Written evidence submitted by Melanie Inglis


Evidence for Government Inquiry into Home Education 2020


Personal History

As a secondary school teacher, department head and head of year from 2000-2007 I was dismayed by the negative attitude to learning among students, the effect of social pressures on students’ mental and emotional wellbeing, and the undermining of teachers by politicians. Home educated children I met a during this time provided a stark contrast with a view of learning as a positive, enjoyable, constant, broad and purposeful activity. They were far happier and healthier in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing.

Subsequently as parents we decided to home educate our own two children until age 7. We joined a large local home educating community, which provides social and learning opportunities, and practical support and advice. Since then we have never felt that school could better meet our children’s educational needs. They are now aged 13 and 14 and are studying towards GCSEs, with a rich array of other enriching activities including music and Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Local Authority

Local authority inspections appear to be a box-ticking exercise with no benefit to HE families in return. Graham Stuart commented during the 2012 consultation, that if local authorities want families to register they needed to offer a concrete incentive, otherwise it was quite reasonable for families to prefer to ignore them. I agree, my time and energy is best employed serving my children’s educational needs, not local bureaucracy. Having been involved in organising HE activities for families in our 350+ community for 10 years, my overwhelming experience is that parents are committed, creative and able facilitators of their children’s education.

Recommendation 12 in the 2012 report states that the local authority should produce a ‘local offer of support’ in consultation with HE families. Our Elective Home Education officer did consult and redeployed resources from inspections to regular liaison meetings open to all HE families. However, with a very limited budget I believe they mostly advise new HE families to join one of the thriving local HE communities, as the best source of support. Our EHE officer has a good relationship with and is trusted by the local HE community, but limited resources and power leave them unable to meet any real needs such as exam access.


At school we regularly had families at risk being rejected for help because they weren’t in sufficient crises, with children suffering as a result. Where children are at risk at home they are statistically more likely to be in school, and schools are simply not providing adequate safeguarding. I therefore dispute that attending school or being inspected at home is necessary to ensure a child is safe from harm.

My view as a teacher and home educator is that schools also cause harm to children in numerous ways. The mental health crisis in young people indicates this, or at the very least that schools are not able to protect them. The multiple harms encountered in a school environment include social pressure to conform to fashion and other arbitrary ‘rules’ which are often unclear, pornography, sexting, bullying, never-ending targets & academic pressure, to name but a few. Lack of support for children with additional needs also causes devastating harm, and is one of the most frequent reasons I hear cited for families home educating.

My children are registered with a GP, attend a youth club and camps, have music teachers, including at a music school, use the local library, visit museums and galleries, volunteer and take part in community events. In their HE activities, as well as other parents, they see professional teachers and sports coaches on a weekly basis. They are therefore visible to multiple external adults with safeguarding responsibilities. They also have a rich and varied curriculum with plenty of social opportunities, without the common risks of harm in school.

Benefits and Disadvantages

Home educating is sometimes defined as ‘learning from life’ as opposed to learning ‘about’ life. Our children are more closely involved in the activities needed to run a home and family, and as they have grown, in wider responsibilities in the community. They also benefit cognitively by learning in context, and it supports meta-cognitive abilities such as impulse control and empathy.

Children are biologically driven to learn, which all parents see during infancy and early childhood. Home educating has allowed mine to maintain that self-drive and confidence. I provide resources, organise opportunities, encourage and support, but by and large I see all the HE children I know driving their own learning. For example, I bought a phonics book and CD set: My daughter saw how to use it, made it clear she didn’t need my help, and proceeded to teach herself how to read at age 4. My son age 5 didn’t like it and I followed advice to let him develop at his own pace. Meanwhile I read to them daily, we listened to high quality audio books way above their ‘reading age’, and they had bookshelves full of all sorts of children’s books. He also followed the pictorial instructions in lego sets, ‘read’ cartoons and listened to stories intently, often asking me to repeat a favourite passage. At age 8 he suddenly announced “Mum I can read anything!” and proved it. He could tackle new words like ‘fugitive’ with no difficulty and I would say both were reading at an adult standard at that point. Crucially they were both confident that they were intelligent, able, independent learners- more confident that many of the 16 year olds I taught in school had been.

