HED0631

Written evidence submitted by Foster Applewhite

 

I am a teacher with over ten years of experience in many different school settings and age groups. I have taught from ages EYFS to GCSE PE. I have also been the Head of EYFS, Head of PE & Designated Safeguarding Lead. I have a good understanding of children needs and also experience of dealing with parents in difficult situations. Six years ago my partner & I decided to  home educate with support from our immediate families. My personal experience is that home education far outweighs mainstream education. A few reasons for this are that mainstream education is by far more restrictive and target driven. This drive for targets and data feeds through to the children and too much pressure is put on them to perform. Another reason for this is that is school children get far less time with the teacher one-to-one than my children get with me. In addition to this I have experienced many parents home educate for a short period of time due to various reasons such as bullying. I personally the that home education is the best form of education. It is all important to note that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children. Teachers are educating on behalf of parents, not the state.

 

From my personal experience as a Designated Safeguarding Lead and a Home Educator the approach taken currently has a good balance between privacy of the family and child protection. LA have powers that they can use to intervene when the seem fit. However with LAs resources being stretched more and more giving them more responsibility for safeguarding home-educated children would make authorities risk-averse. To protect themselves from this tick box exercise and a slap on the wrist,they would be under even more pressure impede on families liberties and specifically interfere in the lives of lawful families which would distract them from the most vulnerable children. 

Having a compulsory register would give the LAs, and government even more unnecessary powers over parents. Why should we as parents need to register with the state to teach our own children? This does not make sense. Further, where is the evidence to say that a mandatory register is necessary and or would be effective.  Already overstretched LAs will be wasting their limited resources. Again this mandatory register is another worrying sign of state interference in family life. This could be the first step of even more draconian measures on parents. Parents who are a concern and already known to the LAs are unlikely to register anyway so I see no point in this measure.

Home education is often unfairly linked to unregistered and illegal schools. With this in mind home ed parents are put under their policy which is ineffective and confusing. Moreover, with the mainstream news and government officials jumping at the chance to bash home eduction it wrongly gets associate with child abuse. Child abuse is a separate issue, that LAs already have many powers to use and deal with. In fact I know of many parents that homeschool to protect their children from abuse of bullying, neglect, needs not being met by the school etc. Home schooling in actual fact protects children from the growing number off issues school taught children are now facing, including alarming levels of sexual harassment and abuse. Something that I have had to deal with firsthand with my role as DSL. Furthermore, home-educated children are less likely to need state intervention to protect them than school children. A study in 2015 found home-educated  children in England were two to three times less likely to be subject to a Child Protection Plan than children in school, despite being twice as likely to be referred to social services. There is no problem with the current framework so why change it?

The benefits of home education far outweigh the negatives. My personal experience of home education is that you can go at the childs pace and not force the issue, this allows me to speed  up, or slow down dependent on child and or subject. This is extremely difficult to judge within the classroom. It is great that my children get the chance to learn about things that they are interested in rather than restricted to the National Curriculum. This helps create an enjoyable and stimulating learning environment and encourages self-learning that leaves my children well equipped for higher education. Home education is a safe and nurturing environment for children that have experienced pressures of peers and teachers.

There is no evidence to say that an inspection is necessary. Again this will be another way for LA and government officials to bash home educators and strip away parents rights. LAs already have enough powers to address inadequate home education, they do not need anymore. An inspection is unnecessary for home education as one home education can be unlike another. The range of  approaches is a strength of home education and would be impractical to be judged on this using a tick box inspection to check if parents are compliant. Furthermore, there is no evidence that a lack of inspection puts children at risk. It is an intrusion into the home and yet another worrying sign of state interference on family life.

Support including financial support should be entirely voluntary and available on request from parents. Implications should not be imposed if advice offered is declined and this is a cause for concern. Many parents I have spoken to that home educate do it for many reasons. Some feel they have to remove their children as their needs are not being met, or properly addressed. Support for these parents and children would come from making the current provisions better. From personal experience my partner and I have felt we have been treated with suspicion by LAs rather than be supported. One local authority was reprimanded by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for visiting a family based on unsubstantiated claims and not explaining their reasons for the visit. Home educators could be supported with financial assistance for exam fees or help with exam centres.

To close I would remind you of Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 says:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education... either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

My family and I stand under Common Law, we do not stand under acts, legislation, mandates, guidance, and registers etc. We do not consent to this proposals that are draconian at best. Below you will find a few studies that I urge you to read.

Thank you

1.             Charles-Warner, W, Home Education and the Safeguarding Myth: Analysing the Facts Behind the Rhetoric, 2015, see http://www.personalisededucationnow.org.uk/wp- content/uploads/2015/02/home-education-and-the-safeguarding-myth-signed.WCW_-1.pdf as at 27 October 2020
 

2.             Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: Advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and
designated safeguarding leads, Department for Education, May 2018, pages 6 and 7
 

3.             Be clear about visits to home-schooled children says Ombudsman, Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, 18 July 2019, see https://www.lgo.org.uk/information-
centre/news/2019/jul/be-clear-about-visits-to-home-schooled-children-says-ombudsman as at 27 October 2020
 

January 2021