Written evidence submitted by [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.]

Call for evidence Home Education November 2020


I am a home educating parent and have been home educating my two children for the last [time period]. They both have Autism, sensory processing difficulties and over the years have both had varying degrees of anxiety. My son is now [age] and I deregistered my son from primary school following [personal information]. My daughter is approaching [age] and has never been to school. When my son was deregistered from school, it was my intention to only home educate until I had found the right school for him. The fact that he is still home educated [time period] and my daughter has always been home educated shows how well home education has worked for our family.


There are so many benefits to home education and I don’t think they can be fully appreciated until you have direct experience of them. Home education has allowed my children to learn at a pace that is right for them and they have both benefitted from having one-to-one attention when they have found a topic challenging. My children have always studied English, Maths and Science, loosely following the national curriculum. Due to my children’s difficulties, we have a big focus on life skills, the subjects that will help them the most later in life and the subjects that they have a passion for. Home education allows us the flexibility to learn at a time that suits us, whether it be in ‘school hours’ or later on an evening or at weekends. We can also take a few days off for illness without the worry of falling behind, knowing that it is easy to make up the time when everyone is feeling better. Home Education has been the right choice for my children’s education as it has allowed them to follow their interests. My son already knows the career path he would like to follow and so we have worked out the qualifications he will need to make this happen. This has encouraged him with his formal studies and he is planning on sitting his first IGCSE next year at the [age]. He intends to sit 6 IGCSEs spread over 3 years. Whilst this may be less than a lot of children study at school, it will be enough for him to get where he wants to be. Spreading them out will allow him to focus his efforts on less subjects at a time as he needs to get high grades. There is also the point of cost to consider, as I will have to pay an exam centre for each subject taken, which will be £150-200 each. There may also be the cost of tutors on top for some subjects if needed. The cost of exams can be a disadvantage for Home Educators, as not all families can afford several hundreds of pounds within a couple of years, particularly if they have more than one child. One big advantage of Home Education this year has been that unlike children who attend school, my children’s formal education has continued uninterrupted by the pandemic.

Whilst my children’s formal learning has been uninterrupted by the pandemic, they have been unable to attend their usual activities since they closed back in March. Now there is a national lockdown until the beginning of December, there is no chance of these activities getting back up and running until at least January. The guidance surrounding Home Education through the pandemic has been unclear, probably due to being written by people who do not have a full understanding of how it works. The guidance has allowed for educational activities to take place if it can be ‘Covid-secure’, which has meant that some formal studies groups have been able to get up and running as well as some sports groups, although not all providers have been willing to take home education groups at the moment. However, not all home educators attend these sorts of groups. Like many families, my children do all of their formal studies at home with me and so only attend groups for hobbies and to socialise with their friends. Normally we would meet up with several families in the park or at an indoor event, but we have not been able to do this in the same way for most of this year due to the rules surrounding Covid. We also spend a lot of time at friend’s houses, with 2 or 3 families present. Again, this year we have not been able to do this. We have also missed out on what is a national annual event in the home education calendar – Not Back To School Picnics, this is usually a big picnic that allows home educators to meet others, after what is usually several weeks of less activities over the summer. It is a great opportunity to meet new friends and for families new to home education to meet lots of experienced home educating families. Video chats and online gaming with friends has helped my children keep in touch with their friends and they have seen their close friends on a regular basis, in small groups; that is until this lockdown has come into force. How are my children supposed to socialise, which is an important part of their education, more so as they have social and communication difficulties with all of these rules in place? It doesn’t matter how you try to dress it up, but school children are in their bubbles and are socialising, yet home educated children are not allowed to meet purely for socialising reasons in groups more than the current public limit. I’m not asking for the earth, just that my children are not being treated differently than school children. I want them to be able to receive their education and to be able to see their friends, with sensible precautions in place. I really feel for any new home educators starting out in the last few months, as the social aspect has proven difficult for those of us who already have friends and a support network in the home ed community; online support is not a substitution for face to face.


I am very concerned how home educated students were affected by the summer exam series due to Covid and how difficult it was for them to get grades if they had studied without following a course from a recognised provider. For many students this caused issues with going onto the next stage of their education. The cancelling of the summer series has had a knock-on effect on both the November and January sittings and I know several families that have been affected. As my son is now beginning to study for his IGCSEs and is hoping to sit his first exams next year, I am worried that he will put all the work in and then there will be problems at the last minute. In some areas more than others, it can be difficult to find an exam centre willing to take external candidates, but the problems that were caused by the cancelling of the summer series, has meant that several exam centres that usually accommodate home ed students across the country have decided to close their doors to external candidates at least for the time being.


Home education is a valid and legal choice in the UK, yet home educated families often experience negative opinions both from the general public and professionals, when they are just trying to do their best by their children. It would be nice if home education was seen in a more positive light by professionals and MPs and that they tried to support us rather than wanting to impose restrictions on our freedoms. Over the years there have been several attempts to make a mandatory register for home educators. I do not agree with this as most registers are either professional ones so that you can do a particular job or because the person has done something wrong e.g. the sex offenders register – home education does not fit in either of these categories.


I think that Local Authorities already have enough powers to step in if they believe that a child is not receiving a suitable education. I do not think it is appropriate for Local Authorities to have to try and ascertain how suitable an education is being provided, as they do not know the child, how can they tell if the education is suitable? Also, most LEA staff don’t have much experience of how home education works except from what they experience from a work point of view. Even if they have years of experience of working in education, it is usually school based experience, which is very different to home ed. I know of many people that have had differences of opinions with LEA staff because they have not approached home education with an open mind or understand that home education looks different to a school education and looks different in each family. There is no need for Local Authorities to worry about safeguarding with regards to home education as it is not a safe guarding in and of itself. Safe guarding of a child is everyone’s responsibility, whether it be a medical professional or a neighbour and so I do not think it is necessary for visits to be insisted on for home educated children for this purpose.

November 2020