HED0110

Written evidence submitted by Mrs Naomi Foster

 

Call for evidence on home-schooling

Our background

We have home-schooled our four children since they were old enough for compulsory education (and mainly pre-school education as well though we did use a local nursery to some extent).  Our children are currently aged ten, eight, six and three.

We use a mixture of curriculums that are available commercially as well as some of our own material.  We also make use of peripatetic tutors for certain subjects such as music and languages and we make use of various clubs and classes that are available (sometimes these are provided for home schoolers particularly, but others are available in after-school contexts).

The decision to home-school our children was driven by the following:

Our experience with home-schooling has been generally positive thus far (though it comes with its own pressures):

We have always been very open with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Education Service that we are home educating our children and indeed we have been visited by them and provided them with evidence to show them that our children have been receiving an adequate education – this has been on an annual basis (just about as the Council has struggled always to do this especially during the current pandemic).  We appreciate the support from them, albeit recognise that funding constraints make this support extremely minimal.

Generalisations

Whilst every home-schooling family’s motivations and circumstances will be different, we believe every such family will be doing so because they believe it is in their children’s best interests.

This is not to say that there are not other families whose ‘home-schooling’ is nothing of the sort, the distinction being that a true home-schooling parent recognises their responsibility to educate their children whereas others do not recognise this responsibility and think it is fine if their children receive no formal education.  Elective home-schooling should not be treated in the same way as other issues such as unregistered/illegal schools, exclusions and off-rolling.  Furthermore, home-schooling should not be unfairly linked with child abuse which is a very different matter – indeed research in 2015 showed home-schoolers are much less likely to be abused (despite being more often referred to social services) as it protects them from some of the excesses that go on in mainstream schools.

The fundamental principle is that parents are responsible and not the state.  This responsibility is enshrined in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education... either by regular attendance at school or otherwise” (emphasis ours).  There is clearly a responsibility for the state to intervene where there is evidence of miss-treatment or lack of education being provided – such intervention is provided in law already and must be very resource intensive for Councils to enact well.

Concerns

Introducing a register of home-schoolers and requiring that Councils take an active role in ensuring all of them are educating their children properly has two issues associated with it:

  1. It implies that the primary responsibility to educate the child has become the states rather than the parents, this is the wrong way around and will disempower parents to do their best for their children.
  2. It would be very resource heavy as, having made Council’s responsible for the children’s education, they will have to spend resources in doing this in case they were ever pulled up on having failed to do so; this will lead to resources being diverted away from dealing properly with the genuine cases of harm (that they already have powers to deal with) and perhaps away from other services like mainstream schools.

If the purpose of the register is to pick up children who are not being properly looked after by their parents, then I think the flaw in this is obvious: those parents are much less likely to register!  So the resources will be spent on all the properly home-schooling families and more will be missed, not less, of the neglectful parents.  I am not aware of any evidence supporting the idea that a register would help.

I also question whether an inspection regime would motivate better home-schooling.  Parents are motivated by a love for their children to do the best for them.  Why would an inspection regime motivate them to do better?  Supportive feedback provided by experience home-schoolers may be very helpful, but will Councils have the resources to provide such support?  In our experience home-schoolers already support each other and share ideas and group together to provide learning opportunities far better than any Council ever good – but if a Council could help resource and support this kind of collaboration then that would be wonderful (but I fear too expensive).  Again, I am not aware of any evidence that supports the idea that inspections will help improve the quality of home-schooling.

Supporting home-schooling

Where funding is available, home-schoolers would love government support.  We have outlined above some of the ways in which this could be done, to summarise:

Conclusion

We would ask that you look for ways to support home-schoolers in the ways outline above.  Introducing a register and inspections is a sledge hammer to crack a nut and is not based on evidence of its effectiveness – we believe it is more likely to reduce the effectiveness of the powers councils already have to tackle abuses and unhelpful reverse the responsibility of parents to provide education to their children.

 

Richard Foster MMath (Oxon) Cert Ed PTC ACA                            Naomi Foster BSc (Phys) Cert Ed

October 2020