Written evidence submitted by Mrs Sharon Brown

I am a home educating parent, and have home educated my two children since they were 4 years old.  They are now 17 and 15.  I am submitting evidence to this call for evidence as I believe that home education is a very important educational choice and that it should be always available to those who choose it. 

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


The duties of local authorities in relation to home educated children are the same as those to all other children.  Home education is not a safeguarding issue.  Although there have been some cases where home educated children have been subject to abuse, these have all been known to social services, and the serious case reviews do not state that their home education was a significant factor.  Rather, they criticised the failings of local authorities to implement their existing policies.  They have no remit over the quality of home education.  In UK law the education of a child is the responsibility of their parents – otherwise the state could be sued for every child who has been failed by the state school system.  Education is not a safeguarding issue and parents are free to educate their child however they want, provided they follow the existing laws around providing a full time, sufficient education suitable to their child’s abilities and aptitudes.


whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;


A statutory register of home educated children is not required. 


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


The benefits of home education are vast, and far too many to mention here, but I will include a few


Children learn what they want to, when they want to, whilst being lovingly supported by their parents.  My daughter has always been fascinated by the human body; at the age of 10 she spent a whole year studying anatomy, including doing dissections, in fact covering around 70% of the GCSE human biology syllabus (not that that was our aim).  Her love continued, and she has now applied for a place at medical school with the aim of becoming a paediatrician.  Being home educated has given her the advantage of being able to study well.  Indeed, her tutor at college has said that she has gained excellent self-study skills from her home education. 


They have the ability to work far ahead or behind their peers without fear or stigma.  At age 11 my son began studying for his GCSE maths, gaining a grade 8 at the age of 13; his handwriting however, looked like that of a 6 year old.  He was able to focus on his strengths, and fly ahead in these areas, whilst working steadily on his weaknesses.  At school, he would not have been able to have the challenge of a maths GCSE at that age, and would have been constantly bored in that subject, rather than able to delight in it.  He is now 15, and has overcome his writing difficulties – he just needed time to do when he was ready for it.  Had he been in school, he would have had huge difficulties as so much assessment relies on written work.   Oh, and he still loves maths!


Children in younger years have much time to play, which is vital for their proper development in academic, social and emotional skills They are not forced to sit still in classrooms for many hours, when they need lots of outdoor play.  In many countries school begins at 7, which is much more developmentally appropriate.  Home education allows children to have this later start in the UK.


Home educated children have time to dedicate to their own interests and hobbies – both my children loved music and had achieved grade 8 on their first instruments at the ages of 14 and 12. 


The benefits to their mental health have been profound – they have not had to endure ridiculous amounts of academic pressure from teachers and social pressure from their peers.  They were free to grow up as individuals, with unique personalities outside of the pressure cooker of schools.  They have been able to learn life skills from real life – at 17 and 15 they now regularly cook for the family, as well as doing laundry, food shopping etc. 


There are potential disadvantages to home educated children. Exams are very expensive to take.  It currently costs me £120 - £150 per subject for a GCSE exam only, excluding the costs of any courses or books.  These are sat at an exam centre 40 miles away, which requires us to leave home at 6.45 am to get there for a 9 am exam.  These costs are very high, and despite having very academic children they will only have 7 GCSEs each.  The cost is just too high to contemplate any moreAccess to exams for home educated children has always been difficult and is only getting worse, as schools close their doors to private candidates after the difficulties of the cancelled exams last summer.  If local authorities were required to name one school in each large town that had to take external candidates this could easily be rectified.


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;



The home education community, largely accessed via groups on social media, is amazingly supportive and helpful.  Trying to access any other form of support whilst outside the system is incredibly difficult; from speech therapy, to CAMHS, to trying to get an EHCP, home educators are at a distinct disadvantage since they do not have teachers in schools struggling to deal with their behaviour.


