Written evidence submitted by Mr Mercer


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


Local authorities already have powers to intervene where they have reason to believe that children are not receiving an adequate education, or are at risk of abuse.


The current approach strikes an appropriate balance between family privacy and child protection – local authorities have substantial powers to intervene when they have good reason to believe there is a problem.


Giving overstretched local authorities even more responsibility for safeguarding home-educated children would make authorities increasingly risk-averse. To protect themselves from criticism, they would be under pressure to interfere in the lives of law-abiding families, distracting them from the children most at risk.


Whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required


A mandatory register would give the state unwarranted power over parents. Why should parents need to register with the state to teach their own children?


There is no evidence that a mandatory register is necessary or would be effective. Parents who are of concern to the State are unlikely to register anyway.


Administering a mandatory register would be a huge drain on local authorities’ already limited resources.


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’


Elective home education is often unhelpfully conflated with other issues. Considering them together leads to confused and ineffective policy. For instance, as in your heading above, it is being unfairly linked with unregistered or illegal schools, with exclusion, and with off-rolling. These are separate matters, and dealing with them properly means focusing on them and not elective home education.


I am concerned that home education may be wrongly associated with child abuse. Child abuse is a separate issue which authorities already have wide powers to deal with. In fact many parents home educate to protect their children from the abuse of bullying at school.


Home education protects children from the alarming levels of sexual harassment and abuse that has been documented in schools.


There is no evidence of a problem with the current regulatory framework.


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


Given that many who elect to home educate are talented and gifted parents, any support should be entirely voluntary, available on request from parents. There must be no implication that not

requesting support, or declining to follow advice offered, is a cause for concern.


Home educators often report being treated with unwarranted suspicion by local authorities, rather than being supported. One local authority was reprimanded by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for visiting a family based on unsubstantiated claims and not even explaining the reasons.


November 2020