Written evidence submitted by Joanna Dunn

Mrs Joanna Dunn.

Response to Call for Evidence on Home Education – November 2020

Credentials: I am the parent of 3 children, ( girl, boy, girl) who were all Electively Home Educated from birth until they were aged 16, at which point they attended our local 6th form college, took A levels and progressed to university. 

The eldest graduated with a First-Class Degree in English from the University of Cambridge and gained a place on a Graduate Trainee scheme: Charityworks. On completion, she was engaged on a permanent contract by the Housing Association where she did her placement and training and has recently been promoted.

My son is in his 3rd year reading Philosophy at the University of Dundee and my youngest is in her 2nd Year, reading History at the University of St Andrew’s.

I also set up and co-led a local Home Education support group for 17 years. Around 25 families        (that is around 60 children) at any given point, met at a local venue once a month for a whole day of educational and social activities. The group is still in operation 20 years on and is a good example of the type of supportive and positive activity that takes place amongst Elective Home Educators across the country in a variety of ways. This involvement means I have had involvement with a large number of children and families over a long period of time, giving me good insight into the realities of EHE, the key issues for Home Educators  and the outcomes across a spectrum of children.

I also have 9-year-old twin niece and nephew who are Electively Home Educated which keeps me in touch with the issues of the next generation of EHE parents.


I note that this enquiry “..will seek to understand the extent to which current arrangements provide sufficient support for home educated children to access efficient, full-time and suitable education and establish what further measures may be necessary in order to facilitate this.”

I would firstly suggest that the evidence of my 3 children as described above demonstrates that the current arrangements are indeed sufficient.

1)      Home Education is exceptionally efficient because it suffers none or the organisation inefficiencies of a classroom or school. My children were able to work at a level that was absolutely right for their stage of development, with a considerable amount of 1-to- 1 support, with no waiting for help from a teacher with 30 other pupils to deal with and with little time wasted on organisational activity such as moving between lessons. This efficiency means they were able to cover more in a shorter space of time leaving lots of time for additional play, research, outings, conversation and so forth.  On arrival at 6th form they were all noted for “roundedness” of their education by both staff and fellow pupils.


2)      Home Education is full-time because it does not compartmentalize life into “educational” and “non-educational” activity. My children had times of “formal” learning, especially when mastering a particular skill and as they undertook examination study, but all of their life was a learning experience and we were just a likely to be discussing a scientific concept while on the allotment as in a “lesson”, or to be considering a world news issue while making supper. On arrival in 6th form each of my children was noted by staff and fellow pupils for their ability to organise their time, be passionate about their studies and be able to synergise information and knowledge across subject areas.

3)      Home education is suitable because it is it is an apprenticeship model of learning that has stood mankind in good stead for thousands of years. Home Educating parents are not first and foremost teachers…they are “enablers”. My own children had interests about which I knew nothing and about which they taught me much.

For example: in his teens my son became interested in entomology as well as wildlife and environmental issues in general. He went on courses run by the local Wildlife Trust, he built his own moth trap and kept detailed records and he undertook the John Muir award as a private candidate. He was thus learning a huge variety of skills- as well as information- and providing himself with an education suitable to his own needs and aspirations.

It is suitable because it does not force children into a particular course of study for which they are unsuited, or at a speed which is unsuitable for their abilities. It allows them to develop the areas for which they have aptitude and enthusiasm. For example: I spent 8 years of my school life supposedly learning French- in which I had no interest or aptitude- and after all those years just managed to get a low-grade qualification.  My daughter got a Certificate in Higher Education in Spanish from the Open University age 16 because she had chosen to study the language and was able to devote time and enthusiasm to it.


“…….and the potential disadvantages they may face.

I believe there are few disadvantages to Elective Home Education. Most of the things that seem to come to the mind of those with no experience of it are easily overcome. The internet has solved issues of isolation and of not having an “expert” in a subject to hand: the world really is at young people fingertips. I have heard objections that Home Educated children may miss out on such thing as science and music and sport. This overlooks the fact the EHE parents themselves have skills and knowledge and these are shared, usually in informal groups where parents stay and join in or support. For example:

Socialisation is often raised as a concern. My 3 children all built solid and lasting friendships through their years being Home Educated. They were all able to make connections as suited their personality without the artificial constructs and peer pressure of school. Each of them has retained key friendships into adulthood and each of them has been able to make new friends as they have moved in University and into work without any difficulty.

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.

With the advent of the internet Elective Home Educators have easy access to a huge amount of information and support. There are many national and local forums full of experienced Home Educators who share their experience, local knowledge and knowledge of resources, curricula materials etc with each other and with new Home Educators.  There are also specialist forums and websites covering specific issues such as: exams and qualifications, legal matters, specific special needs, educational visits and discounts etc.

The single thing I would like the government to invest in, which would level the playing field for EHE young people (and also help adult returners to learning and young people in school wishing to take qualifications that their school does not offer is the provision of local, accessible, reliable  exam centres. I accept that EHE parents need to pay for exams but they should be able to do so at the same price as a state school  To give you an example: the average price of a GCSE in a state school is £38 and a bit more for an iGCSE ( around £58). However, because of the need to use private exam centres most of my own children’s GCSE’s and iGCSE’s cost between £105 and £130 EACH. In addition, we had over an hour’s drive to the exam centre in a completely different county. Many people travel much further, sometimes even needing to plan overnight stays.

There is a separate issue regarding those children and young people who are “off-rolled” illegally from the system or whose special educational needs are neglected in school leading to a crisis of attendance: these children are NOT Electively Home Educated- they are, or should be, on a school roll and therefore financial support for their needs ( including EOTAS) should of course be available.

