Written evidence submitted by [a member of the public]

[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.]


Response to call for evidence on Home Education


Profile of person submitting evidence


My name is [name], I am a [age] year mixed race British woman and I am home-educating my [age] year old daughter. I have been actively involved in the [city] home education community since she was [age] old. I am a fully qualified [profession] and I have worked in education, education policy and research for over twenty years.


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


In [city], I feel privileged to have access to a very supportive council contact who oversees elective home education, maintains the voluntary register, attends meetings with home educating parents and signposts useful information. I am also pleased to receive letters regarding alternative arrangements for immunisations which my daughter would otherwise get at school. Legally the responsibility of educating my daughter and lies with me and I feel this is recognised and respected by the local authority. In completing their questionnaire when registering I felt their approach was fair, balanced and appropriate.


Is a statutory register of home-educated children is required?


I think if sufficient support is given, as in the case of [city], to encourage parents to voluntarily register, this should be sufficient and should be made desirable by increasing access to support e.g. exam fees, eligibility to participate in, for example after-school clubs in local schools. Not I strongly believe a register will not in any way improve safeguarding. The tiny minority who intend to harm their own children need to be tracked in a different way.


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


Innumerable – I have met so many wonderful home educated children – they are well-rounded, confident, passionate, knowledgable, highly creative and very supported in pursuing their unique interests and aptitudes. Home education, with access to so many wonderful resources in a modern world, is the ultimate in ‘personalised learning’. I was very concerned as Coronavirus unfolded that my daughter officially reaching school age on [date] would present great problems as the usual coops and groups are still not functioning as previously – however, I have been very pleasantly surprised to see many outdoor covid-safe activities being made available that my daughter can access and the home education community has come together creatively to maintain and build relationships between children and adults of all ages. For example, my daughter has learnt much about the joys of sharing and doing things for others only this week by making parcels of Halloween crafts to send to friends building on letters and crafts exchanged by post earlier in lockdown. She attends a [educational setting] school between 10 and 2pm on Fridays and a riding school for weekly lessons plus ad hoc home education farm/pony days and holiday clubs. There huge increase on online activities has hugely appealed to my daughter and she has been taking part in international art workshops, receives phonics, maths and piano lessons online every week. I am so heartened by the adaptability of people who help me make these things possible for my daughter and feel very much a part of a supportive community which is diverse and complex. Potential disadvantages are parental burn out – there is so much to access and facilitate one could easily become overwhelmed even though so much of it is joyful. I think supporting parents in making this choice and being realistic about the time and financial commitment is very important.


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


It would be warmly welcomed if home educating parents could access more financial support, especially for access to exams but even earlier, if a school place is not being taken up – making a proportion of that cost saving available to the home educated child would be welcomed – again perhaps something that could be accessed only if on a voluntary register? I cannot comment on special needs etc.


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’;


Those who have been formally excluded or off-rolled should already be subject to monitoring as clearly there is already a problem. The vast majority of home educating parents are not in that situation. Legally a parent must judge if a child’s education is suitable, whether that be in school or otherwise and I see no reason to change this law. Unregistered schools are a separate issue. Schools which operate illegally must be dealt with entirely separately and voluntary registration with a supportive local authority could provide access to information on recognising illegal schools and enlisting the help of parents in reporting them. A collaborative rather than authoritarian approach with working with home educating parents would garner trust.


The role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education

It is completely impractical to inspect individual home educating families. Regulation will potentially hamper the life chances of many children. The great beauty of home education is that it is flexible, responsive, able to cater for very diverse needs, often suiting children who do not do well with the model of school. If we start trying to impose regulation, trying to monitor, assess and evaluate things that are intrinsically hard to measure, we further restrict the possibilities for many children. Read more about the hidden curriculum and self-directed learning to understand some of this better. Also, please note I feel my daughter is thriving by not being in a school environment which uniquely caters for the extrovert model our society seems to prize (I highly recommend Susan Cain’s work on this subject). I am able to tailor her learning to her interests and aptitudes and I would be very concerned that inspection and regulation would hamper this.


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?


As far as I am aware there has been some updated guidance for parents and local authorities.


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.


Some home educated children may be missing being able to gather indoors in larger groups. This is not the case for my daughter as she prefers smaller, outdoor activities. Realistically in ‘normal’ time home educated children might attend many different groups and social activities in the course of a week making the formation of ‘bubble’ rather complex and the level of mixing very variable between families. It may be prudent to consider the bringing together of home educated and home-schooled children in local communities through covid-safe after school clubs to give a sense of continuity and community which may be more challenging at the moment.


Final note


I am happy to be contacted to further discuss my take on home education and education more broadly. I worked in developing [Government policy] and worked closely with [Government Department] and the [research foundation]. Something I observed during that time was how well young people do when they are facilitated to take ownership of their learning, pursue their interests at their own pace and in partnership with supportive, collaborative adults. I cannot see how this can happen very effectively in mainstream education as it stands, hence my least worst option (despite having the resources to choose a private school if we wanted to) was home education. Coronavirus has made many more people aware of it as an option. I am part of my local home education community’s ‘greet’ team and I have seen a sharp rise in interest in home education with many parents choosing not to return their children to school when they reopened and seeing their children blossom outside of the school environment.


October 2020