Written evidence submitted by S Chalkley


I'm 22 years old & was home-educated from the age of 11 after making the decision not to enroll in a high school. Of my three siblings, two chose to also, after much consideration, leave school (they generally enjoyed school but were interested in trying EHE) and one has always been home-educated. My 20 year old sister is currently away studying at University, whereas I chose, currently, not to take formal examinations. This, as well as my interactions with many other children, teens & families over the years, means I am well aware of the variety of different paths people can choose to take in life, and in education. For someone who has always been entrenched in the public school system it can be hard to imagine other ways.


Local authorities, as they currently operate, have a duty to intervene if there is evidence of a child or adult being mistreated, and to investigate if there is a reasonable suspicion of wrong-doing. I believe this should be the case whether the child is in school or not. There should not be more safeguarding concerns simply because a child has chosen home-education. (Pandemic schooling, abandoned-education, or forcing a child to leave school is not elective home-education and should not be categorised together). If we were really concerned about children's well-being, the school system would be radically different (bullying, exam stress, wrecked sleep schedules, overwhelming homework.. I could go on) & we would prioritise action on climate change. There are so many wonderful and important things that could be covered in school but aren't. There are almost as many different ways to learn as there are children learning. The "quality" of any form of education is to some extent down to opinion and awareness.


I do not believe a statutory register of home-educated children is required. Or that regular inspection is necessary or a good use of resources. All children are registered in multiple places, from their births, doctor's surgeries, dentists, libraries. Home-educated children are connected to their wider community in many ways. Regular inspection causes unnecessary stress on parents & children and means attention is spent on presenting & proving what has been learned, not on learning. Plus as I said earlier, when you are used to school you aren't always open to other ways people can learn. We cannot judge the wide variety of home-educators with one system. Support should be available, but local authorities should listen to what form home-educators (and students & teachers for schools!) think that should take.


There are many benefits to elective home education. The life skills gained from having more control over your time & education, the encouragement to interact with people of all ages, freedom to explore interests and go deep on a particular subject. More space to pay attention to mental health, less pressure to conform, more time for a variety of physical activities, exercise & sleep, volunteering or work experience. Put bluntly, school is draining for many children, one simple example: How many adults say they still don't read for pleasure because they were forced to read in school?


COVID-19 has impacted groups & events and access to outdoor spaces like libraries, museums, nature parks, cinemas etc. The term can be misleading as home-education takes place outside of the house a lot of the time. This has been far from normal for all of us. In-person socialisation has obviously been affected, but clearly that isn't just a problem for home-educators. COVID-19 has impacted students who were planning to take exams this year, students in schools had their grades given on coursework, unfortunately this was an even more complicated situation for home-educators and many do not feel supported. In many ways though, home-education has shone through this pandemic, with online communities coming together to support families whose kids had suddenly been unable to attend school. We need less fear-mongering and to keep the freedom to choose how to live and learn.


Money & time would be better spent supporting libraries and other community hubs so optional classes, courses and just spaces in general, can return and expand when safe, for both schooled & home-educated kids to attend. Also make sure various support networks are well-funded, available and accessible for everyone - be that information, financial, health or other specific support network - without strings attached, baseless assumptions or unnecessary follow-up checks. Engage with the community, listen and communicate.


November 2020