HED0210

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.]

The LA input was appropriate during the [number] years I was home educating my [number] children. Our “inspector” was supportive, encouraging and friendly and the children looked forward to his visits, eagerly showing him their work and talking about their achievements. Any further input would have put constraints on the way I wanted to educate my children; offering them a national curriculum framework but incorporating countless trips to places of interest and hands on experiences with an emphasis on sport and exercise.

The benefits of home education have become apparent now my children are adults. All four of them are confident, articulate and well educated. Three went onto university and the three eldest have been permanently employed full time in jobs they love, (the youngest is still at university). Home education allowed them to pursue subjects they were interested in; this led to their interest in learning and ultimately to their career choices. Their friends were also equally driven and successful, attending top universities and achieving their goals.

As their teacher I was able to respond to their individual strengths and weaknesses, ensuring that my children were able to progress and to fully understand the topics we covered. This is unlike school where children can easily become disillusioned and left behind. The teachers struggle to identify particular talents or to give a pupil time to grow and develop, so target driven is school life. The numbers of children leaving school unable to read or write and who have no direction in life is concerning. I did not want that for my children.

In addition my children were able to take advantage of sports clubs such as rugby and swimming, receiving a far higher standard of exercise and instruction than the pathetic lessons now offered within school. As a consequence my children were fit and physically healthy. Emotionally my children were also strong and mentally healthy. The issues of bullying and depression increasingly seen in schools were entirely absent from the lives of my children, allowing them to enjoy childhood and develop naturally and without negative harmful influences.

The one and only disadvantage of home education that I witnessed was the occasional lack of contact with other children however, in a family of four growing up playing outside with others, this was not an important concern for us. I made great efforts to socialise my children through local groups such as scouts and brownies, sports clubs and through regular meetings with other home educated families. 

When I was home educating there was no support other than the encouraging comments of our LA visitor. When my children wanted to transition into school there was no help or support, hence their move was fraught with problems.  In my experience many home educated children were unable to ever return to school for this reason, though many tried to. They were permanently misunderstood and made to feel unwelcome due to a lack of training amongst the teaching staff and management.

Bullying issues were and remain a key problem, one that schools consistently fail to deal with despite their claims otherwise. Indeed this issue has become the key reason for home educating; schools are now such massive businesses that children are not seen as individuals. Parents recognise this and are forced to offer an alternative. It is common to hear of children threatening suicide as a result of their schooling experiences and parents are often at the end of their tether when they decide to home educate. Hence this option MUST remain if we value the lives of our young people.

During the [number] years I was home educating I was unaware of a single safeguarding issue. I strongly believe that home educated children are at far less risk of harm that those who attend school. Parents choosing to spend every waking moment with their children do so out of love and responsibility, so they are highly unlikely to endanger their children. Indeed with the social media and ability of children to contact anyone at the touch of a button, this issue cannot be viewed as a threat to home educated children, unless there are those who are seeking to undermine this choice in order to take control of our children and to remove a parent’s right to choose and bring up their child as they see fit.

As I said, inspectors should be there to support and encourage but also to point out potential issues and problems. They have to be aware that children educated at home do not learn in the same way as those educated in a school. They can be allegedly “behind” in some areas but may be “ahead” in others, there is no one set way to progress when regimentation is removed. Witnessing a child happy and content in the home environment is one vital measure of success. Seeing samples of the work produced should be another, although for some children with special educational needs, this aspect may not be visible as written evidence but requires a more creative, holistic approach. For these children, school can be a place of torture, and home offers them a sanctuary and a place they can develop in their own unique way.  For many it is ONLY in a home environment where they can thrive. Forcing them into school can be permanently damaging and society may have to pay the price for the lifetime of that child.

As for the impact of Covid, I am aware that many children who are educated at home have been forcibly isolated due to inadequate measures put in place for them to continue to meet outside the home. In effect they have been discriminated against in that schools have had clear guidelines but children outside have not. As a result there has been confusion and fear, leading to many children being isolated and in danger of developing mental health problems. I reiterate again that home education is not the problem here, but mixed messages and inadequate provision for those outside the school system. In addition as a result of a climate of fear, a greater number of families have turned to home education. This has resulted in some actually enjoying the experience and whose children have thrived, equally there have been families attempting and failing to deliver an adequate education. The cause of these issues again has been a failure to impart information that quells the fear of parents and to deal with those fears by listening and implementing adequate safeguarding.

 

November 2020