Written evidence submitted by [a 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.]

Written evidence submitted by [member of the public]

I have been home educating for [a number of] years, and volunteer for several home education Facebook groups, providing general home education support both at a national and local level. I also admin specialist subject related groups, collating resources for home educators.

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

The legal duties of local authorities (LAs) with regards to home education are clearly defined in legislation in 437(1) of the Education Act.

The legal duties of LAs with regards to safeguarding should be clearly separated.

Whilst all LA functions should be exercised with a view to safeguarding, targeting safeguarding measures at home educators is discriminatory and disproportionate. They are already uniquely visible, and twice as likely to be reported to social services (1). Conflagration of education and safeguarding undermines the LAs ability to discharge its duties with regard to safeguarding. Any concerns about safeguarding should be dealt appropriately by social services, not by home education officers.

There is no legal duty for local authorities to assure the quality of education, but rather to intervene when it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education (2). The legal duty rests upon the parent.

It is imperative that this remains the case, since parents are the ‘party with the keenest personal interest’ in the child’s education (2). A suitable education is individual to the child, and encompasses all aspects of a child’s development and life. This remains the case for all children regardless of whether they attend school (who provide only a part of a child’s education) or are educated otherwise. Education comes in many forms, with many philosophies and assessing education quality using mainstream school-based pedagogies would make it impossible for parents to fulfil their duties to their individual child. The balance between the LAs macro level duties and the parent’s micro level duties must be maintained.

The duty to provide a suitable education should be equally applied to all parents. At present it is discriminatory in that simply sending a child to school, even if a school education is unsuitable, is deemed sufficient to discharge a parent’s duty. For the suitability of most children’s education to be measured solely by attendance at school, whilst for other children it involves exposing their entire life to scrutiny is unfair.

Unfortunately guidance, mission creep and conflagration of different issues in the new EHE guidelines make it increasingly difficult for LAs to fulfil their duties. Under the old EHE guidelines the duties of local authorities under Section 437 of the Education Act were clear. The new guidelines are muddled, disproportionate and in places clearly legally wrong (Section 4.6).

The focus should be on enabling LAs to fulfil their existing duties in regard to SEND and alternative provision.

The problems within these areas not only mirror those within LA home education departments, but also directly contribute to families being forced to home educate, due to systematic failures within school and LA provision (3)(4).

There is no oversight of LAs to ensure that practice is lawful, a complete lack of accountability and no means of redress, which is leading to an increasing hostile relationship between home educators and LAs.


  1. Wendy Charles-Warner. 2019. Home Education and Child Abuse: How Media Rhetoric Drives the Myth. https://www.personalisededucationnow.org.uk/2019/04/01/2019-research-home-education-and-child-abuse-how-media-rhetoric-drives-the-myth/2019-research-home-education-and-child-abuse-how-media-rhetoric-drives-the-myth/
  2. Letter from Lord Adonis to Lord Judd. 2006.  http://freedom.edyourself.org/Adonis_Judd_Oct13_2006_copiable.pdf
  3. Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry Report. 2019
  4. Education Select Committee Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions. Fifth Report of Session 2017–19


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


Not required.

A statutory register would be disproportionate, discriminatory and ineffective.

Statutory registers are used either when someone has been convicted of wrongdoing, or they are required to practice professionally, or access services.

No parent should be made to register to fulfil a basic moral and legal duty, simply because they choose not to use an opt-in service.

The current educational and legislation is sufficient if used appropriately and proportionality by LAs. Unfortunately this is seldom the case.

A statutory register diverts time and resources away from other LA functions which would have a greater benefit - e.g real support for home education, SEN provision and alternative provision. A simple register serves no purpose, and can not be considered to be anything other than a means to monitoring.

A statutory register will not work. If there is a small number of ‘hidden’ families then they will simply ignore a statutory register. There is no possible mechanism for enforcement measures against families who choose not to register that is proportionate and reasonable, and won’t be forced to disregard the best interests of the child in order to take punitive measures against the parent.

When LAs act within the law, are actually supportive and provide services then families choose to become known. Unfortunately LAs simply don’t provide support and more often than not undermine a parent’s ability to provide a suitable education. 

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

For us the benefits of home education are innumerable and relate to every facet of life. It allows for a fully humanist education. For more information on the research into home education and the benefits of a suitable education I recommend the Suitable Education Website (5).

We can apply a reasoned, evidence based approach to educating. 
For example the research into how children learn to read (6) shows that children learn to read over a wide range of ages, in diverse ways, but all underpinned by being immersed in a literate environment. This has been borne out by the very different ages and ways our children have learnt to read.

Home education is holistic, flexible and fosters a fulfilled, creative and meaningful childhood and a sense of independence. This is possible because it adapts to each child’s differing and changing needs and gives them the time, space and opportunities to explore the world and develop along their own individual path.

Home Education also allows children to explore beyond the silos of academic subjects, and to learn conceptually, integrating their experiences of the world, with the experiences of others who differ from them. The predominance of conversation and the holistic view of the child, their relationships and community lend themselves to children developing good social skills, and strong ethical principles.

