Written evidence submitted by Mr Steve Double

Home Education call for evidence submission:

I have been contacted by home educators within my constituency regarding this call for evidence. They have asked me to submit their views to this committee as they are concerned that their anonymity may not be protected if they were to submit this evidence themselves.

I have summarised the views they have shared with me against each bullet point below.

There is no guidance with regards to what constitutes suitable or quality home education. This was highlighted in the 2012 report and no further advice or guidance has been published. Home education is not about replicating the school environment, concern that assuring quality would be a framework similar to school.

Many local authorities not fully aware of their duties, or misinterpret them. For example, Plymouth are invasive, regular monitoring of parents and home education and demand to see evidence of home educated student’s work. Lot of pressure on parents.

Education is the responsibility of parents, do not feel that registration is necessary. Feel that the use of the word register could be taken poorly. Believes a voluntary register would have low take up but would be more appropriate. Potentially some kind of incentive for registering could entice more registrations, such as a grant for the cost of textbooks or exams.

Benefits: Better relationship with parents, variety of learning, field trips, more affordable trips/travel, flexible timetable and choice of subjects (don’t need to take subjects based on what works with school timetable), their learning is more bespoke. Children are more independent, and they have much smaller class sizes so less distractions – not having their learning interrupted by disruptive classmates. They can spread exams out across the year in a way that better suits them, as opposed to taking exams all in one go – sometimes multiple exams in one day. More rest time (no commute, flexible break time) and time for clubs, social activities.

Disadvantages: Reduced social network, lack of facilities – eg scientific labs, for sports. Lack of access to awards incl. Duke of Edinburgh. Cost in lost wage, cost of resource, lack of support for SEN, parents not trained to identify/are less likely to be aware of conditions such as dyslexia, processing disorders etc. For children of parents who have themselves not attended school tend to be due to negative reasons and therefore there is ‘baggage of poor school expectations’.

There is no consistency in support provided by local authorities. Each local authority takes a differing view on how much, or little, support to provide and interprets their duty to home educated students differently. For example, Hampshire provides centres for examinations and for access to structured tutoring. No such support is available in Cornwall.

There is a pot of funding available however most local authorities do not access it.

Consistent lack of support, many home educated pupils cannot get EHCP as the process is mostly designed for pupils in school. Significant number in Cornwall have been withdrawn from school for negative reasons (most commonly lack of SEN support or mental health issues not adequately supported in school) but parents unable to cope at home either. They return to school in a worse position and further behind than when they left school.

Suggestions for support availability of professional development and sharing of best practice for home educators, tax refunds for purchases directly related to home education costs. Support needed doesn’t need to be financial, could be access to examination centres, external marking for Centre Assessed Grades, access to practical subjects (sports centres, labs for sciences etc.) Majority of GCSEs need to be I-GCSEs if home educated as they cannot be assessed via written examination alone – eg English, Drama, P.E. and Sciences, therefore access to examination centres of centre assessments would be helpful.

There is a lot of off-rolling in Cornwall. Number of pupils with SEN extremely high and schools locally do not appear to be providing the right support for pupils with additional needs, which is pushing them into home education which is often not suitable either.

Unregistered schools not common here, the majority are ‘childcare’ as they only provide 2 or 3 days a week. Cornwall is very different from the rest of the country.

If inspections occur, need very clear guidance. How will this account for the flexibility of home education and bespoke nature of the curriculum provided. Concern re legality of inspections. Concern regarding the wording used on this point as it suggests inspections and further regulation will happen.

No significant improvements since 2012 in Cornwall, no support. Huge increase in Home Ed in Cornwall, even pre-covid.

Further reduced social networks, reduced access to clubs, less trips and travel. Has had a detrimental impact on wellbeing and education. Cancellation of exams massive impact on home ed as no access to centre assessed grades. Forgotten cohort in 2020.

Despite schools reopening, home educators have been told by children's sports coaches, drama group, swimming teacher, choir and scouts leaders that their groups and classes will be closed until further notice. History and science groups never even restarted following the first lockdown and will not be restarting anytime soon.

Home educators often conduct learning in the libraries, theatres, galleries and museums and visitor centres which are now all to be closed again. Those attending school can continue as normal in their 'bubbles' sometimes totalling hundreds whereas home educated pupils can only see one other person between them, and only within their local area.

Positive impact has been more online resources, access to virtual classrooms when schools closed due to covid and online learning had to be expanded/enhanced. Greater appreciation/respect for parents who home educate. More understanding of challenges faced.


November 2020