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.]

Select Committee Call For Evidence on Home Education


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

Local authorities do not, and should not, have specific duties with regards to home educated children.

Local authorities have a general duty to have regard to the safeguarding of children living in their area when carrying out their functions, which applies to home educated children in the same manner as it does to all other groups of children – in particular, this is similar to the position of children below the age of 5, the other main group of children who are not typically in school.

The quality of home education is not a general concern of local authorities, as the duty to provide a suitable education lies with parents, not with the state. However, where there is reason to believe a parent is failing in this duty with regard to a home educated child, the local authority should investigate. Powers to do this exist in law currently, specifically through section 437 (1) of the Education Act 1996.

There is also a duty which should exist, but is apparently not enshrined in law, which is that local authorities should be obliged to provide accurate and impartial information, both in general and in this instance about home education. It is common for local authorities to have some information available, especially online, but it does not always meet this baseline. For example, [Local Authority] has a web page on home education which says “We need to safeguard all children and to make sure they are getting a suitable education at home. To check that your child is safe, we will arrange a home visit at least once a year to see you and your child.”1 This misleadingly implies that the council have the power to insist on home visits, and to conduct regular monitoring of home education. [Local Authority] website says “We believe that a school-based education provides the best possible opportunities for young learners, however, we respect parents' right to choose to educate their child outside of school and will work with them to support each child's best interests.2 This is obviously not impartial, and if read literally suggests that the council will be aiming to ‘support’ every home educated child back into school, since they claim to believe school provides the best opportunities without any qualification for differing individual needs. There should be legal redress available to people who have been mislead by local authorities in their understanding of the law around home education, especially where local authorities have misrepresented their powers to coerce families into contact or other behaviour they would not freely consent to.


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

In short, no. Registration for a service such as a school or GP surgery is normal, but people should not have to register for non-use of services. The data protection issues, privacy, and maintenance of an accurate register also outweigh any possible benefit. At present, if a child comes to the attention of the local authority and is not known to be registered at a school, the local authority can enquire if the child is home educated, but keeping constant track of where children are is unnecessary when those children are in the care of their parents. Placing a burden on law-abiding citizens to report their location and activities is an obvious violation of privacy rights and completely unprecedented – even most people convicted of crimes do not have to inform the authorities whenever they move house.

The GIRFEC Named Person scheme had to be scrapped in Scotland, as it was found to violate human rights protections. It would be a terrible and obviously malicious move for the government to attempt a similar scheme in light of this. Home educating families should not be discriminated against or subject to human rights abuses.


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

Benefits of home education have been documented primarily in research from the United States of America and Canada, while in the UK there has been an unfortunate dearth of academic investigation. Due to the wide variety of methods and aims of home education, measurements system which compare directly to the education metrics used in schools (e.g. Progress 8) are not possible, but scoring on academic tests and long term outcomes can both be used to assess the effect of home education on children during and beyond compulsory school age. Studies considering academic outcomes via standard tests and university achievement find that home educated children perform as well or better than their school peers, especially when comparing children from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds 3, 4. Research into adults who were previously home educated finds them to be similar to their school peers or doing better on measures of employment, civic engagement, and life satisfaction 5.

Plenty of areas exist with little to no documentation though, and would be useful areas for future investigation in the UK, on top of the more obvious metrics of academic qualifications and adult employment. Mental health for children who lack academic ability, or who are merely ‘slow’ but whose ability is average or high, can be much improved by removal from a classroom setting – most home education puts children in very small or mixed-age groups, allowing children to achieve according to their ability without much opportunity for comparison with peers. Children whose interests and aptitudes lie in unusual or narrow areas benefit from home education’s flexibility, for example allowing a child with a propensity for learning languages to become fluent in several, rather than being limited to one or two by a school timetable.

More broadly, all children can benefit in the long term from the furthering of educational pedagogy that home education enables. The rather linear structure of schools, where basic literacy and numeracy are emphasised at an early age on the assumption that they are necessary building blocks for all further study, has been proven unnecessary by the many counterexamples of home educated children who learned to read or write late, or undertook no formal instruction in mathematics, yet were able to catch up to the ability expected of their schooled peers within months. This offers hope to children within the state school system who are still illiterate and innumerate as teenagers, and it would be useful to research the approaches taken by parents of home educated children who only learned these skills in their teenage years to see if similar techniques could be applied in schools.


Disadvantages are relatively rare, and relate largely to the structural barriers that arise when school education is presumed to be universal. Access to exams as an outside candidate can be difficult, truant officers may accost home educated children going about their day, and uneducated public sector workers from nurses to library staff may refer home educated children to social services simply for not being pupils at a school. Frequent reviews and consultations from governments and associated bodies make it hard for home educators to give sufficient time and attention to their primary educational role, as there is no PR or HR department in a home to handle consultation duties. A similar problem from harassment by LA staff who either are working on an ideological basis or one of ignorance to try to force home educated children into schools also occurs. Luckily, discrimination from members of the general public is falling as home education becomes more widely known as an option, so it is now less common for children to be accosted in public about their daytime activities, though by no means as rare as it should be.


  1. 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;

Support for home educators mostly comes from the home educating community, which contains many loose networks of families who work together to organise educational events, courses, and workshops. Resources online are also often helpful, whether aimed specifically at home educators or not, and online educational resources are frequently free.

