  The LA only needs to step in, when it has reason to believe that the parents are not providing an education for their child which achieves what they set out for it to achieve.


1.3 It is vital that LAs have home education policies which are in line with the current legal instructions and the EHE guidance for parents.
Section 5:11 of the EHE guidance states, LAs have a general duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (section 175 of the Education Act 2002) in relation to their education functions as a LA. This applies equally to children who are being educated at home, as it does to children attending school. This duty does not entitle a LA to insist on visiting a child’s home, or seeing the child, simply for the purposes of monitoring the provision of home education.

2. REPLY:  In my opinion a statutory register of home-educated children is not required, and I have yet to read anything from the Government to convince me otherwise.  I do think it would be a good idea to encourage a small group of home educators to meet regularly with each local EHE team, to discuss the best practises that could be used by the EHE team to support and improve relationships between home educators and the LA.


3. REPLY: The benefits children can gain from home education are many, and can include:

  1. a better relationship with their parents and siblings;
  2. one-to-one education, which can help a child to learn more quickly;
  3. support to learn at any hour of the day the child requires it (not just between 9am-3pm);
  4. a flow to the day, rather than a restricted timetable, so that the child can spend their chosen amount of time working on their learning;
  5. the opportunity to learn more about a particular interest that may or may not be on offer in the National Curriculum;
  6. more chance of “five hours tuition a day” (EHE Guidance for Parents 2.7), as they do not have to sit and wait for the teacher to quieten the class, nor queue to go into class or leave class, nor wait for the register to be taken, nor listen to the teacher talking about things they already know, nor worry that they don’t understand and not be able to ask questions, nor sit in assembly, nor attend classes they are not currently interested in, etc.;
  7. finding out quickly if they understood something correctly, not having to wait until the next day or week for written work to be marked and returned;
  8. more opportunity for other family members to be involved in the child’s education;
  9. many opportunities for the child to have discussions with parents, siblings, etc.  Discussions about topics are an essential area for learning;
  10. a wide variety of sports, including archery, trampolining, martial arts, roller skating, ice skating, bowling, climbing and bouldering, gymnastics and circus skills, which it is unlikely they would have been offered in school;
  11. learning to swim naturally, through play;
  12. the opportunity to attend smaller classes in Art, Science, English, Technology, Engineering, Maths, Plumbing, Music, etc.;
  13. social and learning opportunities at parks, museums, libraries, forest schools, zoos and wildlife parks, local home education groups, etc.;
  14. Life learning, i.e. Maths: learning about money through shopping, English & Technology: reading on computer games, Science: baking cakes, Animal Care: feeding and caring for pets, etc.  These are just a few examples to give you an idea.;
  15. living and working alongside people of all ages (not just children their own age), being involved in decision making about what to do during their days, choosing what they want to learn, etc.;
  16. not being labelled as a slow learner or a poor reader, because they are not tested and judged.  All children learn at their own pace, so it is not unusual for an older home educated child to ask a younger one for help, with reading for instance, because they have not been conditioned to think that as an older child they should know more and be able to do more than a younger child.  Also they are comfortable with asking for help, again because there is no stigma around not knowing something by a particular age;
  17. going on a holiday, which their parents may not have been able to afford if they’d had to take it during school holidays;
  18. the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, walking, riding, scooting, skateboarding, etc.;
  19. retaining the natural urge to learn, that we are all born with but often lose at school;
  20. the option to take or not to take exams.


4.1 REPLY:  There is lots of support in social media groups for home educators.  Here we can find out about all the afore mentioned benefits for home educating families.  Legal advice and the EHE Guidance are available on the internet too.  There is very little support to be gained from LAs, as the most they seem to be able to offer are web addresses to sites more suitable for schools.  I think the most important needs for home educating families, would be more local exam centres, plus access to items such as scientific resources that would be available to schooled children.  There is no financial support, but sometimes home education is cheaper than if their children were attending school.  Parents adjust their way of living to cope with having less income, and many home education meet ups cost little or nothing.

4.2 I am not in a position to say anything about children with special educational needs, disabilities, mental health issues, or caring responsibilities, and those making the transition to further and higher education, because they do not involve us (at the moment), and there will be other families who can better answer those questions. 


5.1 REPLYAgain, please remember that home education is not in itself a safeguarding issue.  Parents are quite capable of continuing to ensure the wellbeing of their children from the age of 5 to adulthood.  In fact parents choosing to home educate are likely to have their child’s welfare, particularly good mental health, at the forefront of their decision to do so.

