Written evidence submitted by Mr Smithee


The House of Commons Education Committee Consultation on Home Education.


I am a parent of a Home-Schooled Child.

My partner and I have been successfully Home-Schooling for thirteen (13) years.

I am sending this evidence, because I am seriously concerned with the direction, scope and proposed purview of this Consultation on Home Education.

It is my opinion that the Children’s Commissioner (currently Anne Longfield) should focus on dealing with the existing problems within the Department for Education and the government managed School system.

With report after report, from every quarter, chronicling the rising numbers of children falling into deprivation with dwindling help, the governments resources should be focused on rectify those issues rather than extending and over-reaching its purview.

Many leading educators consider Ofsted, GCSEs and the state managed education system to be broken and no longer fit for purpose. If the government cannot cope with managing the existing school system, including Ofsted, then what hope (or resources) does it have to compulsorily register and (quarterly) inspect progress of home-schooled children?

The Children’s Commissioner’s initiative for compulsory register and quarterly inspections of home-educated children appears naive, dangerous and is vilifying of parents who choose home-schooling.

It is widely accepted that the Children’s Commissioner Role is a poison chalice”. However, using home-schooling families as a distract from having to deal with very real and current problems facing the Children’s Commissioner, the Department for Education (DfE) and government (i.e. a failing education system, the free school meals for starving children fiasco, mental health issues due to Covid, under resourcing, racism, bullying, sexual assault and child abuse) is of deep concern to me.

The following is a response to the call for evidence, from the parent of a Home Educated child, addressing the following requested points:

Local authorities are already required and have a legal framework to make provision to identify, manage and supervise child safeguarding cases (see Children Act 2004 Section 16F).  Additionally, all persons and/or bodies (e.g. parents, clubs, places of worship, activity groups) must comply with requests for information, to safeguarding partners, and are answerable to the High Court for failure to comply (see Children Act 2004 Section 16H).

Additional burdens on already overstretched local authorities and safeguarding partners will lead to undue pressure to interfere and result in disproportionate scrutiny and detriment to home-schooled children.

FOR EXAMPLE (from FOI data c/o Wendy Charles‐Warner, 2015): Whilst Home-schooled children are significantly more likely to be referred (≈9.8%) to Social Services than School children (≈5.1%), Home-Schooled children are significantly less likely (≈2.2%) to be placed on a Child Protection Plan than those in School (≈11.4%). The ‘problem’ is not with Home-Schooled Children, but is statistically more prevalent with State-Schooled Children.

As a Home-Schooling parent, this disparity reeks of a symptomatic vilification of Home-Schooling and a failure to address child safeguarding in the appropriate sections of society that actually need child safeguarding scrutiny and resources (i.e. the 0.6% of School children that are placed on a Child Protection Plan).

It is naïve to think that the parents of “at risk children” are likely to “make-good” and comply with a Statutory Register.

Children are already registered at Birth and assigned an NHS number, which with the Child Protection-Information Sharing (CP-IS) programme should be more than adequate.

A Statutory Register would just be another waste of local authorities and safeguarding partners’ resources.

Average secondary school class sizes in the UK are currently in excess of 22 pupils (Source: Research Report DFE-RR169, Department for Education), with a CAGR of ≈2%. Additionally, a class curriculum is a one-size fits all.

Conversely, Home-Schooled children benefit from the almost undivided attention and resources of at least one (1) person who has known them from birth and can develop a curriculum that is tailored to the child’s: interests, attention, abilities, capabilities and speed.

Meanwhile, a child in a state-school environment is shackled to the lowest common denominator, is treated as statistic rather than a person, has inconsistent teaching/teachers year-by-year and has to deal with bullying and conforming to peer pressures.

A Home-Schooled child is not going to be lost in the noise of a large class. A Home-Schooled child can be nurtured, given flexibility and stimulation to address their individual strengths and weaknesses. A Home-Schooled child can have subjects tailored to their individual interests and requirements to shine and excel; rather than be churned through a ridged National Curriculum with limited resources and flexibility.

As a parent of a Home-Schooled child, the choice to Home-School was made because it provides the best rather than the mediocre. Home-Schooling requires a significant investment in time, money and effort; but that is of little consequence when it is for your child.