Financial support is not available generally, nor should it be – the cost of having a child and the associated responsibilities of parenthood are expenses prospective and current parents must manage themselves. The state provides education in the form of schools, but no support should be given separately to parents who choose to use other provision any more than financial support should be given to people who choose to use private healthcare or buy nutritional supplements.


  1. 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’;

The wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is the responsibility of their parents, it is not the state’s job to ‘safeguard’ it beyond enforcing the law where there is evidence of a breach. The current regulatory framework oversteps this by encouraging local authorities to investigate the provision of home educated children even in absence of any sign there might be a problem, which is akin to encouraging searches of people’s homes for stolen goods when there is no evidence of involvement in theft.

The education of children who attend unregistered schools is the responsibility of their parents, as in all other cases. If an unregistered school is discovered to be providing unsuitable education, that would obviously point to the parents of all pupils there breaching their legal duties, and they should be investigated in the usual manner. Mere attendance at an unregistered school or other setting should not be considered evidence of unsuitability of education, however, as some such settings provide suitable education and parents can legitimately fulfil their duty to ensure a suitable education for their child via such means.

Children who have been excluded from school are not electively home educated, but should be offered state provision through other means. If suitable provision is offered and then rejected in favour of home education, families where home education was initiated after exclusion should be treated the same as any other and not addressed with prejudice. Where home education is not elective but is due to ‘off-rolling’ or a failure of the local authority to provide suitable alternatives to an excluded pupil, the family should be offered compensation and a return to the school/alternative provision they were entitled to, and the school or local authority penalised for failing to fulfil their duties.


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

Home education should not be subject to inspection. It is not appropriate for the state to routinely investigate the private lives of citizens, and parents fulfilling their educational duty of care to their children without recourse to state provision is as much a part of the private sphere as their duty of care in other domains such as feeding their children. To monitor home education where there is no specific cause for concern would be akin to conducting food hygiene inspections of every family’s kitchen – absurdly intrusive, a massive waste of resources, and entirely open to corruption on both sides.

Some local authorities currently hold discriminatory positions against home education, for example [Local Authority], who recently advertised a position for an elective home education officer which described the aim of the role thus: “The strategic aim will be to reduce the number of EHE cases within the area6. Such authorities could be expected to misuse any inspection powers granted to them to pressure children out of home education. From the perspective of home educating families, any inspection would have to come with transparent criteria, which could easily be gamed – it is much easier for a family to fake work for an individual child than it is for a school teacher to do so for a whole class, and even establishing the identity of a child under inspection would be difficult. Even if both sides engaged in good faith, all but the most obvious cases of failed provision would be indistinguishable from low ability or non-linear approaches. Home education is individualistic and tailored, and this innate variability in presentation makes structured inspection impossible, as I have previously argued in relation to the monitoring proposals in Lord Soley’s 2017 private member’s bill HL117.


  1. 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

No improvements have been made to support home educators, the report has been largely ignored both by local authorities and by government. Areas which were supposed to improve practice, such as the formation of a body of home education professionals, have instead been used by some of the worst local authorities to lobby for further powers without any transparency or collaboration with the home educating community they are supposed to serve. Rather than training and understanding of the variety of home education pedagogies being disseminated among home education officers, specialism has been lost as unqualified personnel are hired into roles which overlap with Children Missing Education, Safeguarding, and other inappropriate local authority departments. Recommendations for improving exam access have been ignored, with home educated children in 2019 commonly having to travel to other counties and sometimes to stay away from home for the whole of exam season to sit papers in their chosen subjects, an expense on top of direct exam costs.


  1. 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

The handling of GCSE and A-levels in 2020 has been very discriminatory to home educated children, who study and take exams as independent candidates, and mostly were unable to take their planned qualifications due to the COVID-19 cancellations. Those who have been denied grades should have been given presumptive grades based on their own expectations, even if required to sit the next available exam to confirm their prediction, to allow for transition into higher education without delay.

There has also been a lot of disruption to home education groups, which have not been able to meet for educational and social activities as usual due to COVID-19 restrictions, in part due to a lack of clarity in legislation and guidance. Often village halls or other venues are unwilling to rent space for activities, even though the home educators should be exempt from the current ‘rule of six’ when meeting for educational purposes. Earlier in the pandemic especially, many educational venues were also shut, from museums to local libraries, depriving home educated children of opportunities and resources.

Fortunately, home educated children have suffered less disruption than many school children, having their households set up with the expectation that they will be around in the day requiring parental attention and support for their learning. As long as educational activities remain exempt from lockdown measures, the negative impacts to home educated children will not generally be greater than to those of school attending children.



  1.                                                                                                                                      https://www.leeds.gov.uk/schools-and-education/composite-prospectus/home-education
  2.                                                                                                                                      https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/schools-education/home-education
  3.                                                                                                                                      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15582159.2017.1395638
  4.                                                                                                                                      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/02732173.2014.895640
  5.                                                                                                                                      https://cche.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2009StudyPrint-1.pdf
  6.                                                                                                                                      https://www.greater.jobs/search-and-apply/job-details/3587146/?fbclid=IwAR2Qh0qXevk9GDMQGt-nt0xzBr7g1_J1A1BdCPbBGzBHeX5XGp6_9EbGJ3M
  7.                                                                                                                                      https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eobkR_ExNG9UyrPDHcSp6QpAsM6u7Ger/view?usp=sharing



December 2020