5.2 I have already discussed the academic and social benefits available to home educated children.
It is up to the LA to check for unregistered schools and to advise families on roll at those schools accordingly.

5.3 Where a child has been formally excluded from school, the EHE person from the LA could meet with the parents of the excluded child, to discuss the best way forward, if the parents feel they need more support.  Home education should be one of the solutions discussed, and the parents supported with their decision to home educate if they decide that form of education is in their child’s best interest.  The child could be included in the decision making process too.

5.4 Where a child has been subject to off-rolling, the LA should take this up with the school, in line with Section 10.6 of the EHE home education guidance for LAs.  If the parents are willing to home educate their off-rolled child, the LA should work with the family to find a way to support the parents to do this, if the family cannot work out how to do it themselves.  This support could include putting the family in contact with other home educating families.


6. REPLYThere is no requirement to inspect, unless the LA has cause to believe that an efficient full-time education is not being provided.  If this is the case, the EHE guidance has clear instructions as to how to proceed.  Having said this, I am also of the opinion that the LAs informal contact with parents, should be at the top of their list of priorities, with school attendance orders and court orders being an absolutely last resort.



7.1 REPLY:  Sadly, I would say not enough improvements have been made to support home educators.  Reading just the summary at the start of the document shows this.

7.2 Whilst Government guidance sets out the role of LAs with regard to home education, we heard evidence that some authorities are acting outside the law.” 
This is still the case.  We (home educators) read examples of this on an almost daily basis, in home education online support groups.

7.3 We urge all LAs to undertake a swift review of their own material, including websites, and to ensure that their policies reflect the guidance available.”
This still needs to happen.

7.4 However, we also saw evidence of inconsistency across the country, leading to a ‘postcode lottery’ for home educators.”
This is still the case, and there are two main issues here. 
1) Head Teachers don’t always know much about either home education or deregistration. They refer families to Social Services, even though there were no concerns about the children beforehand, and/or they tell parents that they cannot remove the children’s names from the registers until a) the Head Teacher has spoken to the LA, or b) the parent has spoken to the LA, or c) the parent has attended a meeting at the school. None of those are required.
2) The LA doesn’t act in accordance with the guidance.  They send out forms to parents, asking them to complete and return them, even though there is no requirement to do so. For example:-
COUNCIL ‘K’: A parent emails the school to deregister their child and in the morning hands in a letter to the school too.  Instead of simply acknowledging receipt of the email and letter, and removing the child’s name from the register, the head teacher/school sends the following: two messages, two app messages, two emails and a phone call asking about the child’s absence.  Then a text saying that the parent needs to attend a meeting with the child’s head of year to complete a withdrawal from roll form.  None of that is required by law, and is undermining the parent’s decision to home educate, by implying that the school is still in charge.

COUNCIL ‘L’: The “allocated” Education Inclusion Officer writes to the parent, telling them that they would like to “complete a brief risk assessment” with them over the phone, “and this will clarify if a home visit is suitable/acceptable”.  This is not acceptable, especially during a pandemic, and is not a requirement at any time.  The EIO continues by suggesting that the parent “put together the curriculum and timetable you will be offering [child’s name] and also begin to gather any work completed so that this can be provided for the LA”.  This is totally unacceptable.  The guidance for parents states, “2.8 Home-educating parents are not required to: • have a timetable, and 2.11 There are no legal requirements for you as parents educating a child at home to do any of the following: • teach the National Curriculum • provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum • make detailed lesson plans in advance • give formal lessons • mark work done by the child • formally assess progress, or set development objectives”.  The EIO goes on to say that they are looking forward to meeting the parent and child.  Again, implying that this is a requirement, when it is not.


7.5 LAs might also improve their relationships with home educators by ensuring officers dealing with these issues are placed in a dedicated or neutral team: locating home education officers with those working on, for example, attendance, children in care or safeguarding gives an unhelpful impression.
Unfortunately, the situation is that the EHE officers are still not in dedicated or neutral teams.  I, and other home educators, strongly recommend that EHE officers are also former or current home educators themselves.  Preferably with a mix of styles in the team, including unschooling, this is arguably the most important type of home education.

