Written evidence submitted by Mr Ian Hames

Home Education Consultation

I write as a professional who has spent almost his entire career (I am now 57) in the teaching profession. I am dad to 2 grown-up sons, both state-educated.

Whilst the majority of parents will wish their children to be educated at school, some parents will choose to educate their children at home because they believe it is best for them. At this point it is important to say that parents, not the state, are primarily responsible for the education of their children. Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 says: “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.” So, teachers are educating on behalf of parents, not the state.

Regarding safeguarding and quality of education received at home, Local Authorities already have powers to intervene where they have reason to believe that children are not receiving an adequate education or are at risk of abuse. I believe the current approach strikes an appropriate balance between family privacy and child protection – local authorities have substantial powers to intervene when they have good reason to believe there is a problem.

Regarding having a mandatory register, I feel strongly that this would give the state unwarranted power over parents: it is neither necessary nor appropriate for parents to be required to register with the state to teach their own children. Having such a register would be a worrying sign of increased state interference in family life and could in time prove to be the first step toward even more intrusive regulation and monitoring. I think it would be the parents who would be of greatest concern who would be the very ones who would fail to sign up anyway!

Regarding the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education, I am strongly of the opinion that inspection is inappropriate for home education. Inspection would be an intrusion into the home and another worrying sign of increased state interference in family life. One of the strengths of home-learning is the flexibility and diversity of approaches, geared to meet the needs, strengths, and interests of each individual child. It would be totally impractical and indeed impossible to try and transpose an Ofsted inspection framework into a home setting. It is worth adding that there is no evidence that lack of inspection puts children at risk; indeed, some parents will be opting to home-educate one or more of their children in order to eliminate some risks associated with schools, e.g. bullying; sexual harassment; mental health issues; etc

I have a particular interest in Special Education, having worked in this field for well over 20 years. Whilst the majority of state Special School provision is good, I know some parents feel their child’s neds are not being fully met (whether in Mainstream or Special School) and that they would do better meeting these specific learning needs through home-education. Rather than targeting such parents for mandatory registration and inspection, resources would be far better spent improving the existing provision for children with additional needs in state schools.

I am pleased that at the present time parents have the freedom to home-educate and create bespoke learning opportunities for their children, without state intervention. The majority of parents do this for genuine reasons; they feel they have the required skills; they feel they can provide appropriate, stimulating activities for their gifted children in the way state school finds difficult, or they can slow down the learning to a pace a child can cope with who may be struggling to keep up in mainstream school. Whatever their reasons for home-schooling, the government/state should put its full trust in parents to do a great job, without interference.

Ian Hames

October 2020