Written evidence submitted by Kate Windross


Call for evidence: Home Education


I am a home educating parent. I previously worked as a qualified teacher in a state school.


My family began home educating in 2017 as we believe it offers the most appropriate education. It is a positive choice for us.


I am responding because I am concerned that the debate around home educating is creating a negative and hostile environment for families like mine, and failing to recognise the value of elective home education. Elective home education has been conflated with unrelated issues including illegal schooling, radicalisation, safeguarding risks and failures in the education system such as off-rolling.


The benefits of elective home education lie in its flexibility, diversity and the opportunity it offers children to add self-motivated learners throughout life. The current push to monitor provision does not reflect this. Rather, it implies that home education is simply a case of delivering the same provision as a school in a home environment. I would like to see more recognition for the difference in education otherwise than in a school.


My specific responses are as follow:


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


Local authorities do not have a duty to assure the quality of home education. Section 437 of the Education Act sets out local authorities' duties in regard to home education: to take action where it appears that the education is not suitable. This continues to be the legal basis for home education.


Having worked as a teacher and as a home educating parent, I am extremely aware of the differences between learning at school and at home. Local authority staff tend to come from a school background and do not have experience of what home education really is.


Too often (and encouraged by the most recent guidance which mentions timetable and national curriculum) they attempt to apply a school model to home education. Without proper training including input from experienced home educators they are not equipped to assess education in a home context. The recent debate and climate of suspicion also encourages an approach which seems to aim to 'catch out' home educating families. For example, I have had to ask my local authority to contact me in advance rather than attempting an unannounced visit to my home by a person unknown to me.


Safeguarding is relevant to all children, and is not specific to home education. It is not reasonable, nor a good use of resources, to view home education as a safeguarding risk. Whilst there have been tragic cases where children who are not in school have suffered serious harm, these children have been known to the authorities and failed by the system. Local authorities have seen their budgets cut and it does not make sense to focus attention on increased monitoring of home education where there are no concerns. Budget and resources should be targeted where children are known to be at risk.


whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;


There is no evidence that a register will protect children. Children registered in schools have still been subject to harm.


Home educated children are registered with doctors, dentists, libraries, sports centres, youth groups. Many are known to local authorities as they have previously attended school or joined a voluntary register.


The call for a mandatory register implies that home education is a risk to children which is not supported by the evidence.


the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;


I have experienced first hand the constraints on learning in schools. Home education has offered my family a more meaningful and joyful experience which I see threatened by the drive to monitor home education. I am sorry that it is not financially possible for many families in the current system.


Home education is able to provide an education that is uniquely tailored to each child's interests and abilities. Children can dive deep into areas of special interest and spend as much time as needed on areas they find challenging. What they learn has a real and engaging context, and areas of learning are experienced as interconnected rather than divided into curriculum 'subjects'. They can direct and take ownership of their learning, equipping them well for an uncertain future where creativity and adaptability will be crucial.


Home educated children are able to socialise with a wide range of ages rather than spending the majority of time in a class of children of the same age. They take part in community projects and citizen science surveys. They are able to take advantage of museums, sports facilities and libraries at quieter times when staff are more available to talk to them and answer questions. They can spend more time with family and travel outside of peak holiday times.


The main disadvantage we experience is the need to defend and justify home education repeatedly given the current hostile environment which has been created.


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;


I am not aware of any specific support available for home educated children. My local authority have informed me that the most help they can offer is finding a school place should our plans change in the future.


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’;


Recent enquiries into home education have conflated elective home education with illegal schooling (attendance at an unregistered school) and children who are off-rolled, excluded or moved into alternative provision. These are not the same as elective home education.


Illegal schools are illegal and there is existing legislation in place to address them.


Off-rolling and exclusion are issues with schools rather than home education. Education should be funded appropriately in order for schools to be able to work with pupils with a wide range of needs (for example, finding for nurture groups, mediation and similar interventions).


• the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education;


I do not believe inspection should play a role in future regulation of home education. There is no meaningful way of measuring and comparing home education provision as it varies so widely between families. There are no statistically significant sample sizes that can be formed.


The nature of home education is that huge amounts of learning take place in a continuous, conversational context and are not inspectable. The freedom and flexibility that are inherent in home education deserve protection and recognition.


what improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012;


I believe my local authority is attempting to include home educating families as it has announced the intention of developing a user group. However it currently demonstrates a negative and uninformed view of home education through the language used in forms and webpages.


the impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, and what additional measures might need to be taken in order to mitigate any negative impacts.


This is very specific to each family and learning style.


My experience was that we were at an advantage during the first lockdown as we already had a parent available to support the children's ongoing learning, look for opportunities and protect their emotional well-being (we did not have to make new arrangements to balance work and education). We have been unable to access our usual range of activities, however the flexible nature of home education has allowed us to adapt.

My children were able to make a list of home-based activities and we took advantage of free subscriptions to try new web based learning.


However, as school attendance has resumed, the local tiered system and now national lockdown restrictions make it very difficult to support our children's friendships. Again a school based view of education is apparent with formal learning such as classes, tutoring and training able to continue but informal groups under question. It would be helpful to have provision for home education bubbles (maybe to allow 3 households to interact more freely) similar to the childcare bubbles or equivalent to a school class bubble.


November 2020