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.]


This is a submission of evidence about elective home education (EHE). Elective home education is essentially different from the home schooling that takes place either because a family is forced to take their child out of school, because of SEN, the child’s health, bullying or because the school is failing the child, or the ‘pandemic schooling’ which had been forced upon them.  Such schooling is in no way the same as the education undertaken by families who have chosen this path.  The beauty of EHE is it’s flexibility, able to readily adapt to changing circumstances and the development and maturity of the child.  It is the legal right of parents to choose how their child should be educated, without state interference in the right to family life. It is a form of freedom of expression and may be adopted as a form of religious expression.



Benefits of Home education

When our third child was born we opted to keep him at home rather than send him to school age 4.  We did this because, having sent our 2 older children to school at that age, we believe it is too early to begin formal education.  Our intention was to maybe send our child to school around age 6.  Two things caused us to elect to continue at home.


The first is that it suited us, everyone was happy and enjoying the benefits of family relationship and home learning.  (We had memories of our older children coming home tired, out of sorts, burdened with homework and anti social habits picked up from peers). Our child has a rich diet of good literature, music, educational stimulus, outdoor activity, one to one teacher attention and interaction with a range of people in our local thriving home ed community.  Because we were home educating my son and I have been able to join my husband on two work related trips [abroad], allowing us to undertake extended projects around these trips covering a range of cross curricular topics.  We have had a number of other opportunities to travel and the educational benefits and relationship gains are immense. 


Over the years we have been able to tailor the learning to best meet our son’s learning style, age and aptitudes. Our son is able to follow the interests and strengths he has as a learner whilst not neglecting the importance of literacy and numeracy skills.  Those things with which he might struggle we have been able to spend time on or go at a pace suited to him.  We have been able to experiment with different curricula and learning styles.  Things he has found stimulating we have stayed with for longer or moved at a faster pace.  He has learned to ski, had time to spend on woodwork projects, boat restoration and to interact with and support relatives he might otherwise not have been able to spend time with and has gained important insights into the responsibilities and opportunities which are associated with caring for the older generation.   He is learning to manage his own time and take responsibility for his own learning.  


The second reason we decided to stay with EHE is that we were not comfortable with the way schools are required to teach that which is contrary to our Christian worldview.  We believe it is the right of the parent to choose when to teach their child about sex and relationships, at a stage when they are emotionally ready.  Our child’s role models are not merely his peer group, but adults and other families with children of all ages.  The European Convention on Human Rights states that it is the ‘right of the parents to educate their children in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions’ (Protocol 1 article 2).


We feel our son is mature and socially able.  He has not had to deal with the pressures of conforming to the culture of a school peer group and our relationship with him is better than it was with his older siblings at the same age.


Comparing our situation as home educators with families I know who have children in the local schools we have much to be thankful for.  Their teenagers are exposed to drugs, pressure to conform to sexual activity, intimidation on the school bus, inept teachers, disruptive classes and many other pressures.  They are in schools where social distancing and the wearing of face coverings is disregarded, despite school policies and the best efforts of staff.


We are fortunate that in the area where we live there is a large and supportive home education community. This is a network providing home educators with advice on everything from how to teach a particular subject, access teaching materials , places to visit and how to tackle the whole exam process, in addition to moral support and social interaction.


We also chose to be a part of [programme], an alternative education group linked to [location].  This programme offers access to a wide range of resources including, educational visits, art, music, sport, trips abroad and support for GCSEs.



This is just as well as there seems to have been little evidence of increased support for home educators in the years since the 2012 report into home education. Paragraph 44 of the report recommended the following… “many home educators do contribute to the education system through their taxes, and yet still have to meet the costs of sitting public examinations. We do not consider this to be fair, and therefore recommend that the costs of sitting public examinations be met by the State. The Department for Education should work to establish the appropriate level of entitlement, and to which examinations this ought to apply.”     In looking ahead for our son we have not found any links to help with exam fees, and it appears that it is actually becoming more difficult for private candidates to access exam centres, especially with the additional burden of COVID-19.