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.

Home educated children have been impacted just like other children by the restrictions on mixing and socialising during the pandemic. However the government guidance for ‘Out of School Settings’  and ‘ Home Education’ has clearly recognised that EHE is EDUCATION , just as school is,  and has allowed for group educational activity to continue where it can do so in a Covid-safe manner.

In other regards EHE children have had fewer negative impacts from the pandemic regulations because their routines have been less disrupted, they and their parents are already used to spending large amounts of time together as a family and family life is set up to accommodate that. Their resources are readily at hand and they have not had to make big adjustments to “working on-line”. They are also used to not being constantly with their peer group and are used to planning their own activities and undertaking their study in a self -directed way.

The one group to whom this does NOT apply is teenagers who prepared for exams. Not having children in this category I will leave others to explain that particular nightmare and mess: suffice to say it has been this years hot topic and has highlighted the insufficiency and injustice of the government measures for ALL private exam candidates ( not just EHE young people).


Is the current regulatory framework  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’?

Put simply:


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

Home Education is not a safeguarding matter.

There are procedures and legislation in place to deal with Safeguarding issues and these should be used for any children, however they are educated, whenever a concern is raised. I have first-hand experience of this:

1)      A new family moved into the house behind ours. The curtains were always closed, I did not see the children in the garden BUT I did near a lot of crying and continuous moaning noises. I reported my concerns to Social Services. They made a visit, ascertained the situation and phone me to explain the outcome and reassure me that all was well.

2)      A Home Education friend was reported to Social Service anonymously. Someone felt her children were “odd” and that it was unusual for a teenage boy to be seen to be in charge of his much younger sister. Social Services visited the family – and also talked to the Social Worker already involved as they were in the process of adopting a child. All was proved to be well and the case was closed.

My point is that there is a system and, when those in it do their jobs, it works. Safeguarding and Educational provision should not be conflated.

On a practical level the very best way for a concerned local authority to safeguard EHE children is to develop a good relationship with their local EHE community, networking with them , remaining within the law and being trustworthy in all their dealing with EHE families. Where this is the case my experience locally is that many parents will be happy to voluntarily be in touch with the LA and new families will quickly be plugged into local support networks meaning that their children are not “unseen”. Local authorities who are hostile to EHE, who push the boundaries of their legal position and are seen as untrustworthy, risk more families going “under the radar”.

Nottingham City Council have been an example of relatively good practice in this area. About 6 years ago they hosted – in the city library exhibition space- a Home Education Showcase. There were representatives form the LA there, and from local FE colleges and some other service providers. Then the HE community Show cased many of the different groups, activities and clubs in the city and beyond. The event was publicized on HE forums and through the City Councils own channels and had many visitors. It was a great example of positive, collaborative working.

Is a statutory register of home-educated children is required?

No. Parents cannot be asked to register to undertake their duty in law. It is the duty of all parents to ensure that their child receives:

“efficient full-time education suitable— (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.(Education Act 1996, Sec 7)

EHE parents set out to that, just as parents who send their children to a State or a Private School believe that those institutions will help them discharge their duty effectively. In all cases the duty and responsibility remain with the parent.

What role should inspection play in future regulation of home education?

Inspection presumes a criterion against which to inspect. Who will set such a criterion? Private schools do not have to follow the National Curriculum and there are a number of Independent Schools with “alternative” approaches to education (e.g. Steiner and Montessori Schools, Bedales, Summerhill Democratic School). Regulation of EHE would sit very uncomfortably alongside that and would be undemocratic.

Such inspection would be detrimental to many of the children who are being Home Educated. Sticking with my own experience for evidence:

1)      My son was very slow to learn to read. He was in fact 9 years old before he could read at all and 10 before he gained fluency. In school this would have been a problem. He would have been targeted for extra help, probably missed out on art or sport for “intervention “ lessons and of course would have found it difficult to access much of the curriculum because it would rely on being able to read. At home none of this was true. I read aloud to him, he had a great vocabulary, and I wrote down what he wanted to record. He practised “copy writing” for the mechanical skill and we had short pushes on learning to read to see if he was ready to take off. In the course of 10 months he went from zero to reading The Lord of the Ring’s and also won two writing competitions. My concern is that inspection and monitoring would have brought interference ,  targets and expectations into that situation – probably from when my son was around 6- that would have created stress, pressure and negativity and damaged his long term progress in not just reading but in all other areas. In his teens my son was diagnosed with a complex sensory processing disorder- how glad I am that he was able to have a confident and happy experience of education as a young child so that he could tackle the hurdles ahead of him from a good place. Had external monitoring been telling him how “behind” he was and threatening me with intervention or even an order to send him to school, that would have been stolen from him.

2)      My eldest daughter was very ill age 12, spending 4 months in hospital and another 6 under the hospitals care, recuperating. The one positive in a very difficult time was the freedom and flexibility of Home Education. The additional stress that a school – wanting to send work or wanting to start to get my daughter “back into class” would have added would have been detrimental to my daughter’s health and her mental wellbeing. Had we had to have been “inspected” as Home Educators we would have been under extra pressure to somehow prove that some external targets were being met which would have been negative for her younger siblings, who were already struggling with the situation and negative for my ill daughter who was already conscious of missing out due to her illness. Instead we could adjust as we needed to, to deal with the whole family’s wellbeing. A year later my daughter sat her first GCSE and never looked back. She was certainly not “behind” for ever!


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November 2020

                                                      Response to Call for Evidence on Home Education November 2020/JD