Written evidence submitted by Rackham Pathfinder

Rackham Pathfinder is a charity promoting educational information and events for children who are electively home educated. To respond to the call for evidence, we surveyed the families who use our services, and will use the data to help us respond to all areas included in the call for evidence. The full response data is included at the end of this submission, but the sample included 22 parent and 7 child responses.

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

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’;

The relationship between respondents to our survey and their local authority proves mixed, with an 25% reporting a helpful and supportive LA, 25% no contact at all, and 25% reporting neutral contact. A smaller proportion, around 17%, had experienced unhelpful or hostile behaviour at least once, with some detailing the issues.

On the question of the current regulatory arrangements, two child respondents did not know what the current position is. Of the rest, 40% of those who responded approve of the status quo and think it works well, while the next largest proportion (16%) see current regulations as unclear but basically functional. Of those who expressed other positions, two expressed equivocal positions, two were in favour of the authorities using their existing powers more and with more confidence, two thought existing powers should be reduced, and five (25%) were concerned about overreach by LAs. There were no responses favouring increased powers for local authorities.

In answer to the open question about any changes respondents would like to see, more normalisation and respect for home education was most commonly mentioned with six responses, and funding or exam access were also popular with five responses. Also included were comments on improving information about the financial impact of home education, and the need for a polite and professional attitude from LA workers.

Rackham Pathfinder takes the position that current legislation is appropriate, but that local authorities need to have more internal clarity and better communication of this.  The best outcomes for everybody are achieved when there is trust between the community and the authorities, because when the LA is perceived as hostile or unaccountable, home educators are less likely to reach out for help or report problems in other families.

Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required

Of 29 responses, 23 were against and 2 in favour of the creation of a statutory register. Of the other four responses two were undecided, one thought such a register should be partial, and one that it should be conditional on financial support. Rackham Pathfinder takes the view that no compulsory register should be created. A substantial proportion of the families using our services are not currently known to their local authority, and creation of such a register would not encourage them to make themselves known. On the contrary, it is likely many would seek to actively hide, potentially to the point of stopping using the charity to aid their children’s education. This would detriment their ability to educate their children well, and also remove the informal protection and oversight that contact with the community provides.

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

When asked if home educating families should be regularly inspected, 86% of respondents were against. One was in favour, and three had other responses. Rackham Pathfinder takes the view that inspection is far too intrusive and prone to prejudice to be justifiable. The diversity of approaches and abilities among children who use our services is vast, and a major advantage for many families who choose home education is avoiding the tick-box style of assessment that schools use. Home educators clearly do not want to be inspected, and their consent should not be overridden.

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

On the question of advantages, the most commonly noted were the ability to follow a child’s aptitudes, more space to express individuality, and the ability to learn at the child’s pace, with 93% of respondents mentioning these. The least commonly mentioned, and the only options receiving less than 50% agreement were special educational needs being met and improved sibling relationships with 13 out of 29 responses mentioning these. This is presumably because many of the children have no special educational needs or siblings, and so are not relevant factors for as many families. Additional comments from individuals picked out a few more areas which might have been more popular had they been included in the survey design, and can be read in the appended dataset.

On the question of disadvantages, there were 27 responses, with the most common being financial hardship due to loss of income (33%) followed by ‘none’ at 30%. Difficulty getting qualifications came in third at 22%, including responses in the ‘other’ section which mentioned access to exams. No respondents listed concerns about risk of low self esteem, trouble developing independence, unrealistic expectations about adult life, bullying, or abuse. One additional area was mentioned by a respondent, of risk of discrimination from public services.

Rackham Pathfinder sees a huge range of benefits from home education, many of which come down to the autonomy and flexibility for parents and children alike to tailor their education and upbringing to their needs. We are fortunate to support many families joining our events early in their home education journey discover these benefits, and to see so many children flourish in this environment. Difficulty accessing exams is a serious concern for many families, however, and an area in which the government should consider making improvements.

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

There were three respondents who mentioned accessing support, one from their GP, one from their LA, and one from home education groups online. One parent also noted that they had been told by their LA that no support was available when first enquiring about home education.

The committee’s interest here is somewhat unclear, but we would like to note that support for home education seems to mainly come from within the community and informal networks, rather than from the authorities. We want to see local authorities uphold their duties to children with ECHPs without prejudice to home educated children, but support specifically for home education is in conflict with the position of home educators as taking direct responsibility for their children’s education as per section 47 of the Education Act 1996.

