Written evidence submitted by Mrs Colette Harding


Introduction and reason for submitting Evidence.  


I am a mother and now grandmother who home educated our 2 sons over a period of 21 years from 1983 to 2004. My sons have married home educated women and our grandchildren are being or will be home educated.  I am concerned about possible changes in legislation which would require a more intrusive approach towards families who elect to home educate their children in accordance with their philosophy, religious belief or lifestyle choices. I am concerned that, contrary to law, a hostile and suspicious approach is often taken towards home educators, assuming that they have a harmful, hidden agenda for keeping their children away from ‘prying eyes’. Parents have always been the first and natural protectors and educators of their children. It is a perfectly valid choice to continue that role instead of abdicating that responsibility to strangers, who whilst claiming to be professionals, do not have the love and care for their children that the parents do.


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


At present LAs are required to assume that parents who opt for EHE are working with the child’s best interests at heart. They can only intrude into the privacy of family life if there is strong reason to suspect that safeguarding issues are involved.


The 'Support for Home Education’ Fifth Report of Session 2012–13 seems to be much more supportive of the rights of families to get on with educating their children without unnecessary intrusion from LAs than the subsequent ‘Elective Home Education Departmental Guidance for Local Authorities April 2019 . The former document also criticises 122 out of 152 LAs for going beyond their legal remit in the way they approach EHE families. It worries me that the 2019 document, rather than assuaging our fears and being more supportive, as recommended in 2013, actually begins the section on ‘The Starting Point for Local Authorities’ with an immediate subheading; ‘When is a child of concern?’ It suggest to LAs that they should begin with suspicion instead of trust.


This is an unfortunate ‘Starting Point’ when the first duty required by LAs is ‘to provide support for home educating families (at a level decided by local authorities themselves), and if families wish it;’   The second duty is ‘to intervene with families if the local authority is given reason to believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education.’ The 2019 Guidance seems to ignore that ‘It is not the role of the local authority routinely to monitor whether a suitable education is being provided, and local authorities should not act as if it is, or cause parents to believe that it is. (DCSF Guidelines 2007, p. 5 )


One person’s opinion of what is a suitable education may differ widely from another, so neither LA Home Ed Officers not Ofsted inspectors are free to impose their own philosophies and expectations when they meet or even hear of families with a different approach.

An ‘efficient’ and ‘suitable’ education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but ‘efficient’ has been broadly described in case law as an education that ‘achieves that which it sets out to achieve’, and a ‘suitable’ education is one that ‘primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so’. (DCSF Guidelines 2007, p. 4, citing Mr Justice Woolf in the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (12 April 1985)

2. Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;

No, it is not. At present there is no obligation on parents to notify or seek permission from the LA to educate their children at home in a manner consistent with their convictions. Parents have the primary responsibility of care for their children. Children do not belong to the state. Therefore no permission is needed and we would very strongly oppose the legal requirement to register. We are convinced that once registration were required, it would not be long before monitoring became compulsory too.

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

I was teaching in state primary schools when I was expecting my first child. We were in a disadvantaged ex-mining area of Yorkshire and both academic standards and behaviour expectations were low. I did not want my children learning in a setting where they had to ‘fit in’ to what I saw. At first I just knew we could do better than that. It was only when we started to think about what my children were being educated for that we developed a clear conviction that Home Education was a better alternative, for most children, as far as their parents are able. I was teaching in state schools until 2018 and am still of this opinion.

Home Ed journey can concentrate on the natural strengths and interests of children, once essentials are covered. After fluency in reading is reached, (which for our two was at age 5 and 6,) they can learn about whatever they wanted. They are able to travel more than school terms allow. Outings and trips can match their interests. One son showed a natural leaning towards engineering. He got good grades in all his GCSEs aged 14 and 15 and then did some practical courses like Car Mechanics, Woodworking at a local FE college since at that time under 16s were allowed to access courses for free. He was also learning piano, violin and viola and playing in a local orchestra with his brother and father.  He began A levels at the college. He earned a place on the Year in Industry Scheme (winning one of their prizes for his work) and so was employed in a responsible engineering job for a year before taking up his place at UMIST (as it then was) to do a Masters in Aerospace Engineering. He is now in a senior position in a world class aerospace company.

Our second son showed a particular aptitude for history and music. He too got great grades in his GCSEs, taken aged 12 to 14, and was then allowed to flexischool at a nearby sixth form just to do Music A level, whilst studying other A levels at home, including Classical Civilisations, a subject which would not have been available at school. During that time he was also a member of 2 local orchestras and gained three Grade 8 Distinctions in Piano, Trumpet and Theory. He was then accepted to study at the Junior Royal Northern School of Music, aged 16-18. He was offered places at both Conservatoires he applied for and chose to get his 4 year degree in Music at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire. He worked in music for a few years and is now a senior officer in the emergency services. 

They are both high achievers, and this was not because their parents are, but because they were taught how to learn and think for themselves, rather than taught how to pass exams. They both have gone way beyond their father and me. I am convinced that had they attended local schools, they would have been pressurised to keep down to the level of the majority.