Schools focus on only one part of a child’s education but home education allows for a fully integrated learning process - through a child’s own experiences, feelings and interests.

Learning within a diverse community, and with access to a wealth of resources including libraries, and online gives a greater choice and access to meaningful opportunities.

We have such a wonderful social life, that wouldn't be possible at school. Real peer interaction - ie playing for hours with friends. Strong family, including sibling relationships. Meeting new people on a regular basis. Supported socialising so each child gets any help or mediation if needed in a social situation. A large wider community of families. Relationships with children of all ages, and their parents. The ability to have individual relationships with others, rather than having those relationships determined by the relationships between others (e.g you can be friends with people, even if they aren't friends themselves, or if they are close friends).
The flexibility of our social opportunities have enabled my extrovert daughter to grow up, stating that she has never felt lonely, and my introvert daughter to find her own balance of time to herself, family time and deep peer-to-peer social connections. We have a strong social support system, friends of all ages, a certainty that they will meet new people and be friends, adult friends who trust and respect them, a whole wider 'family' of families, and a community that they feel supported and cherished by.

This same community has allowed me as a home educating parent to rediscover skills, to share and use my skills and interests to not only help other home educating families, but also to become a more well supported, and fulfilled person.

Eldest’s daughter’s experience in her own words:
There are countless benefits and advantages to home education, not only to the child(ren) but also to the parent(s)/guardian(s). I can think back over my childhood and see them everywhere I look. 

Children who are being Home Educated have the opportunity to experience learning in a way that suits their own learning style, at their own speed and in a format that engages their brain. These are all infallible ways to encourage a child’s education.

An important aspect of home education is allowing children and young people to mature at their own rate, especially when there are special educational needs and disabilities involved. Not every child will meet milestones that are required by curriculums and the rigidity of school. Home Education creates a space where these delays are accepted, and young people can have the time to reach out for information that they want to and enjoy learning about.

In Home Education children and young people learn through interests and passions. A child may love to play Minecraft or the Sims, from a schooled mindset these would be stopping children from learning and taking time away from there schooling. However video games hold huge amounts of learning potential in them, many games require quite complicated reading levels to be able to play well. If a child is invested in this game then their reading capability will grow so they can do better at something they love. As human beings we are fuelled by passion, it motivates us to learn and get better. Home Educated children have the space to learn like this and it results in young people who have the skills and knowledge to continue with the things they love.

  1. http://Suitable-education.uk
  2. Harriet Pattison. 2016. Rethinking Learning to Read.

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;

My experiences locally and nationally on a number of groups has shown me that there is little support for home educators from outside the home education community.

The lack of support for children in schools and LA alternative provision contributes to many parents deregistering to home educate. The Government and LAs should first and foremost focus on providing support to those who want support.

Monitoring and ultra-vires LA demands should not be misconstrued as support. Although my LA ([location]) has had a reasonable reputation in the past it provides no actual support. And there are instances of families stating that the staff are rude and making unreasonable demands of families when they need support. The best that can be said of my LA is that it operates a system of benign neglect which in itself appears supportive. 

Real support requires an open, trust-based and respectful relationship with home educators. This is not possible when LA officers view all parents as falling to provide a suitable education unless proven otherwise. LA staff need to understand the full diversity of approaches and be tasked with support, not monitoring. My LA appears to be highly resistant to working with home educators - they have no communication channels with the community, and appear reluctant to open up a dialogue that would build a better relationship.

Peer to peer support is highly effective, and as a community we rely on the combined experiences, knowledge and skills of thousands of home educators.

We have been supported by hearing and learning from the experiences of those home educators who have gone before us, from the numerous home educators who have taken time and effort to help us through specific issues.
Simply chatting to another home educator
Not Back to School Picnics, a long running tradition that helps home educators network with others
Local and national groups on Facebook and other platforms
Expertise of home educators and exam centre staff through the Home Ed Exams Wiki (https://he-exams.wikia.org/) and associated groups

We in turn have been able to provide support to others - through real life and online groups. Organising picnics, running a History group and  creating and collating groups such as the History Home Ed Facebook group which provides a place for home educators to share resources and ideas relating to history. It is a large network of such specialised and general groups that provide support in every aspect of home education to thousands of families.

For those areas where external support services are needed such as SEND there is the very real issue that LAs routinely fail to provide the support needed to function in school, but then make receiving any support contingent on being in school. LAs should focus on the needs of the child.

Access to exams remains an ongoing area where LAs could provide support, but this applies to all private candidates - whether they be home evacuated, in alternative provision, or adult learners.

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’;

The regulatory framework is sufficient.
All the pieces are in place - if LAs use them appropriately.
The problems revolve around the lack of support in schools, dearth of alternative provision and overstretched social services. They do not relate directly to home education. 

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

LAs should be inspected and required to have lawful policies, and bo inspected to ensure that their practices are lawful. Staff should be properly trained and required to work with home educators. 

There needs to be an operational system for complaints, and redress.
Situations such as that in [place] where an LA is allowed to routinely issue SAO, year after year to families who repeatedly found in court to be providing a suitable education should not be able to happen. 
A system of proper oversight for LAs would go a long way to improving relationships, informing LAs about how home education works and different approaches.