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’;


This question implies a conflation of education and safeguarding.  You cannot safeguard a child’s academic achievement.  If a child has been off-rolled then this should be reported to the LA and the school should be reprimanded in some way for it.  Similarly powers already exist for the policing of illegal schools.  A child who attends an illegal school is not home educated; these are two separate issues that should not be confused.  Home education is not a safeguarding issue.


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


Home educated families do not need to inspected for their provision of education, any more than every family needs to be inspected for its catering!  All parents have a duty to feed their children and to educate them.  Inspections of education should only occur if there are severe concerns about the education that is being provided, in the same way that the provision of food is only inspected where there are severe concerns.  Otherwise, it remains the parents responsibility, and should not be inspected.  Compulsory inspections are potentially damaging to home educated children, especially those with SEN or mental health issues as for many, their home is their safe space, and to have this interrupted by an individual with the power to send them to school is highly stressful and potentially damaging.


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;


I have home educated my children since 2007; I have not noticed any difference since 2012 in the levels of support available. There are many more people home educating but the situation remains largely the same.  Local authorities simply do not have the funding to be able to offer support to home educators.  I live an area with a reasonable local authority and do not have difficulties; others in different counties will, I’m sure share different views.  My local authority is one of the few that offers a small amount of money towards GCSE entries.  However, the £280 that is available will just about cover the cost of 2 GCSEs, and most colleges require 5 for entry.  It does seem to be a postcode lottery in terms of what is actually available.


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 impact of covid has been great on all children, but I do believe it has been harder on home educated children.  Firstly, when GCSE exams were cancelled, and centre assessed grades were used, the vast majority of home educated children were excluded (including my son).  After all, which school is going to rank a home educated child, not on their roll, above the pupils on their own roll, potentially disadvantaging their own students?  Most home educators do not use tutors that are able to give them a grade anyway.  They work largely from home, from textbooks and the internet.  Those that did have qualified tutors found that schools rejected their evidence, as it came from different individuals to their own teachers and as such they could not rank them within their own cohort of students.  I understand that there were 20,000 private candidate entries for May 2020, but only 2,000 results were issued.  This gives an idea of the scale of the problem.  My son had to defer his physics GCSE, which has had a knock on effect in terms of his studying and the schedule for his other exams later this year.  I am expecting that his grades for his later exams will be reduced because of the additional time he has had to spend this year studying for physics.


Secondly, because of the covid restrictions in schools - namely that no-one is allowed on school property unless absolutely necessary many schools are refusing entry to home educated students for at least the foreseeable future. Summer 2021 is going to be very difficult for exams.  Even if schools are able to accept students onto the premises, because students in exam halls will have to be socially distanced, they will not have the room that they once did, and home educated students will always be at the bottom of their lists in terms of priority.  Further, because of all the difficulties of exams this year, and particularly the fact that schools had to let down parents and students at the last minute, many of them are now closing their doors to home educated students permanently.  Exam access, both this year, and in subsequent years will be massively harder for home educated students; it was not easy before covid.


Thirdly, once the initial lockdown began to ease, schooled children were allowed to go to school to socialise with their peers.  However, since many home educators do academic work from home and meet up to satisfy purely social needs, all of these meetings are still not allowed.  Many children have effectively had all social contact removed for many, many months.  Since the rule of six was brought in, you cannot even have two families meet, if there are more than 4 children in the family.  Since the rule of 2, home educated children are unable see anyone outside their own family; schooled children can happily mix with many others in their school.  There seems some confusion as to whether home educated children are allowed to meet in groups – form reading the guidance it has to be reasonbly necessary for their education.  This cannot be applied to the teen social meet that I used to organise that regularly had over 20 teenagers come to.  If the covid restrictions are going to last then parents should be allowed to organise group meets for home educated children, perhaps with a limit of 30 children, like a school class would be, and these should not be restricted to academic meetings.  Children’s social needs are arguably greater than their educational needs.  You can always catch up on education, but social and mental health harms will take much longer to overcome, if they can be at all.


November 2020