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.]

Submission in response to the Call for Evidence

by the Education Select Committee




Benefits of EHE (the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face)

Having taught at both primary and secondary levels, in both the state and private sector, and as a private tutor, I have a breadth of understanding of the possibilities and limitations of school based education. Inspired by a colleague, I decided to try educating my children outside of the school system and am still doing so [time period] later. It is the best decision I have made for both their education and their wellbeing.

My elder child passed her first GCSE at [age] but chose to go to school at [age} in order to gain the qualifications that she needed for university without costing the family a lot of money. She is currently an undergraduate and [personal information] at the [University name]. My younger child should be sitting exams this year but following last year’s fiasco, he might have to delay.

Our educational journey has encompassed living in [places]. rural and urban settings and has provide different opportunities for learning and socialising, both are good. The availability of online resources has increased markedly over the last 10-15 years, education departments in museums, theatres etc have developed materials and workshops specifically for home educators and the numbers of people home educating have risen steeply. All of these have enriched the quality of our experience. They also make the choice to home educate far less of a burden for new parents as there is so much support available and so many opportunities to learn.

As a qualified teacher, our family is the ‘acceptable face’ of home education but in my experience, any skills and knowledge I possess are almost irrelevant. I do not teach, I facilitate learning and my children have acquired skills and developed interests in subjects I know nothing about eg digital editing and Classical Greek. To widen the picture, it really does not matter if a parent initially appears ‘uneducated’. As long as they care about their child’s learning, they will find the resources and support they need and learn together. All families learn how to learn together. The process is usually as empowering for the parents as it is for the child(ren).


Legal Framework (The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education, whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required)

Education is a parental duty as set out in the 1996 Education Act. This is consistent with human rights legislation. The UNCRC is explicit in stating that a child's rights should be championed by parents/guardians in order to hold governments to account. They should not be used by government as an excuse to invade the privacy of family life.

With respect to home education, the role of the LA is only to intervene when there is evidence to suggest that there is a problem. This is set out in s437 and was confirmed by parliamentary question last year. https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2019-04-29/HL15415

This role should not and does not need to change. LAs can offer support, but 'support' should not be code for unhelpful interference.

There is no need for a register. People register for services they require. If families believed that being known to LAs was helpful, they would register voluntarily. Generally families do not wish to be known to their LA because their interventions are not helpful and too often hostile and intimidatory.

If a LA has concerns, they should be communicated to the family in writing and the family allowed to address those concerns in any way that they find most convenient.
 LAs tend to expect school like provision and subject matter as evidence. There is no legal precedence for this. Many people, like us, intentionally choose not to recreate school at home because they want to do something better.

Far too many LAs conflate education and welfare issues and assume children who aren’t in school are somehow at risk. This is prejudice against a minority group who are behaving entirely legally. This prejudice must be brought to an end.

Often s175 Education Act 2002 is cited as a justification for "safe and well checks", it states:

(1) A local authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that their education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

As there is no duty to monitor EHE, there is no consequent duty to safeguard.


Support for EHE families (Support for EHE (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)

The best outcomes for children will only be achieved when government stops trying to entangle families in red tape and instead seeks to develop positive relationships. Government/LAs could also engage with local groups and national charities and work collaboratively to provide the types of support that home educating families value.

Local stakeholder groups can be a good way to encourage mutual respect between LAs and parents. I took part in such groups in both [places]. The relationship with [local council] was particularly positive and productive. Sadly, this relationship was destroyed by the formation of the [place] and continues to be problematic to this day for home educators in the areas involved. This is an example of the postcode lottery that home educators experience. Few EHE officers have the time or resources to encourage such stakeholder meetings but they should be a priority rather than wasting resources on attempts to assess the suitability of education.

LAs could choose to allow enhanced library access, subsidized access to sports facilities, provide venues for groups to meet or run educational workshops for local families. This would be a more effective use of resources particularly if organized in conjunction with local stakeholder groups.

LAs should be able to provide information on the various options open to home educating families and enable access to services such as ASD assessments, speech therapy, etc. LAs could provide grants to fund public exams, and schools and colleges could be incentivised to make provision for external exam candidates. These issues have been usefully discussed by the APPG for EHE and some LAs have shared examples of best practice.

Unfortunately, in England, the vast majority of LAs provide misleading information to parents and the government has been complicit in allowing them to do this. The DfE has encouraged a postcode lottery and generally promoted worst practice among LAs. The replacement of the 2007 EHE Guidelines with new ‘Guidance’ (which does not have statutory status) is symbolic of this worrying trend, moving away from recognising and respecting the law as it stands. In this hostile climate, all too frequently the 'advice and support' currently available to home educators is experienced by families as unwanted and unhelpful interference. It is important to emphasize that parents have the primary responsibility and LAs should respect their decisions.

Many home educators are treated unfairly by their LAs. This is an equality issue which needs to be addressed urgently. Within LAs, there is also evidence that some families are treated more favourably than others, depending on postcode, class and race. The government should not condone nor encourage LAs to misrepresent/disregard the law and bully/intimidate minority groups.


The Future (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 role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education; 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)

As usual, the subject matter we are asked to address is chosen with the ‘needs’ of LAs in mind, rather than the best interests of the children concerned. The assumption is that LA intervention is always positive and that is sadly not the experience of far too many home educating families. Many of the perceived problems that LAs wish to address are caused not by EHE but by the unreasonable expectations placed on schools and the school system’s inability to provide adequate support for children with special needs.

Where is the evidence showing the benefits or otherwise of increased intervention from local authorities?

Where is the evidence demonstrating the need for a change of approach to regulating EHE?

According to the government’s own benchmarks for exam results, the school system currently fails nearly half the children in its care. We also have a mental health crisis among teenagers. Maybe the school system is where changes need to be made rather more urgently.

In my experience, there is no evidence to suggest a problem with the current legal framework but numerous examples of LAs abusing their powers and being effectively unaccountable. [reference to court actions] LAs must become accountable and the mechanism for this must be equally available to all people.


Pandemic measures (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.’)

Living with uncertainty and fear damages everyone’s mental health so the impact of the pandemic will have a profoundly negative effect on the wellbeing of all children. That said, home educated children are likely to suffer less than those normally at school as they are used to spending more time at home, living more flexibly and learning using a wider variety of resources.

The lockdown and subsequent restrictions narrowed the range of educational experiences available to us but enabled other types of learning and social interaction. Being able to learn outdoors is obviously much less of a health risk than being in a classroom and most home educators are used to using online resources and/or tutors. The circumstances and politics have been particularly appropriate to bring focus to my son’s History GCSE which includes the development of Germ theory and the rise of Nazism.

Closing the schools earlier this year provided an opportunity for many families to experience home based learning. For many this would have been a positive experience with their children learning better or gaining relief from school based bullying and mental health problems. The normalising of working from home has also enabled families to undertake EHE when previously they would not have been in a position to do so.

November 2020