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;

The role of local authorities in home education.
This situation has deteriorated. This is because there are no means of making sure LAs act lawfully, and because the new EHE guidelines encourage ultra vires practices.

Tensions in existing guidance
The review of guidance has unfortunately resulted in guidelines which misrepresent LA duties, are not clear, are contradictory and contain legal errors.

Variation in local authorities behaviour and practices
The setting up of an association for home education officers appears to have failed, due to lack of transparency, and a reluctance to learn from home educators. If anything it appears to have taken its lead from LAs with a reputation for bad practice. There are still no professional standards, or training for elective home education officers.

Placement of officers within local authority structures
Home education teams largely remain in inappropriate departments, which negatively impacts on LA’s view of home education and on their  ability to provide support services.

Financial support for local education/Transitions to further education
Whilst part-time college is now possible for home educated young people our experience locally is that this is not put into practice. The local college does not provide part-time infil for home educated young people, although they do so for schooled pupils, and are very reluctant to take ex-home educated young people into full-time provision under 16.
Locally families who come out of school are denied access to alternative provision and SEN provision.


Locally (and pre-covid) we have had good access to exams, at least for those not requiring access arrangements. This however is by its nature transient, because there is no duty on every local authority to ensure access to local centres for home-educated young people. There has been no move to encourage schools and colleges to make such provision. Barriers continue to exist to accessing past papers and exam board resources that are available to teachers in schools. The home educator provided support for exams through the HE Exams wiki (https://he-exams.wikia.org/) and the relevant social media groups is however exceptional.

Local offers of support

There is no local offer of support - beyond “a professional opinion as to the suitability or otherwise of the education being provided”.  In other words the only support the LAs considers is ultra-vires monitoring. The LA does not work with home educators to co-operatively shape services, despite the willingness of local home educators to collaborate. It does not consult with home educators although it has commissioned research in to home education, but has failed to publish the results. In 2019 the LA updated its policy, again without consultation with home educators.

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.’

Personal Impact
The impact of lockdown has varied from child to child.
For one child it has been a wonderful experience. She is a highly independent, and self-directed introvert. Her already rich online social life expanded as friends became more available online, she has had more time at home to devote to her art, and as an introvert it has improved the balance of time to herself/with others so that she has been happy to spend more time with family.

The negative impacts have centred on my [age] year old extrovert teenager.
- Not being able to see her friends and mentors as she is a demonstrative and tactile person. 
- She thrives on being busy and doing lots of social groups but these all stopped.
- She has been largely unable to access her to chosen sports this year - and I’m sure this has had an impact on her physical strength and wellbeing.
- She was in her last year of home education and has struggled emotionally with being unable to have the final year experiences she was planning and expecting - annual events such as a craft fair, and term time family and home ed group holidays.
- She also takes on a fair amount of emotional support for her neurodiverse friends - and so when they are struggling she worries about them, and their safety which takes an emotional toll.

Exam cancellation
We have already contributed some of our experience to The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services Inquiry as part of a group submission. But in summary our eldest will end up with only 4 GCSEs and we are concerned about the long term impact, since we will have to rely on institutions recognising her different circumstances, despite the ‘everyone will get grades’ rhetoric from the Government.

Community Impact
The first lockdown meant that much of our community’s education provision opportunities essentially ceased. Whilst it is called home education, for many people a substantial part of home education is its community and group aspect. Though in hindsight this, at least, was clear cut and everyone was in the same situation.

Since lockdown lifted it has been very difficult to get education provision back up and running.
I have been unable to restart my History group for under 11s due to issues surrounding venue availability, and insurance being on hold.

Government guidance has fueled uncertainty about what home educators can and can’t do. This is due to fundamental failure to understand how home education works and then trying to shoehorn it into other categories (e.g. Out of school settings). A simple home education groups may meet in groups of no more than 15, and should follow venue specific guidance, whether it be in private homes, or outdoor or indoor venues would have been clear. The home education specific guidance drew a line between education and social activities, when there is no such distinction in home education and was clearly discriminatory against informal educational approaches where social interactions are the foundation of education.

This has been compounded to a large extent by people’s fear, not only of becoming ill or exposing vulnerable relatives, but primarily of being judged in public, or fined because even at the best of times others frequently do not recognise our home education practices as education. Many home educators are acutely aware of the need to be seen to be following the rules because of the negative views of home education in the media, politics and by the general public. Home educators also may feel vulnerable to being reported to social services, as they are already, pre-covid, disproportionately likely to be reported to social services.

The other impact is that [location] LA, which normally has 60-70 deregistrations a month, took the lack of deregistrations as an opportunity to make informal inquiries of many home educators. One issue with this was that it was administered in a chaotic (and sometimes insensitive) manner, and they have then failed to respond to a significant proportion of home educators because they failed to assess the workload involved. These informal inquiries felt discriminatory, as COVID-19 was being used as an opportunity to get home educators to provide information relating to their duty to provide a suitable education, when parents of schooled children were essentially excused from their duty.


November 2020