Written evidence submitted by [member of the public]

[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.]

I am father to three children, two of whom are school age. The eldest [age]has Down’s syndrome and is attending a well-regarded mainstream school. The middle child [age] is now being educated at home. The youngest [age]attends nursery some days. I am also professionally involved in education, holding a faculty position at a university, where I teach undergraduate and postgraduate students (I have given my employment details on the form, but in this document I am speaking as a private individual). I have friends and family who home educate or have been home educated, for various reasons.

I am submitting evidence because I am deeply concerned that the current proposals will negatively impact the education of my children, and others who choose to educate at home. I am very worried that the proposals will breach universal human rights. Parents are ultimately responsible for the upbringing of their children; they may make the decision to delegate some of these responsibilities to the State, and many make that decision well, but it remains the parents’ decision. This is of course recognised in law, e.g. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I can say without hesitation that the lockdown period has been the best thing that happened to my children’s education. The eldest had been falling behind in school, with the [school years] teachers both giving very negative outlooks on how long he would be able to keep up with his neurotypical classmates. He was receiving a very differentiated curriculum. During lockdown, with minimal resources, we were able to use strategies appropriate to his condition and bring his education levels far beyond what he was doing in school. Now in [school year], he is placed in the middle tier of the class and his curriculum is undifferentiated. At the same time, we started teaching our middle child since he was old enough. While he would be in [school year], he is now easily operating at a [school years] level – we would have done him a major disservice not to continue to let him flourish in this way, and so did not enter him into school. Our youngest [age] saw this activity and wanted to join in; he can now read CVC words, something which comes entirely from his own requests to be taught. All of this has taken less than an hour a day per child, so they have had ample time to play and explore as children should, without the stress of assessments, reports, etc.

At the same time, working in a university, I see the product of our mainstream education system daily. The students, who are supposedly the more capable section of their cohort, are simply not prepared or motivated for study. We have to repeat A-level and even GCSE content. They expect to be told an answer and then get points for giving it back to us without applying it or thinking critically about it. Our efforts to get them to learn more proactively are stymied by their reluctance to engage with any work which will not contribute towards their final mark. At the same time, they are full of anxieties well beyond those I would have expected for their age group, and these have immediate impact on their educational progress. In contrast, young adults I know from home schooling families are well-balanced, knowledgeable, highly self-motivated, capable, and independent. While I don’t see any reason why school education can’t form people like this, it certainly isn’t doing it for the majority at present.

With respect to the topics raised:

Local authorities do, I believe, have authority to intervene if they believe that children are not receiving ‘efficient’ education, or if there is risk of abuse (which is an entirely different question to home education; conflation of the two suggests a pre-existing bias). This is a sensible balance. Of course, LAs resources are already extremely stretched as is evident from the ‘efficiency’ of the education happening in schools, and in provision for those with special educational needs (as a parent of such a child I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to obtain suitable provision). Moreover, if they were given further responsibility, it is of the way of things that they would feel obliged to show that they were exercising it, and this would motivate them to intrude into the lives of law-abiding and loving families.

Why would such a thing be required? Education of children is a parent’s right and responsibility. Why would they need to go on a list simply to exercise a globally recognised human right? Such an idea is an unnecessary intrusion into family life. Consider the amount of person discretion the public have been given in the COVID crisis – we are not mandated to use the NHS Track and Trace app, and even then, all the data is anonymised. The UK public expect that level of freedom as private individuals, even in the face of a killer pandemic. Having to report on our children is a greater intrusion for no tangible benefit. In any case, such a plan will be ineffective because any real cases for concern will be unlikely to register.

Home education can be very time efficient since even for large families there is a much better educator:student ratio, and it typically takes much less time to reach the same learning outcome. The rest of the time can be spent in play, informal learning, and social activities. One other benefit is that the risk of bullying and influence of problematic societal issues are removed.

The potential disadvantages are: (1) that some aspects of education are difficult to do less formally, in particular sports and practical science – some kind of access to school facilities e.g. at the weekends for groups would help immensely here; (2) some families find it hard to find spaces to do widely recognised exams – greater assistance with access to examinations would be very helpful, since non-standard exams can make it harder to enter university (this is a problem I am working on myself of course); (3) widespread negative attitudes towards home education (the lockdown has altered some of these, thankfully)

As mentioned, my eldest son has special educational needs, and is currently in mainstream school. Given our experience over lock down, we would consider taking home educating him again, but we are not confident that the support he receives through his EHCP would continue, in particular the specialist educator and speech and language therapy. This is a painful tension for us. Many home educators who have children with special educational needs do so because they do not receive the support they need in schools.

It is unhelpful to roll wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children together in this way. There are widespread prejudices against home education, and elective home schooling is unfairly associated with illegal or abusive practices. Those practices are a completely separate issue, indeed  many illegal and abusive events happen in schools, and it is quite fair for parents to consider their children’s wellbeing to be better protected at home. In fact, the statistics show that home educated children are 2-3 times less likely to be given a Child Protection Plan, despite being much more frequently referred to social services (most likely due to unfair stigma and association with abuse).[i]

Since abuse and home education are entirely orthogonal issues, there is no reason to change the framework – if abuse is occurring, it can and should be dealt with presently, wherever it occurs.

None. Home education is chosen as an alternative to the highly inspected and regulated environment of schools, which do not suit everyone. It will not be possible to establish a fair way to assess and compare the very different home-schooling situations. Inspection makes no sense in this context – either it will have to green-light everything due to the variation, or it will have to try to conform home education contexts to the rigid mainstream school plans, which would undermine the whole point of home education for many. In either case, inspection would an ineffective waste of money.

I do not have any comments on this topic.

The impact of COVID-19 on home educated children has been much less negative than that on school children because they were largely able to continue their curricula as normal. However, home education usually involves going out a lot and getting involved with local groups and sports activities, and of course these have been impacted. Since they are ‘unofficial,’ it has been harder for them to restart compared to school-run activities. For example, my [age of child] takes part in some outdoor sport activities for home educated children – it is an education event – but it has had to shut during the November lockdown, which unfairly puts him at a disadvantage. Anecdotally, home educating families tend to be larger, so there have been fewer of the social isolation problems for only children when kept at home for a long period.

November 2020



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