Written evidence submitted by Dr Michael Quail



I am a consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London. I am also a clinical academic at University College London, and a former Fulbright scholar.


I hold the following medical and academic credentials:


BSc (hons) - Immunology degree from the University of Edinburgh

MBChB (hons) - Medical degree from the University of Edinburgh

MSc (distinction) - Advanced Paediatrics Masters degree, University College London

PhD - University College London

MRCPCH - Member of the Royal College of Paediatrics

FHEA - Fellow of the Higher education academy


In addition to a child health professional, I am also a father and a home educator. I choose to home educate my children because it  provides them with a very high quality education in a rich learning environment. I began home educating my children whilst undertaking a Fulbright scholarship to Yale University in 2016. It has been a most fruitful and joyful experience for my family and I recommend it whole-heartedly.


As a parent I am able to deliver an education which considers my child’s developmental age, academic strengths and weaknesses, which is responsive to their interests and flexible in its approach. Home education provides children with an aptitude for self directed and regulated learning, which leaves them well equipped for higher education and gainful employment.


The children’s commissioner and the department of education want to ensure children are educated and that children are safeguarded. These are laudable aims, which as a paediatrician and a law-abiding person I support. However I have important concerns and criticisms of the current proposals.


The duties of local authorities with regards to home education

The education act permits parents, as prime educators, to decide whether to delegate education to school, or otherwise.


I am opposed to the introduction of a mandatory register, because it implies that a parent must seek the state’s permission to home educate, this is a worrying sign of state intrusion into private and family life. It is also a usurpation of the parent’s role as prime educator, and implies that the state sees itself as the educator.


I disagree that a register will prevent the abuse of children - individuals who are determined to harm children are unlikely to comply with registration. Such a register penalises the majority of parents who are exercising their legal right to educate their children. It also treats parents who home educate with suspicion; this is unjust.


Registration and Inspection for Safeguarding

Schooled children are the most closely observed of all children, if observation by a teacher or other professional was effective at preventing abuse; all abuse in schooled children would be detected. Unfortunately this is not the case, and suggests that inspection/observation is ineffective.


Like all diagnostic tests, the test performance (false positives or false negative) depends on the prevalence. If a good test is applied in a low prevalence scenario like child abuse - it is likely to perform badly. Unfortunately I believe ‘registration and inspection’ is also bad test for this problem. The unfortunate examples of failures by local authorities to protect children already known to be subject to abuse or current child protection orders (a high prevalence situation), highlights the potential for poor performance of inspecting home educators to detect abuse.


I believe that the complex process of registration and inspection is a wasteful of the limited resources of the local authority and likely to be ineffective in attaining its goals. Given that the prevalence of abuse is low, such an intervention is likely to miss more cases than it detects. This means that the intervention is both ineffective and also intrusive and expensive.


Giving overstretched local authorities responsibility for inspecting home-educated families, runs the risk of diverting resources from more effective interventions - leading to harm.


It also means that law-abiding families run the risk of unjust interference by overzealous inspectors who have presupposed objections to home-education.



Inspection for Educational Quality

Councils already have sufficient powers to deal with inadequate home education.


A diversity of educational approaches is a strength of home-education. However it makes inspection both inappropriate and impractical. Inspectors may make incorrect judgements based on a lack of knowledge or understanding, or fixed ideas about education. Some inspectors may hold biased objections against home-educators, leading to unjust sanctions.


I believe that inspections are both impractical and intrusive.



Home Education - Suspicion and Bias

Home education is often unfairly and incorrectly conflated with other societal problems including:


Unregistered and illegal schools

Unregistered and illegal schools are a separate problem, and targeting home-educators is misdirected. Authorities have legal mechanisms available to manage this.


Child Abuse

Home-educated children are much less likely to need state intervention to protect them than children educated in school. Home-educated children in England are 2-3 time less likely to be subject to a Child Protection Plan than children in school.


There is no evidence of a current problem with the regulatory frame work for home-education.



Home Education - provision of more support to parents

Consideration of financial support for home educators and their children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities or mental health issues should be considered and made entirely voluntary. There must be no implication that not requesting support or declining advice is a cause of concern.


Many home educators report being treated with unwarranted suspicion by local authorities, rather than being supported.


The provision of financial assistance for exam fees or provision of exam centres for home educators is welcomed. This is currently difficult for many parents.




Home education is an excellent option for parents who wish to exercise their right to teach their children at home. It can provide children with an unparalleled educational environment attuned to their developmental and educational requirements.


The majority of parents love their children and seek their good and happiness. This is why I choose to home educate. Parents who make this choice should not be treated with unfair suspicion and bias, rather they should be offered voluntary support and encouragement.


October 2020

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