HED0376

Written evidence submitted by Whitehouse

 

I am a parent, I have been home educating my two children for four years.  My eldest child has additional needs.  My children have never been to school, we choose not to send them though my eldest showed signs of school refusal at pre-school.  They (normally) attend many community based groups, some home education specific and some mainstream.  They have never attended any unregistered school, in fact I have never come across one in my time in the home education community.

I am submitting this evidence because I believe the home education is a wonderful thing, and because I am concerned about the loss of freedom and privacy that seems to be implied as a possible outcome.

I believe that education is important, but education is not limited to a school setting. 

I do not believe that a statutory register is necessary as I do not believe that electively home educated children are invisible, as has been suggested.  I think this is a huge misconception, electively home educated children are far more visible than their schooled counterparts who see the same few adults day in day out.

              My children use the local leisure centres multiple times a week, they are known to many of the staff.  I assume these staff, as local authority employees, receive safeguarding training.  They attend home education classes run by local authority employees, they attend mainstream classes run by local authority employees, they attend classes run by teachers, who are also safeguarding trained.  They use the local library regularly – more local authority employees. 

              They spend much of their time in the community, they are known to local shop owners, to the local ice cream man, to the employees at the parks and gardens they like to visit, the lifeguards at the swimming pool, their many neighbours that they talk to on a daily basis.

              And like any other child, they go to the dentist regularly, they have their eyes tested, they have immunisations at our GP surgery.  My children are so very far from invisible.

              It has been proven that being ‘visible’ at school does not protect all children from neglect or abuse.

Home education is a wonderful thing.  It allows children to have a far better ratio of support than they would ever have in school (2:1 in my house in the week, 1:1 evenings and weekends).  It allows their individual needs to be met without expense to the local authority.  My eldest has additional needs, I think it likely she would need 1:1 support in a mainstream classroom.  I am taking on that additional effort and expense myself.

              Project-based, autonomous learning allows children to pursue their interests as the basis for their learning.  The focus is on learning how to learn, how to frame questions, how to research answers, how to analyses results.  It doesn’t really matter what the topic is, they almost all involve transferable skills such as reading comprehension, numbers and scientific enquiry.

              It allows a freedom to enjoy learning, that schools desperately try to achieve but are limited by the fact they have to find a ‘best fit’ for 30 children in the classroom.

              My children are not limited by my knowledge and experience, because we can learn together.  We can find teachers, experts.  My role as their ‘teacher’ is teaching them how to learn, where to look for answers.

              For example, my eldest expressed an interest in learning Spanish.  I do not speak Spanish, but together we found some great resources and learned alongside each other.  I used audio books to make sure my pronunciation was accurate, so I wasn’t confusing her.

              My concern with inspection from the local authority (aside from the invasion of privacy in our own home) is that it becomes a box ticking exercise, so the great freedom of home education to learn however you want is lost.  We would need to conform to the generalized expectations, which returns to a ‘best fit’ scenario which really suits no one.

              A love of learning doesn’t come from comparative, or worse competitive environments.  It comes from life being learning and learning being life.  My children aren’t forced to read 20 minutes a day, or whatever the national curriculum expectation is, they read more than that because they enjoy reading, enjoy sharing a book together and enjoy learning new things from books.

              My youngest is struggling to read independently (though she loves reading together), she would possibly fail some tick box assessment but she knows all about the sun , the moon and mars (her favourite planet).  She knows why the moon appears to follow you and how the tides work, but what if your assessment didn’t ask that?

              The last few months, with Covid-19 have been tricky.  Our days are based on being out and about in the community, and most of our classes haven’t being running.  Worse, our (mainstream) therapy for our eldest hasn’t been allowed to run and we have seen significant regressions from her which has been heart breaking,

              Home education seems to have fallen through the legislative cracks, with groups unsure if they were allowed to run and little recognition of the fact parents and siblings need to attend these kinds of groups as well.  Clearer guidance, with an understanding of how home education works, would be helpful.

              However, my greatest concern is with the lack of disability support.  Disabled people have been pushed aside during this crisis, and that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.  My daughter’s therapy is most effective when she is younger, so this time lost could be devastating to the outcome.

              Home education, like everything else, has, like everything this year, been trickier but we have made the best of it.  Used new online resources that have become available, spent more time outdoors in less structured settings, made more use of outdoor community facilities like parks, spent more time in our own back garden learning about growing plants, native birds and astronomy and stargazing.  I don’t feel that it has harmed their education, just that we have had to change direction.  Home education is good at this, we can be focused on the needs of the individual.

              Home education is good for children, good for families, good for the community and good for the local authority as it takes the pressure of over-crowded schools, especially where we are choosing to support our children with additional needs at home, (note I say choosing, support should be available in schools and schools should be made more accessible but we have made the choice that works for us).  Home education deserves support, respect and understanding.  Not suspicion and unnecessary, invasive scrutiny.

 

November 2020