HED0570

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.]

 

My name is Zena Hodgson. I am an experienced home educator who has facilitated all our children’s learning throughout their ‘school’ years, before they each moved on to college and work as young adults.  Since 2008 I have, and continue, to support other home educating families in the South West of England; through my website Home Education SW, online forums, in workshops and a within home education groups.  I also act as a liaison between EHE families and Local Authority.  I work to build constructive, working relationships with the local authorities, other outside agencies and professional bodies, so that they may better understand and support the home education community.

I have given oral evidence to Government Committees, as a witness on two previous occasions:

I have also previously submitted written evidence, as part of the Home Education Centre submission, for both the 2009 and 2012 enquiries.

I welcome this committee’s question regarding how COVID-19 has impacted home educated children and young people, as this is a new and unprecedented situation for us all.  However, it is incredibly frustrating to be having to take the time yet again to answer the same questions, around duties of local authorities, a home education register, regulatory framework, lack of support and the efficacy of home education. 

My responses addressing the current Education Committee’s points, continue to be much the same as my previous submissions of 2009 and 2012, with the notable exception that the relationship between Somerset local authority and the EHE community has seen a major decline over the years, due to several department re-organisations, change of staff with little experience or understanding of home education and ever reducing allocated funds.

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

Home education and safeguarding should not be conflated, they are two separate issues, so I will address those points separately.

With regards education, the law is clear on this point.  Under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, it clearly states that it is the “duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age”, not the state or local authority.  The April 2019 EHE Guidelines for Parents (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791528/EHE_guidance_for_parentsafterconsultationv2.2.pdf) also makes it clear that; “5.1 Your local authority has no formal powers or duty to monitor the provision of education at home.”

It is therefore, not the duty of the local authority to assure the quality of home education, but the parents.  Indeed, if a parent chooses to send their child to school, it is the school that is accountable to parents.  Schools are required to demonstrate to parents that they are providing a suitable and efficient education, for each individual child.  Parents, as experts with regards to their own children, can then make the judgement as to whether the education meets the requirements of Section 7 of the Education Act 1996.  If it does not, parents may discuss with the school any issues they may have or if they feel the school is unable to provide an education that meet the needs of their child, may legally choose to deregister their child and take full responsibility for the education themselves.
Local authorities may only intervene if it appears that a child of CSA is not receiving a suitable education as per Section 7 of Education Act, starting the process with informal enquiries.  

The local authority duty under s.436A of the Education Act 1996 is to; “make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—

(a)are not registered pupils at a school, and

(b)are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.”

How they go about this is stated in 5.2 of the April 2019 EHE Guidelines for Parents, and should be done by way of “informal enquiries”. Parents are under no legal obligation to respond, but if they choose to do so, they are also legally entitled to respond in a manner that best suits them.

There is still inconsistency within how local authorities’ approach and deal with home education families.

This is illustrative that despite many years of work by local home educators willing to engage with local authority, many staff are still poorly trained and have little experience of home education.  It is still a postcode lottery as to the particular local authorities’ policies and also a lottery with what experience or lack of experience, the individual ‘inspectors’ have.

With regards safeguarding, the April 2019 EHE guidance for local authority states: “7.3 There is no proven correlation between home education and safeguarding risk.
There are adequate laws and powers that can be used, if there is a safeguarding concern for a child, that can be used irrespective of where that child receives their education.

 

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

No, it is not required
What purpose does a proposed register set out to achieve?

The register would be a waste of public funds and resources, that could be allocated instead to genuine support, as requested by families.  If decent support was offered, families would be more inclined to engage with their local authority, without the need for a statutory register.

 

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

Benefits:

Potential 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;

As local authorities have no duty to provide support for home education, very little budget is allocated to the respective EHE departments.  I am not aware of any support available in our region for home educators.  Local authorities simply endeavour to fulfil their duty to identify home educators and that the provision is suitable.  Any verbal advice from ‘inspectors’ is limited. The best expert advice and support comes from the home education community itself.  There is no financial support that I am aware of and very little help or advice in how or where to access exams and exam centres.

The SEND provision and access to mental health support is very inadequate in the region, regardless of whether the child is in school or home educated.  Access is generally harder for home educating families, as they frequently come up against professionals who do not have any experience or training in home education, often do not know the law or guidelines surrounding home education and often bring their personal misconceptions and prejudice into the proceedings.

 

  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’;

Yes the current laws and guideline are sufficient, there just needs to be better training in the implementation of these.  There needs to be more action taken against schools who off-roll and illegally exclude and existing powers need to be better used to tackle illegal schools.  The current education laws and home education guidelines are sufficient, if used correctly.

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

There should be no requirement for inspection of home education as a general policy; this infringes on families’ right to privacy.  Families do not need to be inspected, rather families need to be offered support services that they can choose to access, perhaps similar in the way families can access GP advice when required.

 

  1. 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; and

None

  1. 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.’

Many home educated teens missed out on obtaining their GCSEs and A levels etc.   Considerations need to be made as to how home educated young people may obtain their exam/grades


Home education groups have found it very difficult to navigate the new COVID legislation around running their educational groups and cooperatives.  More specific advice on how home education groups may operate, such as in the ways school advice and information was issued.

November 2020