Every ‘good’ parent wants the best for their child; and I believe that my child’s Home-Schooling provides that. Any potential disadvantages (e.g. stress, cost, being judged, having to source teaching and social resources) is far outweighed by the joy of seeing my child reaching their full potential, and become a well-rounded and well-adjusted member of society.

I think too many parents abdicate their responsibilities and their child’s future to a “broken”, no longer fit for purpose, ridged and under-resourced State-Schooling system.

We receive no state support for Home-Schooling. We have paid for and accessed numerous high quality resources (including online), curriculums and also the UK National Curriculum. We have followed and used the UK National Curriculum Key Stages as a Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS), selected the best of GCSE curriculums and resources, supplemented with subjects that NO state-schools would be able to provide; and have planned for A’ Levels and further.

Home-Schooling is a choice to give your child the best. The choice of Home-Schooling comes with a stigma and societal judgment, which this House of Commons Education Committee consultation on Home Education simply reinforces.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: As a child I was written off by the UK state education system; I have Dyslexia and Aspergers. The UK state education system FAILED me. It was only because of the care, due diligence, extra-remedial support and investment by my parents, supplementing my POOR state school education, that I was able to achieve my professional status with a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree. My personal experience is an example (one of many) of how the ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL state school system fails many children reaching their full potential.

There is no evidence that there is a problem with the current regulatory framework; and suggesting that the collective crises of child abuse, exclusions, ‘off-rolling’ and illegal schools are related to elective home education is lazy and damaging. This is a typical example of the STIGMA and VILIFICATION that is attached to Home-Schooling.

Research in 2015 (see: Charles-Warner, W, ‘Home Education and the Safeguarding Myth: Analysing the Facts Behind the Rhetoric’, 2015) has shown that whilst home-schooled children are proportionally twice (2) MORE likely to be referred to Social Services than State-Schooled children, they are five (5) times LESS likely to be placed on a Child Protection Plan. This disparity in treatment of home-educators is another example of the STIGMA and VILIFICATION attached to Home-Schooling.

Conversely, a staggering 17% of children are bullied in schools (Source: Bullying in UK Schools, Number 8812, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, 4 February 2020).  Additionally, Bullying, Physical Assault, Verbal Abuse and Threatening Behaviour towards another pupil accounts for a staggering 45.3% of exclusions in England (Source: Bullying in UK Schools, Number 8812, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, 4 February 2020).

It is clear that the overwhelming crises (e.g. racism, bullying, sexual assault and child abuse) that need addressing are in the State-School system; and that associating home schooling with these issues is avoiding the real problem at its source. Many home-schooling parents choose to home educate so that they can protect their children from these systematic crises of the State-School system.

There is no evidence or mandate for inspection or regulation of home-education. Many leading educators consider the state-school system, especially Academies, to be broken.

In the words of Andreas Schleicher, of the OECD, State Education creates “second-class robots”. The overwhelming consensus is that Ofsted needs an overhaul, with the possibility of it being repurposed, from the crude labelling of schools, to sharing good practice across the system.  Lord Baker, one of the architects of GCSEs, has joined a growing call for them to be replaced.

If GCSEs and Ofsted are “broken” and no longer fit for purpose, how does the government think that inspection and regulation of home-education is a smart move? Home education is flexible, diverse, tailored to the child and extra-extra-curricular? Formal inspection would be impractical. The cost and effort on either party (i.e. parents and government) would be unreasonable. Inspections would be a burdensome intrusion, especially when one reflects on how teachers abhor and dread Ofsted inspections.

I am not aware of ANY support or funding for home educators of children (without disabilities) from government. I am cognisant that home educators, who wish to pursue GCSE examinations, have to pay privately for those exams, the curriculums and materials.

Compared to state-schooled children, my child has experience very few negative impacts as a consequence of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. My child’s home-schooling has continued without abatement, except for a handful of shared extra-curricular activities (i.e. clubs, church groups and socials). This is because the structure (i.e. directed study, self-directed study, online study and resources) is extant and very little has need to change. Meanwhile my child’s friends and contemporaries have been variously call the “lost generation” and “scarred for life”, by SAGE scientists, because of the governments failed pandemic policies.


January 2021