Written evidence submitted by Mark Prentice

I am writing in a response to the invitation by The House of Commons Education Committee to submit consultation and evidence addressing the following points relating to Home Education.


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

As a home educator (as well as being Chair of Governors at a local primary school) my experience is that current legislation and engagement by local authorities is already appropriate and balanced.  The LA already have substantial powers to intervene where they have reason to believe that children are not receiving an adequate quality of home education, or where safeguarding concerns exist.    

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

Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 remains clear that the primary responsibility for education of their children remains with parents, and that where schools provide education, they do so on behalf of parents, not the state.  A statutory register of home educated children raises significant questions over the degree of interference by the state in family life and in the decisions made by parents about the education of their children. 

No reasons are given as to why such a register would be necessary that are not already provided for in current legislation; and there is no evidence that such registration would achieve anything other than waste LA resources, as well as those of conscientious home-educating parents.

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

For many children school remains an excellent way for parents to ensure that their responsibilities to educate their children are discharged.  But equally, the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of education creates problems for children who don’t fit it.  Schools work hard with limited resources and in the context of overwhelming demands to do what they can, but sometimes a school is simply not able to provide the most effective context for a child’s education.  Home-schooling give a parent – who after all do know their children best – the flexibility to tailor education to a child’s individual interests and abilities. 

It allows them to give focussed attention to areas in which their children struggle, and in many cases provides a nurturing environment in which children are able to recover from instances of bullying, or demoralising and disempowering experiences of education in a school environment. 

In our experience as a family, home educating has enabled our children to develop a strong sense of self-discipline in approaching their studies, and has instilled a deep inquisitiveness about their world.  It has embedded a wide variety of skills required for exploration and learning, given the opportunity to develop faculties of critical engagement and reflection, and enriched their educational experiences by allowing them to study material and topics not readily available in schools.

It is not obvious that there are any necessary disadvantages in children being home educated.  Whilst we have often been asked about ‘socialisation’ but our experience is that any perceived lack here can constructively be remedied by engagement with extra-curricular activities and community involvement. Indeed, there is no evidence that home-educated children are in fact hindered in less socially adept than schooled children. 

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;

Our experience of home education is that there is remarkably little provision of support.  Home Education is a financially costly decision.  Our feeling is one of being treated with perennial suspicion, and that – with notable exceptions – there is an unwillingness to support home educators, albeit in part due to obviously limited resources.   Our eldest son is currently studying for GCSEs, and it has proved difficult to enrol him in exam centres etc., and expensive.  Further, exam boards have been unwilling to share information with home educating parents that they share with schools.  These are areas where more effective support could be offered in the future.

Any support that is made available should be voluntary and provided at the request of a home-educating family.  Many families do not require support in educating their children.

Many families make the decision to home educate because they feel that schools are not able to meet the needs of their children.  This is often a result of lack of resources provided for those schools.  Providing schools with the necessary resources to provide for a SEN child would often be a preferred option.

Being invited to participate in yet another consultation on home education, and the suggestion (again) of a statutory register does little to alleviate the sense of suspicion and of being unsupported by the state in making decisions we believe to be in the best interests of our children.

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’;

Yes, it is apparently sufficient, and there is no evidence produced that suggests otherwise.  Government regularly consults on these issues, and regularly decides to not implement these measures.  And then without anything obvious about the context of home-education having changed, decides to consult again. 

It could easily appear, from the way in which these issues are being grouped together, that this consultation lacks an awareness or appreciation of the home educating community.  A consultation that fails to differentiate between those families who constructively decide to home educate their children (often for ideological reasons), and contexts in which home-education is there result of formal exclusion, or ‘off-rolling’ is questionable at best.  There are a number of very different issues here, and they should be treated in isolation from each other. 

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

Inspection should play no role in the future regulation of home education.  Again, there is no evidence forthcoming that inspection is necessary.  Councils already have sufficient powers to intervene where education being provided in a home is considered inadequate.

It is difficult to see how inspection and regulation could take account of the incredible diversity of home education experience.  Parents decide to home educate their children for a wide variety of reasons, and follow a wide variety of curricula.  Inspection and regulation would be a worrying sign of the state’s attempt to control and politicise home education, and to do so by interfering in the decisions made by conscientious and law-abiding parents

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;

We are not aware of any improvement that have been made to support home educators.

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.’

COVID-19 had little impact on us as a home educating family.  Indeed, our observation is that the education of our children was far less disrupted than that of school-educated children.  We already had the structures of family life in place to enable us to cope effectively and positively with ‘lockdown’.

We did perceive a societal misunderstanding of home-education.  Many parents who have chosen to have their children school-educated thought they were home-educating because the school was – during lockdown – providing work for children to do at home.  This is not at all how many home-educating families perceive themselves, and we see little in common with the experience of many school-educating families during lockdown – many of whom struggled with an array of negative impacts.  One assumes that evidence is being gathered in a consultation with parents of school-educated children on their experience of the negative effects of COVID-19, and what additional measures might be needed?


October 2020