Written evidence submitted by Graeme Pietersz


Before anything else, I would like MPs, particularly those on the committee, to talk directly with home educators in their constituency. In particular they need a feel for the wide range of approaches  to home educating and the reasons for doing it. Some parents provide intensive tuition aimed at exceptionally high academic achievement. Some focus on child lead approaches, facilitating interests rather than pushing. Most of us are somewhere between. Most approaches work well compared to school.

Duties of Local Authorities

Local authorities are often unable to properly discharge their duties with regard to Home Education and the quality of their efforts varies greatly. A change of one or two key members of staff can completely change this: this was recently seen in Cheshire East where the replacement of an experienced EHE officer was followed by his (inexperienced) replacements, acting illegally (e.g. by doorstepping HE families) and encouraging schools to do so (by refusing to deregister children).

With regard to safeguarding the committee should consider that HE children are statistically extremely safe. They are twice as likely to be investigated by social services, but only a fifth as likely to require further action, which implies an order of magnitude lower risk.

With regard to quality of education, it is questionable whether most local authorities are willing and  able to hire staff to do this.

There is also a great deal of unevenness in local authorities attitude to HE: some are hostile and appear to regard it as their duty to try their best to prevent parents of home educating, while others try to be supportive – but this can change very swiftly. There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that some local authorities treat ethnic minority home educators with greater hostility.

It is important that they have far clearer guidelines about what their legal powers and duties are.

Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required

It is very difficult to see what benefit a statutory register would have. Local authorities already know which children have been deregistered from school.

It is also highly intrusive.

While a case has been made that it may help find children at risk of abuse, abusers are likely to simply ignore the law on statutory registration (just as the parents in one highly publicised case last year failed to register a birth). It is a burden on the law abiding and caring parents, and while have no effect on those who are not.

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

My experience is that it is hugely beneficial. Education can be tailored to a child’s interests and abilities. This is something that schools try hard to do, but fail to deliver while hampered by large year group classes.

Home education also develops better social skills: children will learn in multiple settings with different groups of people, in different places, and with mixed age groups. This is far better preparation for adult life than mixing with children of the same age, and with the same people in the same place for years on end.

It is my experience that home educated children, not just my own, take more responsibility for themselves, develop far better study skills, and are a lot more self-disciplined and motived. In short,  they are far better prepared for further and higher education and the workplace.

It also helps children discover their talents without being pushed into roles. For example, my older daughter (who was home educated up to (I)GCSEs), is the only girl in her year at sixth form college doing electronics A-level. I attribute this at least partly to the broader influences a home educated child is exposed to, and the lack of institutional and peer bias.

The biggest disadvantages of home education are that some subjects (such as PE) are not accessible, and others (such art and music) require alternative qualifications at GCSE (and are not accessible beyond that). This is worse for those on low incomes whose options are constrained by cost.

It is however, in my view, more than offset by the option of being able to sit any subject open to private candidates in any combination. Schools cannot do this because they cannot possibly employ teachers for every available subject or avoid timetable clashes between subjects they do offer.

The quality and accessibility of support

There is no meaningful support for home education beyond parents’ own resources.

I believe there are several things that could help:

  1. Financial help with exam fees for (I)GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications.
  2. Vouchers to help with general costs, to be used for educational equipment, books and tuition. While this may appear expensive it is very little compared to the cost of a state school place that a child will otherwise require.
  3. A requirement that schools should reserve some places for private candidates, at a reasonable charge.
  4. Encouraging schools to allow flexi-schooling.

Whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient

It needs safeguards to prevent local authorities from exceeding their statutory powers.

Local authorities should be required to inform parents (and older children) of their legal rights: I suggest that the “how to rent” book landlords are required to give tenants provides a model that could be followed.

Unregistered schools, formal exclusion and ‘off-rolling’

Home education should be elective. Therefore parents should not be pushed into it by off-rolling and formal exclusion. Again, parents need to be informed of their, and their children’s legal rights and what options are open to them.

Unregistered schools are a separate issue. They are also not home education. Given that some have received state funding from local authorities the problem does not appear to be that they are not known. Again, educating parents would help. So would providing incentives to report such schools.

I suggest that the first step in dealing with unregistered schools would be to find out why parents are prepared to pay fees to these schools rather than taking free places are state schools?

I would also suggest that any setting that a child spends more than five hours a week is required to register, in order to close the “less than 18 hours” loophole.

The role that inspection should play

None. Existing attempts to inspect do more harm than good. It is hard to see how local authorities can find and afford staff who can understand and evaluate many different approaches to home educating taken in many different family circumstances.

The vast majority of home educated children are better off academically, socially, and mentally than in the schools available to them. If you ask yourself, who cares most about  a child, you will understand why. Parents do not home educate (and it is a lot of work and expense) unless they are convinced it is a better alternative.

If any type of inspection is done the only useful approach would be to set up specialist national inspectorate that could have centrally developed and agreed standards, and that could train staff to understand home education.


Covid-19 has had multiple harmful impacts:

  1. The closure and suspension of classes. It has somewhat been mitigated by classes moving online and by lockdown exemptions for education, but it has still been disruptive. However, in context, HE is flexible and covid has been less disruptive to the education of home educated children than for those at school. My younger daughter (12, sitting her first IGCSE next year) has missed some things (sports, drama and art classes) as a result of covid, but her core academic subjects are almost unaffected.
  2. Reduced access to resources such as museums, art galleries, historic sites etc.
  3. Disruption of exams. This is the main problem. Private candidates could not access centre assessed grades this summer. This autumn some exam centres (especially state schools) have not been taking private candidates because of lack of space caused by social distancing requirements, and many centres are not accepting entries for next summer in case they do not have the space.


November 2020