Written evidence submitted by Alison Steward PhD


  1. The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education;

The law states that the responsibility for children’s education rests with their parents. It is the parents’ duty to assure the quality of home education, not the local authorities’. The LAs have a responsibility to intervene only where it is evident that parents are failing in their duty. 

It is the practice of law abiding LAs to make informal enquiries of parents when they learn that children are being home educated. This has been my experience in Derbyshire. I sent in a short reply giving a brief summary of our approach and confirmed that our children were receiving education suitable to their age, aptitude and abilities. Once or twice we received further correspondence asking for updates, which we replied to with very brief further information, such as recent igcse grades.

However, ultra vires actions by other LAs are widely reported. LA employees are often overbearing and disrespectful, and make demands that go well beyond their remit.

Regarding safeguarding, LAs have the same general duty which they have to all children regardless of place of education. Although certain ill-informed individuals have claimed that home educated children may be at greater risk of harm, there is no evidence to support this claim.


  1. whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;

A statutory register of home-educated children would serve no useful purpose.


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

There is obviously much greater freedom and flexibility with home education. Home education is more time-efficient – no time wasted  travelling to and from school, between classes, registration, etc. The schedule and curriculum can be adapted to the strengths or weaknesses of each child. There is more time for children to follow their own interests; low pupil to teacher ratio; no bullying.

We have been home-educating since 1995. During that time we moved to Canada  for ten years, and then returned to the UK. This enabled our children to experience life in a different country and culture, and exposed them to a different language (French) with no disruption to their regular education. With our flexible schedule they were able to ski twice a week during the winter, as well as do other sports, without detriment to their academic studies.

Another great advantage with home education is flexibility to adapt the exam schedule. We do CAIE and use both autumn and  summer sittings. This reduces stress and is also more efficient, since the children have time to study each subject in depth or from different angles, while keeping their other subjects “simmering on a back burner.” As a result of this schedule our eldest daughter was able to begin university a year early, having achieved six A levels. They have the freedom to cover greater breadth, and to delve deeper, and stilll have plenty of time for other activities, friends, other social opportunities and relaxation.

I can’t think of any disadvantages.


  1. 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;

LAs are very limited in their ability to support home education. Those employed for this service generally have no personal experience of actually home educating, and are therefore inadequately equipped to offer advice or support.

Excellent support, however, is available from the HE community. There are hundreds of veteran HE parents with years of experience who share freely their own experience of a wide variety of educational approaches, materials and ideas. Novice home educators can easily access and appraise the various approaches and mix and match as they feel will provide the most suitable education for their children. The resources provided in these home education forums give plenty of support.

Our children have had no problem accessing further or higher education. Three of our children studied for all their A levels at home, and went directly to university.

Two of our children wanted to take Art / Design A levels. Our local college (Derby College) allowed them to take the single A level in Art and Design, while studying for their other A levels at home. However, I don’t know if all colleges allow this. It seems that sometimes questions about funding arise, and colleges require students either to attend full-time or not be permitted to study there at all. There seems to be no logical reason why central Government should impose arbitrary rules that insist that colleges should receive funding only for students studying for all their A levels at college. It would be helpful if the Government could ensure that all students are allowed flexibility in this regard.

I am not in a position to comment on support for special needs, disabilities, etc. However, it is discriminatory that parents of children in special schools do not have the same freedom to deregister. The responsibility for children’s education rests with parents, regardless of whether or not those children have SEN. Once the parents of a child with SEN have come to the conclusion that the education provided for their child at his special school is unsuitable, then they should have the same liberty to withdraw him from that school.


  1. 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’;

As far as EHE is concerned, the current regulatory framework is sufficient. There is no evidence to suggest that the wellbeing or academic achievement of home educated children are at any increased risk of compromise.

The needs of children who attend unregistered schools, or are formally excluded or who are off-rolled should be considered separately. These issues have arisen due to problems at school and should not be conflated with EHE.

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

There is no role for inspection of home educators, nor of any further regulation of home education. Parents are responsible for the education and wellbeing of their children. The State should not seek to usurp this responsibility.

There does, however, remain a need to monitor the LAs, many of whose employees are too inclined to go beyond the law and seek to impose their own views on families.


7       what improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012;

I am not aware of any improvements in Government support for home educators. It is, however, clear that certain vocal individuals who wish to impose their own views on families are continually agitating for more power to supplant parents. The new guidance (2019) is certainly a step backwards, and represents a failure of the Government to resist pressure from organisations and individuals who seek to usurp parental authority and to limit the freedom of parents to make decisions about their children’s education.

The previous guidelines (2007) clearly and efficiently set out how the law was to be applied. The new guidance (2019), however, is a cumbersome hotchpotch of contradictions. The principles clearly set out in the 2007 document have been obscured by frequent meanderings into irrelevant conjecture. This seems to have confused LA employees and to have encouraged rather than discouraged ultra vires behaviour in which they presume authority over parentsdecisions.

The Government needs to be more vigilant in protecting children from those who seek to undermine parental responsibility.


8       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.

It was inconvenient that home educated students’ exams were cancelled. It did not affect us too badly. My 14 year old’s first igcse was deferred to November, and my 16 year old’s Maths igcse and English O level were also deferred. This required adjustment of our schedule, but with HE being so flexible, we were able to juggle our plans and it actually gave us the opportunity to fit in other studies. My 16 year old started work on his A level subjects earlier.

This illustrates again the advantages of home education. The media is full of how disastrous Covid has been for school children: they are all going to be behind on their studies, the syllabus is going to have to be slimmed down, the exams are going to have to be made easier. In contrast, home educated students are able to continue learning as before.

However, although the cancellation of exams caused us only minor disruption, this was not  the case for all students. The Government did let home educated students down badly. We didn’t happen to have a child needing A level grades for university entrance this year. But there were many who did. Students who were preparing for A levels without tutors had great difficulty obtaining fair estimated grades.

Additionally, I know of two 16 year old HE students who were not able to start their A level courses at Derby College. Both of them had taken some of their igcses early with good grades, but were expecting to take their Maths and English in the summer. They had studied without tutors and so deferred their exams to the November sitting. The Government failed these two and probably many more HE students by failing to relax the funding rules requiring pass grades in Maths and English. They have now had to put their A levels on hold for a year, and will consequently be a year late in starting their careers or university courses.

To avoid these negative impacts in the future, the Government should consider the consequences of its decisions not only on school children, but on home educated children too, and ensure that both are treated fairly.



The commiittee could perhaps consider whether:

January 2021