Written evidence submitted by Mrs Anna Allan

Home Education

Response to the Education Committee call for evidence

I am responding to the proposal by the Department of Education to introduce a compulsory register of home-educated children and termly inspections of home-educating families.

It has always been my understanding that the primary responsibility for educating children lies with their parents. I also understand that this position is upheld in English Law: Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. I write to ask that this situation should not be altered, and that government should not interfere with this aspect of family life.

Education is, and must be, compulsory, but school need not be; I do not believe that parents should have to ask the permission of the state to educate their children at home rather than sending them to school. This would be the case if government were to introduce a mandatory register of home-educated children: it would give the state unwarranted power over parents.

As a retired teacher, I know many good reasons why parents might choose to home educate, either for a short period, or for the entirety of a child’s education. Many of these reasons point to the benefits and advantages of home education.

Home education is a safe and nurturing place for those who have suffered bullying, for example. It can also offer a flexibility of pace and approach not possible in mainstream schools for the very gifted or those with learning difficulties. For children whose parents have careers that force them to be mobile (sometimes internationally so) and who cannot afford private education, home education gives stability and continuity. It is also clear that developing self-directed study, with all the benefits that brings later in life, is easier in the home environment.

It seems to me that elective home education has received a bad press: it has often wrongly been linked with child abuse. This is ironic, given that many parents home educate to save their child from bullying endured at school.

However, if there is reason to believe that children are suffering any form of abuse, or indeed not receiving a proper education, local authorities already have powers to intervene. Surely it would be a more effective use of resources to leave local authorities to deal with those cases where safe-guarding is an issue rather than to spend time every term policing the home-educators who are doing a good job caring for and educating their children? Our local authorities are already over-stretched.

Anna Allan

November 2020