Written evidence submitted by South Manchester Natural Parenting Group & Sling Library


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

The duty of LAs regarding home educated children’s safety and quality of education is reactive, not proactive, as it should be.  In no other case is it automatically assumed that parents are incapable of adequately parenting their children.  Education is (and should be) no different.  It is already the legal responsibility of a parent to provide education for their child, even if many of them currently choose (whether actively or passively) to delegate that responsibility to a school.  Unless you would prosecute parents for the failings of their children’s schools, you should not take a similar approach with home educating parents.  And I’m sure you are aware of the many and varied ways in which children are failed by schools, even if you won’t admit them.

Children who suffer abuse from their parents are almost always already known to authorities before a fatal incident occurs, and any supposed home education involved in the situation is used as a red herring to distract from the fact that authorities failed to co-ordinate and act promptly.  The vast majority of home educators have nothing to hide, yet everything to fear from the LA.  Home education per se has nothing to do with safeguarding (and does not mean children are sitting at home unseen by anyone).  Simply not being enrolled in school is not a risk factor for abuse.  And many schooled children are abused without appropriate action being taken, so being seen by teachers does not prevent abuse anyway.

Poverty is a risk factor for abuse though, so why not make parents’ lives less stressful by making society more equal?  Then everyone will be happier, home educated or not.

                     whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required

No.  This should not be required.  Many parents choose to home educate for strongly held genuine philosophical beliefs about the role of the state in their lives (amongst other reasons), and more interference in this regard would not endear the state to them, and would in fact be discriminatory against people with these beliefs (therefore unlawful).  Working with home educators is different from “doing to” them.  LAs should offer resources, information, and support, but nothing, including registration, should be forced on families.  No measure is guaranteed to protect children whose parents are determined to abuse or neglect them (whether physically, socially, or educationally), so such steps are pointless, and would only serve to deepen mistrust between the home ed community, and the state.  Which is not helpful to anyone.

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

They gain real life experience and skills, more freedom to learn what they are interested in, and in the way they wish to do it.  Their education can be personalised, and self-directed.  They don’t lose the ability to think for themselves and consider themselves as equals to adults, unlike many schooled children.  They mix with children of different ages, as well as adults, not just 30 children the same age.  The disadvantages come mainly from judgment and interference by authorities, which is very stressful for families.  As a group, they do as well, if not better (both academically and emotionally), than schooled children.  Many home educated children have previously faced bullying and/or lack of support for their needs at school.  I was educated at a grammar school, and did very well academically.  But it did nothing to prepare me for real life, unlike the education my daughter is receiving.

                     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

There should be financial support, but not contingent upon registration, or supervision by the LA, or any other criteria.  Usually there is a loss of income when a family home educates, and this type of caring is not valued by society enough to pay families to do it (despite the significant saving the state makes by not having to school those children).  A Universal Income would be the fairest way of achieving this, so that anyone is able to make educational choices that benefit their children, rather than it being more accessible to well-off people.  However, despite our income being in the lowest decile, my daughter is not short of activities to choose from; there is almost always a way to make home education work regardless of one’s circumstances, if one is motivated to do so.  I know families ranging from two full-time working adults, to disabled self-employed single mothers, who home educate.  But it should be made easier.

There should also be good signposting to resources for HE children, and free access to qualifications as external candidates, just as schooled children receive such funding.  And home educated children should be eligible for the equivalent support a schooled child would receive if they were low income, such as food subsidies.  Again, with no strings attached.  If you want the community to trust you and work with you, don’t force us to do things a certain way.  That is the opposite of many home ed parents’ philosophies.

                     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’

There is certainly an issue with schools getting rid of inconvenient students, whether that is because they have behavioural issues, support needs, or do badly academically.  But in that case, by definition, the parents are not electively home educating, as they were forced into it.  Addressing that should not affect home educators who have made a positive choice to home ed (many of whom will never have sent their children to school in the first place).  Simply being home educated is not a safeguarding issue, and should not be used to justify involvement of authorities in families’ lives if that would not be the case in an identical family situation where the child was schooled.

It concerns me that the focus on unregistered schools discriminates against Muslim families.  Change the rules so that the type of education they want to provide their children is lawful, instead of trying to stop them doing it and forcing them underground (which could be counter-productive).

                     the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education

None at all.  Due to my position for the last 8 years as leader of a parenting group (focusing on responsive parenting from birth onwards, including alternative education), I know many hundreds of home educating families, none of whom appear to not be educating their children appropriately (even if they make different choices in that regard from myself; there are many valid ways to home ed).  These range from people doing “school at home” by following curricula, to autonomous educators with no imposed structure at all, and everything in between.  All their children are happy and fulfilled, and are learning, developing, and socialising.  The home ed community is self-inspecting in that regard; we learn from each other, improve our practice, and get support from people who know best how to do it (including those with adult children who were home educated).

Authorities used to mainstream school are totally unqualified to judge the suitability of such education (though they are often very eager to).  Parents are best placed to do that; they know their child and family best, and are immersed within the home ed community, with its rich knowledge base and a total of thousands of parent-years of experience educating in these ways.

                     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

None, judging by the patronising and controlling way my LA acts.  I have asked them to stop emailing me annually about my daughter’s education (unnecessary and legally dubious), yet they continue.  But when I actually asked them for some information, they did not respond.  If you really want to support home educators, hire some to liaise with the community, instead of using former teachers, and institutionalised council staff who overstep their bounds and have no understanding of the relevant issues.

                     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.’

Obviously when schools were closed, and other groups were not available to home educators, this was a significant blow to the community.  This time the situation may be less bad, as schools are remaining open, as are various educational sessions.  However, many home ed children attend classes and groups that are having to close again, and consistency may be particularly important to e.g. autistic children, who are often home educated.  It’s very disruptive to them to be unsure what is happening, and unable to attend activities they are used to; it makes them anxious, which could affect their development.  So more children’s activities should be permitted to continue, as although they may not be what the mainstream considers educational, many home educators use them as such.

It would also be helpful if guidance was issued to make it clear that home education can take many forms (i.e. not just writing at tables), and what might just look like socialising/gathering to a passing policeman, could be home education that families are legally entitled to engage in.


December 2020