In addition to our specific question on support received, several people included comments on exam access and funding in response to questions about how the local authorities and public services treat home educators, and at the end in the free comments. Rackham Pathfinder strongly supports making exam access to outside candidates easier, for home educated children and school children who wish to take exams not offered by the school they attend. Funding for exams is less clear, but encouraging colleges to use their ability to access DfE funding for home educated students aged 14-16 to allow them to offer qualifications to home educated children could be a reasonable route to ease the financial burden on families while avoiding the complications of changing legislation.

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

We did not collect data on this section as many of the families who use our services have only been home educating since 2013 or later, and it would be onerous to make them read the report. However, we cannot find evidence of any move towards implementing the recommendations of the 2012 report.

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

The most common negative impacts mentioned were limited socialising (75%) and closure of activities (64%). Less common but more impactfully, 10% of respondents had been unable to get grades for planned exams due to the summer cancellations, a figure which is all the more concerning because relatively few of the children who use our services are near GCSE or A-level age. Positive impacts were also found though, with 54% reporting more time spent outdoors, 25% saying furlough or working from home had improved family life, and 25% benefitting from improved public perception of home education.

Suggestions of how to mitigate negative impacts mainly focused on clarity in the rules so families could keep meeting for educational and social purposes, or ending COVID restrictions entirely. We have seen this addressed in the latest guidance, which was not yet published when our survey opened, so Rackham Pathfinder now takes the position that there is sufficient clarity to mitigate the negative impacts on home educators as a specific group.


              Appendix A – Full Response Data (Embedded Excel spreadsheet, double click to see full sheet)


              Appendix B – Full question set (adapted from Google Forms)


Are you a parent or a child? 

Mark only one oval. 




How do you find your local authority in regards to home education?Mark only one oval. 

Supportive and helpful 

Useless but no bother 

Officious or hostile 

I have no contact with my LA 

Sometimes helpful but sometimes unhelpful or hostile 



What benefits do you feel you/your children gain from home education? (Tick all that apply to you if a child, or your home educated children if a parent)

Check all that apply. 

Better academic progression 

More flexibility to follow aptitudes 

Closer family ties 

Better social skills 

Greater independence 

Higher self-confidence/self-esteem 

More educational support 

Special educational needs met 

Improved moral instruction 

Protection from moral or social hazards 

Safety from bullying 

Ability to prioritise areas outside school curriculum 

Chance to experiment with educational styles 

Better sibling relationships 

More space to express individuality 

Ability to learn at own pace 

Avoiding grading/testing 

Keeping learning hands-on 

Not having to break up learning into subjects 

Spending more time in nature 

Freedom to take qualifications in different subjects or at different ages to the norm More chance to apply knowledge/skills in the real world 




What disadvantages do you feel you/your children likely risk from home education? (Tick all that apply to you if a child, or your home educated children if a parent) 

Check all that apply. 

Poor socialisation 

Harassment from the authorities 

Difficulty getting qualifications 

Missing academic areas 

Falling behind school peers 

Never developing self-discipline 

Financial hardship due to lost parental income 

No support for special needs 

Poor self-confidence/self-esteem 

Trouble developing independence 

Discrimination in higher education or the workplace 

Unrealistic expectations about adult life 






Have you ever received support as a home educator or home educated child for any of the following, from your local authority or elsewhere? (Tick all that apply)

Check all that apply. 

Special educational needs 


Mental health issues 


Higher education 

Careers advice 

Caring responsibilities 



If you ticked any of the previous options, how easy was the support to access, what form did it take, and how useful was it? 


What do you think of the current regulations around home education in theory and practice? 

Mark only one oval. 

They are good and work well as they are 

They are good but in practice are often underused 

They are good but in practice are often stepped beyond 

They are unclear but work well enough anyway 

They are unclear and need to be clarified to avoid overreach 

They are unclear and need to be clarified so the authorities can confidently go further They are overbearing and need to be scaled back/removed 

They are underpowered and need to be strengthened 



Do you think a statutory register of home educated children should be created?Mark only one oval. 





Do you think home educating families should be regularly inspected? 

Mark only one oval. 





Are there any changes you would like to see in how the local authority and public services treat home educating families? 


How has COVID-19 impacted your home education? (Tick all that apply)

Check all that apply. 

Exams cancellations meant no grades 

Classes and workshops had to stop 

Socialising was limited 

Had to cut back on things due to financial pressures 

Had more time outdoors 

Changed approach to more book work 

Children more stressed 

Parents more stressed 

Improved family life due to furlough/working from home 

Strained family life due to furlough/working from home 

SEN support stopped 

Greater public support for home education 

New friends due to influx of new home educators 



What could be done to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on your home education? 


If you have any other comments for the education select committee, please leave them here:


November 2020