The benefits of home education are immense and I know no disadvantages. They are not subjected to the peer pressures that cause so many young people to have mental health issues these days. Sexual problems, (disease/ unwanted pregnancies etc), self harm and suicide, low self esteem, bullying, knife crime, social media pressure are all problems home educated children need never face. Ours were given the freedom to be children for longer, to play, to gain confidence as they mingle with people of all ages, from all types of backgrounds and all around the world. They didn’t need to be TAUGHT diversity, they lived in a home where we invited people frequently, including many international students, workers from abroad and later on asylum seekers. They always knew people were all of equal value. Living daily life with our family gave them opportunities they would have lost if sent to school, and then came home to do homework and the only friends they had were from their own year group! I speak to so many schooled young people who find it difficult to relate to anybody outside their age bracket.

Most home educating parents I know are the type of people who mix with and serve other people, and have open homes, so their children are by no means socially isolated. Far from it.

4. 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;

This varies greatly across the country. When we lived in the south, we notified the LA of our intent. We had a good relationship with our ‘inspector’ who came once a year, our children interacted well with him because he was friendly not confrontational. We were also able to access free violin lessons for our older son, who then went into a local school once a week for his lesson and to play in the school strings group. He was also free to join a Saturday morning music school through that.

When we moved to the north, we notified the LA again and asked about music provision. Our sons were 7 and 14 at the time. The reply said there was no music provision. We never heard from them again until our younger son was 15, had done all his GCSEs and was in the middle of his A level studies. When the Home Ed ‘Adviser’ visited us, there was nothing to advise!

I know this fluctuation in provision still exists. Some families have great support and opportunities to access various perks that are freely available to all other children. Others seem to have no support but a great deal of suspicion and UltraVires demands made of them, as referred to in the 2012/13 Report.

We were disappointed that by the time our second son was ready to take exams, it was much harder to access exam centres and were turned down at a number of schools. He also was not allowed to use the local FE college for any courses until he was post 16. (I understand this has since changed again and it is good that 14 and 15 year olds can now attend courses.) It was only due to his high grades that he was welcomed to sit Music A level at a local school 6th form, since he would boost their grades rather than ‘be a risk’ to their results status.

Home educating families choose to survive on one wage. We do however pay taxes, some of which goes into state education. We would have appreciated some of the subsidised extra curricular perks that other children benefit from in terms of sports facilities and suchlike. It might be good to have some kind of card that gives home educating families the reduced rate on education books that schools are given (for example, the popular revision books sold by CGP have different prices for schools and individuals.) If families could be given vouchers to be used on Ed. materials without stipulating curriculum that must be taught, many might take this up. But it must not come with enforced registration, compulsory monitoring or required teaching matter or ideologies.

5. 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’;

This consideration is wrongly worded. Children who ‘attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to ‘off-rolling’ are not Elective Home Educated children. Nor are those who are ‘schooled at home' due to Covid

Yes, it is currently sufficient. Safeguarding should never mean ‘state parenting’. Parents are still and should remain, the prime safeguarders of their children. LAs are responsible to ensure that a child should never suffer harm whilst in their care, in schools and children’s homes for example. But evidence shows that many children do suffer harm in those places. It is wrong to make LAs responsible for caring for every child in their area when they can’t even safeguard those who are in school and that they know are in dangerous situations. (eg Daniel Pelka, Coventry.) Home educating parents should never be viewed with automatic suspicion simply for their choice. Just as with families who choose to send their children to school, home educating parents should be seen as totally loving and acting in their child’s best interests.

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

None. For parents who choose to notify LAs and wish to have interaction, it may be appropriate to ask for some type of annual contact. We didn’t mind and our ‘adviser’ acted politely and as a friend who came for an ‘annual cup of tea’. I had the confidence to show that we were doing a great job and wanted to ‘showcase’ on behalf of Home Education. But that should not be a requirement for other Home ed families. I know that other families have not had the same experience and many LAs go way beyond the Guidance and don’t even know the legal position on on Home Education.

An example that appalled many parents and secular media was when Ofsted asked totally inappropriate questions at certain Christian and Jewish schools in 2015. If such intrusive inspecting happened to home educated children it would be contrary to Article 8 of The Human Rights Act.

Our country thrives on the different approaches individuals bring to community life and industry. To remove from home-educating families the freedom they have at present to choose the style and content of their educating journey will be detrimental to those children and to the country as a whole. Schools ‘turn out’ children who have been ‘taught to the test’. I have seen this myself in teaching primary and secondary students, and many university professors will agree. Home educating produces self-motivation and knowing how to learn.

Also, Ofsted IS pressurised to uphold certain ideologies which are contrary to the faith and practice of millions of people in the UK. This silencing of free speech and policing of opinions is neither safe nor healthy for this country. We will be fulfilling George Orwell’s 1984 nightmare society.

To quote Section 2 from the Report in 2012/3, “10. The role of the local authority is clear with regard to home education. They have two duties: to provide support for home educating families (at a level decided by local authorities themselves), and if families wish it; and to intervene with families if the local authority is given reason to believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education. It is not the role of the local authority routinely to monitor whether a suitable education is being provided, and local authorities should not act as if it is, or cause parents to believe that it is.”

7. 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;

Whilst departmental guidance has changed since 2012, the legal basis for Home education has not.  From the experience of Home Ed families that I am still involved with, there does not seem to have been any real improvement. The Guidance appears to have been largely ignored. There is still a hostile environment to Elective Home Ed which is contrary to law. This is totally unfounded and needs to be challenged across the board.

8. 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.

Home educated children have fared better than schooled children, because they are used to being based at home, capable of managing their own time and finding useful and healthy ways to occupy themselves.


November 2020