Written evidence submitted by [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.]


Submission to Committee Inquiry re Home Education


Our situation


Elective home education is a positive choice for our family; our child ([age]) has never attended school. We feel that home education gives us the opportunity to provide an excellent quality of education which is more closely suited to the needs and interests of our child than a classroom education can be, with a focus on natural learning, nurturing curiosity, and the acquisition of the independent learning skills he will need as an adult.



What should the duties of local authorities be with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education?


The already-existing duties of local authorities are adequate, and there is no evidence to suggest that more intervention is needed. It would be preferable if local authority staff were better-informed and trained with regard to their duties; some are excellent but others regularly overstep what they are allowed to ask, and are also not well informed about the ways in which very successful home education can differ from a school classroom education. (In particular, autonomous education approaches have the backing of educational experts and are being adapted in some countries for school use, but do not look like a UK school classroom approach.)


Safeguarding duties apply to all children, whether educated in school or otherwise. Home education alone is not a safeguarding issue. There is no evidence that home educated children are more at risk than school-educated children, or that home educated children are in general being ‘missed’ by local authorities when safeguarding issues do exist.



Is a statutory register of home-educated children required?


No. All parents are legally responsible for the education of their children, whether they choose to discharge that duty via a school or at home. There is no legal basis for the monitoring of home educated children, or for mandatory registration.


A mandatory register would be a significant burden on both parents and LAs, and suggests that parents are asking ‘permission’ from the LA to exercise their legal choice to home educate. There is no benefit to keeping such a register; as above, there is no evidence of ‘missing children’ (and in any case, anyone attempting to hide an abused child from the authorities is unlikely to sign up to any such register, ‘mandatory’ or no).  



What are the benefits and disadvantages of home education?


The huge advantage of home education is in how closely education can be fitted to the child’s interests, abilities, and needs. There is far more freedom for a child to explore, and for parents to support their exploration of, their deep interests, and for parents to link other skills in with those interests. Education at home is more efficient (educators acknowledge that in classroom teaching a great deal of time is inevitably used up in ‘crowd control’), giving a child much more time for active learning. It is also more personalised, enabling better support for particular skills, both ones that the child is already good at and wishes to pursue more deeply, and ones that the child is weak on and needs specific practice. There is also more scope for active physical play (it is widely acknowledged that UK children don’t move enough, and six hours a day seated in a classroom doesn’t help). Bullying in EHE is non-existent.


For children with special educational needs, in particular, the ability to fit the child’s abilities and needs is a huge advantage; many children with SEN really struggle in school environments despite the best efforts of teachers, teaching assistants, and parents.


I honestly find it difficult to think of disadvantages! (It is of course time-consuming for the parents, but that’s not a problem for the child.) Home educated children don’t learn to ‘cope’ with a school classroom setting, but home educated children who do choose at some point to attend school learn those skills quickly when needed; and a classroom setting is an artificial one which isn’t particularly useful for adult life. It can sometimes be difficult to access formal examinations, but this is not a deficiency of ‘home education’ in itself (see below about support for EHE), and families who do want to access these exams find ways of doing so. Home educated children may have slightly smaller groups of friends, but they do have social groups and social experiences (and in any case, in a school class of 30, most children are not ‘friends’ with the whole class).



Quality and accessibility of support for home educators


Most home educators are wary of government/local authority financial support, as this would be likely to come with strings attached that would erode our ability to pursue the course of education, and the approach to that education, that suits our children.


However, home educators have been asking for some years (certainly since the Badman review) for better access to formal examinations (GCSEs, BTEC, A Levels, etc) with very little improvement in provision. If the Committee were able to oblige LAs to provide access to examinations for external candidates, that would be extremely helpful to home educators.



Sufficiency of current regulatory framework


The well-being and academic achievement of home educated children is fundamental to their education, which (as above) is the legal responsibility of their parents. There is no evidence that home educated children are at risk in terms of education or wellbeing. The current ‘safeguarding’ arrangements are therefore sufficient and there is no need for further legislation.


The terms of the inquiry refer to “...including where they may attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to ‘off-rolling’”. Unregistered schools, school exclusions, and ‘off-rolling’ are school issues, not issues of elective home education. They certainly should be dealt with as appropriate by LAs, and are of concern to anyone interested in education as a whole; but they should all be dealt with as part of the school system. If the school system and related legislation is insufficient, then the laws and guidelines around the school system should be changed. It is not a problem for elective home educators and we should not have to carry the can for these school failings.



What role should inspection play in future regulation of home education?


Neither inspection, nor further regulation, of home education is necessary, appropriate, or even possible in any fair and reasonable way.


Inspection of schools is done to ensure that the school, as a whole, is meeting the needs of its students, so that parents (who are ultimately responsible for their child’s education) can be certain that the school is doing a good job. Where parents are directly responsible for their child’s education, as in elective home education, there is therefore no role for inspection.


In addition, given the way in which elective home education is so much about individual children, how can an ‘inspector’, spending maybe a couple of hours at most with a family (which in itself would be a huge and expensive burden on LAs!) understand the needs of a particular child and how well suited the education provided is to that child? This is very different from a school inspection, where the inspector is considering the way in which education is provided, overall, to a large number of children. This sort of inspection would be transparently unfair to many families, as well as extremely stressful for both parents and child.



Improvements since 2012 report


As my child only reached compulsory school age in [date], I am unable to comment.



The impact of COVID-19


Obviously COVID-19 has had an impact on home educated children, as it has on all children. Many of our groups and activities outside the house have ceased, been curtailed, or moved online (especially during the first lockdown), and the limits on social activity have affected all children and parents across the country, however they are educated.


However in other ways the education of home educated children has likely been less impacted than school-educated children, as families were already conducting education at home, rather than suddenly being expected to oversee work that a school would normally be doing. Home educating families were also likely to experience less impact in daily life changes as a parent is already at home with the children during the day.


Having said that, the current November lockdown is likely to have slightly more impact on home educated children, as schools are still open (so children will see their peers in school), but home educated children are unable to see peers due to the restrictions on social contact. Hopefully this will indeed only last for a month; if this level of lockdown (only two people to meet outside, rather than six) continues, then some kind of exemption (eg a return to rule of six) for home educated children, especially primary-age children who are least at risk from COVID, would be very helpful. They could for example be added to the “under-5s don’t count” existing exemption (perhaps even only during school hours or during the week, to make enforcement easier). Making it easier for semi-formal home education meet-ups and activities to continue would also be helpful; there is an ‘education’ exemption in the regulations but it is not wholly clear how semi-formal groups should use it to meet safely.



[member of the public]

3 November 2020


December 2020