Written evidence submitted by Faregos Home Education (Exams + Tuition) CIC


Home Education  2020


I am writing as the head of  Faregos Home Education (Exams +Tution) CIC,  a not for profit group set up and run by home educators past and present with the aim of supporting other home educating families. We are a registered exam centre based in Hampshire and also offer low cost group tuition.  Like my colleagues, I am a qualified teacher who home educated some of my own children and remain committed to others still home educating. However I am somewhat concerned  yet again that the  home educating community seems to be under suspicion.  Home education in the UK is flourishing and should not be viewed as  second best to mainstream schooling, even if many parents do choose it after experiencing some difficulties with schools; many of these families  actually become home education’s greatest advocates.  It allows these children and young people to regain confidence and a love of learning.


I was one of the witnesses called to give evidence before the Select Committee in 2012; I then was speaking about the problems of finding exam centres; as a result of that event I somehow was persuaded to set up an exam centre -- 8 years on we are now a large set up – with 450 candidates entered in 2020. Covid is just one of several factors that have shown to many more parents that their children can learn at home and there is now a new generation of home educators as a consequence.


Benefits of home education


Home education may have increased in popularity in the recent years but it still remains an efficient and effective means of educating many children.  It is effective as:


a) The vast majority of home educated children actually end up with an education that is equivalent or better than that achieved by the average school educated child.


b) It allows children to follow their own interests as they do not need to spend so many hours on each subject since there is no time lost on “crowd control” in the home environment. This may include musical talents, sporting prowess, computer programming skills or just a love of reading or cookery.


c) It encourages strong family relationships at a time when many feel that family life is under pressure.


Local authorities, regularity frameworks etc


If there is one thing that Covid teaches all of us, it is that there is no need for children to spend 6-7 hours a day in a classroom to learn effectively. There is a myriad of learning resources available and most children and young people have access to the internet.  Home educators in the UK have large enterprising networks of support and although some of them might welcome more local authority support, the majority would probably reject this if it came with pre-conditions. The one thing that nearly all would agree on though is greater access to low cost exam centres as there has been an increasing shortage, exacerbated by the problems caused by the Covid-affected summer exams in 2020.


I cannot see how the introduction  of a compulsory register would achieve anything. Most home educated children are withdrawn from school anyway so are already known to their local authorities.  Many of us fear that a register is a step towards compulsory inspection and regular monitoring.  Although there may well be some families who are not particularly effective educators, sadly the same can be said of some schools. I have learnt not to be judgemental about how some families home educate -- we at Faregos have met those children from long term home educating families who seem to be “behind” with basic literacy at age 12 who then achieve high grades 4 years later at GCSE- they develop their literacy skills  when they find a need to use them. This all might make local authorities feel a little uncomfortable, but it is pointless to spend time and money to interfere in a process which in most cases will end up with a perfectly satisfactory conclusion in the end.  The students that we meet who have the really significant delays  are actually those who have “fallen out” of school in secondary years because of unmet special educational needs in  that sector; the obvious solution here is to  improve SEN provision there, not to then set up a monitoring system to harass these parents about the school system failures.





Clearly the safeguarding of children is everyone’s responsibility.  Sadly there are always some families where the children are at risk from family members, but there seems no way that more monitoring would be able to identify and protect these children. Statistics show that most abuse is not picked up even if the children are in regular contact with teachers in school, so I cannot see how  any educational monitoring of home educators would have any protective effect. Any  concerns about the welfare of any child should be followed up by social care, whether they are in or out of school.


Out of school settings


The education of children in out-of-school settings seems to be another repeated target. Children attend Faregos for a few hours  a week -- we support the work going on in the home, we are not a school teaching the whole syllabus for any subject. Most children would attend for a weekly session for 30 weeks before they sit a GCSE subject -- we guide families and the work is completed out of the centre. If a child is attending a centre for hours each day with a whole curriculum being taught -- it is surely a school/child care facility and needs to be registered as one!



Effect of Covid


Although most home educators have an active social life with meet-ups and group activities  which were of course curtailed by lockdown they were uniquely prepared to cope with the educational aspects – as that is what they do week by week anyway! The one positive of lockdown is that other families discovered that they could home educate and didn’t need to return to school. We have seen an increase in contacts with  families with teenage girls who have had previously struggled to actually attend school due to depression or anxiety and who flourished learning at home, and who have subsequently deregistered and made the decision to permanently home educate!


The one negative, though, was the cancellation of the 2020 exam season which meant that countrywide about 18,000 students could not get grades. Thankfully we were able to grade about 400 of our candidates, but were another exam season to be cancelled, there must be better arrangements made early on. This summer the plans made by OFQUAL (i.e. to rank candidates within the school’s own cohort) were never going to work, and too many delays in tackling this meant that it was too late for most candidates to transfer centres; additionally some of those let down were unable to get their entry fees back.






Changes since 2012


The number of home educating families has increased steadily in the last eight years- there may be a temporary additional increase due to Covid infection fears in 2020, but this will disapppear once the Covid crisis is seen to be under control.  However the overall increase without the Covid blip is probably likely to continue. No family chooses the challenge  of being fully responsible for their child’s education without good reason.  The main causes of increase are mental health concerns and  lack of special needs input, and if any Government wants to decrease numbers leaving school to home educate then they should concentrate on the drivers within the school system.


In 2012 I spoke to the Select Committee about the problems of finding and funding public exams, and this has become an area of considerable concern with decreased availability of centres and few local authorities helping with either accurate  information or exam funding. My own local authority (Hampshire County Council)  has been one of the exceptions in providing some funding, but even  this now seems in doubt due to financial pressures, and it seems that rather than setting up unnecessary registers or inspection processes the money could be diverted to improving access to exams for all home educating families.  The reasons for the decrease in centres, even pre-Covid are complex and positive action needs to be taken urgently. Local authorities and exam boards could do more to tackle this.


Many years ago, I met an official of JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) who was both amazed and horrified that parents were actually educating their own children. There are probably many politicians who feel the same; but everyone needs to recognise that we no longer live in the constraints of the Victorian age when compulsory school attendance was the only way to increase access to education.   Elective home education can and does produce a rounded and exciting way of families learning together and being fully able to contribute to and benefit from all aspects of life and employment  in 21st century Britain.



Julie Barker

Head of Centre

Faregos Home Education ( Exams + Tuition) CIC

Titchfield Community Centre


October 2020