Written evidence submitted by Joshua Layton-Wood


I was home educated in Ontario Canada in the 90’s. Ontario has the same law as the UK on home education and lighter-touch interaction from local authorities. I was educated in a school from 4-9 and the experience convinced me that I was stupid. I also had an extremely negative social life. Home education from the age of 10 changed all that and I went on to get two degrees, my second from Oxford where I took the hardest course in the world in my discipline. I now have a high paying job as a data engineer in a financial services technology startup in Leicester.  As I will explain below I think that the autonomy that home education gave me made me especially suited for a bleeding edge technical role in a start-up which I need to learn every day on the job with little support direction or guidance other than the internet and my own sense of curiosity and scepticism.

My wife and I now educate my son (age 6) from home in Leicestershire.


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


       I improved my mental health & I stopped feeling depressed

       I learned to overcome my learning difficulties

       I had more time for a wider range of activities (drama/music/sport/travel)

       I made myself an autonomous life-long learner


       private tuition+therapy+extracurricular activities + books were somewhat costly for my family -

       though still far cheaper than private education

       and cost of curriculum have gone down since the 90's due to the internet and increased supply

       prejudice against me by people who don't understand

       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

       In Ontario Canada I was able to write an SAT test and use the results in lieu of secondary school. I'm concerned that option is not available here. 

       Universities didn't uniformly consider my high SAS results towards entrance scholarships - though I consider this to be their loss not mine.

       The quality of support for my own educational and mental health needs was far better at home than in a school because at school I was placed in a special needs class with children who had special but different needs to my own.

       though as mentioned my mother did have to pay privately for occasional professional consultations (speech/learning disabilities) she was able to perform most of the therapy at home - and got better results.

       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’

       I am aware of concerns that some including the Baroness of Frognal raised concerning the possibility that some home educated children are home educated against their wishes.  But the opposite is equally the case: from age 4-9 I was sent to school against my wishes. If the government were to use the child’s wishes as a factor in a regulatory framework and registrar of home educated children, they should also do the same for children who are sent to school against their wishes and teachers and parents of such children should (by a parity of reason) be required to justify their decision to institutionalise their children against their wishes. Of course such a “Registrar of Children who Don’t Want to go to School” would be absurd; but likewise it would be absurd to expect that a child’s wishes would regulate the mode of their education in our case too.

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

       inspection would have totally defeated the purpose of home education for me and would have been destructive to my progress as a person.

       inspection removes the responsibility for education from the child undermining his or her autonomy as a learner.

       inspection assumes a 'standard' of academic and personal development according to which children learn skills in pre-determined orders and at predetermined times. While this assumption might work as an average there will always be outliers andI chose to be home educated because I was an outlier.  

       inspection creates an artificial deadline for producing outcomes that count towards passing the inspection - these are preisely the conditions that convinced me that I was stupid at the age of 8 whereas I went on to study at the top school in the world.  A watched pot doesn't boil.

       inspection rewards teaching to the inspection as opposed to decoding the world as it is in itself. Some will choose a curriculum that involves regular tests, quizzes and parental inspections. I certainly did, and have done so for my son, but the point is that we chose a method of inspection that suits our chosen form of curriculum as opposed to having to choose a curriculum that will support learning to pass the inspection.

       An inspection that was fine-grained enough to appropriately examine the mode of learning acquired by each home educated child at a particular time would have to be too general to be useful or too complex to be efficiently administered by local councils.

       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.

       Unfortunately many home educational activities have not gone ahead due to the risk of a fine.  Although there is provision to hold home education activities along the lines of after school groups its not clear whether home education co-operatives fit into this model. The guidance says that parent guardians can choose to "send" their children to out-of-school activities or group home education sessions at the house of another home educating family. But we are worried that means that the parents themselves cannot attend. Usually parents and children participate in group activities together by contrast to a typical out of school activity which is age-segregated the way school itself is. For home educators every parent is also a teacher and facilitator of group home educational activities. I'm not sure this is recognised by the guidance.


A note on social mobility:

       I think that home education could potentially be a driver for social mobility because it is cheaper than private education and it enables students to pursue interests which make them eligible for scholarships at university. I know that my mother who was single at the time used home education as an alternative to private education.

       It also teaches autonomy which is an important skill to be used in entrepreneurial and highly technical contexts. There is little data on this, but a study in Canada found that home educated children were  ’happier’ than children in school regardless of whether it was an expensive private school or a state funded one. It also found that educational attainment compared to parental educational attainment was higher in home educators. Further research on the role home education cold play in social mobility is warranted.


November 2020