COUNCIL ‘B’: Advertises for an EHE Officer.  The job description says, “The strategic aim will be to reduce the number of EHE cases in the area”.  They are looking for a qualified teacher (not someone experienced in home education) to take on the role.  The person to contact is the School Organisation and Admissions Manager.  This is not the way to improve relationships between the LA and electively home educating parents.

COUNCIL ‘P’: Writes to a parent, who has provided a comprehensive report, saying “A report alone, however detailed, is in my view not going to be enough to enable us to be confident that suitable education is taking place.  For every example of a parent whose child is receiving education and performing exactly as described in a report, there will be another example of where this is not the case”.  In other words Council P do not trust 50% of parents to tell the truth.  This is an appalling stance to take.  It is insulting, unjustified, and does nothing to improve the LA’s relationships with home educators.


7.6 We also recommend that the Department for Education carries out an audit of LAs’ performance regarding home education. Publishing the results, showing which LAs are performing well, would fit well with the Government’s transparency drive.”
I am unaware if this has happened.

7.7  We do, however, make a number of recommendations regarding the provision of services for home educators and their families. At present, some home-educated young people experience difficulties in accessing and affording public examinations which are readily available to others. We recommend that the Government places a duty on every LAs to ensure access to local centres for home-educated young people to sit accredited public exams. We further recommend—given the contribution that many home educators make through their taxes—that the costs of sitting public examinations (to an appropriate level of entitlement) be met by the State”
As far as I know this has still not improved, and would be very welcomed in the home education community.

7.8 LAs should produce ‘local offers of support’, stating what services are available to home-educating families, and the Department for Education should support pilots for such a scheme.”
To the best of my knowledge this type of pilot in my area has not happened yet.  When we enquired as to what sort of support the LA could offer, we were told there wasn’t anything.  A few years later and the ‘support’ we received was two website addresses aimed at teachers in schools and one for people wanting to gain skills for work (the children were 8yo and 6yo at that time).

7.9 We also look forward to the outcomes of the Department’s investigations into allegations of malpractice around young people with SEN or health needs who are home-educated: we heard some worrying evidence that provisions were not being fully met as they would be for schooled children.”
I have read many posts from home educating parents, whose children have SEN or health needs,  who have been told that they cannot have the required help because their child is not in a school.  When in actual fact what they have been told is not true and the help should be accessible for all children.

7. 10 It is clear from the evidence we received that many parties, both home educators and LAs, have made real efforts to engage, to understand each other’s motivations and constraints, and to ensure more constructive relationships and better support. We acknowledge that there is some way to go, and look forward to seeing a more consistent approach to home education across the country.”
There is still a huge way to go with this.  I suggest that the best way for LAs to engage with parents is for them to treat parents with respect and produce letters, policies and websites that genuinely show this.  Parents are the people responsible for their child’s education, whether in school or otherwise, and although the LAs have a duty to ensure this is happening, it is the parents who first and foremost have this duty, not the state.

8.1 REPLY:  The main impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, is the same as for schooled children; the restrictions placed on them to not socially meet up with family and friends.  There are some home education classes and facilities which have now opened up again, and the home educated child will probably be no more affected by changes to these facilities, than a schooled child would be in their school. 

8.2 A major part of home education takes place in discussions between the children and parents, and these have not been affected adversely by the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19.  In some cases there will have been more opportunities for a child to have discussions with their parents, due to furlough and working from home. 

8.3 In fact as far as education goes, during lockdown when the schools were closed, it was home educating families who coped the best, because many parents of schooled children, if they were provided with work from school, didn’t understand how to deliver this to their children.  Whereas home educating children carried on learning as normal, except with the going out restrictions in place of course. 

8.4 Part of the reason home educating families coped better, is that school work is used for teachers to teach to specific targets, whereas home education is primarily about facilitating a child’s learning (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have.  In fact in families where the parents gave up trying to deliver the school work, it was often the case that children’s mental health improved.  They became happier, and more like the children they had been before they were compulsory school age and sent to school.  The children also started using other methods to learn things they were interested in, and relationships within the family improved too.


9.  The final point I would like to make, is to remind the Government and LAs, that it is the parents who are the prime authority for their children.  The role of the Government and LAs should mainly be to support parents to home educate, when necessary or when it is requested.  Parents are very capable of home educating their own children, and it is vital that everyone understands that schooled teaching and home education learning are very different.


10. Thank you for taking the time to read my response.  I look forward to reading about better practices for EHE teams in the future.


October 2020

Saturday 24th October 2020