Written evidence submitted by a Member of the Public

[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.]

Education Committee Review - Elective Home Education call for evidence

My partner and I have been home-educating our son since [date].
This is my response to the call for evidence, in which I talk about our own experience and why we opted for home education. I am writing this because I fear that the government will attempt to introduce legislation to further control home-educating families and remove many of the freedoms that they currently enjoy. Given what a mess the school system has become – in no small part due to government interference – I don’t want to see this happen.

Our son is now [age]. [personal information]. My partner had started to look into home education, and was keen to give it a try. I was initially against it, but reluctantly agreed to de-register our son just before the start of the new term.

On what would have been the first day of term, we attended a “Not Back to School” picnic with other local home-educating families. It was a complete eye-opener to meet so many families who were already doing this – and apparently doing well. We spoke to several parents and learned about how much peer-group support there is out there for home-educating parents. It changed my mind immediately. I realised that we could do this, and we would not be condemning our son to isolation from other children, as there was a huge community of other families to socialise with and seek advice from.

Over the next two terms, we settled into a routine which involved some traditional teaching, but also many other learning experiences. [personal information]. Our new HE contacts were invaluable for finding events to attend (forest schools, nature trails, visits to castles and museums), providing advice and support, and guiding us through the processes. Our son was able to meet up with many children on a regular basis (we were involved with several local HE groups) for both education and play, so that the old cliché about HE kids not getting enough social interaction was proved to be false. He was much happier than he was while attending school. Another improvement was that he was now interacting with children of different ages – from toddlers to teenagers. He was able to learn from the older children who could, by example, help him to grow and learn to behave better. He was also able to gain experience of dealing with much younger children – learning to be kind, gentle, patient and supportive.

[personal information].
We firmly believe that it is better for children to interact with children of other ages, not just those who happen to be the same calendar age.

Our Local Authority

Our Local Authority’s response has been good so far. We have had an acknowledgement letter and information pack from them, but – so far – no other contact. That is the way we like it.

We are aware that there is a “postcode lottery” whereby some LAs are better than others, with many LAs insisting on dictating to parents how to educate their children, and having incorrect interpretations of the law regarding what powers LAs have over HE families.

Child-led education

While we have studied and aim to follow much of the recommended curriculum, we believe in letting the child lead the education process, so will follow any avenues of study in which our son shows an interest. As he is very “hands-on”, this has led to more time being spent building things with construction toys, cardboard boxes or tree branches than perhaps a school might allow at this stage, but this has helped his fine motor skills to develop and given him a greater awareness of engineering principles. He has taken interest in subjects such as physics, cosmology, biology, electronics, history, ecology, economics, music and politics. We encourage him to watch documentaries on TV (BBC iPlayer is a powerful resource for high-quality educational material) to feed his interest.

[personal information].

So by the beginning of [date] we were all, as a family, much happier than we were when he was at school. He still met up with friends from school every now and then, and he had a large network of other children to learn and play with. We travelled a lot around [regions]

allowing him to experience different places and meet people from different backgrounds. We regularly attended HE nature walks, forest schools and other events, and were frequent visitors to our local library.

The benefits of home education

After just over a year of HE, we can already identify the benefits for our child and our family. He is happier; we are happier. There is no longer the pressure to conform to a system that does not suit us. Our child is calmer, with no anxiety due to school attendance. He feels more empowered, and enjoys making decisions. He has been able to travel and see more of our world than he would from a classroom, and he has begun to regain his former gregarious and inquisitive nature. He knows that he can ask us questions about anything, and we will try to answer them.
As parents, we are also much more relaxed now that we no longer have to fight an uncaring and inflexible system for the wellbeing of our son. We are not teachers, but have taken well to learning teaching methods, and we enjoy the teaching experience. We are both self-employed, working from home, so home education fits well with the freedom and flexibility we have grown accustomed to in our lives.

The effects of COVID-19

COVID-19 changed our lives, just as it did for families of school-educated children. Obviously, we were suddenly unable to meet up with other families, and events and classes were cancelled.
I would like to note that, as responsible parents, we and other HE families had seen the need to social distance long before the government finally enforced it, so we had more or less stopped attending meet-ups and events even before the lockdown came into force. Contrast this to the school system, where children were compelled to continue to mingle in large classes, right up to the belated lockdown.

One problem with home-education under COVID has been that we are less able to arrange events whilst complying with the confusing and ever-changing regulations imposed by the government. While some events have started to take place again, the need to risk-assess and document procedures has put many people off arranging the ad hoc, casual meet-ups that were such a strong part of the HE scene. We really miss this aspect.

What we could do with to help us is to have more freedom to arrange events and meet-ups without fear of possible legal action. After all, if school children can be in close classroom contact with their “bubble” of 60+ other children, plus those children’s parents, teachers and other staff, then it seems ridiculous that a much smaller group of HE children and their parents aren’t allowed to come together in one place (usually outdoors). The new lockdown rules are aimed at curbing irresponsible behaviour by those who seem oblivious to the dangers of COVID and who insist on meeting up in large groups with no social distancing whatsoever (parties, pubs, clubs, mass events). Most HE families are responsible, intelligent people who are very aware of the risks of COVID, and take precautions. Yet they are being penalised for the irresponsible behaviours of others. Even before COVID, most HE events and meet-ups were small affairs – perhaps only a dozen children plus their parents.

We worry that the government will use the COVID emergency as an opportunity to clamp down on home education, given its long record of dictating and enforcing policy to schools. One thing that we definitely do not want is more government or Local Authority interference in the way we educate our children. Any attempt to implement greater regulation will be hugely unpopular and will be fought.

We have no doubt that home education is best for our child, and have no regrets about removing him from a dysfunctional school system.


[member of the public]

November 2020