In home educating, we are out much of the time. We can select high quality activities and facilitators, with a range of community spaces and companies eager for our business. We can take advantage of events such as the Big Bang science fair, academic fesitvals, museum workshops, outreach educational offers and discounts for daytime bookings for sports and leisure activities. Most organisations with a schools offer will now include home educators in that. A typical (pre-Covid) week for us might involve: parent-led classes in French, English, Latin, science, music & art; teacher/coach-led drama, maths, football, multi-sports and ice-skating; evening Woodcraft Folk group, Duke of Edinburgh award, and role playing games club; piano, violin, percussion, theory and ensemble lessons; volunteering or work experience.

Another major benefit for me as a parent is the control I have over my children’s environment. I have been told ‘but they need to encounter bullies etc’, however we know that adverse environments in childhood can have long-term consequences: children of alcoholics are at higher risk of alcoholism; being abused leads to a higher risk of becoming an adult abuser or victim. My children have to navigate a wide variety of social sitiuations with all sorts of people, but they have sympathetic adults (myself and other HE parents) available to help comfort or model constructive responses where needed.

As well as having myself and other adults around, home education often involves mixing all ages. Older children provide positive role models as they are mostly well-adjusted, polite and kind to younger children. In turn they benefit from the informal mentoring role they have and staying familiar with younger children’s needs as they grow into adulthood. Different genders also tend to play together without any issue. Of course they sometimes separate, but not because ‘boys don’t play with girls’ or such nonsense. In fact my son was once reprimanded by his friend for speaking rudely to his sister, and the boy insisted she was his friend too.

In my experience, young HE people are kinder and celebrate each other as individuals. They seem to resolve conflicts more effectively, and see the world as a safe and interesting place to explore. I am often complimented by non-HE adults on having two confident, polite, responsible children who are comfortable talking to anyone.

The main disadvantage of HE is the cost and access to public exams. In response to recommendation 8 in the 2012 report, the Department of Education said it would encourage schools and colleges to provide facilities for home education exam entries. However, they were under no obligation, and the government would not place a duty on local authorities to ensure access to exam centres for home educated students. The result appears to be that nothing has been done. Pre-Covid we had an exams officer at our local school who supported external candidates because she personally felt it was the right thing to do. It involved unpaid extra work on her part, and her successor is unlikely to continue we are told.

Recommendation 9 in 2012 concluded it was not fair that home educators had to bear the cost of public exams, and this cost should be met by the State. We accept the costs involved in educating our children up to this point, however qualification costs are prohibitively expensive. I imagine the government would say it wants all children to have equal access to formal qualifications, and we are also all tax payers who have so far saved the government far more than exams would cost. This is an inequity that could be easily righted, with an enormous impact on home educated children’s opportunities.

Improvements since the 2012 Report

I am not aware of any action being taken following the 2012 report, other than a new LA coordinating group but that hasn’t affected us. In my experience the HE community felt it was fair and that our concerns had been listened to. It is disappointing that when HE is mentioned in the media the response tends to remain surprise (that it exists) and concern (over safeguarding). The 2012 report clearly found the overwhelming majority of HE parents were committed and able to meet their child’s needs, and should be supported. Issues such as free-schools and off-rolling by Academy schools are a result of government policy and it is frustrating that we are now lumped in together.

I was shocked to learn about off-rolling in the first place, and am surprised it hasn’t been dealt with. We chose home educating as best for our family, and we are willing to do what was necessary to meet our children’s needs. For schools to force parents into home educating who might not want or be able to, is appalling, and the issue is regulation of schools not voluntary home educators such as ourselves.

Impact of Covid-19

Home educating insulated us from much of the stress of Covid-19. Our groups are small, usually no more than 8, led by parents or freelance teachers, so they moved online fairly smoothly. Likewise our children adapted to playing with friends via zoom meets, or computer games, with meeting in parks with another family when allowed. We also have the advantage of a breadwinner who can work from home, enough computers and plenty of green space nearby. Not commuting has meant my husband is able to do more with the children, taking up running with my son and teaching them computer science GCSE.

I know there are families in our group under more financial stress, or feeling more isolated, but these are not a direct result of HE. In general the story I am hearing from other families is similar to ours. We are close as families and enjoy spending time together, with lots of resources for shared occupations such as walks, board and computer games, crafts etc. Many families report an increased quality of life with less rushing about and more time together.

November 2020