It has been well reported in the news that 2000+ home educated youngsters who had worked hard to prepare for public examinations were unable to obtain grades this year. Whilst Anne Longfield is quick to speak of children’s rights to further her own agenda in monitoring home educators, her voice was not heard championing the rights these young people to have their years of study recognised.  


I know of a number of teenagers who had worked hard across many subjects and  were looking forward to showing what they had learned in an exam who were let down by exam centres and exam boards and were unable to obtain the grades they needed.


Outside of the restraints of Covid-19 which has robbed us, like everyone else, of the opportunities to visit places of interest and social interactions, there are few disadvantages.  We have been able to continue learning through the internet and the books and courses we were already using. Our son participates in team sports, he mixes with a variety of people, he has exposure to art, music, physical activity and practical skills in DIY.  The only thing that might be lacking is science lab work, but even science practicals can be carried out to some extent in the kitchen, and there are numerous videos to supplement. He is relaxed and happy, prerequisites for good learning.


Compulsory Registation

Being part of [programme] means that we are registered with the LA and have to submit registers of attendance at organized events, and termly reports.  We have opted into this arrangement in order to benefit from the scheme.  The scheme in no way imposes on us what we should learn nor how we should educate our children, that is until they get to year 9 when they begin some GCSE courses.  At this point some families leave the scheme as it does not suit their teenager and causes stress, being similar to the demands made by the school system.


To opt in to such a scheme with freedom to withdraw is a very different proposition to compulsory registration, which carries with it the idea of monitoring and interference in family life.  It does not help that many EHE officers are retired school teachers who believe school is the best place, they may have no real understanding of the philosophy of home education. They are often based in LA departments that deal with school absenteeism or problem children, thereby equating home educated children with these ‘problem’ groups.


In addition relationships between LAs and home educators have not improved in many cases, as shown by the example of the unjust treatment of Miss X by Leicester City council between July 18 and January 2019 (report published by the Ombudsman 4 June 2019).  There is no evidence that a register is necessary.  Indeed, families that might be a concern to the LA would avoid registration whatever.  The LA already has legal powers to intervene where there are safe guarding issues.


It would seem that safeguarding is the excuse for greater encroachment into the lives of families.  Safeguarding and education have become analogous.  The 2004 Children’s Act was drawn up to protect children in the care of state institutions, like nurseries and schools.  Over time LAs have moved from interpreting the ‘children in their care’ to ‘children in their area.’ This was the implication of the speech made by former children’s commissioner Maggie Attkinson in Gateshead in December 2015 when she said, In a nutshell, people aged pre-birth to 19, who live work and study in my place are my responsibility put simply.. They are mine… And so are their families, their schools, the other settings they use and everybody in their communities”. Such encroachment into the lives of families is unwelcome and more than disconcerting, although it appears remarkably consistent with the current abandonment of individual liberty in the face of the present pandemic.  If forced to register as home educators how long will it be before the state dictates what a family teaches, watches or feeds the children in their care?

Rather than spend money on ‘checking up’ on the home educating community, the government should expend the precious resources of time and tax payers money on seeing that children in schools are safe and receiving a “suitable education.” 

A register will cost.  If government require LAs to implement it then it is obliged to fund it.  Where is the analysis of the cost benefit of such a scheme? Where would the funding come from, especially in the light of COVID expenditure. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on improving the lot of those in schools who are currently not receiving a “suitable education”? Doesn’t the government need to do an Impact Assessment and clearly state the problem to be solved?  Where is the clearly stated problem that such a register is trying to solve?


Concluding remarks

It seems that the debate which has surrounded HE for more than a decade is essentially a philosophical one. It is not essentially about the quality of education a child is receiving, but about whether we live in a genuine democracy which recognises the full rights of family life and the right to choose how children are educated, or whether we live in a society where children are to be controlled by the state at all costs. Home educated children grow into adults who question the received wisdom of any society. State-controlled education produces a population which willingly conforms to the agenda of the establishment. Elective Home Education is a real and positive option and our children’s future ability to be themselves as adults is something we will do all we can to protect.


Postscript. Sadly [programme] has been largely closed down today for a month because it is not seen as being educational for the purposes of various providers, blatantly discriminating against this entirely legal form of educational provision.




November 2020