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.]


To introduce myself, my name is [name] and my family and I live in [location]. I am a home educator to my 3 children aged [ages]. We elected to home educate our children right from the beginning. I help lead a home educating group for families that is based on the classical model of education. I am also a [health professional] and am married to a [profession]. I would be delighted to share my thoughts and experience on home educating with the committee and I would like to share with you why this committee should defend the rights of home educators.



The education committee has asked about the duties of local authorities with regards to home education and safeguarding and assuring the quality of education the child is receiving. Firstly, I would like to draw attention to The Education Act 1996 which states that it is the parents’ responsibility to provide full-time education for their child through school or otherwise. It is first and foremost the responsibility of parents, not the government, to ensure the provision of an adequate education in a safe environment. For the Government to see it as their duty to assure quality of education is to remove that right from the parent and to ultimately declare that children belong to the state and not to their parents. 


Parents clearly do not have the right to abuse their child. But there is sufficient legislation and powers that social services have to protect children of abusive parents. Furthermore, any abusive parent who does home educate is not going to register their child as home educated anyway so extending legislation to include a mandatory register offers vulnerable children no further protection. There is no evidence that this infringement on parental rights would do anything to protect children. What a register would do, however, is cause problems for law-abiding families, limit their freedoms, and consume still more of the Government’s limited resources.


 Parents who make the choice to home educate their children often make great economic sacrifices to be able to so. It can be a difficult choice, and parents who make this decision are by necessity fully engaged in their child’s education. In the home environment parents or carers have the freedom to focus not only on the essentials skills of reading, writing and maths, but they can also engage in a more involved way with their child, bringing in the child’s own passions and interests to bear on the topic at hand.


A personal example from my own family would be [personal information]. Because we were home educating, we had the freedom to press “pause” on formally teaching him to read and instead to return to developing a love of stories in him. I was able to find the most inspiring and well-written children’s stories and poetry to read and delight in right alongside him. As a result, he now sees the inherent value in reading and is self-motivated to continue to improve his fluency in reading.  


Although [personal information]. This would have been more difficult, perhaps impossible, in a school environment as there would have been far more pressure for him to continue to progress in line with the national curriculum at a pace that is dictated by external factors rather than based on an individual child’s need. He would have been competing with many other children for the attention of a teacher who would not have had the capacity to tailor the education for all of the pupils in the class who have a variety of strengths, weaknesses, learning styles and experiences.


Aside from academic achievement, I am able to address character development in my children. As their parent I have a front row seat and can see what areas in their personal development need addressing. We have worked on the importance of asking questions and listening skills when having a conversation. We have learnt about the importance of apologising when you have wronged someone and how to be gracious when you have been wronged. All these interpersonal skills are of just as much value as an independent adult as any academic learning that may have taken place.


To further address the issue of the quality of education what measuring tool will the government use to determine if a quality education is being provided? How does the government know what a “quality” education looks like for each specific child? The only way for the state to measure quality will be to force these home-educated children into the same “one size fits all” approach that the national curriculum currently uses. Many home educating parents have decided not to send their children to school for the very reason that the national curriculum does not serve their child adequately or because it does not respect the needs and interests of their individual child. Using the national curriculum or any similar “yardstick” would curtail the parental freedoms that the Education Act explicitly is there to protect. To undermine the act this way would communicate that children belong to the state and not to their parents.


When my son was [age] and we made the decision to home educate I contacted our Local Authority to enquire what the process was and if anything was required of me. I was told that there was nothing I had to do and was not legally obliged to inform them as my son had not started school. Since then I have had no contact with my local authority. A freedom that I am grateful for as I have been able to focus on the needs of my children rather than pleasing an inspector and meeting their expectations. 


The idea that a home-educating family needs to be inspected assumes that the inspector knows what is best for the child better than the parent and that every home educating parent should be treated as suspicious; this is both arrogant and misplaced. There is no need for the state to attempt to safeguard all children from their parents, and it would be counterproductive at best. This expansion of the state into the very living rooms of innocent families would be a gross invasion of privacy, not to mention an unacceptable overreach of the state’s powers. It would alienate hard-working and caring families, without providing any protection for children or increase in the quality of education.


With regards to the impact of Covid 19 on home-educated children, I would say that since home-educated families are typically all part of one household, we have experienced the least interruption to our provision of education. We have been able to continue our studies as usual; only extra-curricular activities such as swimming and dance have been missed. Along with every child, their social interaction with others has been limited. This has proved a challenge; now that schools have opened up, however, we have been able to restart our group class meeting that I help lead for home educated children. Home education provides an extremely stable environment which nonetheless has far more flexibility than any school environment, given that we are not required to operate within strict time limits. We have the opportunity to continue our studies at any given time that suits parent and child therefore COVID 19 has had minimal impact on home educating families in comparison to children who attend school. 


This country has a long and noble history of protecting the rights of individuals and families. We have stood up to authoritarianism and infringements of liberties for centuries. Indeed, we continue to work through international institutions to promote freedom across the world. But this must start at home. I sincerely hope that you will continue this great nation’s legacy of freedom and liberty by defending the fundamental rights of families to make their own choices without fear of state intrusion.


Thank you for listening to my views and I hope you will do a service to all home-educating families by ensuring that their rights are preserved.


December 2020