Written evidence submitted Mrs Claire Haslam


I am a home educating parent of two children aged 14 and 11 who have never attended school.


In terms of the impact that COVID-19 has had on my home educated children, they are missing their regular activities (youth club, board games club, sports lesson, scuba diving, martial arts, drama, swimming lessons and badminton) and meeting up and hanging out with their friends. They are also missing out on all of the travel and cultural activities that they are normally exposed to.

They are using online tools successfully for what is traditionally seen as ‘educational’ activities, for example maths and English. But home education is normally so much more than this for us. It happens out in the world exposing children to as many experiences and opportunities as possible. This is obviously not possible in the current COVID-19 world.



In terms of the benefits gained from home education I have witnessed in my own children and in others:

       Freedom to follow their passions - making them mini experts in the things they love, as they can focus on that thing for as much time as they like. My son’s knowledge of history and science is far broader than the national curriculum, and mine!

       The opportunity to develop and learn at their own pace - for example my eldest son learnt to read in a fairly conventional manner at the ‘normal’ age. For my younger son reading just did not click for him until he was 9 years old. He is now an avid reader and stays up late into the night devouring book after book. We applied no pressure to him to learn to read. We did not label him as ‘behind’ or push him into. If we had he would have most likely pushed against us or failed and we did not want him to hate reading. He simply was not ready. In school he would have no doubt felt ‘less than’ compared to his peers and this could have damaged his self confidence. At school, not reading at 9, he would have been at a serious disadvantage. At home he thrived.

       Life balance - It is a privilege to be part of my children’s lives and watch them learn and grow every day. There is always a supportive adult around if they need someone. We get to spend lots of time together as a family. We are not rushing around getting to school every morning, fighting over homework in the evenings. My kids sleep as much as they need to sleep which is great for their mental health and physical development. If we want to stay up late to see the International Space Station fly over or follow some breaking news, or because the kids are in deep questioning conversation mode it is not a problem. In pre-covid times we would travel in ‘term time’ which makes it cheaper and quieter to explore other towns and cities.



In terms of the potential disadvantages of home education, the issue currently affecting our family is access to examination centres and having to pay ourselves for examinations and potentially tutoring.

Accessing higher education often requires a certain number of qualifications which home ed children may not have, yet they may well be proficient beyond their schooled peers in the chosen subject. I strongly feel and hope that the government will consider allowing home educated children access to all higher education courses, even if that is just on a term trial basis, without the exam entry requirements.

The only other disadvantage of home education is the reduced earning potential of the family. My husband and I both only work part time to ensure one of us is always available. This impacts our income and career progression. 


Welfare Issues

There seems to be an underlying assumption that home educators are guilty until proven innocent of child welfare issues or radicalisation. This is not my experience. The overwhelming majority of parents who choose to home educate do so because they are great parents who want to make their child’s world bigger and richer than what a classroom can offer. They can see the limitations of a one-size fits all school system, overcrowded classrooms, underfunding, overtesting, peer pressure, reduced focus on humanities and creativity, and they want to spend time with their own children. Choosing to home educate means going against the norm. It is not an easy choice to make and not one made lightly. If you were a neglectful parent it would be much easier to just hand the responsibility over to a school and not have to deal with your children all day.  

I feel that the welfare issues are often conflated with education issues when it comes to home educating families. Welfare and education should be looked at separately. Receiving a good education does not guarantee you an abuse free childhood. There are plenty of people who went to ‘excellent’ boarding schools who can attest to that. Receiving a non-traditional education does not mean you are not loved or well-cared for.

Home educated kids are seen by people in the community all of the time. Doctors, librarians, members of the public, tutors, group leaders, family members, friends, and other home ed parents. If I was worried about the welfare of a child, like every other decent person in society, I would report that child to social services regardless of where or how they are educated.

Sadly, people who are child abusers will abuse regardless of whether or not their children go to school. I have no doubt that there are children in school now who are treated horrendously at home and no other adult in their life, including their teacher, knows about it. There are also children in school now being bullied (which is also abuse) by their peers. I have not come across bullying in home education.

What I have seen in the last decade in home education is an influx of children coming into home education from the school system that have been traumatised by school. There appears to me to be many more children in home education now who have mental health issues stemming from school issues. These parents need support to become home educators - to ‘deschool’ themselves of the ideas that have to follow a certain curriculum and do school at home to succeed. Replicating the very thing that traumatised the child in the first place is unlikely to yield positive results. I worry for the parents and children that have been thrown into home education rather than actively choosing home education following prior research and understanding.


Inspections & Academic achievement

My main concern in terms of ‘inspections’ and ‘academic achievement’ is that there is an incorrect assumption behind those words that there is something that can be measured and scored. This highlights a fundamental misunderstanding of what home education is and looks like in practice. Home education is not school at home. Children will not be in the same place as schooled children and there are many different ways of home educating. How can that individuality possibly be measured across the country? 

Academic achievement will widely vary between children but that does not mean that home education is not working. Also home education is for life. Everyone, regardless of where they are educated, will have gaps in their knowledge. My children are not usually following a curriculum against which they could be measured. When my children do not know something they know how to find out about it. They are independent lifelong learners.

As an example, my older son (14)  has recently shown an interest in achieving a maths iGCSE, as he has decided to pursue a career in engineering or cyber security and understands that maths will be required. He has recently started studying for that and computer science from scratch on an online programme linked to the national curriculum. He does not really need to start from scratch as he has plenty of knowledge already, but he wants to check there are no gaps and it is good for his confidence when he discovers he already knows something despite never going to school. At school he would be in year 9. If you checked on that maths programme today it would show that he has done every module from reception to year 6, which is well below what would be expected in school for his age. Would we be marked down, or punished in some way? Would you assume my child is neglected? What an assessment would not show is that he has got to this level within a few months rather than years, and I have no doubt that he will be more than ready when he wants to take the exam. It would also not show all of the amazing things he does know about....physics especially space travel, Jupiter’s moons, how different electoral systems work around the world including how American Astronauts vote from space (which he taught me about this morning), how Cholera helped to develop water sanitization processes, how to create servers to play with his friends online, the World Wars, and the Anglo-Zulu war...

If there is to be a register and inspections, which I do not support, I am of the opinion that these should focus on how engaged parents are in being facilitators for their child’s interests, rather than on the academic achievements of the child.


Key questions I would ask if I was a local authority from an education perspective are:

       What is the child interested in and what is the home educator doing to seek out and provide opportunities for their child to participate in following their interests?

       What is the home educator doing to encourage the child to discover new interests? Are they regularly strewing resources, exposing them to new ideas and opportunities (bearing in mind the child may not be interested - that should not be measured), taking them to places?

       Are they providing resources and access to information? Does the child have access to books, the internet, and other people?

       Does the parent need financial assistance from the LA to take the child on trips to places of interest, tutoring, technology, hire instruments, pay exam fees etc?


Afterall home educators are facilitators not teachers.


Welfare questions would be a matter for social services. The LA could refer to welfare colleagues where they felt that there was a safeguarding issue, but they should go to an home educators home with the intention to assess facilitation of a suitable education. They should not go actively looking for welfare issues.


January 2021