Written evidence submitted by Mrs Fennie Strange


Dear Sir,                                                                                                                2nd November 2020

I am writing to express my concern at the news that the Department for Education has committed to introduce a compulsory register of home-educated children and to the termly inspections of home-educating families. I taught in secondary schools in Wales for twenty years, and during that time came across many home-educated children: some joined main stream education at some point during their seven years, others I met when they were involved in extra-curricular activities, visits or were the children of friends. None of these children gave me any cause for concern or lead me to believe that their education at home was in any way in need of inspection.

My chief reason for being concerned is that this legislation appears to make the assumption that it is the state's responsibility to educate children. I believe that this is not the case. It is parents' responsibility to educate children, and it is schools who are acting in loco parentis, not the other way round.

I would also like to point out that local authorities already have extensive powers to intervene if they believe that children are at risk of inadequate education or abuse. The situation at the moment strikes a good balance between child protection and the rights of parents to make decisions about their own children: if local authorities are handed further duties to inspect all home-educating families, their workload will be substantially increased and their attention distracted from children most at risk. I find the prospect of a mandatory register concerning for two reasons: first it is evidence of further state interference in family life; secondly, parents most likely to give cause for concern would simply not register.

Please do not conflate home-education with other issues: parents who choose to home educate their children have nothing in common with unregistered or illegal school which are sometimes linked to cults and others intent on indoctrination. Child abuse is another issue unfairly conflated with home education: research in 2015 found home-educated children in England were two to three times less likely to be subject to a Child Protection Plan than children in school, despite being twice as likely to be referred to social services. Parents sometimes choose to home educate their child to protect them from or rescue them from sustained bullying at school. As one who has suffered life-long from the effects of bullying at school, this is an issue about which I feel particularly strongly.

Support should be available to home-educating parents, but  any support should be entirely voluntary, and available on request from parents and certainly not treated as a cause for concern. During my years teaching in Welsh secondary schools I did indeed come across situations where parents chose unwillingly to remove children with special needs from school because their needs were not being adequately met. If the provision had been better in school, parents would not have had to make this decision.

Yours faithfully

Fenella J Strange

November 2020